Archive for Wednesday, September 22, 1999

Honey Valley School reopens after decades of playing hooky

September 22, 1999

It's been 130 years since the Honey Valley School opened its doors.
This Saturday, the schoolhouse doors will open again.

Thanks to the dedication, generosity and hard work of many individuals and businesses, on Saturday afternoon, members of the Tonganoxie Historical Society will hold an open house and rededication of the building.

Deloris White, a historical society member who has researched area schools, said settlers who lived southwest of Tonganoxie founded the Honey Valley School district in 1869, three years after the city of Tonganoxie was established.

In 1915, 17 registered voters who lived in the school district voted for a $1,200 bond that would finance construction of a new school. The old schoolhouse was torn down, and in 1916, the new school opened. The building included a large center classroom area and two smaller front rooms.

Until 1958, when the school closed, rural students attended school in the white frame building. The last class, taught by Carol Dunker, had three students: Billy Dunker, Ilene Rains and Nancy Harman.

White said the school re-opened a few years later and housed the overflow of students who attended school in Reno.

After a couple of years, the school closed again.

The rural landmark then served as a storage facility for more than 30 years at the farm home of Gordon Harman, who donated the schoolhouse to the Tonganoxie Historical Society. On March 7, 1991, the schoolhouse was moved to town and placed on top of a new basement at the historical society site.

The school is northwest of the intersection of Evans Road and U.S. Highway 24-40, about a half-mile south of the Fourth Street stoplight.
For the past eight years, workers have been renovating the building.

George Cooper, president of the Tonganoxie Historical Society, said that the lath and plaster was removed and contractors installed insulation and wallboard.

Del Englen, a member of the historical society, said that 15 to 20 members have been working at the site for 25 to 30 hours a week during the last three years.

"All of that wasn't hard labor," Englen said. "We do have coffee breaks."

Chalkboards, Englen said, came out of an old schoolhouse in Nortonville, and old desks were found in Missouri.

Refurbishing the desks was another labor-intensive project, Englen said. They had gotten wet while being stored in the school's basement.

Today, the schoolhouse is complete with a bell in the belfry and a privy in the back yard.

Now that the schoolhouse is completed, volunteers can relax but not for long.

"It's like a kind of a sigh," Englen said. "We're going to take a deep breath and then start working on the barn where our museum will be."

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