Williams School was built in Section 26 of Clay Township, Wayne County, Iowa in 1869. The school was named for Charles and Ellen Williams who transferred the property to the District Township for the purpose of building a school.
The last school year for Williams School was 1955-56. Forty years later, in 1996, property owners Charles and Marie Vandell generously donated the school and some of the remaining contents to the Round Barn Site. In spite of the building’s age, it was in relatively good condition. The school was moved to the site in September, 1996. Restoration was completed in 1997 with the help of many volunteers. Local residents donated numerous school related items to complete the school’s furnishings.
A slate blackboard from the Allerton School (which no longer exists) was installed in the school during restoration, but the original Williams School blackboard consisting of boards painted black is visible on both sides of the slate board.
Williams School is a favorite of visitors, both young and old, as they learn or reminisce about bygone days.
History of Country Schools in
Wayne County, Iowa
The following information courtesy of Prairie Trails Museum in Corydon, Iowa.
Early pioneer children in Iowa were often taught in their homes by mothers or older sisters. As populations grew in areas of the state, citizens organized local schools called subscription schools. Children could attend these schools as long as their parents shared the expenses for supplies and teachers. In 1839, a law passed by the territorial legislature made each county responsible for opening and maintaining public schools.
According to a letter written to the Wayne County Democrat in 1908 by James S. Whittaker, an early settler and teacher in Wayne County, “The first school house built in Wayne county was built about 1¼ miles east of where Lineville now stands, in 1842 or 1843.”Not all children attended school because they were needed on the farm, and mothers, aunts, and friends would do their best to teach children to read and write.
In 1858, another law was passed, and each township in Iowa became responsible for organizing schools. These new school districts built schools and provided tuition-free elementary education to all children between the ages of five and twenty-one. Nine schoolhouses were built in each township and students only had to walk a mile or two to school. Wilma West wrote in Wayne County History, “Over 100 rural schools dotted the hillsides and valleys of the county at one time.” A few of the names were: Callithump, Old Blue, Greenridge, Shane Hill, Nip and Tuck, Cockleburr, Jerk Tail, Clay Center, Hogue, Pine, Star, Oakdale, often called Wild Cat, German Center which became Liberty Center during World War I, Log Chain, and West Union.