Readin', Writin', and 'Rithmatic
The Early Schools of Lawrence County, Illinois
Lawrence County rural families sent their children to one- room country schools scattered throughout the county from the early 1800’s to the 1950’s when consolidation forced many of these schools to close their doors. The Society gathered over 750 school photos, searched courthouse records, and read school ledgers to document the history of education in Lawrence County.
In the process the researchers discovered the first recorded document dated May 1819 for an integrated subscription School located at the Christian Settlement on Allison Prairie. Shares of school “corporation” stock were sold to parents to build the schoolhouse. In addition to the 50 shares sold for paid scholars, the by-laws provided for an additional five shares to be reserved for the poor who could not afford to buy a share. As children “graduated” and a particular family no longer needed their shares, these shares could be resold to some other family who had school-age children. Votes at school meetings were equal to the number of shares an individual held. Since free blacks were included as shareholders, the constitution was very clear that this right to vote on school issues could not be limited in any way.
In all, 76 country schools existed in the county over the years. Individual school histories provide interesting insights into not only the educational process but also the social structure of the communities these schools served through the ages. As Abraham Lincoln said in his communication to the voters in the Springfield Sangamo Journal March 15, 1832: “I view education as the most important subject that we as a people can be engaged in….that every man may receive at least a moderate education, and be enabled to read the histories of his own and other countries, by which he may duly appreciate the value of our free institutions, appears to be an object of vital importance. “