When country schools served Greene County’s kids

SCRANTON, Iowa, Oct. 30, 2016 — Sometimes when Marilynn Hoskinson, of Jefferson, thinks back on how she started her education in the “Hardin No. 6” country school, west of Spring Lake Park, she is still amazed at the job that her teacher Miss Liberty Maye Mattson was asked to do.

“There were 20 of us in that one-room schoolhouse, we had all eight grades represented and she taught us all by herself,” Hoskinson.  “That teacher had her hands full!” 

But there were learning advantages for Hoskinson, who attended the country school from 1931 until late in her fourth grade year, when her family moved from a farm into the town of Grand Junction.  “I swear, for me it was like a Head Start program,” she said. “I learned so much by listening to the older kids recite their lessons.” 

She’ll discuss the impact of country schools on Greene County and share her recollections as a student in one of them when the Greene County Historical Society gathers in Scranton for its Friday, Nov. 4, meeting. “I’m also going to invite people in the audience who attended country schools to share some of their stories, too,” Hoskinson said. 

Marilynn Hoskinson, who will present the program on country schools, is a frequent volunteer for the historical society. Here she’s shown serving chili after a “cemetery walk” a couple years ago.

A lunch will be at 12 noon at the Scranton United Methodist Church.  Historical society members, who pay $8 for lunch, are asked to RSVP to their regular community contacts by Wednesday, Nov. 2.  The public can also make reservations, for $10 each, by calling program coordinator Ces Brunow at (515) 370-5531.  If you make a reservation but do not attend, you will be billed for your meal’s cost. 

The program, which is free, will begin at 1 p.m. in the church sanctuary. 

Hoskinson said when formal education was established in rural Greene County, “the general plan was to put a schoolhouse on each section of land, meaning there would be up to nine in a township.  In some cases, there wouldn’t be that many because some sections were broken up by the river or creeks, or by areas with a lot of timber.”  There are old maps of the county showing more than 70 country schools. 

Most students walked a mile or so to school unless the weather was rough.  Once it got really rough, Hoskinson recalls.  During the legendary blizzard of 1936, school was canceled for five weeks “because no one could get there,” she said. 

How’d she find the transition from country school when she joined the students in the school in Grand Junction?  Because she had advanced a grade or two in the country school, she was nearly two years younger than many of her Grand Junction classmates.  “I was confident in my studies,” she said, “but I felt like a real nerd otherwise.  I didn’t know how to dress like the town girls.” 

After graduating from Grand Junction High School in 1944, she went on to a long, successful career as a nurse’s aide and then secretary at then-Greene County Hospital in Jefferson; secretary to the Jongewaard physicians; wife, mother and then 30 years with Home State Bank. At the bank, she was promoted from bookkeeper to officer to manager of the old “red bank” office that Home State operated on the corner where the Fareway Store is now located in Jefferson. 

Hoskinson has long been active in the historical society.  For at least 10 years, she has volunteered during the Greene County Fair to portray the school teacher in the “Bristol No. 5” country schoolhouse that was moved next door to the historical society’s display building on the fairgrounds.


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