The Orchard Grove community, about three miles east of Lowell, had at least four schoolhouses from the time of the pioneers until the last one was erected in 1898.
The first one-room school in Orchard Grove was a log building on "Warner land," and was used by a few pioneer families, including Warner, Wallace, Handly and Kenney. It was near Ind. 2 and the old Fred Ebert home and remained until there was a need for a larger building.
The second school was built on land donated for educational purposes by pioneer James Harvey Woodruff, who bought a 160-acre farm from the government in the early 1840's.
This frame schoolhouse was on the west side of the present Grant St., near the east end of Belshaw Rd., and faced east. Sometimes the school sessions were four months in the winter, three in the summer, with as many as 66 students crowded at the planks fastened to the wall for desks, with boards for seats.
Like many of the buildings of the period, it had wooden shingles, which made it easier to catch on fire from lightning or from sparks from the pot bellied stove inside. It was destroyed by fire, and the community quickly organized to build a new school.
The third school, a temporary building, was built in a hurry so that the school term could be furnished, but it was soon condemned, and plans for the next school were made.
The fourth school, the one many still remember, was built in 1898 to replace that temporary building, this time on the east side of the present Grant St., and it faced north along the old road which once crossed the field from the Orchard Grove Cemetery to the east.
The 1898 building according to an item in The Lowell Tribune in the 1950's, was used for school, church, funerals, family reunions, community gatherings, and Farm Bureau and Indian Trail Grange meetings. The Orchard Grove Women's Club also used it often for meetings, parties and entertainment, along with the home economics, 4-H and conservation clubs and many other civic groups. The Old Timer, as a Boy Scout, took part in some of the Grange skits performed there.
At the age of 76, Stella (Vandercar) Wallace wrote that she and her two daughters, as well as her three great grandchildren, were all raised on the same farm (Ebert) and all attended the same school, "Good ole Orchard Grove."
The following is a list (not complete) of the teachers at the Orchard Grove schools through the years: H.H. Ragon (of the Tribune's founders family), Jim Westbay , Emma Dumond, Libbie Kenney, Alice Robbins, Billy Northrup, Luella Fuller, Fred Ewer, Nattie Sanger, Starr Brownell, Minnie Ebert, John Buckley, Bessie Purdy, Nina Pattee, Ernie Gregg, Roy Daum, Gretna Norton, Lula Spaulding, Georgia Norton, Ruth Brownell, Ben Lynch, Judson Sanger, Mildred Surprise, Lois Metcalf, Ernestine Ebert, Ruby Nichols, Julia Stenerson Miller, Ethel Burroughs, Rachel Dodge, Herb Prague, and Carl Miller. Many are names of pioneer families.
Carl Miller was the last teacher before the school being disbanded in the fall of 1927. The schoolchildren of the Orchard Grove community were then bused to the Lowell Grade School, still standing, but empty, on Main St.
A picture taken in 1895 shows the teacher at Orchard Grove School and the students posed near the school. The teacher was John Buckley, who became a dentist and moved to California. The students names: Kate Kenney , Melvin Ebert, William Dickinson, Alice Spaulding, Jessie Kenney, Gretna Norton (later a teacher), George Davis, Annie Ebert, Ellen Dodge, Joe Ebert, Roy Kenney, Arthur Ebert, Elsie Ferguson, Grace Norton, Frank Ebert, Edith Craft, Ethel Davis, Walter Craft, Jodie Craft, Georgia Norton (later a teacher), Genia Norton, Laura Ebert, Frank Dodge, Frank Norton, Fred Ebert, Edith Leroy, Amy Dickinson, Vada Craft, Ina McNay, Nadine Ebert, Mable Craft, Guy Tilton, Judson Ragon, Ivan Kenney and Fay Tilton. The photo was courtesy of Cass Scritchfield.
In another Lowell Tribune story circa 1950's: "The school had an average attendance of from 40 to 60 pupils, so its influence has reached far. It has been the pulse and heart of the social, educational and spiritual life of the Orchard Grove Community through the century and a long established landmark. This is a salute of honor to the disappearing Orchard Grove School House; its memory will continue."
The old school is gone, but still remembered by many.
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