Little Red Schoolhouse
In 1871 farmers settled near Beloit. They built homes, a store and, in 1874, a sod dugout school southwest of Beloit. Honey Creek School served not only as a house of learning for pioneer children but also as a meeting place and social center for parents. This soddie was later replaced by a rock building which shortly fell victim to a tornado. The settlers immediately rebuilt a frame structure 18 by 36 feet that was heated by a pot belly stove that stood in the center and was surrounded by a metal jacket to act as a circulator and to protect those sitting nearby. The school accommodated 30 students from grades 1 to 8. In 1942 fire destroyed the school but it was rebuilt on the same foundation and remained in operation until 1961.
In 1970 three men from Beloit, Harold Boettcher, Harold Hill and Maurice McDonald purchased the Honey Creek School and moved it from its original site southwest of Beloit to its present location. They repaired the building and added a bell tower and bell, and gave it an antique red finish. Mark and Helen Babb were also responsible for the renovation of the schoolhouse and in 1976 initiated a very innovative Bicentennial Celebration.
Starting March 1, 1976, seven retired school teachers, Mrs. Harrell Guard, Mrs. Mayme Gourley, Mrs. Mary Kulp, Mrs. Mark Babb, Mrs. Lyle Hogan, Mrs. Kenneth Dooley and Miss Louise Matheis, conducted half day sessions of learning at the school for Beloit and neighboring communities. Honey Creek's sister school, Iowa 83, has been moved to Knott's Berry Farm in California.
The schoolhouse still sits on Highway Number 24, north of Beloit, basking in all its glory of 95 years, a beacon of learning and forming those precepts which are the foundation of our freedom loving country. A program of 21 classes a day was about the minimum for eight grades. Teachers were leaders in the community and held the respect of almost everyone. From 1877 to 1902 salaries ranged from $10 to $40 a month. Very few stayed longer than one year before moving on to a better paying job or to marriage. Many school systems required the teacher, especially women, to be single.
Children learned from each other, were self-reliant and worked quietly. Instead of using class time to teach multiplication tables, children sang them to each other in the school yard to the tune of "Yankee Doodle". States and capitals were learned to the tune of "Old Aunt Rody". McGuffey Readers provided the basis in reading and literature, and each pupil read in his/her "level" of reading, regardless of age, size or grade. Oral reading was stressed, thus much program material was developed for their entertainment. Webster's Blue Back Speller provided information besides spelling words.
Repetition is the law of learning and country school children heard the same lessons every year they attended, and by the time they reached eighth grade, they knew about all the right answers. That accounts for the excellent foundation that the "older" generation has and their ability to retain fundamental facts.
Pot Belly Stove
The pot belly stove usually set in the middle of the room. On cold days, dinner pails that usually rested on a shelf were put under the stove to keep them from freezing, and sorry was the student who failed to put his bottle of ink under the stove at the end of the day. The next morning he would find it had burst or the cork stood up two inches out of the bottle. Favorite pranks included bullets in the hot stove, pigtails in the inkwell, snakes and mice in the teacher's desk, live chickens in the toilets, and plenty of snowballs as pupils dashed along the paths to the two important little buildings in the rear corners of the playground. Sponsorship of this unique project was assumed in 1979 by Alpha Pi Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, an international teachers society. It is open to visitors June 1st to September 1st on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 1:30 to 4:30 in the afternoon.
The community is grateful to all the people involved for preserving this typical old school as they fast gave way to consolidation and modern expansion. It brings fond memories to those older guests who were pupils in the old schools.
You will always be welcome at the Little Red Schoolhouse in the roadside park on Highways Number 24 and 9, Beloit, Kansas.