Morsetown School Centennial Book, 1857 - 1957
H. L. Dyar History
Woodford County, Illinois Genealogy Trails


One Hundred Years
One hundred years mattered little to the deep ageless prairie sod or to the sky above, dark or bright, burning hot or freezing cold through endless seasons; but to the people of Moorestown School there is interest and wonderful pride in the record of aims, trials and accomplishments in their district during the 100 years beginning in that for away 1857.

"Little of all we value here, Awake on the morn of its hundredth year, without both looking and feeling queer." Oliver Wendell Holmes used those lines in his fanciful story of "The One Hoss Shay" which was built in such a perfect way that it lasted 100 years to a day and then collapsed into dust.

Far different is the story of Morsetown School. It was not perfectly built to last unchanged for 100 years.

It was built by these early serious people doing the best they could then, but in the hope and determination to provide year by year the best place for learning within their vision. And so, decade by decade, with changes to meet the needs of its children in a changing world, the school has come up to 1957, stronger than ever, sturdy, wide awake, in a quiet spot, but in touch with all the world, serving so well the needs of its pupils.

Let us now consider briefly the land, the people and how they lived.

The land itself was a part of the vast 1000 years old Illinois Prairie with deep black soil covered with heavy tough sod.

In summer the land was covered by tall, rough prairie or marsh grass and countless weeds and flowers.

There were not many large wild animals but of birds, snakes, flies and mosquitos, there were millions.

The first white people to come to this land to make their homes and grow up with the country were called settlers.

You know there were no trains, automobiles, buses, so settlers came by covered wagon, powered by oxen and plodding horses. The first houses were a long ways from being modern.

These early settlers came mostly from Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, New York, Vermont. They came to get away from poor farm land or other unliked conditions, but the big reason was to get into the wide open spaces of cheap public land with deep soil, often called 'black gold', here to live and prosper.

They became hardy farmers on the soil that was to produce for 100 years the wealth that has made the progress and prosperity of our present day Morsetown.

But farming back then, was a hard life. First the heavy tough sod had to be broken up with poor wooden plows, pulled by oxen or horses, plagues by swarms of flies and mosquitos.

Seed corn was planted by hand and seed wheat was thrown or broadcast by hand.

Harvesting was mostly hand work. There were no corn pickers, no combines.

Food became plentiful but of the heavier dirt kind. The bread was corn bread, white flour was scarce and biscuit and tea was a luxury.

Hogs were butchered by hand and the meat smoked or pickled for storage.

Too much pork gave an unbalanced diet, and it is no wonder that pimples, boils and carbuncles were so common.

Milk there was, but hard to keep sweet.

Some fruits were dried in the sun.

In all the food problems there were no refrigerators, deep freezes or supermarkets.

And farm mothers those days had to be durable, with care of children, cooking by fireplace or cheap wood burning stoves, washing with hard water, poor soap, in the house or outside, by the big iron kettle, Mother and wash board.

But no matter how hard was the work of father and mother, it was outweighed by the constant worry over the many forms of sickness that might seize the family and the children especially.
Doctors were few, medicine was not modern. There was malaria or ague, small pox, typhoid, diphtheria, and croup. Croup might strike suddenly, even in the night with alarming effect. Without help, a child could choke to death. In such a case, through the night on horse back rode father or big brother to summon the nearest doctor, while the mother fought for time with all known remedies.

Those hardships are here recounted, that we might appreciate the courage, industry and hardy character of those who lived here so many years ago, breaking the sod, making the roads, starting the school, in short, building the bridges from the past to our own generation.

These first half century people were religious, high minded, with social aptitude for knowing and helping neighbors. They were patriotic and loyal to the Union. They were active in politics and elections.

There were apple, husking and qui8lting bees. A barn raising was a notable event and the young of marriageable age arranged many parties. There were camp meetings and political meetings.

Many people saw Lincoln in the flesh as he came to the old Metamora Court House.

Many heard the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858. Many voted for or against Lincoln in 1860 and many young men were soldiers in Lincoln's union armies in the great Civil War 1861- 65, led by General Sherman and General Grant.
Some of these Civil War soldiers are interred on the Voolker farm.

Among the settlers was the Morse family from Vermont, a large family with some education and considerable means. Their settlement soon became known as Morsetown.

All these early settles had a deep respect for education and soon a public free school was organized under the laws of that day.

The Ranney family and the Wilson family were people of education and influence.

