Rural Schools in Marshall County: A History (2023)

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - The old Le Grand Public School building pictured sometime after its completion in 1871.

Editor's note: This is the first part in a Times-Republican Education Corner series about some of the area's country schools. The series will look at the schools' history and formation, as well as the challenges they face in modern times.

It is well over a century since the first white settlers came to what is now Marshall County. When they arrived, they got busy establishing important foundations for modern cities: roads, housing, shops, churches and schools.

In the time since, there has been a tremendous amount of changes to education in the state. Three rural school districts in the county – West Marshall, East Marshall and Green Mountain-Garwin – each have their own unique histories. The story also shows some patterns shared between the districts.

Past Actions, Modern Effects

Each of the West Marshall, East Marshall and Green Mountain-Garwin districts has its own origin story. While unique in their own ways, there are also clear patterns that emerge when it comes to the timing of mergers between and among small schools.

Rural Schools in Marshall County: A History (1)

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - People and horse-drawn carriages pose outside St. Anthony Consolidated School building, which opened in 1913 and closed in 1957. The building has since been destroyed.

As accounts in the book "The Continuing History of Marshall County Iowa, 1997" suggest, residents of some of the communities that lost students or entire school buildings to consolidation opposed merging into larger districts.

"The small town people that we were ... thought consolidation probably wasn't good for us because we would lose our school," said 34-year Marshalltown Schools teacher and current Green Mountain-Garwin substitute teacher Julie Lang. "There are pros and cons, as there are with everything."

Lang said she grew up in Van Cleve, east of Melbourne. The small town was eventually added to the Marshalltown School District and its local building closed.

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Lang said Van Cleve, like some communities in the West Marshall, East Marshall and GMG school districts, could not keep up with the educational and facility needs the state required for student success.

She said the first wave of consolidations in the late 1800s and early 1900s came as a result of country schools merging. In the 1940s and beyond, she said, consolidation led to schools in smaller towns losing out to those in larger cities, like State Center, Le Grand and, in her case, Marshalltown.

Gary Krob of the State Library of Iowa's State Data Center said the state's population saw steady growth throughout those time periods.

"Iowa's population in general has always just had slow and steady population growth," he said, noting that predates the agricultural crisis of the 1980s.

He said international immigration from places like Germany and Ireland was a key to the population growth in the early and mid-20th century that it is today. The arrival of the Baby Boomer generation also contributed to the growth of the state's population.

Krob said it can sometimes be difficult to look at historical population data because the methods of collecting information were different than they are now.

West Marshall

Today, it covers the black-and-gold of the West Marshall Community School District State Center, where all of its educational buildings are located, as well as Melbourne, Rhodes, St. Anthony, Clemons and LaMoille.

The modern district came into being in 1962 after an election was held to consolidate several independent area districts in West Marshall, according to "Continuing History."

The first small schoolhouses appeared in the district in the 1860s in Rhodes and State Center. LaMoille followed suit in 1870. Then a first wave of school consolidation began in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Rhodes Consolidated Schools started in 1883 and combined students from several schoolhouses in the area. The same thing happened in State Center in 1909 and in LaMoille and Melbourne around 1914-15, according to "Continuing History."

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That's how things were in western Marshall County for a few decades. Another wave of consolidation came in the post-World War II period. Minerva Consolidated School combined with State Center in 1945, and LaMoille did the same in 1955. Rhodes and State Center combined in 1961, just before the eventual 1962 formation of West Marshall.

The formation of the current district did not immediately mean the end of local school buildings in the other towns. But as the years passed and new educational additions appeared in State Center, other towns began to lose their school buildings.

The final blows came in 1979 with the closing of the Clemons school building and in 1983 with the Melbourne school closing.

According to "Continuing History", there was discontent among some citizens in the smaller towns around State Center when it came to consolidation.

"Rhodes' citizens strongly opposed the closure of (the local school) because they foresaw a negative effect on the town, but were unsuccessful," it reads.

East Marshall

Across the county, the purple-and-gold East Marshall Mustangs have been up to a lot more recently. This district currently serves the communities of Le Grand, Gilman, Laurel, Quarry, Dillon, Dunbar and Ferguson.

