Preserving a legacy
By LARRY KERSHNER
Farm News news editor
ODEBOLT – A 128-year-old rural school house endured its second move Tuesday and will be used as a rural education museum in this community in southwest Sac County.
Officially known as Richland No. 1, but also known as Willow Tree School, the former school house was moved from the Curtis and Carol Raasch farm, at 1870 290th St., to a prepared site on Second Street in Odebolt, between Main and Maple Streets.
Carol Raasch said the streets were lined with people as the building rolled into Odebolt around noon.
The building was hauled across a harvested corn field, weaving around baled stalks, then onto Hope Avenue via a field access drive for the three-hour transport into town.
Carol Raasch said the spot where the structure sat on her farm looks pretty empty now.
“We are hoping to refurnish it as a school and do re-enactments in it” so contemporary school students can get a feel of how their grandparents and great-grandparents learned to read, write and do math.
The school was built in 1883 and originally stood a half-mile west of the Raasch farm, anchoring the southwest corner of what is now the intersection of 290th Street and Gard Avenue. It functioned as a school until May 1951.
According to Raasch, it was the last rural school to close in Richland Township, although there were a few country schools that continued for a few years afterward in Sac County
Restoring Richland No. 1 is part of the Rural Legacy Project in Odebolt. Raasch said a steering committee secured a $5,500 grant from Sac County Endowment, obtained through lottery funding; a $5,000 Gil and Barbara Renze Grant, and other donations from former students of the school to assist in relocating and refurbishing the building as a museum and interpretive center.
Site preparations were started in late-August to receive the building in Odebolt.
Raasch said the committee has “a number of other retired older buildings” that can be salvaged for siding for the school. She said modern lumber is not cut to the same dimensions that were used in late-19th century Iowa. “But the siding will all be wood,” she said.
There will be a metal roof, made to replicate the old shingle pattern of rural schools, and new thermal glass panes in the windows for comfort.
“We have enough artifacts to make it into a first-rate museum for all rural schools,” Raasch said.
After its 1951 closing, the building was moved to the farm in 1957 and used as a farrowing barn. When the Raasches purchased the site in 1983, it became a lambing barn for their son’s 4-H sheep, Raasch said. After retiring from farming, the Raasches cleaned it out and used the building for storage.
The effort to restore Richland No. 1 came from publication of the book “A Lost Treasure: Iowa’s Rural School System,” written by Sandra Kessler Host, an Odebolt native. Host used Richland No. 1 as an example of rural schools’ impact on Iowa’s history.
Host donated the proceeds of her book toward the relocation and preservation of the building.
“We’ve had a lot of community support,” Raasch said, to make Tuesday’s event happen.
Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, Ext. 453 or email@example.com.
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