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Remembering Dodge School

None of Bureau County’s almost 200 one-room schoolhouses was very big.

But some of them were even smaller than the others, and closed their doors long, long ago. Consequently, very few people still remember them.

“I just felt bad when I saw all of these other schools because nobody will ever know about the Dodge School,” said Harold Stone, referring to the ongoing series on one-room schoolhouses in the Bureau County Republican. “There’s only one other person that I know for sure in Walnut that would know about the Dodge school, but the rest? Everybody’s gone.”

The Dodge School — not to be confused with another Dodge School that was located southwest of Ohio — was once located just north of Walnut on what is still known as Indian Head Road.

“The school sat on the northwest corner of that intersection, and to the west was a building for the cobs and coal for the teacher to heat the building,” Stone said.

Stone was born in 1925, the first born son in a farming family.

“You’d just naturally go outside in good weather, and you’d have to help, like feed the chickens,” he said.

Stone said the Dodge School was the neighborhood school, educating the children of the people who lived “up the east road and down the west road.” It was located just south of the Lee County line, and students who lived to the south went into Walnut for school.

“At one time there was a dozen of them going to school there,” he said. “By the time I went to school, there wasn’t quite as many; there was probably about eight or nine.”

Stone said there might have been one other student his age when he started first grade.

“The first year, I thought the first grade teacher was a doll,” he said.

The teacher, Rena Christenson, was single, but Stone said she later married a George Taylor, who was a coach at the Walnut High School.

Stone said there wasn’t that much equipment outside to play on during recess, maybe just a slippery slide and a swing. He also remembers going to the front of the room to sit on the recitation bench for his classes.

“I got along all right with everything,” he said. “Spelling, arithmetic and history was always interesting.”

Stone said the last teacher he had at the school was Maxine Hall from New Bedford.

“And it was a December or a January that we had a big snow, and her dad brought her, and within an hour and a half, there was snow and cold weather,” he said.

So the teacher came down to the Stone farm, where Stone’s younger brother was sick with the chicken pox.

“The poor girl, her nose was white, and she said, ‘I don’t care,’ and she came in,” he said. “She was there for three days until her dad could get her, and then she sat at home in New Bedford and had chicken pox, while I sat at home and had chicken pox.”

In 1932, the six-room grade school in Walnut burned to the ground, and when it was rebuilt a few years later, the Dodge students started going there for their education.

“It took time to build the new school, and they still had to keep the Dodge School open until they got the new grade school built,” Stone said. “They had a hard time trying to find a teacher for six kids.”

Stone said the Dodge School building was torn down when they moved the students into town, and the land was plowed under.

“It’s too bad that there wasn’t a picture,” he said.

Comment on this story at

A history lesson at Dodge
Not much is known about the Dodge Schoo. According to the Dodge Family website, Ireneus Bruce Dodge moved to Walnut about 1835. He gave the land on which the Dodge School was built. It served as a community school until it consolidated with the Walnut Grade School District in 1937.
There is also a reference to the school in the "Encyclopedia of Illinois and the History of Lee County," date 1904.
According to the book, "The first preaching that the settlers of Hamilton Township had was in a little school-house known as the Dodge school house, on the prairie south of the county line. The Sabbath was but little respected at first, as nearly everyone went gunning on that day, and to reform this habit David Griggs, William Griggs, Solomon Welsh, J.F. McMurray, Johnson Griggs and J.H. Knight contributed to pay for preaching, and employed a neighbor, the Rev. Ford, who lived at the east end of Red Oak Grove, paying him fifty cents for each Sunday. The singing was led by Prof. I.B. Dodge with his violin.
"It was not a devout congregation; few, possibly none, of those who attended the services were professing Christians, nevertheless they recognized the necessity for divine worship in the settlement, and thus were the sweet influences of better things inaugurated. The Rev. Lumery, who sometimes used strong language, remarked of this beginning that "the singing was fit to be heard anywhere, but the religious propensities of the people belonged to the devil."
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