Compiling a History Database of Rural Schools

Photo of Prairie School, Gilmer Township, Adams County, Ill. 1904 photo believed to be in the public domain, made available by Joel Koch, the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County, Illinois, and the Quincy Herald-Whig (19 Nov 2011). (Minor photo restoration by

Tracking down information on rural schools that have long disappeared from the local landscape can sometimes be a difficult task. The Quincy Herald Whig (19 Nov 2011) reports on the efforts of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County, Illinois and Western Illinois University intern Joel Koch to develop a database of the nearly 200 one-room rural schools in the history of that county.

Some of the resources which Mr. Koch turned to in order to develop the database:

  • The existing (incomplete) list of schools archived by the Historical Society.
  • School photos in the Historical Society and local library archives.
  • Consultation with the local county retired teacher’s association (which had a partial list of schools).
  • A local genealogical society.
  • A retired school superintendent.
  • Other retired educators.
  • Photos and information from others in the community.

Mr. Koch also made use of advice from the Historical Society’s archivist and research librarian.

The database compiles the following information from each school:

  • School name
  • School number
  • Location by Township and Section
  • Whether a photograph is available.
  • Number of photographs
  • Condition of photograph
  • Owner of original photograph

We think it might also be useful to log the approximate date of photographs (if known), as it probably makes a difference to most researchers whether the photograph was taken during the school’s operation or many years later.

The completed database can be downloaded from the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County.

–Contributed by D.

This entry was posted in History Researchers, Resources, and Methods, Midwest History, Rural Community and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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