Centennial Book, 1857 - 1957
H. L. Dyar
HistoryWoodford 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
"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
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
In summer the land was covered by tall, rough
prairie or marsh grass and countless weeds and flowers.
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
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.
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
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
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.
plentiful but of the heavier dirt kind. The bread was corn bread,
white flour was scarce and biscuit and tea was a luxury.
were butchered by hand and the meat smoked or pickled for
Too much pork gave an unbalanced diet, and it is no
wonder that pimples, boils and carbuncles were so
Milk there was, but hard to keep sweet.
fruits were dried in the sun.
In all the food problems there
were no refrigerators, deep freezes or supermarkets.
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
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
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
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.
these early settles had a deep respect for education and soon a
public free school was organized under the laws of that
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
||Miss Almire M.
||Miss F. E.
||M. W. Wilson,
J. A. Ranney|
||E. M. Walker,
Amanda Martin, Ellen Chapman
||A. K. Smith, C.
||N. L. Cheedle,
Peter B. Schertz|
Chester Schertz, Roger Bachman|
Metamora, Illinois, Friday, September 13, 1957
Sunday, Sept. 15th at Morsetown School in Observance of District's
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