From the “Scratcher” or notebook of Superintendent of Public Instruction Philetus Fales:
“Visited Feb. 16 (1869), School prospering.”
Feb 16, 1870: “[Term began] Jan. 17. G.W. Pulse, Teacher. New house not finished but well seated. Visited Feb. 16. School prospering.”
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 2 May, 1991.
North Illinois School, District 59, was located three miles south and a half mile west of Pomona on the south side of the road. The first school was constructed in 1869.
The school was closed in 1945, 76 years after the district was formed. The last teacher was Nellie (Chambers) Cox, now of Osage City. The last students were Alvin Dehn, Vernon, Charles and Benford Scott, Willard, Georgia and Alice Adkinson, Wanda Dehn and Dorothy Cain.
David Zimmerman of Pomona RFD 1, a former pupil, recalls that in the 1920s “The teacher’s salary was about $35 per month, which was more than most men got. Most teachers were just out of high school and could be younger than some students.”
In 1917, he said, “some of the older boys were talking of going into the army and did soon afterward” when the U.S. entered World War 1.
“About that time,” he remembers, “we were asked to gather peach seeds to make ‘charcoal- carbon’ to be used in gas masks. Our school gathered several bushels.”
Some students, he said, were coal miner kids, whose parents, unable to find work in town, came out to dig coal. Some lived in dugouts, or built dwellings with whatever material they could find.”
Our school lunches were whatever our parents could furnish. Most of us fared pretty well, But all one boy had in his bucket was fried potatoes.”
“Each morning, “Zimmerman said, “the teacher would send two boys a half mile to the nearest well to get water for the day’s supply. Later we had a cistern with a hand-cranked Gem chain pump. We were supposed to have individual drinking cups, but everyone used the one hanging on the bucket or pump.”
He said some students went barefoot until the weather turned cold.
“The walls of the school were filled with sawdust for insulation, but it was still cold. We would wear our coats and crowd around the old ‘Round Oak’ stove sometimes. School was never closed because of weather or for any other reason that I can remember,” Zimmerman said.
The North Illinois school district had the lowest valuation in Franklin County in 1945. The three districts with the highest valuations were Green Dell at $607,000, Hood at $529,000 and Baxter at $470,000.
The three districts with the lowest were North Illinois at $98,000, Chippewa at $111,000 and Union Center at $116,000.
Several former patrons say North Illinois used a high number of first-year teachers, just out of high school, because it paid the lowest salaries.
Other teachers known to have taught at North Illinois were Mrs. Margaret Reed, Amanda Cain, Eula Blankenbaker, Ruth Kingery and Ruby (Hoopes) Storer.
Besides Zimmerman, other former pupils still living in the county are Ronald Cade, Anabelle (Hoopes) Burgess, Alvin Dehn, Henry Dehn Jr., Dorothy (Cain) Stinebaugh, Roger, John and Norman Scott, Icel (Scott) Schmitt, Leonard Hoopes and Pansy (Wadkins) Snodgrass.