El Paso Schools
Woodford County, Illinois Schools
Illinois Genealogy Trails

Archive, Fall 2010, Vol. VI, #3
Woodford County Historical Society

Jefferson Park School, Feb. 22, 1940

Back row; Dick George, Glenn Borroughs, Billy Allan, Ray Shoemaker, Eugene Hall, Donald Shoemaker, Perry Bennett, Danny Pfister, Don Cole.
Middle Row: Mildred Beachy, Norma Blackmore, Frances Whitten, Betty Hicks, Betty Keets, Margaret Beachy, Shirley Griswald, Helen Peters, Mary Lee Turnipseed.
Front row: Jack Gibbons, Marilyn Robinson, Marilyn George, Miss Taylor, Bonnie Hasty, Doris Kepm, Billie Harroun.

Archive, Fall 2011, Vol. VII, #3, Woodford County Historical Society

Jefferson Park School - Built 1897

McKinley School - Built 1869-70 

McKinley School - 1954

Bethel School, District 96 "Old Duck Pond"
(This was copied by Richard Mayne from a July 1939 issue of the Woodford County Journal)
Source: Woodford County Historcal Society "Archive", 2013

Old "Duck Pond" School District Number 96 Seventy-seven Years Old.
-On Sunday, July 16, beginning with a fine chicken dinner under the shade trees at noon, pupils and patrons of the olden days joined with those of the present time in a happy reunion at the Bethel school district 96, two miles south and two miles west of El Paso. There were 184 Persons enrolled on the day's register aside from a few others, who neglected to record themselves as "present." The attendants included, former and present directors, teachers, and pupils from "away back when" pupils of the current "crop" patrons of the district and other guests who by marriage or otherwise qualified for the happy occasion.

History of School
Bethel school district was first organized as No. 6, El Paso township in compliance with a petition to the board of trustees filed on April 7, 1862. The new district as finally organized besides the south quarter of section 7 all of sections 13, 18, 19, and 24 in El Paso township, also embraces section 14 and all excepting the southwest quarter of 23 in Palestine township. This is the district's territory today.

The lands forming the district are owned and operated or tenanted by the following: Robert Mayne, E. J. Carmody, Lyle Armstrong. George Shuman, Mrs. Belle Givens, Joseph Hitch, Rich. Mayne, Henry  Dressier,  Chas.  Greaser Est., Ellen Hynes, Elizabeth Dressier, Henry Dressier, Jacob Dressier, I. King estate, Wm. Kearney Jr., F. Wendland, Clyde Roberts, Walter Berg, James McWilliams, Mrs. Ruth Schafer Engle, Jesse Malcom, Robert Shaffer, Mrs. Eloise Holland, Dan T. Kearney, M. Hynes Est., Lawrence Crusius, Sarah Eichenlaub, Luella Oster, H. J. Stiegelmeier. All the above pertain to that portion of the district within El Paso township. The following are in Palestine township: Mrs. P. R. Berg, Jesse Gray, Ernest Schwitters, Chas. Roberts, S. K. Sutton, Leo Roberts, Lawrence Sutton, John Gaines, M. J. .Mohr, Geo. Burroughs.

The April 7, 1862 petition asking for the formation of the Bethel district No. 6, was signed by Jacob McMaron, Christian Reust, Henry M. Wills, Melcher Sachs, George Tatro, A. M. .Montgomery, William Bowman, Nephey Bowman, Caleb Horn, and Richard Mayne.

In re-mapping the township in 1863 to provide additional school districts, the only change in the Bethel school was making it No. 9 instead of No. 6. It remained No. 9 until 1902 when designate numbers were given all the schools on a county basis instead of by separate townships, as formerly. Bethel then became district 96, as at present.

It is presumed that the first building was erected soon after the district was formed. The first structure was replaced by the present modern one in 1917 and it is as complete in equipment as any one-room school in the territory where good country schools are the general vogue. No desired feature is lacking. But, one wonders, while looking over the neatly and conveniently arranged seating accommodations, 20 modern units, how it was ever possible for 92 pupils to be tutored all at one time, as was done in the old building in the 70's. But some of the old timers aver (sic.) that that was the case. Miss. Rita Pierce, last spring's teacher and who has been re-engaged for the term beginning next fall had an enrollment of only 13 pupils last term. Either the old building was much larger than the present one (which the oldsters deny) or the quarters were considerably crowded. Today the farms are larger, the houses fewer, and the families smaller. Where today there are only two houses there used to be five. This one territory between the Leo Roberts and the Lawrence Sutton homes is an example.

As these columns noted last month in the write-up of the Old McOmber school which held a reunion on June 14 rural school years were generally divided into three terms, fall, winter, and spring, and often a different teacher ruled during the same school year. Mrs. A. C. (Mary Roper) Jones, one of early-day teachers and who attended last Sunday's reunion, tells us that she taught the Bethel school during the spring and fall terms of the years 1876, 1877, 1878, and 1879. Asked why she skipped the winter months she replied "it was too hard work." In the old days the farm boys had to shuck corn and chop and haul wood until about December 1. They then attended the winter term but had to return to the farm work in the early spring. Thus it was in the three winter months that the pupil attendance was the largest and the average age the greater. A number of the older boys, some of them 21 years old and then some sometimes had ideas of conduct not so easy to meet and the three winter months generally required a regular he-man on the job. Mrs. Jones vacated during these interims and W. T. Ackerman filled in and made a good job of it, according to the stories told by some of the oldsters still living and who well remember their experiences. And they now agree that they deserved all they got, and maybe more. This detail is not confined to the period covered for the four years noted. lt was not unusual for that times.

