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Weekly Column

Each week a small segment of Vernon County history is published in the county papers.


For the week of 10/17/2021
by Kristen Parrott, curator

This is a great time of year to take a country drive, with the clear roads and the fall colors. You can enjoy a drive and learn about the old country schools in Vernon County at the same time by joining our Rural School Road Rally on Saturday, October 23.

The rally begins at the Seas Branch schoolhouse, located next to Westby Elementary School, 122 Nelson St. in Westby. Seas Branch School was a rural school once located near Avalanche. It closed in 1958, and in 1998 was moved into Westby to the Westby Area Schools property and restored.

Pick up a map of the rally route (through northwestern Vernon County) at the school between 9AM and noon. A donation of $10 to participate is requested. Then drive the route and discover a few more of the many country schoolhouses still standing today.

For added fun, answer road rally questions and turn in your responses at the Foreaker School, 606 W. Broadway, Viroqua, between 10AM and 4PM on Saturday. The Foreaker was another rural school, once located in Town of Liberty. After it closed in 1960, the schoolhouse was purchased by the county and moved into Viroqua. The Vernon County Historical Society restored it and now operates it as a rural school museum and classroom learning experience.

If you don’t get the quiz done on Saturday, there will also be a drop box for responses available outside the Foreaker School until 6PM on Sunday, October 24. Those with correct answers will be entered into a drawing for our new book, Country Schoolhouses of Vernon County, Wisconsin.

If you are just interested in the book, stop by the museum sometime soon to see a copy. The book sells for $20, plus $5 shipping if you need it mailed. Books are available for sale at the museum during regular fall hours, which are Monday through Friday, noon to 4PM, through the end of October. Winter hours of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, noon to 4PM, begin on November 1.

Books can also be purchased from our online bookstore – go to our website at vernoncountyhistory.org, and either look for the announcement on the home page, or click on “Bookstore” in the index on the left.


Seas Branch School

Seas Branch School, now located near the Westby Elementary School, 122 Nelson St., Westby.


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For the week of 10/10/2021
by Kristen Parrott, curator

You might remember that throughout the summer of 2020, we asked a lot of questions in this column about Vernon County’s old country schoolhouses. The point of all those questions was to collect information for a book about the schools, and that book has at last been published. Country Schoolhouses of Vernon County, Wisconsin, is now available for sale.

The book includes one page for each rural school in the county, arranged alphabetically by school name, from Ames School in Town of Liberty through Wood School in Town of Greenwood. Each page includes basic information about that school: the school district number, the location of the school, the year it was built and the year it was closed, and any later use of the building, plus photographs old and new.

We have tried to take into account the fact that sometimes district numbers changed, and sometimes a school’s location did too. We also researched how many buildings a school had over the years, and when each opened and closed, such as when a schoolhouse burned down and was replaced. And we have recorded what happened to each school building once the school closed, as that information was available to us.

The book is also full of historic photographs, featuring the schoolhouses and the children who went to them. A special feature is the modern, full-color photographs of the old school buildings as they look today, for those buildings that are still standing, which is the majority of them.

A map at the front of the book will help you to locate the schools in the locations where they stood about 100 years ago, especially useful if you can’t quite remember the name of a school but do know where it was. At the back of the book is a list of alternative names for those schools that had name changes over the years. For example, if you want to look up Central School but don’t see it in the book, the list at the back will show you that the more common name was Partridge School, in the Town of Wheatland, and that’s the name it’s found under.

The book sells for $20, plus $5 shipping if you need it mailed. Books are available for sale at the museum during regular hours, which are Monday through Friday, noon to 4PM, through the end of October. (Winter hours of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, noon to 4PM, begin on November 1.)

Books can also be purchased from our online bookstore – go to our website at vernoncountyhistory.org, and either look for the announcement on the home page, or click on “Bookstore” in the index on the left.

In celebration of this new book, a Rural School Road Rally has been planned for Saturday, October 23. The rally will involve taking a drive through northwestern Vernon County to view the old rural schools as they are today. First pick up a map at the Seas Branch School, now located next to Westby Elementary, between 9AM and noon on October 23. Suggested donation of $10 to participate. For more information, visit our website, vernoncountyhistory.org.


Purdy School, Town of Sterling, 1908

Purdy School, Town of Sterling, 1908

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The previous two articles:

October 3, 2021

September 26, 2021