West Waterford School
You are standing by the south entrance to West Waterford School. To the south is the c. 1850 toll booth and, beyond it, Dickson Mounds Museum. To the southeast you will be able to glimpse the Illinois River valley and the Havana power plants on the horizon. To the west is the museum's parking lot.
West Waterford School is the oldest surviving schoolhouse in Fulton County. Its exact date of construction is unknown, although historical records indicate it was built sometime between 1839-1852.
This frame structure measures 20 by 24 feet and is made from hand-hewn lumber fitted with wooden pegs. The original floor was native oak and the original roof was constructed of cedar-shake shingles. A teacher's platform and chalkboard flank the school's north entrance. Heat was provided by a pot-bellied stove which stood in the center aisle. Girls sat to the right side and boys to the left as viewed from the front of the room.
Tax-supported public education was not enacted until 1855 in Illinois. Prior to this, schools operated on a subscription basis, with each family paying a fee per child per semester to attend. Teachers were usually men as they were thought more capable of handling classes that often included several rowdy boys. Curriculums focused on reading, writing, and ciphering (math), and lessons were learned by recitation and rote memorization.
The West Waterford schoolhouse was also used as a Christian Church until the Waterford Union Church was constructed in 1889, and as a polling place until the Waterford Town Hall was built in 1892.
The building was abandoned as a school sometime between 1890-1900 and was purchased by the Ogden family for use as a granary. It was moved to their property ca. 1900. In 1974 the building was acquired by Seth Leeds of Canton and moved to property leased by Paul Heffren along the Lewistown Road, where it underwent major restoration. The building was transferred to the Illinois State Museum in 1986 and moved to its present location on Dickson Mounds Museum property.
If you are interested in looking inside West Waterford School, please visit the reception desk at Dickson Mounds Museum.