Remembering Bunker Hill School
|The District 156 Bunker HIll school building lives on as a living museum for former students and friends of owner Sharon Wilson. Wilson bought the school and moved it to her parents' farm in 1990, and now uses it to display school memorabilia and family items. "You take care of things — this is how we were raised," Wilson said. (BCR photo/Barb Kromphardt)|
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BUDA — For many former students of one-room schoolhouses, their school days are the stuff of distant memories and perhaps a faded photograph or two.
For Sharon Hanley Wilson, her school days are no farther away than her own backyard.
Wilson only attended the school from 1949 until it closed in 1952, but her roots run deep. She was the 14th person and the fourth generation of her family to attend the school, which was built in 1856 two miles south of Buda. It was one of nine, one-room schools located in Macon Township.
The building had been located on Route 40, two miles south of Buda. After the school closed in 1952, Macon Township purchased the school and one acre of land, and used the schoolhouse as a meeting hall and voting location.
In 1984, the school was vacated.
“In 1985 they started rumors where they were going to tear it down because they wanted to build that metal building,” Wilson said. “Luckily my dad was still here, and he said, ‘No, you’re not tearing that building down.’ This is the only historic building in Macon Township. We don’t have a town, so this was the town, church, meeting hall, voting, everything.”
Wilson said the township bought more land for their building, but the schoolhouse wasn’t being maintained.
“I saw the writing on the wall,” she said. “Luckily I was here, and I had a place to put it.”
That “place” turned out to be one-quarter of a mile south on her parents’ farm. Wilson had the school moved in 1990. After restoring it, she opened it to friends and former students in the fall of 1991.
Much of the school is the same as when Wilson and her classmates attended. The floor, lights and ceiling are the same, as is the pot-bellied stove where students used to heat potatoes for their lunch.
“The school desks that were here happened to be at the red brick schoolhouse back at the Lovejoy, and they told me I could have them if I could find duplicates,” Wilson said.
Wilson had only one classmate — Merrill Marquis — in first and second grade, and there were a total of 14 students the year she started school. She said her teacher, Wilma Maxy, would start the day teaching her and Merrill to read and write.
“Then she would send us back to our desks to do our assignments,” Wilson said. “While she spent time with the other students, she would give permission to the lower grades to spend time behind the piano to play house.”
Wilson said she remembers the teacher doing her best to educate the students.
“I believe the teacher did a remarkable job with her insurmountable task to prepare us all for the school years ahead of us,” she said.
Wilson has all the teachers’ grade books from 1856-1952, and she has put together a book with all their names, the years they attended, the salaries of the teachers, and other tidbits of information on Bunker Hill. She has also collected recollections from many former students about their days at the school.
Although she only attended the school for a few years, Wilson said she has a lot of good memories.
“I’m just thankful that I had that experience,” she said. “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for it.’
Although she has added many family heirlooms to the display in the school, Wilson said she doesn’t feel like it’s her school.
“I feel like I was put here for a reason, and one of the reasons was to save this and to share it,” she said. “Whatever I do in life, if they say nothing more on my epitaph than I saved Bunker Hill School, I’ll be happy.”
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