Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What's For Lunch?

Posted by Allyson

This past fall, I went to Galena, Illinois for Laor Day weekend. I took in many of the usual tourist attractions but also took a couple of side trips to some lesser known historic sites. Among these was Belden School, a limestone one-room schoolhouse that was built in 1859 near the center of Guilford Township in what is now the Galena Territory. The schoolhouse was in use for 84 years until 1943 when declining enrollment and school consolidation forced it to close. In 2004, a small group of Galena Territory residents organized the Belden School Restoration Committee and worked to restore the schoolhouse over the next 5 years to its appearance in 1936. As it stands today, the schoolhouse is a wonderful representation of a rural school in the Midwest during the early 20th century and a testament to the will and power of local residents to preserve the past for future generations.

Belden School had a strong appeal for me. As I walked through the schoolhouse and talked with the docents, I found many connections between the history and story of the school and my life. The story of its preservation reminded me of the efforts of COWS to save Wagner Farm. The desks and the layout with the cloak room upfront reminded me of the one-room schoolhouses mentioned in the books I had been reading by Jerry Apps and Bob Artley. Apparently, one-room schoolhouses hold strong appeal for other history enthusiasts as well because in November, I attended a session at a museum conference entirely about what children who attended one-room schools brought for lunch. The results of the research conducted by Sarah S. Uthoff were fascinating and ranged from food items to lunch boxes and hand washing. However, the small number of participants surveyed limited the implications of her results.

Not giving up, Sarah is continuing to collect data would love your help. If you or someone you know attended or taught in a one-room schoolhouse, please take a few minutes to complete her questionnaire. It can be completed online here or printed on Sarah's website and returned to the address provided.