The History of the Country School System
Small one room country schools once were located throughout each county in Illinois. This school building on the left once served the children of Basco (Hancock County). Farm children
in the early 1900s often walked or rode a horse for miles one way just to get to school. IF
YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION regarding a Country School still standing near you or if you have a photo you would
like to share you can e-mail it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can write us at:
Illinois HS Glory Days
6439 N. Neva St.
Chicago, Il. 60631
A brief history of McAuley School, West Chicago
Today, West Chicago is one of many suburbs of Chicago that is growing to a westwardly rate. However, there
lies a patch of countryside between West Chicago and St. Charles, the town to the west. The main road linking the two is Roosevelt
Road (Illinois Rt. 38) and as you drive to and from either town on the four-lane road, you'll pass a small grove of trees
alongside a small, red building.
The building, built in 1835 (that's 170 years ago!) is the old McAuley School that
housed the educational needs of the children of a then-dominant countryside for over 150 years. McAuley School was THE
last one-room schoolhouse used in Illinois. From 1835 to 1991 McAuley School gave children a well-rounded
education, operating as School District No. 27. It's been quite impressive for the school to last as long as it has, surviving
the unit district boom in the late 1940's ... and then some. In 1989, District 27 merged into West Chicago's elementary school
District 33 and when it closed in 1991, there were still six children attending the school and they all had either graduated
or moved from the area.
Today, there are talks of the district selling the building that a preservation society wants to keep and
restore. You don't find too many one-room school houses in Illinois any more still in their original state, let alone one
in the suburbs of Chicago. More information is welcome, and especially memories of the building so that we can post
on this site.
From a Student of Excelsior Country School
The following information was shared with us by Virginia D. "King" Rottman who attended
Excelsior Country School located at the Junction of Basco Road and Il. Rt. 96, in Hancock County. Ms. Rottman attended
Excelsior from 1941 - 48 when the school was closed due to consolidation. She wrote of how there was a huge boiler in
the corner of this one room school and how every kid huddled around it upon arriving at school after completing
their long (in her case 2 miles) walk during the cold winter months. Her teacher would rub her fingers in ice water
if they were too cold from the long walk ( a common belief of the time). The kids would play "andy-over" throwing
a ball over the top of the school building from one side to the other. In the winter they were allowed to spend lunch
hour or after school skating on the pond across the road. If a good ball game was in progress the teacher would
extend recess to let them finish. She especially enjoyed being a teacher's helper by tutoring the younger students in
reading. They put on plays in the school for the parents. Her father, William N. King, was on the school board. Excelsior
school building still stands, vacant after being used for years as a private residence. It was truly a wonderful time
for Ms. Rottman to attend school.
From Mary (Howard) Ellis:
"I attended 3 different country grade schools in Illinois......Fairland (which was South of Homer about
4 miles), then our home burned and we moved close to a school called Number Ten, which was about 1 1/2 miles south of Homer.
From there to near Catlin and at the moment I have forgotten the name of the school (a senior moment).
I doubt I have any pictures of those buildings. No doubt we didn't own a camera at that time, or just
didn't happen to take pictures of the schools. I do have some old pictures of my Dad butchering, houses we lived in and a
few pics of we gals with our parents.....Sure wish I had pics of all the old buildings.
It's amazing, but we did get
a good education in those one room schools where one teacher taught all 8 grades, stoked the furnace, watched us at recess.....we
had outside toilets....I don't remember who cleaned them. On a dark day, a few kerosene lamps hooked on the wall, were
School children nowadays have so many learning devices, pretty rooms, hot lunches, indoor toilets and if
the power goes off, many schools have generators. Only about 25 kids per class and some teachers have an assistant.