On Pleasant Hill Road, in Mayfield Township, DeKalb County, Illinois, there once was a small white schoolhouse, with a small farm cemetery next to it. It was diagonally across the road from Pleasant Hill Farm, first owned by Ira Douglass, and later owned by Gustaf Medine, and then by Charles W. Drake.
The little “crude log” one-room schoolhouse was built on land owned by Ira Douglass in the early 1840’s. Its first teachers in the 1840’s were Lucy Stuart, Fanny Clark and Harriet Russell. The earliest religious services in Mayfield were also conducted in the schoolhouse. Coincidentally, Ira Douglass was also a leader in the Methodist Episcopal Church of Mayfield. It is unknown what happened to the original schoolhouse, and how long classes were conducted there. Services for the Mayfield church were held there through at least the 1860’s, and the old schoolhouse appears on an 1871 map. In 1870, the county superintendent of the schools deemed the schoolhouse to be “too small, and is so near the road that a person sitting in his carriage can almost take hold of the door handle. There is no black-board worthy of the name.” Twenty-five students attended Pleasant Hill School that year.
In 1881, the “new” frame schoolhouse was built in the same spot. It presumably was bigger than the old schoolhouse, further from the road, and had a better blackboard. The school yard was shaded by a few nice trees. The school never had electric lights, and had two outside latrines. Fresh water was carried in a bucket from the Pleasant Hill Farm, located just to the south of the schoolhouse. Children from age five to 14 attended school here. My great-grandmother, Emma Medine, her younger siblings, and her younger Medine cousins, likely attended at least a few years of school here. Classes were conducted in the schoolhouse for over 60 years.
The school was closed in 1942 and its students started attending Kingston School. The last teacher to preside over the school was Marjorie Byers Krause. It was officially consolidated into the Genoa-Kingston School District in 1949. The schoolhouse laid empty for several years, and was used for meetings and gatherings. The land was still a part of the Pleasant Hill Farm. The schoolhouse itself and its contents were sold at auction in October 1947. Its desks, books, old stove, and tables were all sold to the highest bidder. At this time, it’s possible that Charles W. Drake purchased the schoolhouse that was standing on his property.
In September 1948, Charles W. Drake gave the plot of land with the schoolhouse and the cemetery to his son, Charles G. Drake. The younger Charles lived on the family farm at the time, but wanted a house of his own, and decided to expand the small schoolhouse into a home. Shortly after he purchased the land, he stripped down the schoolhouse to the frame, and built upon the frame to make a 2-story, full-size, 3-bedroom home. Charles G. and his wife, Loddie, raised their two daughters in the home. It stayed in the family until Charles G. passed away in 2013, and was recently sold to a new owner.
There are still some existing reminders of the old schoolhouse. The old, large rooftop school bell labeled “Pleasant Hill School Bell” resides at the Kishwaukee Valley Heritage Museum in Genoa, IL. The old, round sign that used to hang on the front of the school is still in possession of the Drake family. And the bones of the schoolhouse support a family home.
And Pleasant Hill Cemetery? That’s a story for another day.
- Combination Atlas Map of De Kalb County, Illinois : compiled, drawn, and published from personal examinations and surveys (Geneva, Ill. : Thompson and Everts, 1871), p. 30.
- DeKalb County Historical-Genealogical Society, Rural Schools Journeys: A Legacy of Learning, Histories of the One-room Schools in Dekalb County, Illinois (Evansville, Ind.: M.T. Publishing Co., 2006), p. 117-118, 252-253.
- “DeKalb County Schools, Superintendent’s Report.” The True Republican, Sycamore, Illinois, 8 Jan 1870, image copy (http://idnc.library.illinois.edu/ : accessed 30 Mar 2018), page 1; Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections.
- Gross, Lewis M. Past and Present of DeKalb County, Illinois, Volume 1 (Chicago, Ill. : Pioneer Pub. Co., 1907), p. 155.
- Kauffman, Becky. Personal correspondence, 2010-2018.
- Mae, Della. “Roaming the Rural Routes.” The True Republican, Sycamore, Illinois, 29 Sep 1942, image copy, (http://idnc.library.illinois.edu/ : accessed 30 Mar 2018), page 1; Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections.
- “Notice is hereby given that…” The Daily Chronicle, DeKalb, Illinois, 10 Oct 1947, image copy, (www.newspapers.com : accessed 31 Mar 2018), page 6; Newspapers.com World Collection.
- Penton, Belle Tower. “The Story of the Last Log Cabin.” The True Republican, Sycamore, Illinois, 3 August 1945, image copy, (http://idnc.library.illinois.edu/ : accessed 30 Mar 2018), page 4; Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections.
9 thoughts on “The History of Pleasant Hill School”
Enjoyed your story very much! I can’t help but wonder who is living in the former schoolhouse now and using it for their home. I’m guessing it no longer belongs to a Drake family member?
No, it’s no longer in the family, but I hope that the new owners are enjoying their new home!
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fascinating. Thank you for sharing with us. I loved the part about the blackboard not worthy of being called a blackboard.
Charming building, Eva, you must be a little sad to see it pass out of the family after so many years.
Great post! Love seeing these old schoolhouses. If only the walls could talk! Such rich history. Thanks for sharing!
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I hope you share this post with the local historical society. This school was probably the backdrop for soooo many family stories. Great research and post!
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Well done. Stories like these can add context to the folks who come across the fact that their ancestor attended this school.