East Marshall was formed in 1992, according to "Continuing History." Before that, there were a few waves of consolidation.

The first school in Le Grand was established in the mid-1850s. In 1871, it was clear that more space was needed for the students, so a two-story brick schoolhouse was built on the northeast side of town.

A three-story building was built in 1916 to accommodate even more students, but it burned down sometime in the seven years that followed. A replacement building was constructed and opened in 1924 and continues to serve as part of East Marshall High School.

As with West Marshall, some communities lost schools as a result of consolidation. The Dillon School closed in 1955 and the nearby Rock Valley School lasted from 1862-1954.

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Ferguson originally had a two-room schoolhouse prior to consolidation with nearby schools in 1915. The last class to graduate from Ferguson was in 1960, and thereafter the school was for third and fourth graders in the Le Grand-Dunbar-Ferguson (LDF) school district and later East Marshall. In the 2010s, Ferguson's school was also closed.

There was a consolidated school in Dunbar from 1922-1958. The building continued for some time to serve fourth through sixth grades for the LDF district before it was closed.

The towns of Laurel and Gilman continue to serve East Marshall's elementary and middle school students, respectively. Laurel saw a new brick schoolhouse built in 1920 and in 1951 a new high school was built.

Change came for Laurel in 1963 when it consolidated with Gilman's school and part of Jasper County's Mariposa Township to form the South East Marshall County (SEMCO) district. This district was combined with the LDF for a few years until East Marshall was formed in 1992.

The first school building in Gilman lasted from the 1870s until 1908 when a fire burned it down. The next year the building was replaced and has since been renovated. It is the current East Marshall Middle School building.

Green Mountain-Garwin

The GMG School District straddles eastern Marshall County and western Tama County. Green Mountain, the small community just northeast of Marshalltown, experienced many of the same pressures as other towns across Marshall County in the 19th and 20th centuries.

According to "Continuing History," students in the Green Mountain area attended a one-room schoolhouse just north of the current school's location prior to 1921.

It was in September of that year that voters decided to approve the creation of the Green Mountain Independent School District. This decision followed two previous failed attempts to create the district.

In 1952, a major resolution came that allowed the construction of a building to house students in grades four through six and the superintendent's office for $120,000.

Things remained fairly stable for the small-town school in the following decades, according to "Continuing History." Then, in 1992, the current Green Mountain-Garwin district was formed when the two communities' schools merged "after much discussion."

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Today, Green Mountain is home to the district's elementary students through sixth grade, while Garwin is home to the junior/senior high school.

From one- and two-room schoolhouses on the plains in the early 20th century to multi-story, multi-building school campuses today, the rural schools of Marshall County continue to change as time goes on.

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO – The old Le Grand Public School building pictured sometime after its completion in 1871.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO – People and horse-drawn carriages pose outside St. Anthony Consolidated School building, which opened in 1913 and closed in 1957. The building has since been destroyed.

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What is the history of Marshall County? ›

Present-day Marshall County was created by the Alabama legislature on January 9, 1836, from Cherokee land acquired in the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. The county was named in honor of John Marshall, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835.

How many high schools are in Marshall County Alabama? ›

Marshall County contains 4 high schools. For personalized and effective admissions consulting,consider Get one-on-one advising on your essays, application strategy, and extracurricular profile to help you gain acceptance to your dream colleges.

How many schools are in Marshall County Alabama? ›

Marshall County contains 15 schools and 5,758 students.

How many schools are in Marshall County Mississippi? ›

Overview of Marshall County School District

Marshall County School District contains 9 schools and 2,740 students. The district's minority enrollment is 60%.

What are some historical facts about Marshall County WV? ›

The county was named in honor of John Marshall, who at the time was the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. On Christmas Eve, 1852, the B&O railroad track was completed at Rosby's Rock. The railroad was the first to connect the Atlantic Ocean with the Ohio River.

What is the history of the family name Marshall? ›

Marshall is an occupation name whose origin is from the Frankish mare ("horse") + skalkoz ("servant"). It is most commonly found as a surname, but may also be used as a given name. It is also an old Scottish surname meaning 'Love of Horses'.


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