Holzwarth school built to last

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By Sandy Bond

The Holzwarth School, west of Eureka

The Holzwarth School, west of Eureka

Laughter once filled the air as country school children played Crack the Whip, Fox and Geese, or where the boys cleaned off a spot near the front door and shot marbles during the half hour recess. Today the old one-room Holzwarth School stands silent. Only the gentle rustle of corn stalks with corn yet to be harvested breaks the autumn stillness.  The bell that once beckoned children to classes is long gone from the tiny cupola.
The school differs in appearance from many rural schools of its age because it is painted red. Others of its era in nearby communities were painted white.  Crowning the peak is the cupola or steeple.  Some motorists have speculated it may have been a church. It’s identical to many area rural schools as an expanse of windows were placed to the south to take advantage of the sun’s rays, for light and perhaps, heat.
“We built them right,” Ruben Bauer once told Pastor Mary Lou Gruebele of St. Thomas Lutheran of Java, when she inquired about the old school located west of Eureka.
Many intrepid souls over the years have ventured tentatively up the rickety steps into the vestibule, which was probably where the children hung their outerwear on nails and a shelf where they placed their lunchboxes.  Gone, too, is the imposing oak teacher’s desk directly behind it and the tiny student desks placed all in a row, progressing from the smallest for the youngest students to the rear for the older students.  Perhaps there was a McGuffey ABC chart near the teacher’s desk, and a map or two. The dusty aroma takes many former country school students back in time when the Three R’s and history were paramount.
“Watch your step upon entering,” Pastor cautioned. “There used to be blackboards in the basement. Maybe as other schools closed they bought some for winter basement games,” she said.
Plaster has turned to powder with only bare lathe in expanses of most walls.
Marvin and Jeannie Hoffer of Lewistown, Mont., in the summer of 2003, traveled by, noticed the abandoned school and stopped to visit it. They noticed chokecherry bushes on the north side and took photos of it. They also noticed a white hard hat lying there and mentioned to friends and relatives in the area that it seemed strange.
“How did it get there?” they said. Tornados are not uncommon in this area. Could a tornado have deposited it there from places unknown? The name on the hardhat was Hugo Schmacher of Schumacher Plumbing. After checking on the Internet, they discovered he was born at Long Lake, S.D. on Sept. 27, 1916.
A former student who prefers anonimity did extensive research on the old school with much information available at the Campbell County Courthouse in Mound City:
Johannes and Margaretha Heiser in May 7, 1921, sold one acre for $20 to School District #43, located in Campbell County nine miles south of Artas, Township 126.
The school had no plumbing but there was a chute that fed a coal furnace in the basement. Children brought their own lunches from home and a barn was located to the north of the school for the pupils’ horses. There were no buses or carpooling in those days.
She discovered the names of several dozen teachers who taught there from the late 1920s through the 1940s. Paychecks were minimal and the incentive for the most dedicated teacher could not have been monetary. In 1928-29 school year the teacher was Frieda Heiser. Herbert Heiser and Fred Ehrman taught from 1947-49. Eugene Were taught from 1938-39 and received a salary of $60 per month. When he returned for the 1939-40 school year he was given a $5 raise. When Bertha Schaefbauer replaced him for the 1940-41 school year, she received a salary of $45.
The school closed in 1965, and today it is reportedly owned by Connie Volk.

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