So for a period of twenty years or more, the directors were Levi Morse, J. A. Ranney, and N. D. Wilson....By H. L. Dyer


In the spring of 1956, the Mother's club, a group composed of mothers of the current pupils at Morsetown chook, agreed to delve through old records and complete a brief history of the Morsetown school. Mrs. John Garber had found an old tin box of school records in her attic, and brought it to the school house. When the contents were examined and found to be both old and full of interesting facts about the school, we agreed that it would be interesting to start a permanent record of the past history of District 42.

Captain Parker Morse came to Woodford county from Vermont, in 1835. He came with his family in a wagon pulled by horses. The journey took six weeks to reach Chicago and then three weeks more downstate to what is now Woodford county. At that time this area was a part of Tazewell county, and it was not until 1841 that Woodford county was established. In 1836, three men - Parker Morse, James Owen, and Thomas Jones decided that a rough hewn wilderness needn't necessarily mean uneducated children. They formed a district including the land of the present day Morsetown district and including land north as far as Cazenovia and Low Point. Miss Love K. Morse, daughter of Parker Morse was hired to teach, part of the time in a room of a private home, and part of the time in a building built for that purpose. At the end of the term her brother Joseph, taking the necessary papers with him rode to Springfield to collect pay for her work. This school according to early histories of Woodford county was the first free school in Woodford county, and by some authorities, the first free school in the state of Illinois.

The first building was a white frame building, with boards running up and down the walls. It was located north of the present building, somewhere between John Voolker's and Arthur Gingrich's. It was later sold to Marcellus Wilson, who moved it to the farm where Roger Bachman now lives. It was later moved to the Smith Robinson farm and is now occupied by the Guy Gold family. It was originally used for a church on Sunday and a school during the week. School was held for three terms each year, sometimes with a different teacher for each term.

In 1854, a new district 1 was formed. Between this time and 1858 the materials were ordered, delivered, and the building erected - much of the work being done by the farmers living in the district. Old records show that some of the bricks were hauled from Spring Bay at a cost of $3.50 per thousand. While we cannot determine the exact date that school was held in the new building, bills for books and desks leave us to believe that it was during the school year of 1857-58. Tax receipts show that various individuals had paid their taxes directly to the school district. The district purchased all books and furnished them to the students. Of the 27 person, between  the ages of 5 and 21, in the district in 1862, we found that 23 were in regular attendance at school, indicating that the desire for education was as strong then as now, a bill dated 1884 shows that double desks were purchased at that time.

At the turn of the century in the early 1900's a new school law was passed requiring all districts to be renumbered. At that time Morsetown was changed from District 2 to 42.

This school has come through the stages of candles, kerosene lights, to electric lights; from straight benches, double seats, old single seats to the present single units. In 1930 a full basement was dug, cement lined and a furnace was installed.

Major improvements were again added in 1953 when the furnace was converted to oil, a new well dug, and plumbing was installed. This year, 1957, a new bulletin board and a new piano were added to the room along with a face lifting in the form of redecorating inside and out.

At the present time there is one pupil attending the school who is of the fourth generation. He is nine year old Eric Bachman whose father, Roger Bachman, grandmother, Mrs. Elsie Robinson Bachman and great grandmother, the former Mrs. Emma Wilson Robinson attended the school. There are five pupils of the third generation attending school. They are Jack, Marilynn, and Iris Voolker, whose father John Vookler Junior and Grandfather, John Voolker Senior also attended the school. The Voolker family live in the house which was built by a member of the early Morse family. Also Mary and Marie Schrock, twin daughters of Mearly Schrock, and grand daughters of the former. Joel Schrock have all attended the school in the past.

While many families had members of the third generation who attended the school in the past, we only know of four others who were of the fourth generation. They were: Rodney and Burton Ranney, great grandsons of J. A. Ranney, also Marlys Kinger and Jean Robinson Fitschen great grand-daughters of Emma Wilson Robinson.

At a meeting called by the Mother's Club in April, a Centennial Celebration was discussed, and committees were appointed to work on the project. We asked Mr. H. L. Dyar of Eureka to help us compile a history of the school, which he very graciously agreed to do. During his many years in the County Superintendent's office, from 1927 to 1955, he saw many changes in the schools of Woodford county.

When he took office there were more then one hundred one-room schools in the county. They have gradually been consolidated or absorbed by unit districts. it is perhaps symbolic of the great desire for knowledge and education shown by these early settlers when they started the first free school in Woodford county, that it should be the last one-room school in operation in the county. We the residents of Morsetown District 42 are very proud of our school and its heritage.


