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History of Honey Creek School in Walworth County Wisconsin

Paul lived on a farm north of Honey Creek for many years. Two of his sisters and a close neighbor attended Honey Creek School.

Honey Creek School. This picture was probably taken between 1930 and 1950

Honey Creek School. This picture was probably taken between 1930 and 1950

This is a brief history of Honey Creek School in Walworth County Wisconsin from its founding in 1838 until its closing in the mid-1960s.

The first school was organized in 1838 after the Hoyt family settled in Honey Creek in 1837. In 1860, a Honey Creek stone school was established to take the place of a frame one that had been used. By 1910, school enrollment of students from surrounding areas increased such that a ninth grade was added. Finally, in 1915, the last red brick school was constructed and used until it closed in the mid-1960s.

Each period of Honey Creek School history is noted in this article. Highlighted are teachers, students, and significant happenings at the school. Primary sources of information are from old newspaper articles, the Burlington Historical Society, and the memories of students who attended Honey Creek School in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s.

Brief History of One- and Two-Room Schools in Wisconsin

In its heyday in the early 20th century, Wisconsin had more than 6,000 one- and two-room schools. Most of these were public schools.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1785 and 1787 had provisions for public lands to be used for public schools in Wisconsin. Later, the Wisconsin School Law of 1848 provided provisions for free education. It also authorized township boards of supervisors to organize school districts.

Since Wisconsin was primarily an agrarian society up until the 1960s, there was a need for many small schools in the countryside. After a rapid increase in urbanization in the 1960s, all one and two-room schools closed as school districts consolidated schools.

The Honey Creek Stone White School is between the silo and windmill in the distance. You can see the second floor.  This picture was taken around 1900.

The Honey Creek Stone White School is between the silo and windmill in the distance. You can see the second floor. This picture was taken around 1900.

A probable free public Honey Creek stone school was constructed in 1860.

My first historical reference to the school was in an 1870 Report of Honey Creek School for the past term of four months.

The Honey Creek public school most probably had two rooms because, in an 1897 newspaper article, William Bayer and Lena Henry are reported as teachers at the school.

By 1909, the Honey Creek school district included areas in East Troy, Rochester, and Waterford townships.

According to an article in the History of Walworth County Schools, teachers during the 1909/10 school year were Edith McEachran and Rae Vaughn. McEachran received $55 per month for teaching 15 students. McEachran wrote, "The schoolhouse was thoroughly cleaned and repapered during vacation. All equipment is in good condition. There was a slate blackboard in school." There was no record for Vaughn.

In the next year (1910,) McEachran got $60 per month and had 22 students. Florence Holmes had 28 pupils and received $40 a month.

In 1910, Honey Creek School added a ninth grade.

The stone school closed in 1915. According to a news article of June 2, 1915, the stone school was to be torn down and replaced by a new building (in a different location) ready in the fall.

Honey Creek Stone School Teacher and Students Circa 1906

Honey Creek School Teacher and Students Circa 1906

Honey Creek School Teacher and Students Circa 1906

Map of Honey Creek Village with the location of the school marked. This map is from c. 1930.

Map of Honey Creek Village with the location of the school marked. This map is from c. 1930.

Opening of the Honey Creek Red Brick School — 1915

In September 1915, a Honey Creek School board meeting voted 53-25 to complete the construction of a new red brick school. The money for the school would be raised by taxes.

According to September 10, 1915, news article, a new school 59' x 42' x 11' with two rooms opened. It had two pianos and two radios. Sylvia Smith the principal had 27 students and Ms. Crosswaite who taught lower grades had 27 pupils.

The new school probably had electricity because in 1914 wires were strung between Rochester and Honey Creek for a new electric light line. The electricity was furnished by The Milwaukee Electric Rail Line (TMERL) Company but ownership was vested in the Honey Creel Light Company.

Honey Creek School Happenings — 1916-1941

From 1916 through 1941, the following recorded events happened at the Honey Creek School.

In 1916, there was a spelling contest at the school. On September 20, 1917, a 60' flag pole was placed on the school grounds. In 1918, Honey Creek School was featured in the 1918 issue of the Educational News Bulletin.

A news article on May 22, 1919, reports that the school had five graduates from the eighth grade and six from the ninth grade. In 1921, seven girls graduated from the ninth grade. In 1922, lightning rods were put on the school.

A March 3, 1927 article revealed that Honey Creek School closed for one week to disinfect after several cases of scarlet fever broke out.

According to a December 12, 1930 news article, there was a fire at the school with considerable damage. A later December 19 article revealed that Honey Creek School was being rebuilt. Finally, in 1941, Vida Recknagel and Ferne Wright were noted as Honey Creek School teachers.

Honey Creek students from 1935

Honey Creek students from 1935

Honey Creek School Happenings — 1942-1965

From 1948-1956, Honey Creek School was one of the largest rural schools in Walworth County. The school had two rooms — a bigger room for grades 5-8 and a smaller one for grades 1-4. There were two teachers. In addition, the school had a cook who prepared hot lunch and a county nurse who visited at scheduled times. Art classes were on the radio and music was also taught on the radio.

Beginning in fall 1956, physical education classes were held in the Honey Creek Community Hall next to the Baptist Church across the road from the school. Christmas performances were also held in the Community Hall. During its last year before closing (1964-1965) Honey Creek School had three teachers. 34 students were in grades 1-2; 25 in grades 3-4; and 31 in grades 5-8.

Sources

  • Burlington Historical Society
  • Rochester Historical Society
  • History of Walworth County Schools
  • Walworth County Genealogical Society via East Troy Public Library
  • Bonnie G. Hefty

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Paul Richard Kuehn

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