Photo provided - Old Le Grand Public School building, taken after its completion in 1871.
Editor's note: This is the first in a series about Times-Republic Education Corner at some of the rural schools in the region. The series looks at the history and rise of schools, and the challenges they face in the modern day.
More than a century has passed since the first white settlers arrived in what is now Marshall County. When they arrived, they were busy laying the main foundations of the modern city: streets, houses, shops, churches and schools.
Since then, education in the country has changed dramatically. The county's three rural school districts—West Marshall, East Marshall, and Green Mountain-Gavin—each have a unique history. History also shows some common patterns across counties.
Past Actions, Contemporary Influences
West Marshall, East Marshall and Green Mountain-Garwin counties each have their own history of origin. While they are unique in their own ways, there are also clear patterns emerging in terms of the timing of mergers among smaller schools.
Supplied photo - People and carriages pose in front of the St Ant's Comprehensive School building, which opened in 1913 and closed in 1957. The building has been destroyed.
As reported in the 1997 continuation history of Marshall County, Iowa, residents of some communities that lost students or entire school buildings as a result of the merger objected to the merger to the larger county.
“People like us who come from small towns ... think the merger might be bad for us because we would lose the school,” said Julie Lang, 34, a Marshalltown school teacher and current Green Mountain-Garwin substitute teacher. "Like everything, there are pros and cons."
Lang said she grew up in Van Cleve, in Melbourne's east. The town was eventually incorporated into the Marshalltown School District, and local buildings closed.
Like some communities in the West Marshall, East Marshall and GMG school districts, Van Cleave has not kept up with the state's educational and spatial demands for student success, Lang said.
The first wave of consolidation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was the result of rural school consolidation, she said. In the 1940s and later, she said, schools in small towns consolidated and lost out to schools in larger towns like State Center, Le Grand and, where she lives, Marshalltown.
Gary Krob of the Iowa State Library's National Data Center said the state's population grew steadily during these periods.
“Overall, population growth in Iowa has been slow and steady,” he said, noting that this happened before the agricultural crisis of the 1980s.
International migration from countries such as Germany and Ireland was key to population growth in the early to mid-20th century, just as it is today, he said. The arrival of baby boomers has also contributed to the state's population growth.
Looking at historical population data can sometimes be difficult because the information is gathered differently than it is today, Krobb said.
Today, the Black and Gold West Marshall School District includes the state center where all educational buildings are located, as well as Melbourne, Rhode Island, St Anthony's, Clemons and Lamoir.
According to Continuing History, the modern borough was formed after the 1962 elections amalgamated the separate boroughs of West Marshall.
The first small schoolhouses appeared in the area's Rhode Island and State Centers in the 1860s. LaMoille followed suit in 1870. Thereafter, the first wave of school mergers began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Rhodes Comprehensive School was established in 1883, uniting students from several area schools. The same happened at the State Center in 1909 and at LaMoille and Melbourne between 1914 and 1915, according to Continuing History.
This has been the case in western Marshall County for decades. The second wave of consolidation occurred after World War II. Minerva Unified School merged with State Center in 1945 and La Moille in 1955. Rhode Island and State Center merged in 1961, shortly before West Marshall was finally formed in 1962.
The formation of districts today does not mean the end of the construction of local schools in other cities. However, as the years passed and new educational facilities sprung up in the center of the country, other cities began to lose school buildings.
The final blows came with the closure of the Clemons school in 1979 and the closure of the Melbourne school in 1983.
Some citizens in small towns surrounding the State Center were unhappy with the merger, Continuing History reported.
"The citizens of Rhode Island strongly opposed the closure (of the local school) because they foresaw negative impacts on the city, and they failed," it said.
On the other side of the county, purple and gold East Marshall mustangs have recently appeared. The area currently serves the communities of Le Grand, Gilman, Laurel, Quarry, Dillon, Dunbar and Ferguson.
According to Continuing History, East Marshall was established in 1992. Before that, there were several waves of consolidation.
The first school in Le Grand was established in the mid-1850s. In 1871, it became apparent that the students needed more space, so a two-story brick building was constructed northeast of town.
The three-story building was built in 1916 to accommodate more students, but burned down seven years later. A replacement building was completed and opened in 1924 and continues to serve as part of East Marshall High School.
As with West Marshall, some communities lost schools to mergers. The Dillon School closed in 1955, and the nearby Rock Valley School operated from 1862 to 1954.
Ferguson originally owned a two-room school building before merging with a nearby school in 1915. The last senior grade in Ferguson was in 1960, and the school has since opened for third and fourth grade students in the Le Grand-Dunbar-Ferguson (LDF) School District and later East Marshall. In the 2010s, the school in Ferguson also closed.
There was one comprehensive school in Dunbar from 1922 to 1958. The building served the LDF School District's fourth through sixth grade students prior to its closure.
The cities of Laurel and Gilman continue to serve East Marshall elementary and middle school students. Laurel saw a new brick school building in 1920, and a new high school was completed in 1951.
Laurel changed in 1963 when it merged with Gilman School in Jasper County and part of the town of Mariposa to form the Southeast Marshall County District (SEMCO). The area was merged with the LDF for several years until East Marshall was formed in 1992.
Gilman's first schoolhouse existed in the 1870s until it was destroyed by fire in 1908. The building was replaced the following year and has since been renovated. It is the current building of East Marshall High School.
Green Mountain - Garwin
The GMG School District is located between eastern Marshall County and western Tamar County. Green Mountain, this small community northeast of Marshall Township, endured many of the same hardships as other Marshall County towns in the 19th and 20th centuries.
According to Continuing History, until 1921, students in the Green Mountain area attended a one-room schoolhouse north of the school's present location.
In September of that year, voters decided to approve the Green Hills Independent School District. Following this decision, two previous attempts to form a constituency have failed.
In 1952, a major resolution was passed authorizing the construction of a building to house fourth through sixth grade students and the principal's office at a cost of $120,000.
Over the next few decades, the small-town school remained fairly stable, according to Continuing History. Then, in 1992, when the schools in the two neighborhoods merged "after much discussion," what is now the Green Hills-Calvin District was formed.
Today, Green Mountain is home to the district's elementary through sixth grade, and Garwin is home to the middle/high school.
From the one- and two-room schoolhouses on the plains in the early 20th century to the multistory campuses and buildings of today, rural schools in Marshall County have changed over time.
- Photo Capture - Old Le Grand Public School building, taken after its completion in 1871.
- Supplied photo - People and carriages pose in front of the St Ant's Comprehensive School building, which opened in 1913 and closed in 1957. The building has been destroyed.
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Overview of Marshall County School District
Marshall County School District contains 9 schools and 2,740 students. The district's minority enrollment is 60%.
Marshall County contains 15 schools and 5,758 students.