In Nebraska’s early days – and even well into the 20th century – one-room schoolhouses were the norm for rural kids. Before the days of bus transportation and consolidated school districts, schools served small numbers of children who lived nearby. Everyone was taught in the same room and often by the same teacher, though they learned different lessons based on their ages and abilities. As populations grew and transportation improved, larger schools became favored and the one-room buildings fell into disuse around the 1960s. Many of them have been preserved and/or restored and can still be toured today. Whether or not you ever attended a one-room schoolhouse, these pictures –
a mixture of present-day and historic photos – will remind you of simpler times.
1. Harmony School, Otoe County
This beautiful Gothic-style school was built in 1879 near Nebraska City. It is the longest operating one-room schoolhouse in the state; it was open for an amazing 118 years before it finally closed its doors for good in 1997.
2. Antioch School, Adams County
This one-room red brick schoolhouse was built in 1902 near the town of Pauline. Today it is one of few examples of a rural one-room Nebraska schoolhouse which still sits exactly where it was built.
3. District 10 schoolhouse, Cherry County
Students at this school were very lucky to have a well and water pump right out front. Often, boys were sent quite a distance to fetch water for the schoolchildren in the morning and afternoon.
4. J.M. Daniel school, Hayes County
This lovely stone building was constructed in 1884. Although no longer in use, it is still standing and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
5. School District 19, near Brule
This white frame building with shutters and a school bell is much more sophisticated than some others from the same time period.
6. Frank Schoolhouse, Sheridan County
Built on the Frank homestead near Hay Springs, the children who attended this school in the late 19th century had a short three-month school year, then nine months off.
7. Camp Creek School, Otoe County
Constructed between 1870 and 1875, this little stuccoed brick schoolhouse near Nebraska City has served as a rural community center as well as a school over the years.
8. Freeman School, Beatrice
This brick building operated as a school from 1872 until 1967 and is now on the grounds of the Homestead National Monument of America. Inside, it has been restored to look just like it would have in the 1870s.
9. Sod schoolhouse, Dundy County
When building materials were scarce or expensive, Nebraskans made do with what was available. This one-room schoolhouse in Dundy County was built of sod and shored up with pieces of timber.
10. Birdwood Schoolhouse, Lincoln County
The old one-room Birdwood Schoolhouse is now part of the Lincoln County Historical Museum's Western Heritage Village.
11. Log schoolhouse, Rushville
In this photo from 1885, schoolchildren and several adults pose in front of the school. A few mischievous little pupils even climbed up onto the sod roof.
12. Little Red Schoolhouse, Peru
Also known as the Center School, this schoolhouse was built in 1905 at the corner of Highway 75 and Brock Road. In 2001, it was disassembled and carefully reassembled on the campus of Peru State College in dedication to the teachers who trained there.
13. Maple Grove School, Pawnee County
The Maple Grove School, also known as the Mumford School, is now the Maple Grove Schoolhouse Museum. It's now located in Table Rock, and its interior has been restored to look as it would have in the early 20th century.
14. Cracker Box School (on the left), Pawnee City
This neat little building is located on the grounds of the Pawnee City Museum.
15. Runnelsburg sod school, Hall County
This photo from 1881 is another fine example of a sod schoolhouse. It is thought to have been used from 1874 to 1884 in the town of Runnelsburg, which no longer exists...and neither does this schoolhouse.
16. Old Portal Schoolhouse, Papillion
Built in 1890, this tiny building saw many pupils come and go. It was originally located in the town of Portal, but frequent flooding necessitated the moving of the school, and eventually the entire town was abandoned. Today you can tour the school...just be careful, because it's rumored to be haunted.
17. Little white schoolhouse, Seward County
When this photograph was taken in 1938, the photographer noted that Nebraska schools were not very consolidated and that these little white buildings appeared on county roads all throughout the state.
18. Gibbon Schoolhouse, now at the Stuhr Museum, Hall County
The tiny schoolhouse sits on the grounds of the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island. Its interior has been restored and furnished to look just like it would have many, many years ago.
19. Log building, Cherry County
The district 4 schoolhouse looks very cozy and inviting sitting in a field.
20. Crumbling school, Pawnee County
This picture of the dilapidated old Pawnee City school was taken in 1986, so it seems unlikely that it's still standing today. Still, its a beautiful picture and a reminder of another time in Nebraska's history.
These were fascinating, and they are only a fraction of the schoolhouses (and vintage photos of schoolhouses) out there in Nebraska. A lot of our readers attended classes in one-room schoolhouses at some point; please share your stories in the comments!