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Driving Tour of One-Room Schools Available

The University of Missouri Extension encourages you to get out, take a drive and see the old rural schools that are left in Greene County. A driving tour is available online. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more…

For many people today, the image of a one-room school comes from movies and shows like “Little House on the Prairie.” But for those fortunate to have attended one, the image is real and conjures up memories of a time long past.There are only about 54 rural one-room school buildings remaining in Greene County. David Burton is author of the book “A History of the Rural Schools in Greene County, MO. I talked to him outside one of those buildings—St. Elmo which stands in a rural area north of Republic…

"Now, at the turn of the century, there were 124 enumerated schools plus five African-American schools and one company school, so you had almost 130 rural schools in Greene County."

Six rural school buildings are now on the Greene County Historic Sites list, including St. Elmo, which looks like what most people imagine when they picture a one-room school.The white building has large windows in the front and along one side with just a few steps leading to the front door.St. Elmo was built in 1885 by the Garoutte family, one of the early settlers in the Republic area. According to Burton, stucco was added to the outside in the 40s, so it no longer has the clapboard look it once had. It’s used now by the Jot ‘em Down 4-H club.Burton has a passion for old rural schools. He says it’s sad to see these buildings disappear—and a little bit of Americana along with them…

"Certainly these buildings tell a lot of the history of our county because of the people, the early settlers that were involved in building them and getting them in place, so it's part of our early history."

Out of the book that he wrote on rural schools is a driving tour—that came about when Burton heard from several people who wanted to see the buildings in person...

"It's a beautiful drive. Greene County's a beautiful county, and you may just want to see some that are in your area, and this kind of helps accomplish that. It's 205 miles, so you're talking--you know, if you want to take it leisurely and stop for lunch or somewhere along the way you could turn it into an all-day project if you wanted to drive the whole county tour."

According to Burton, many of the old school buildings are on private property…

"Probably a third of them are sitting empty or being used as barns. There's quite a few examples of those, people storing hay in them and things around the county. There's a good portion of them that have been turned into homes. There are some fine examples of that. In fact, there's one on the historic register, Kelly Chapel out near Rogersville, that was turned into a home and it's beautifully maintained. It's a beautiful rock building, and then the others are either setting empty or being used as a community center or sitting empty but being maintained, you know, there are still family members that live close and they still have an affinity for the building or they still feel a connection with it and they keep the roof patched and some fresh paint on it."

But he says all of the buildings can be viewed from the road.He says we can still learn a lot from what took place inside those buildings many years ago…

"A lot of schools now are talking about collaborative learning or mentoring--having older kids teach younger kids. Well, that's what took place in these rural schools every day. And you had what is being called the greatest generation for America come through these rural schools with very limited amenities. The amenities weren't necessary to be able to read, write and have a good education."

You can find a map of the driving tour at or pick up a copy at the University of Missouri Extension office.For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.