Area woman finishes work on new book about rural schools
Corbin H. Crable
Although many of Johnson County’s rural schoolhouses are no longer standing, Spring Hill resident Tressa Stone has done her best to make sure they’re not forgotten.
Stone recently completed work on her new book, “Rural Schools of Johnson County,” after months of research and drawing upon her own knowledge of county schools long gone.
Stone said the book includes a wealth of information on the county’s 100 one-room schools, including newspaper articles, first-hand accounts of studying and teaching in the county’s rural schools, and photos of those buildings and the students who inhabited them. The $30 book is available for purchase at the Gardner Historical Museum; $10 of the purchase price goes toward helping fund the museum and its activities.
“This is a bringing together of other people’s research that I have found,” said Stone, who began work on the book receiving praise for her previous book, a timeline of Gardner and its history. “Some of my knowledge had been through articles, books and other printed materials.”
Stone said that although the topic of rural, one-room schools had always been in the back of her mind, she first gained interest in the subject of rural schools when she discovered a book on Douglas County’s one-room schools. Stone herself attended one of those schools in Douglas County and decided it was time to research their history here in Johnson County.
Stone began compiling information late last year and early this year, as she worked to organize a display on one-room schools for the Gardner Historical Museum. The museum unveiled that exhibit in February.
“I’ve been ‘supercompiling’ for about eight months,” she said. “Of course, I had been curious for quite a while to see if I could even find a list of the 100 schools. I had started two or three different times over the years to see how many names I could come up with.”
Stone said that although most of the county’s one-room schools are gone, a few are still standing and being used for other purposes.
“There are seven schools in the county that are still in operation as museums or learning centers in one capacity or another,” Stone said. “At least 17 were made into homes or sheds. One was made into a meat market, and another schoolhouse in Merriam is actually a moving company. So these schools aren’t completely nonexistent.”
Stone said the research she conducted on the book brought back plenty of memories of her time as a student in a one-room school in Douglas County.
“You had one individual teaching — one teacher taught all eight grades,” Stone recalled. “And you were with the same students from first grade all the way through high school.”
She said each rural school usually housed between 25 and 30 students, and that each had to learn to share with one another.
“We were fortunate that we had a well on the school property, and that was the drinking water we used for the schoolhouse,” Stone said. “Some schools had to use water from a creek or a neighbor’s house. But the school I went to — we had a well there, but you had to bring it in a large bucket and drink it out of the bucket from a cup.”
Stone also said her school had two outhouses — one for the boys, one for the girls.
“They did get cold in the winterime and hot in the summertime,” Stone recalled, laughing. “I don’t remember that it got too terribly smelly, though.”
Mica Marriott, a board member with the Gardner Historical Museum, said she is impressed with Stone’s book.
“I know she worked so hard on it, and she tried to include every single school district in the county,” Marriott said. “There is not another book on the library shelves at this moment that is as in-depth and as resourceful as her book is currently. I think it is a wonderful piece of work that we’ll have for generations that will be an excellent resource for people.”
Stone said that although she’s enjoyed the project and hopes readers of all ages will find the book interesting, her next venture will be more personal in nature.
“After doing the timeline and the school book, I’ve got genealogy — just a personal project, I guess. I don’t know that I have another big project in mind,” she said. “I’m kind of ready for a break. I’ve learned that time goes more swiftly if you keep busy, and that’s something to work toward.”
On the Web:
Gardner Historical Museum: www.gardnerhistory.org