Historic single room school being restored in Neosho County, Kansas

Group plans to use school for educational programs

When James Baker graduated from the Oak Grove School in 1958, he never imagined he’d come back 60 some odd years later.

“Not at that time, no. But I’m glad I did,” explains Baker.

He attended the single-room schoolhouse from the 2nd grade through the 8th grade and says they are definitely fond memories.

“Had one teacher that taught all eight grades. So, you’d have reading and she’d go through the different grades, ” says Baker. “Actually, I was the only one in my class except for in the seventh and eighth grades.”

The Oak Grove School was built in 1877 by George Clark Osgood — who also manufactured brick for many of Parsons’ original buildings.

It stayed open until 1960 and sits on what was once part of the Osage Indian reservation.

It also sits in front of the original Osage trail, which was used by thousands of pioneers after the Civil war.

It was also added to the National Register of Historic places in 2016.

The group is now working with the Kansas Historic Society to restore the school.

“We opened the porch back up like it was in the early 1900s, we’ve restored the roof, and now we’re in the process of restoring the windows, the exterior walls,” explains Roger Pruitt with the Oak Grove Historical Society. “And then we’ll redo the interior completely and put it back like it was, as close as we can, to 1877.”

Pruitt lives in Texas but drives to Neosho County to help with the school because it has a special place in his heart as well.

“The Oak Grove School is a community center, so there were a lot of people who socialized and met their spouses. And that’s what happened with my grandmother and grandfather,” says Pruitt.”They met here, they courted here, they went to box dinners and dances here… this is where they started. So, it’s really cool location where you know where that happened and it’s really representative for the entire community around here.”

Once restorations are complete, the group wants to invite local schools to bring elementary students for field trips and other educational programs.

“They can learn about the Osage, the early pioneers, the farmers that came here and settled this area. I think it’ll be a memorable experience that they’ll never forget,” says Pruitt.

Baker is excited to be a part of that. not just so his childhood school is preserved, but so younger generations can also learn there.

“I’d love to see that,” says Baker. “I think that’d be great for them.”

The restoration is made possible by a 70 thousand dollar grant from the Kansas Heritage Trust fund.

The historical society hopes to have everything done by the Fall of 2020, and no later than the spring of 2021.

The society is also accepting donations.

If you would like to donate, visit parsonsareacf.org, select donate, and select “Oak Grove School Endowed Fund.”

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