From “The hitching post…” column in the Ottawa Herald, a series of articles about early Franklin County schools researched by Bruce Fleming and written by Herald Editor and Publisher Jim Hitch. This article appeared 5 September, 1991.
Few Franklin County residents will remember Huff School, District 80, which was located two miles south and a mile-plus east of Princeton on the north side of the road.
The reason is that the Huff district, which was organized in 1872, closed in the spring of 1918, six months before the end of World War I.
The district was dissolved the following year and the students attended school in adjacent districts for the next two years.
Patrons of the old district then decided they wanted to reopen Huff School, but the state ruled that the law prevented a school from re-opening once the district had been dissolved.
As was typical in the early days, Huff School was named for those who had donated the land on which it was built, William and Eliza Huff.
Ellen Larson, county superintendent of schools in the early 1920s, wrote to the Huffs, “…you are hereby notified that the property deeded by you for school purposes to Dist. 80 in Franklin County, reverts back to the conditions of the deed.”
Just a couple years after Huff School was opened, a grasshopper plague occurred. Settlers reported that the clouds of hoppers blotted out the sun and that the insects piled up on the ground four and five inches deep.
So devastated were the crops that the following year an estimated 2,500 county residents needed temporary assistance. The county clerk requested 2,500 pounds of flour, 2,500 pounds of meat, bacon, beans, clothing and seed for planting to be issued to the needy.
Louis Reed, who has done extensive research in Franklin County, offers this brief review of what occurred in Franklin County prior to the creation of Huff School. 1856 – County surveyed; 1858 – County commission’s first official act was to consider petitions to establish two roads; 1858 – townships were laid out; 1859 – two-mill levy passed for support of common schools; 1859 – toll bridge at Peoria discussed; 1866 – appropriation made of Peoria bridge; 1869 – appropriation for bridge across Ottawa Creek; 1869 – three mills levied for roads and two for bridges.
Bruce Fleming who has compiled all of the research for this series, declares, “It is hard to imagine the condition of the roads in the early days, when the schools were being organized. There was prairie as far as you could see, with no trees, except along streams. There is one report of a prairie fire that started near Burlington and stopped at the Marais de Cygnes River. Many of the first schools may have been built along trails.”
As the pace of development increased, the need for labor grew. In 1884, the Ottawa street commissioner was authorized to take all prisoners from the county jail and put them to work on the rock pile at the county yard, which was in town.
In 1868, there were 46 schoolhouses and 2,958 children in Franklin County. Two years later there were 65 schoolhouses and 3,874 children. By 1880, the county had 85 schoolhouses and 6,011 children.