Pioneer Sholes School
Brief History & Information
The following are questions that could be asked by students for their teacher
or that could be asked by a teacher for students.
About when was Sholes School built?
2.) Why are there large windows only on the south side
of the building?
1872-the date shown on the sign on the fence as well as on
the round sign at the peak of the school front. (The round sign also
shows the district number, #56.)
According to an 1860 map of Kane County, there was a school
on the farm of David Sholes, on Burlington Road near Plato Road.
The exact construction date of this building is not known. The Elgin
Historical Society has a picture of the school dated to 1872.
3.) Why was it a good idea to have the strongest light
directed over the left shoulders of the students?
Opening only one wall to many windows eliminated the unequal
shade and glare on the school desks. Keep in mind that all students
were compelled to write with their right hands at the time. Note
that the picture of the original building shows that there were only three
windows on the south side of the building in 1872. There are now
six and only a few high windows on the north and east walls of the room.
4.) Who was Martha Campbell?
No student would strain his eyes by writing in his own shadow.
The concept worked well on sunny days, although there was no cross ventilation.
On cloudy days, the situation was reversed: the room was quite dark,
but was able to remain somewhat warmer.
Besides the picture and the bell, can you name any other things found in
the entry hall or vestibule? Can you think of how some of them might
have been used?
The bronze plaque on the outside of the School at the doorway
reads that Sholes School was given to the Kane County Forest Preserve in
1978 in memory of Martha Campbell. The framed picture in the entry
hall further explains that Martha Campbell was a teacher who taught in
the School 1913-1915, and was the mother of Ralph Campbell, the gentleman
who donated the School to the Forest Preserve.
6.) Whose pictures are on the walls? Why are
these two Presidents so honored? In what other ways do we honor them?
Stone Crock: filled with fresh water daily, a chore
delegated to two older pupils at the first recess. Fetching water
was considered to be a privilege in the warm months, but was not much fun
in the winter. Water was pumped out of a well and carried into the
school in a water bucket. Two tin cups sufficed for all the thirsy
Wash-bench, pans, and home-made soap: water had to
be carried into the building for hand washing, too. There was no
inside plumbing. Two outdoor privvies took care of other needs.
Lunch pails: some lunch pails were lard or syrup pails,
placed on the shelves above the coat hooks unless there was danger of freezing.
In that case, the lunches would be placed near the stove inside the school
room. If they had become frozen on the way to school, the lunches
would thaw out by lunch time if placed by the fire.
What might a farm child going to school 50-100 years ago
have in the lunch pail?
Do you think the children drank milk at lunch time?
Oil lamps or sconces: the School had no electricity.
The rural community didnít have many modern conveniences until well after
the turn of the century. The lamps have been electrified now.
They were given to the School by descendants of David Sholes.
7.) Do you see any maps?
Their pictures are on some of cour coins and paper currency;
states, cities, and schools are named in their honor, etc.
Note also the 44 star flag on the wall. The 44th star
was added in 1890 when Wyoming joined the Union.
Why are there desks in so many sizes?
There is a Kane County Pictorial map on the door. There
are also maps in the wooden case above the blackboard on the north wall.
Unfortunately, the maps in the case are hard to reach and are quite fragile.
They are usually not displayed.
9.) Why do some of the desks have holes in the right
All ages were in the same room with one teacher. The
youngest students were five years old. The oldest were sometimes
older than the teacher. Students in one-room schools were not divided
into grades by age. While the teacher worked with one or two pupils
at a time, she expected the others to work alone or to help one another.
Eighteen students would be considered a very large group.
Some came to school only when not needed on the farm. In 1883, the
first Illinois School Attendance Law was enacted. Under its provisions,
a pupil had to attend at least three months each year.
Sholes School has 23 seats to accommodate the size of a modern
10.) Why donít some of the smaller desks have holes?
To hold the inkwells used by older students.
11.) For what did pupils use slates and slate pencils?
Children didnít use pen and ink until they were about eight
years old. They learned to write script writing (cursive) by practicing
on their slates. They learned script writing long before they started
to print, but they also learned to read it before they wrote it.
Interestingly, the smallest desk was a gift of the Divine family whose
father, David Clyde Divine, the smallest child in the School, attended
the School between 1890 and 1894.
Who wrote the Readers that are in the Sholes School collection?
Paper was scarce and very expensive, so most lessons were
done on the slates which could be erased with an old sock or other small
rag and used over and over again. The scarcity of paper was also
the reason students recited their lessons out loud instead of writing them.
However, after practicing on their slates, older children would write important
things to remember in their copy books, using the straight pen dipped in
the ink wells.
13.) How was Sholes School heated?
The Primer through Fourth Reader were all written by William
H. McGuffey, and the Fifth and Sixth Readers were the work of his brother
Alexander. Many of the Readers were donated to the School by Robinís
Bookstore while others were gifts made in the memory of someone who had
been an enthusiastic supporter of Sholes School.
After trudging to school through drifts of snow in the cold
winter, the students were grateful for a warm fire in the black iron stove.
Besides preparing lessons for many different "grade levels," the teacher
had to keep the one-room school neat and start the fire in the stove every
morning. Sometimes, the teacher had to chop and stack the firewood,
For more information, please write to us:
Pioneer Sholes School
PO Box 1275
St. Charles, IL 60175
or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Return to the Index.