Once Upon a Time

Many Adams County schools have disappeared

This photo of Happy Hollow School is dated 1896, but the school is not on the Adams County Historical Schools list. | Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County
Posted: Jul. 15, 2020 5:50 pm Updated: Jul. 15, 2020 6:17 pm

Part 1 of 2.


The earliest settlers of Adams County valued education. In most townships, as soon as there were a few children on the farms or new towns in an area, the people built a log school, appointed a school board and hired a teacher. As populations grew, more schools were added.

In Camp Point Township, for example, the first school was built in 1836 in Section 26, the second in 1840 in Section 29, and the third in 1840 in Section 12. In 1853 as Camp Point grew, a school was built described in "The History of Adams County" as "probably the best finished and most comfortably arranged school-house in the county."

Another school was added within three years, and then the forward-thinking citizens built a 66 by 80-foot three-story brick school and named it Maplewood, completed in 1867. By 1879, the average attendance was about 500 students.

Even before Quincy was founded in 1825, some students attended subscription schools in which a local or traveling teacher offered a curriculum for a certain time, usually between fall harvest and spring planting, for a set price.

The first public school in Quincy was in 1837 in the First Congregational Church's meeting house, a log building known as "the Lord's Barn" near Fourth and Jersey streets, facing Washington Square. According to the 1879 "History of Adams County, Illinois," that school had about 30 students.

Regarding education in Quincy, the History of Adams County states, "It had been necessary, meantime, to rent rooms in various places for the accommodation of the scholars, who had been growing in numbers by the increase of population, and in 1843 the first school-house was built by the town authorities. This was a two-story brick building on the Franklin school lot, on Fifth street. ... Its dimensions were about 40 x 60 feet, and it contained two rooms. ... A little over a year afterward a similar building was put up on Jefferson square, and this remained occupied for school purposes until the county purchased the ground and commenced to build a new court-house thereon."

Rural schools were centrally located for students. They typically had first through eighth grades in one room. The children often walked across countryside and through woods and crossed creeks to school.

Male and female teachers of the one-room schools were sometimes married but were more often young, single and boarded with local families.

In one instance, boarding turned tragic. The infamous Pfanschmidt murders occurred during the night of Sept. 28, 1912, when all occupants of a farmhouse north of Payson were bludgeoned to death. One of the fatalities was Emma Kaempen, the local teacher who was boarding with the family.

For teachers in rural schools, the risk of murder was small, but they did face other lesser dangers. When Mrs. Lorton was the teacher at Benville, over the county line in Brown County's Buckhorn Township where part of Siloam was located, a sixth-grade boy was required to stay after school. He escaped the building, waited outside, and when the teacher followed him, pelted her with clods and rocks with such excellent aim that she retreated into the schoolhouse until it was nearly dark and the village blacksmith arrived and rescued her. She reported in the "History of Brown County" that she "had no further trouble with the boy for his parents took care of him."

In Siloam in McKee Township, schooling was complicated as the county line between Adams and Brown Counties bisected the community. The Forest Hotel was in Brown County and the post office, within sight to the south, was in Adams. Some of the local children attended Benville, Ferguson, Little Missouri or Reddick Schools in Buckhorn Township of Brown County and some attended Washington Grove, Spring Valley and Happy Hollow School District No. 8, in McKee Township of Adams County.

As communities grew, a few larger ones added high schools, and students from outlying small rural schools often boarded in the larger town to attend school. By 1879, one-fifth of the students attending Maplewood School in Camp Point were from other parts of the county. Payson became a leader in education in Adams County with day schools and boarding schools attended by the children of some of the most prominent families in Quincy.

Careful records were not always kept. The Adams County Illinois Historical Schools website lists 137 public schools that once existed and are no longer open, but even that lengthy list is incomplete. The Happy Hollow School near Siloam is not included. It is probable that other Adams County communities since disappeared, such as Morley's Settlement north of Lima, and Montgomery and Chestline, southeast and north of Liberty, respectively, had schools. Other towns like Kingston that have diminished greatly in size, also once had their own schools, but are not on the list. The Lone Oak School has one source locating it in Beverly, while another source placed it in Richfield. Schools that met in homes may never have had a name. It is likely that Adams County once had about 150 schools that no longer exist.

The Adams County Illinois Historical Schools website lists these locations and numbers of schools no longer in operation: Augusta, three; Bowen, five; Camp Point, 12; Clayton, five; Coatsburg, nine; Columbus, 10; Fishhook, four; Kellerville, six; Liberty, nine; and Lima, three.

A large rural area north of Quincy and west of Mendon designated as Long Island had seven; Loraine, five; Marblehead, eight; Mendon, eight; and Payson, 12.

The area between the city of Quincy and Baldwin Field was designated Quincy East and had 11 schools that are no longer there. The area south of Quincy and west of Ill. 57 north of Marblehead was designated as Quincy West and had two. Richfield had 10, and Tioga had seven schools.


Linda Riggs Mayfield is a researcher, writer and online consultant for doctoral scholars and authors. She retired from the associate faculty of Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing, and serves on the board of the Historical Society.


This is Part 1 of an irregular series on early Adams County Schools.



Adams County, Ill., Historical Schools. IL HomeTownLocator. illinois.hometownlocator.com/features/historical,class,school,scfips,17001,startrow,76.cfm


"History of Adams County, Illinois," (1879). Murray, Williamson & Phelps. Chicago.


"History of Brown County, Illinois 1880-1970." Brown County Board of the Schuyler Brown Historical and Genealogical Society. Astoria, Ill.: Stevens Publishing.


Lane, Beth. "Lies Told Under Oath" (2012). Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse.


Lone Oak School (historical), Township of Beverly, Adams County, Ill., United States. illinois.hometownlocator.com/features/historical,class,school,scfips,17001,startrow,76.cfm


School Histories. Adams County Illinois Genealogy and History. genealogytrails.com/ill/adams/schools/schools.htm