Millerburg One-Room Schoolhouse
The one-room schoolhouse at the Stephenson County Historical Society Museum is
the former Millerburg School of Harlem Township. The structure is typical of the
rural schools of the county, as are the furnishings inside the building.
The rural school was an important part of community life. The Museum Schoolhouse
accurately represents a Stephenson County school of the 1920's. Over the years the
rural school changed. The double desks were replaced by single desks and eventually
by moveable adjustable desks. The recitation bench disappeared as individualized
instruction replaced the "reciting" of lessons. The sanitary bubbler fountain replaced
the pail and dipper. The radio and the WLS School Program and better lighting came to
the rural school when the electric lines came to the farm homes. Sanitary indoor toilets
replaced the outdoor privies. Library additions, more adequate supplies and longer school
terms improved the educational opportunities.
But progress also took its toll! Larger farms, fewer farm families, and a decreasing number of pupils began to close the small schools. Better roads made travelling long distances easier. Consolidations began and the days of the one-room rural school were numbered.
By 1956, within the span of a century, the one-room schools had all but disappeared.
Arthur and Evaline Cordes generously donated the Museum Schoolhouse to the Stephenson County Historical Society in memory of Evaline's mother, Mrs. Elmer Vehmeier.
In 2012-13 the schoolhouse underwent a major renovation. Its condition had deteriorated and it needed to be stablized and preserved. The money was raised through a state grant and by many generous private donations. A basement was added, as well as new siding, roof, and a modern HVAC system. It is now ready to serve another 100 years as a reminder of days gone by.