Early Schools of Mills County, Iowa
Elm Grove School -
Elm Grove Schoolhouse
The Last of Its Kind
Nestled in the hills and trees, south of Glenwood, sits a building that looks more like an abandoned farmhouse than a country schoolhouse. For 88-year-old Franklin Johnson,
the old Elm Grove School is a link to his childhood and a piece of Mills County history. "It's the only one like this left in Mills County, Johnson said. "It was closed in the 1950's but is still standing.
I don't think a lot of people even know it's here."
Johnson still has vivid memories of the education he received during his eight years as a student, at the school, from the fall of 1919 to the spring of 1928. He can recite the names of the teachers
he had at the school; Bertha Lee,
George Mathew, Gladies Morford, Georgia Deitchler, Ruth Friend, Vivian Rager, Dorothy Jackson and Ruth Bannister. He also remembers the school's superintendents--George Masters, Mary Rathke and
"It was different back then," Johnson said. "Kids only used to go to school when they weren't working for their parents. Kids came to the school from a two-mile radius on horses and buggies.
I had four brothers and one sister graduate from the school, and there was an average of 40-45 people every year who attended the school."
Johnson said the school's staff had some unusual, but effective methods of disciplining their students.
"(George) Masters used to go out and pull the elm sprouts out of the ground and he'd whip kids with them." he recalled. "They whipped people back in those days.
They didn't have the kids running the schools like they do now."
The Elm Grove School is located about five miles south of Glenwood near the intersection of 230th and Norris Ave. on private property owned by the Morris Terry family. Johnson said he would like
to see the schoolhouse restored to its original condition. The building was constructed in 1913 after the first Elm Grove School was destroyed during the famous Easter Sunday tornado in March of that year. "It sure would
be a wonderful thing if they could rebuild that school," Johnson said. "It would take a little money, but it's worth saving. It's the only one like it around."
~ Source: Opinion Tribune, November 5, 2003, Courtesy of Joe Foreman (Editor)
~ Photo taken August 16, 2004 and transcription by Roseanna Zehner
Excerpt from News Article about School Days
"Elm Grove school is now one of the very best in the county," continued Lee. "But in those days there was a crowd of boys in that neighborhood who were a terror to all teachers. Finally the school board hired Joe Graves
to take charge of the school. Now Joe as you will remember like all red-headed people has a will of his own. He was lithe and muscular and strong as an ox. The first day he took charge of the school he went to work and
brought in a lot of big switches and put them next to him on the desk.
Then he made a few remarks, and told the boys that there was to be no misbehavior. Any boy who did not wish to obey the rules must either take a whipping
or go home. Nearly all the big boys went out. They found their master then and there. Graves' quiet way scared them. Nearly all of them came back again, however. Graves used to have a kind way with him, joining with the boys
in their sports until they all wanted to come back and take part in the fun."
"Spelling schools were all the fashion in those days. I remember there used to be a lot of people who would come to spelling school and make fun of those who could not spell very well. They never took part themselves
for they knew they would be spelled down.
Graves grew tired of their interruptions and finally announced that every one who came to a spelling bee must either take part or get out. They could see by his eye that he meant
what he said. A few went home, but most of them stayed, and the others had the laugh on them when they soon sat down. My wife and Joe Miller used to be the champion spellers of the neighborhood. My wife then used to stand
up until the last, and Joe, well he used to hang on to about the next last. Finally when I came along and we got married Joe had it all to himself for a while."
~ Source: Rheba Kathryn Wederquist Raine Newspaper Collection - contributed by Eldon Clark
Publication and date unknown.