"Old Duck Pond"
In last week's Journal we gave a brief history of Bethel School and how it became known as "Duck Pond" because of its being surrounded by a series of water ponds and the Mecca for hunters of the mallards, pintails and teals. This was long before the ponds were tiled out but the name "Duck Pond" stuck and will no doubt prevail so long as any of the olden day pupils are alive to recall their happy days of yore.

Presents Awarded
At the reunion a number of prizes were given. Among them were the following: Mrs. A. C. Jones the oldest teacher-flower basket. -Lynn Biebes, 75 oldest pupil present. Had Thomas Lynch shown up he would have beaten Mr. Biebes by one year. -Fred Greiner missed the prize by one year.  -A bouquet was sent to Mrs. Mary Damman of Secor for being the oldest living mother of an early-day pupil. Mrs. Damman could not attend the reunion. The flowers were taken by her daughter Mrs. L. W. Powell, who brought to the reunion the dinner pail in which she and other members of the Mr. and Mrs. Henry Damman family carried their noonday Bethel school dinners fifty years ago. -Mrs. C. B. Muller, 70, of Peoria was the oldest woman pupil. --Mr. and Mrs. L. P. Herr of Zearing. Ia. came the longest distance 327 miles -May Sutton 7 was the youngest pupil. -Dale Allen Rider 3 months, was the youngest child. -Francis Pfister, Charles Roberts and Ned Hynes are the only living members of the Duck Pond ball team which played in 1890, 91, 92, 93 and was never beaten. -Mr. and Mrs. Chas. T. Roberts have sent children to Bethel for the past 25 years, and none of them was ever tardy. -So far as is known the most distant old-time pupils of Bethel school are Lewis Haas, Calgary, Canada; Gertrude (Haas) Sego, Saskatchewan, Canada, and Melker Vogt, Alberta, Canada. Mrs. Sadie (Sutton) Garvat of Tulsa, Ok., sent a letter to the reunion committee.

Source: Woodford County Historical Society, "Archive", Spring 2013
Excerpts from the 1948 CRAM SCHOOL (District 77)
The reunion was held August 6, 1948 at the school. About 125 people registered by noon and took part in a basket dinner. Fifteen gallons of ice cream were served in the afternoon. By the end of the day 150 had registered.

A photographer from the Hawkins Studio in Bloomington was on hand to take a group picture and several private movie cameras recorded the events. At the afternoon business meeting L. W. Powell acted as chairman to open the meeting and to give a history of the school. He reported that the school was originally District 2 of Greene Twp. but when the county schools were organized, it was changed to District 77.

The first building was a log cabin erected in 1828 and was located one mile due east of the present school. The second building was a frame structure located 1/4 mile east and 1/8 mile north of the present school.
Records from the first two buildings have not been kept. The present school was built in 1861 and since then records have been kept of all business, teachers and directors, but some of the registers have been lost.
Over 40 different men served as directors in the first 87 years; W. H. Armstrong served almost half of that time, 41 consecutive years. Registers that have been found show 325 different pupils who attended, and there must be another 75 to 80 for whom no records have been found.

Older teachers who answered the invitation cards but were not able to attend were Miss Rebecca Whitaker, taught 1883-84; Miss Lillie Hammers, taught 1890; and J. T. Sturgeon, 1885-87. Miss Mary A. Lyons of El Paso who taught from 1936-45 taught the longest of any one teacher. Of the 8 teachers present, Miss Mary Damman was also a pupil of Mrs. Amittie Capron Wilson. Mrs. Ruth Armstrong Crout was a pupil of Mr. Cecil Sharp. Ruth's mother was a teacher at Cram School and her father was a school director.

Edwin Childs (1860-61) was the first teacher in the present building. Matthew Aeschliman is the oldest living student at 98, but he was unable to attend. Bonnie Kay Armstrong and Phyllis Ann McGhee were the last beginning class, and Carol Fehr (Zehr?) was in the last graduating class.

Teachers who attended were Mrs. Armittie Capron Wilson, Miss Mary Damman, Miss Clara Clausen, Mrs. Lida Rock Powell, Mrs. Jessie Patterson Keller, Mr. Cecil Sharp, Mrs. Ruth Armstrong Crout, and Miss Oma Baker. Miss Baker was employed in 1948 to teach an intermediate grade in El Paso.

It was decided to have another reunion in 1949. Officers for the coming year were elected: President, Harold H. Armstrong, Vice-President J. Ira Powell, Secretary/Treasurer Velma McClure.

1915 El Paso Basketball Team - unknown players 

Basketball, unknown year/unknown players
photo courtesy of Amy Robbins-Tjaden

1908 High School Baseball Team

Old West Side School

Centenial School

El Paso High School

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