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School’s Out Forever: The second semester

As teachers and students alike prepare for another school year, I thought it was the perfect time for the second installment of our ongoing series: School’s Out Forever. This series examines the histories of those (often) one-room school houses whose doors have sadly closed for the last time. In this installment, we will be looking at the early days of Oak Grove and Rondout Schools.

To the first students who walked through its doors, Oak Grove School was known as Madden School, named after an early settler, Thomas Madden, who around 1850 donated the land where the school was built. Located The school itself was most likely built of logs and was located around one fourth of a mile east of the current school site.

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1861 Map of Lake County with the Madden property highlighted.

The school terms were split into two four-month terms: the summer term lasted from early May to September, the winter term from November to March, leaving the students free to help their parents on the farm. Possibly due to a belief that female teachers would not be able to handle the (sometimes) much larger farm boys, they tended to teach during the summer term when the boys were out helping their parents in the fields, and during the winter the teacher was most often a man. This led most of the older children to attend school during the winter.

Teachers earned a lot less than they do now, with women teachers making around $28 per month, and the male teachers making about $40-50 per month. Some of the first teachers were Lizzie Finney (1883), G.T. Hattley (1886), and J.T. Delaney  (1886).

By 1919, the  Madden school-house was nearing 70 years old and the school board realized that a new, larger building was needed. On June 7th, 1919, voters passed the $10,000 bond for the construction of a new school, on the condition that  it be located on the same site as the original. The board agreed and everything would have gone smoothly…had it not been for Mr. Arthur Simpson, the County Superintendent who refused to approve a new school on the site, arguing that the conditions of the grounds were unsanitary. The bond would go before the voters again in 1920 and 1922, with slightly different sites. Each time people voted to approve the funds for the new school, but against a new site.

A. Simpson 1920
T.A. Simpson, County Superintendent.  Lake County Independent.

Finally in 1923, the board selected a site just east of Madden school, and with the bond issue now at $15,000, the measure finally passed. The new school, now called Oak Grove, opened its doors to its first class on November 12, 1923, with Mr. Elmer Beckwith as its first teacher. However as the population grew, overcrowding once again became an issue. A new school was built further south on O’Plaine Road while the old Oak Grove school became what is now the Village of Green Oaks Town Hall. New additions to this latest school were added in 1960, 1964, 1970, 1977, 1990, and 1997.

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Oak Grove circa 1923. Courtesy of Oak Grove School.

The next school on our tour is Rondout, which at the time was called Bradley School. Records for the school date back to 1864 when the first school, which was (again) a log cabin, opened. The school was located near what are now Old School Road and Bradley Road, hence the school’s original name, and served the some 60 farm families that were living in the area.

The first teacher at the school was Ms. Jeannette Simpson, who our readers might remember from our last installment of School’s Out Forever where we found her working at Bush school in 1861. Her experience there must have paid off because while at Rondout School her salary was $18 per month. Ms. Simpson’s classes consisted of around 60 children of all ages, although many of the older children were only able to attend the winter term because they were busy helping their parents on the farm.

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Ms. Jeannette Simpson. Date unknown. Courtesy of Rondout School.

Although we do not know when, the original school-house was replaced by a new building, which was destroyed in a fire shortly thereafter. Later, a third school was built, but was soon realized to be too small, so in 1917 the school district purchased a one acre site for $750.00 and built  a one-room brick schoolhouse, which would become the modern Rondout School.  Additions to the school were added in 1918, 1973, 1999, and 2009, with the school we know today as the end result.

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Rondout School in 1917. Courtesy of Rondout School.

“1918 School Histories – Libertyville Township – Rondout School.” Illinois Digital Archives, July 22, 2003. Accessed July 11, 2016.

Agnew, Julianne. “An Old-fashioned School House Makes Way for Progress.” The Independent-Register (Libertyville), July 11, 1974.

Dretske, Diana. “One-Room School Teacher, Fanny Hinkston.” Lake County, Illinois History (blog), August 11, 2016. Accessed August 13, 2016. blogspot/sVFbV.

Hale, George, and J.N. Truesdell. “Map of Lake County Illinois.” Map. St. Louis, MI: L. Gast Bro. & Lith., 1861. Reproduction of original published 1949.

The Old Oak Grove School. “Oak Grove History.” Oak Grove School District 68. Accessed July 18, 2016.

Photos courtesy of Rondout School

T.A. Simpson County Superinten. Lake County Independent (1894-1906), Cook Memorial Public, Libertyville. In Libertyville Independent. Libertyville, IL: Libertyville Independent, 1920. 11. Accessed July 18, 2016.

Wojcik, Jenny, Dr. “Reflections on Our School District.” Rondout SD 72. Accessed July 11, 2016.

Categories: Local History

Tags: Local History

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