MUSCATINE, Iowa–In June, the Muscatine County Historic Preservation Commission received a Certified Local Government grant to study the history of the county’s rural schools and churches. The grant allowed the Commission to hire consultant, Leah Rogers, principal of Tallgrass Archaeology LLC. Together, Rogers and the Commission work to providing a record of the locations, activities, and the part that rural schools and churches played in the lives of Muscatine pioneers from early settlement in the 1850s up to and including information on the close of rural
schools in 1964. The Commission chronicles this story through research, testimonials, photos, and newspaper records before it gets lost to time.
The work began with review of each township’s plat maps from the years of 1874, 1884, 1899, 1916, and 1930. This involve mapping the locations of each school and church shown in all five years of plat maps. Township plat map records show locations of over 130 schools and almost 60 churches constructed in the county’s 14 townships. The Commission transferred these locations to a modern map of the entire county with the corresponding points plotted on the Muscatine Area Geographic Information System (MAGIC), which will have a separate and distinct layer for Muscatine County Historical Facilities.
A reconnaissance survey of each site conducted in November to confirmed the GPS location of each site and to investigated where the buildings’ location. This survey found some buildings moved and repurposed for homes or grain
bins, some so dilapidated that proved hard to recognize, and some sites completely devoid of a structure due to fire or demolitions.
The Commission marked data points on a unique layer on MAGIC to confirm location on a modern map. The public may view the layer under the label of Muscatine County Historic Facilities, when it goes live. The public may view the location of the historic schools and churches and glean the information researched by the members of the Commission and volunteers from the townships.
The Commission is invites the public to have a part in sleuthing these historic buildings. They encourage you to search for items tucked away in an attic or basement, stored in a shed or garage, or old bin. Look through the family photo albums and scrapbooks for class photos or wedding photos that include a school or church in the photo. Interview a family member about their experiences. They have a great interested in testimonials. Please share your media by taking a photo with a phone or digital camera and emailing it to Jane Daufeldt, along with information about the date taken, the name of the school or church, the names of people in the photo, the occasion, and any remembrances. The Commission needs the who, what, when, where, why and how about the all submissions. However, you should keep the originals for your family history.
The school and church buildings served as primay places of early education and worship, but they also provided a sense of community and fellowship for celebrations, meetings, rallies, picnics, voting polls, and social gathering. They may no longer exist, but an old photo will help document the search.
Rogers will create a document to meet the CLG grant guidelines and published on the Commission’s webpage on the county’s official website.