Year Teachers Directors
1862-63 Miss Almire M. Dutton
1863-64 Miss F. E. Marshall
1864-65 Laura Wilson, A. Hazon S. P. Norse
1866-67 Julie Dutton, Leroy Henna Horace Hazon
1867-68 Carrie Gooding, Caroline Brandon E. J. Dutton
1869-70 Albert Rich, Dolia Dolph Joel Ranney
1870-71 Addie Alfrod, Eliza Morse Orin Cheedle
1871-72 Joel Morse, Hester Kellog Horace Hazon
1872-73 Eliza Morse, Florence Gould M. W. Wilson, J. A. Ranney
1873-74 E. M. Walker, Amanda Martin, Ellen Chapman J. A. Ranney
1874-75 Carrie Rich Horace Hazon
1875-76 Effie Marsh, Isabell Heley M. W. Wison
1876-77 Eliza Morse,  Florence Gould J. O. Norse
1877-78 Myra Pachard J. O. Norse
1878-79 Lilla Ranney M. W. Wilson
1879-80 Grace Fairchild J. W. Ranney
1880-81 Zillah McCulloch Calvin Ridonor
1881-82 Eleanor Kirby N. W. Wilson
1882-83 Ella Frazor Joel A. Ranney
1883-84 Susie Martin N. C. Ridonor
1884-85 Altha Gifford B. L. Smith
1885-86 Clara Barton, Fanny Ralston James Wright
1886-87 Altha Gifford, Fanny Ralston A. K. Smith, C. D. Gould
1887-88 Fanny Ralston B. I. Smith
1888-89 Maggie Summors Wm. Evans, Jacob Gingrich
1889-90 Nallie Morris, Katie Summors N. L. Cheedle, Mark Ranney
1890-92 Nollie Barton H. L. Cheedle
1892-93 Julia Bissot Jacob Garber
1893-94 Florella Drennen George Herron
1894-95 Bert Dyar, Chris Imhoff Jacob Gingrich
1895-96 Katie Mangin Jacob Garber
1896-98 Mac Cassell George Herron
1898-99 Mary Watson J. A. Garber
1899-1902 Ora Dyar
1902-04 Esther Bohlander Mark Ranney, Peter B. Schertz
1904-05 Lillian Thoona Michael Marchand
1905-06 Emily Thoona Jacob Barbor
1906-07 Jonnie Holland Charles Kann
1007-08 Grover Newton N. J. Ranney
1909-12 Rose Schleight Peter B. Schertz
1912-15 Gay Stivers Jacob Barber
1915-17 Mabel Malone M. J. Ranney
1917-19 Carolyn Phillipi Peter B. Schertz
1919-20 Wm. Wilson
1920-21 Zolpha Bant John Garber
1921-22 Lucie Brown
1922-24 Mabel Schertz P. B. Schertz
1924-25 Dorothy Warner France Robinson
1925-32 Alice Robinson Jesse Bachman
1932-33 Estella Yoder John Voolker
1933-34 Esther Robinson Leland Ranney
1934-36 Gladys Schertz France Robinson
1936-39 Pha Robinson Dan Schrock
1939-40 Marjorie Hanson Albert Sluga
1940-41 Joyce Wiley F. K. Robinson
1941-42 Ida Henderson John Voolker
1942-44 Allio Stehr John Garber
1944-45 Pha Seeber Ralph Schertz
1945-56 Irma Phister Andrew Schrock
1946-49 Melba Stioglitz Arthur Gingrich
1949-50 Alice Minger John Garber
1950-57 Bernice Schertz John Voolker, Chester Schertz, Roger Bachman

Metamora, Illinois, Friday, September 13, 1957
Open House Sunday, Sept. 15th at Morsetown School in Observance of District's 100th Anniversary

Morsetown School, District 42, located in Section 4, Metamora township, 3 1/2 miles northeast of Metamora, pictured above and still in use is the only remaining one-room school in Woodford county.  The school also has the distinction of being the first free school in Woodford county and one of the first free schools in the state of Illinois. Next Sunday, Sept. 15 from 1 P.M. till 8 p. M. "Open House" will be held at the school marking its one hundredth year.  There will be an informal program and an exhibit of interesting articles connected with the school's existence, also a history prepared by H. L. Dyer, former superintendent of schools in Woodford county and printed in a booklet will be available to visitors. The Centennial Committee, a group of the patrons and directors of the school are in charge of the "Open House."  They cordially invite all to visit the school on this occasion. Mrs. Ralph [Bernice Hahn] Schertz is the teacher of the school. The above brick building, the successor of the first frame building in the district, where school was started in 1836, was erected during the years 1854 to 1858.

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