Don’t be offended if someone asks whether you attended a one-room school. They are not insinuating that you are old. They are just interested in history!
The Alton School was the last country school operating in Dallas County. It closed in 1961. If you were a kindergartener at that time, you’re not even ready for Medicare yet!
Alton School is just one of the nine country schools that dotted Spring Valley Township at one time. It opened in 1867 just northwest of Perry, and it got its name from the nearby Alton Post Office.
The Alton School was used by multiple generations of families of farmers, railroad workers and miners living in the Spring Valley area. All students attending the school are listed on the wall just inside the school, including the Nicolaisens, Menzs and Andersons, who were among the last families in 1961 and many of whom still live in the Perry area.
On May 24, 1961, Mrs. Kaye Harmann and her 11 pupils made county history when the Alton School door was permanently closed after 94 years of use — longer than any other school in the county. Prior to Mrs. Harmann, Mrs. Alta Christensen taught there for more than 20 years.
The school was moved in 1964 to its current location at Forest Park Museum in Perry, where it is visited by many tourists and riders on the nearby Raccoon River Valley Trail as well as students from the area.
In 2018 an audio exhibit was installed by Nu Alpha Gamma Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, and visitors can now press buttons to hear about various aspects of attending a country school.
In his book, “History of Perry, Iowa,” Eugene Hastie noted that the first schoolhouse near Perry was in a Boone County area known as Buffalo Grove in 1856:
Each man interested furnished from one to three logs and helped to lay up the walls. The first teacher was Caroline Palmer who received $1.75 a week and board. . . . The next school was begun on the Dr. Mowrer farm at the site of the present Mowrer cemetery and was known as Frog Creek School. . . . About 1867, this schoolhouse burned down and two more were started. One was located at the southeast corner of the John Roberts farm, and because it was at the geographic center of Spring Valley Township, it was called the Spring Valley school. The second was Alton School.
We are seeking information about the names and locations of the other schools in Spring Valley Township. If you have any information about any of these schools, such as their location or stories of students who attended them, our group would like to hear from you. Please contact Myrna Griffith at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sue Leslie at email@example.com.