|Washington County, Iowa
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Washington County - Country Schools
1857 - 1958
Research by the Washington Historical Society has identified 44 former one-room schools that are
remaining in the county.
Three of the schools are operated as museums. Straw College, or Summit School, has been
relocated to the Kalona Heritage Village. Students who attended say their school was nicknamed
"Straw College" because during the winter, straw was stuffed behind the wainscotting for warmth.
The school is one of 11 buildings in the village complex. The complex is open during the summer
from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. and in the winter months from 11a.m. - 3 p.m. An admission is charged.
Another school maintained as a museum is the Smith Creek School. It is located in the Wellman
Historical Park on 7th Avenue and is maintained by the Wellman Historical Society. Old-fashioned
country school classes are held at the school, and a "Grandparents' Day" program is also held at the
school. Scout troops have helped keep the area clean and have done painting at the school. Area
clubs use the school for special meetings.
The Walnut Creek School is maintained as a museum by the Washington County Historical Society.
The school contains much of its original furnishings, complete with teacher's hand bell and a
working outdoor pump. An open house is held at the school in June and many attend in
turn-of-the-century clothing. The school is located 7 miles southwest of Washington on Highway 1.
Another school that remains in good condition, and is maintained in its original condition by an
individual, is the "red brick' school. It was in operation from 1850 - 1956. It is located 2 miles south
of Washington on W55.
Several years ago two county schools - Living Lake and South Prairie - were relocated to the
Washington County Fairgrounds. The schools were combined into a building that is now used as an
administrative office and Red Cross emergency center.
Another school - Greenvale - is used as a bait and grocery store near Lake Darling in Clay Township.
Amish operate four one - room schools in the county, 17 are used for storage, nine have been
converted to homes, and six are vacant.
Compiled by Charles Hotle, Mary Zielinski, Mary Levy, and the Washington County Historical Society
In 1898 when D.C. Cole, the Washington photographer, set out to take pictures of them, there
were 144 schoolhouses in the county, most of them one-room schools. When Lester B. Krabill
became county superintendent in 1933, there were still 105 rural schools in the county, but by 1952
the number had dropped to 52. Most of the schools closed to decreasing attendance - fewer families
living on farms, easier to get to town (only 250 farm families in the county still lived on dirt roads in
'52), etc. Five rural districts (Union, Center, Bethel and Prairie Flower in Cedar and Pleasant Plain
in Jackson) formed a new rural consolidated district in 1947 and built a $35,000 brick school at
Prairie Flower, but by '52 there was a new state law which prohibited merger or consolidation unless
there was an enrollment of 300, and no more "rural"consolidation took place in the county. Prairie
Flower became part of the Washington School District in 1959 and was the county's special education
school from 1961 to 1969. It's now a residence and antique shop.
Lester B Krabill
Clara F. Faulkner