The Yorty School House

Yorty School house

 

The Yorty School was the last remaining country school in Lafayette Township, Ogle County, when it was moved by a group of volunteers to the Chaplin Creek Historical Site south of Franklin Grove on October 5, 1990.  Ironically, the only other country school in that township still standing on its original site had burned to the ground the night before the Yorty move.

This was not the venerable structure's first move.  Originally built in 1893 following a disastrous fire in December of 1892 to its predecessor, it was raised on that earlier foundation with an addition at the east end for a township hall.  Facing west on the east side of the Ashton to Chana road, it was located 2-1/2 miles straight north of Ashton.  However, with the construction of the Lincoln Highway (now Illinois rte. 38) in 1919-1920, the corner was changed and the schoolhouse now sat too close to the highway, so it was moved across the Chana Road and turned to face east.  At the Historical Site, the Yorty School again faces west as it did originally.

The present school building had been dedicated June 21, 1893, by teacher Miss Alice Billmire.  It was in continuous use until 1947 when teacher Miss Carley Chapman officially "locked up the school as District 108" and it was consolidated with another country school the Antioch School.  Parents were very unhappy with this move because the Yorty School had inside toilets which had been added when the school had been moved across the road; Antioch did not.

Reopened in the early 1950's by Community Unit School District #271, the school was taught for several years by Mrs. Elma Cultra and then was closed permanently as a schoolhouse.  In 1952 the contents of Prairie Star and :Yorty Schools were sold at auction.  Because the school desks did not sell, they were simply abandoned outside.  Later Oliver Kurth placed them inside out of the weather.  Some of these have been refinished by Herb Alumbaugh and are now in the schoolroom.  Others of different styles have been donated by various interested individuals.

The school had a coal stove with a railing around it so, as Hollis Chapman, a former student there, recalls, clothes could be hung on the railing to dry in winter.  The remainder of the schoolyear, coats and jackets were hung on hooks.  She remembers two pictures in particular in the schoolroom, "The Gleaners" and "Abraham Lincoln".  She also recalls that there were bookshelves, with the books for pleasure-reading on the highest shelves.  The drawings of horses you see preserved on the chalkboards were drawn by Hollis's father, Phillips Chapman, a former school director.

Because the town hall was at the rear of the building, the schoolhouse continued in use for voting, town meetings, etc. until a new township building was constructed just to the north of the school several years ago.  Since the building had stood empty for ;years and was deteriorating, plans to demolish it were underway when it was donated to the Franklin Grove Area Historical Society in January, 1989, by Hilda McIntosh, the landowner who had originally given the land when the multipurpose building was moved across the road.  Planning to move the building was begun immediately by historical society members, with completion less than two years later.

Long known as the Yorty School for the family who lived on the corner where it stood, the century-old building now has a new home but has retained its old name.

Eloiese Van Hise

August, 1995