The legacy of Wilder, Spohn and Holroyd

Photo of a paycheck from 1895

C. H. Wilder. Clara Holroyd. Eva Spohn.

Each day, they woke up, ate a hearty breakfast and walked to the little white schoolhouse in the center of Westport Township in the southwest corner of Dickinson County.

With the light of day still young, they started a fire in the potbelly stove to warm the cold room for its upcoming task. They took a piece of white chalk, and with looping letters, wrote down the first lesson of the day on the clean blackboard at the front of the room.

Photo of a schoolhouse

As they did so, their students’ faces popped in their minds. Which ones would make it to school that day? Who would have to stay home to help Dad with harvest this fall day? Would they have their homework done?

Soon, voices started filling the schoolyard as children traipsed up the drive. They called to one another, greeting their friends on this new day, and then started up a quick game of tag.

It was time.

The schoolteachers would have come to the front of the building, and children would have scurried to line up in front of the door, shortest to tallest, boys on one side and girls on the other.

“Good morning.”

“Good morning,” the children responded.

In an orderly fashion, the children entered the schoolhouse and found the seats they always took, in the rows that corresponded to their grades.

They said the Lord’s Prayer and stood with their right hands proudly covering their hearts as they looked at the red, white and blue flag and said the Pledge of Allegiance.

With all eyes forward, the day of education had begun.

Photo of a paycheck stub from 1903

C.H. Wilder made $30 per month in 1895 teaching at Westport School No. 5. Eva Spohn got a raise and made $35 per month teaching there 1903-04. Clara Holroyd took over after Spohn and made the same wages.

Photo of a paycheck stub from 1904

These teachers put their hearts into their students, and their legacy is preserved today as people can still tour the Westport Schoolhouse. Although now located in Kenue Park in Okoboji, about 22 miles from its original location, it is still a beacon of history and what school was like in the early days of Iowa.

Visit the Westport Schoolhouse 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday (the second Tuesday of June through the first Friday of August) and take a step back in time to the days of Wilder, Spohn and Holroyd.

See what they left behind.

Photo of a sign and bonnet hanging on a hook

Play a country school game

Since all grades attended the same school, that means all grades also spent recess together. The school was like a big family, with everyone playing together, sometimes even the teacher. Games were simple and didn’t need expensive equipment. Here is one favorite you can try in your own yard!

Pom Pom Pullaway

Players form two lines opposite each other, marked by a building and or trees, bushes or sticks.

One player is “it.” He or she stands in the middle between the two lines and calls “Pom, pom, pullaway. Come or I’ll pull you away.”

Then all the players leave their bases and run across to the other side. Whoever is “it” catches as many players as he or she can. Those caught are also “it” and helps to catch players who can be caught as they run from one line to the other.

The game continues until all are caught, or it was time for class again.

Check out our blogs each week for more information on our exhibits and places to explore as well as fun kids activities.



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