Preserving Missouri’s One-Room Schools

Nov 19, 2014

Original Liberty School
Credit Springfield-Greene County Park Board

A new directory highlights the “who’s who” of Missouri’s historic and one-room schools. KSMU’s Simone Cook tells us more about the publication, which includes details on roughly 50 schools.

“The Missouri Directory of Historic and One-Room Schools” was published in October by David Burton and Jennifer Kerivan. Burton, of the MU Extension and creator of the Missouri Historic Schools Alliance, says the directory helps tell part of the history of education in Missouri.

“Much like the fact that we preserve battlefields in order to better tell the story of the Civil War, we think it’s important to preserve some of these one-room schools to better tell the history of early Missouri and especially the importance of education in Missouri,” Burton said.

Burton says that one challenge facing the alliance is the lack of funding put into the preservation of historic schools, one reason the organization is volunteer based.

One of those volunteers is Norma Tolbert. Tolbert attended the Liberty School from 1947 to 1951. Constructed in 1895, the Liberty School was renovated and moved from near Fellows Lake to the Gray-Campbell Farmstead at Nathanael Greene Park this past September.

“We moved it in sections; I mean we didn’t move the whole building, we had to reconstruct the outside basically, because it was in bad shape. We were able to tear out and remove at least half of the inside, so we have the original floor, the original stage, the original blackboard, and the original walls around the blackboard. We reconstructed it on scale to what it was, a 20 by 30 building.”

Tolbert noted that many of the pre-Civil War establishments around this area were given the name Liberty, as she believes this area’s citizens believed highly in the ideology of the word, which shows another important part of Missouri history.

Photos of each school are listed in the publication. This is the first edition of the "Missouri Directory of Historic and One-Room Schools." The final directory is estimated to be completed by 2016. It is available for purchase online or a printed draft copy can be ordered from the Greene County Extension office at 2400 S. Scenic in Springfield.