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East Troy resident remembers school days fondly

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Ginny Hall
April 19, 2013

A photo of this Mystery Place is HERE

The former Troy Lakes School House can be seen on County Highway J on the northern edge of Walworth County. The building is now a private home located between Stringers Bridge Road and Woodfield Court in the town of East Troy.

The school got its name because it was surrounded by lakes -- Booth, Lulu, Mill and Beulah. At one time County Highway J was known as the “Lead Road.” Lead used to be transported to a factory in Janesville.

A group of the neighbors met on Nov. 30, 1841, to organize their school district. They wanted to have the school open by June 1842. This did not happen. In 1843, the district bought a house and less than one acre of land from Ebeneezer Drake to be used as a schoolhouse.

The 1843 report indicated that the schoolhouse was heated by a box stove, 2.4 feet by 3.5 feet. Each child was required to furnish a half cord of wood, to be delivered in convenient form by Jan. 1, 1845. Delinquents were required to pay 3 shillings and 8 pence plus a cord of wood.

Their 1850 records show that the township gave the school district $27.95. The district raised $26; this gave the district a total budget of $53.95. The school operated for 6-1/2 months. In later years this was extended to eight months and finally to nine months.

In 1854, the district built a new school; the old house was sold for $33. This new school was used until 1869. That year the district opened a new schoolhouse. This is the one that you see today.

In 1933-’34 a basement was added and a furnace was installed. During the early days water was brought from a nearby farm.

I found a paper in the files at the East Troy Historical Society and Museum written by Betty Belle Sawyer Bartle, who attended this school in 1929 at the age of 4. The teacher at that time, Mrs. Claire Brady Young, indicated that it was OK she attend despite her young age. However, the county superintendent of schools said “no.” So she had to wait for a few years. Her father and grandfather had both attended this school.

Betty wrote that the neighbors brought five gallons of water to the school each day and all of the students used the common dipper. Classes lasted for 15 minutes. She remembered an eight-sided, natural-oak clock with a pendulum and the school bell.

I talked with Larry Mitten, who attended this school back in the late 1930s. He said that there were two other young people who were in the same class with him the entire eight years at Troy Lakes. Some years there were more in the class, but the same three went through all eight grades.

There was no gym class in those days, but he said they got good exercise during his favorite class -- recess. Behind the school was woodland and a nice hill. During the winter that was perfect for sledding.

When I asked him for his worst class, he said penmanship. He was always behind on doing his exercises for that class. He did say that attending a one room school was good value. The repetition in hearing what other classes were learning helped both in remembering what was in past classes and what would be coming in future classes.

Mitten remembered a weekly program from WHA radio, which was included in the class outlines. He said that in 1936-’37 there was a big snowstorm. There was no school for two weeks! He remembered his teacher, Miss Naomi Rhode. He had her for all eight years.

Evelyn Miller was the teacher during the 1947-’48 school year. She had 16 students. In one of her reports she indicated that the boys outhouse was in one corner of the back of the school yard; the girls was in the opposite corner. The next year she had 25 students. In June 1950 she reported that she had 34 students, covering all eight grades.

In 1947 the school district clerk was Gordon Rhode. The treasurer was Theresa Husten and the director was Walter Mitten. The latter was the father of Larry. The next year the only change in district officers was that the treasurer was Walter Chart.

The East Troy Historical Society and Museum is a good place to visit for information in that area of the county.

It is open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. The volunteers are helpful. Right now their museum has an excellent Girl Scout display.



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