Remembering Omro’s Blue Bell School Part I

By WCHAS President, Randy Domer

Blue Bell School

Blue Bell School

Less than a century ago, one-room schoolhouses were numerous in rural areas and Winnebago County certainly had its share. Although now vacant, many still stand as a reminder to the days when they provided a much-needed service to folks living well outside our cities, towns and villages. Farm communities relied on these small but important institutions to educate their children during a time when transportation was in its early stages, particularly in the undeveloped, rural areas.  One such school was located just outside Omro near the intersection of what today is County Trunk E and Highway 116.  

The Blue Bell School was built in 1866 and opened its doors to the first class that fall.  It’s originally proposed name was “Bell School”, but that couldn’t be used because Winnebago County already had another Bell School located in the western part of the township.

Local historian and resident of nearby Pickett, Bernie Egan, remembers attending class at Blue Bell School in the 1940s. His father, Gerald, recalls riding his horse to school each day, then slapping it on the rump sending it back home alone. It also was common back then for school to close for one day to allow students and their families to attend the Winnebago County Fair.

In 2010, a committee of folks from the Omro area who attended this school published their remembrances. You can find their stories in the book “BLUE BELL SCHOOL – Memories of a one-room country school”. Some of those remembrances will be included in future newsletters.

Records indicate the site on which the school was built, rented for $1.  It was eventually purchased for the sum of $30. In 1869, another quarter of an acre of land was purchased for $25; added as the playground.  Teachers the first year included Mrs. Tuttle (14 days), C.H. Marshall (3 months) and Miss Luther who taught summer classes.

The community worked to furnish and make improvements to the school; a well was dug by hand and purchases made of new desks, curtains, a flag with staff, blackboard, bookcase, and fencing for the schoolyard.  In 1929, the bell used to start the school day and call the kids in from recess was added.

Over the years, there were occasions when there weren’t enough students to hold class.  When this occurred, what students there were, attended classes at Omro and Waukau schools. Due to low enrollment, the school actually closed in 1906 and reopened in 1918.

Class sizes at Blue Bell School varied from year to year, averaging between six and eleven students until 1931, when enrollment rose to seventeen and then twenty-four for the next term. Classes were taught through the 8th grade level. Many grades only had one pupil so some lessons were combined.

 

 

Winnebago County Courthouse Preservation: Part I

Have you been to the county courthouse lately?!

Austin Frederick

Winnebago County Courthouse 1938 Winnebago County Courthouse 1938

I’ve been keeping myself busy these past few months with all sorts of historical projects and am finally getting a chance to blog again. I would say a lot of people out there go to work, put in their time, and punch out at the end of the day. Lately, my line of work has me clocking in volunteer hours after work–but I am ecstatic about it!

I have been working hard to help with some historic preservation of the Winnebago County Courthouse in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Ever since starting work with the county, I’ve fallen in love with this Art Deco monument. It was built during the Great Depression without federal or state relief funds and cost nearly 1 million dollars. You have to step inside to take in the style and beauty of a different era.

One of the items on our “To Do” list is locating some…

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Work in the Morgan Library

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Members of the Collections Committee are hard at work cataloging the WCHAS library. Over the years, the society has amassed a collection of books, atlases, directories, and other published works that will soon be available for researchers to use. We have an assortment historical novels on various topics, but our largest collection is of local histories and state histories. We also have a large collection of Morgan Company publications on product lines and company happenings.

Volunteers are welcome to join the committee to help with cataloging work. Once the library is complete we will make the list of books available online, and then the committee will begin work on cataloging the archival material that the society has in its archival storage area (photos, documents, maps, Morgan Company records, etc). Contact us today if you are interested in volunteering!

Variety Night at Time Theater

Live at the Time

“Live at the Time” – a fun filled theater night out beginning at 7:00p.m. on Friday, October 21, 2016 at the Time Community Theater. Featuring a 59-minute live broadcast to be aired on WRST 90.3 FM, Oshkosh, 30 minutes of a film showing or live music and 30 minutes of live comedy.

To round the evening out and extend the fun, we’ve asked a favorite local haunt, Jansen’s Bar and Restaurant, to offer a special theater night menu.

The live broadcast will feature “The Cedar Chest Letters” a true story about a northern Wisconsin family during the Depression. There are 6 voices in this production and the WCHAS has the option to use local individuals in the broadcast, hence the potential for the casting call. The Brown-Ullstrup Performing Arts Foundation from Kenosha will be managing the production.

About the story: One day, Racine, Wisconsin resident Barbara Tylla was looking through her mother’s old cedar chest and happened upon a packet of old letters. In these letters, Barb found her family’s story of strong women, loving men, and life in the 1930s and early 1940s. She took the letters and wrote a play where despite the challenges of the Great Depression and the early days of World War II, love conquers all. But Barb also goes beyond just telling a story of her family and tells us how this is a story of all of our families in this charming play originally brought to the airwaves in 2013.

BUY YOUR TICKET ONLINE – CLICK HERE!

Tickets are $20 each. For more information, please contact Anne Anderson at 920-819-5456. As of May 1, tickets can be purchased here, by calling Anne or at our Farmer’s Market booth.