A tale of two schoolhouses


Many of the school buildings built in the late 1800s and early 1900s are now gone, but some of them still stand and are used for homes.

The old Payne School District #50 was originally located just north of Brocton across from the Payne Cemetery. The small frame school was built more than 120 years ago. It was used until 1948 with Emma Payne being the teacher at that time.

After its closing, it was hauled into Brocton and remodeled by several additions and makes a nice looking home. The north end of the house at 207 West Howard Street is the shape of an old schoolhouse. The Wienke family lived there for several years before recently selling it to Lillian Dahm, who moved from the Joliet area to be near her mother at Newman.

Dahm couldn’t find a place in Newman but she found a nice residence in Brocton, which is less than nine miles from Newman. She said she really finds Central Illinois a great place to live and enjoys the Brocton setting. This old building is now serving as a vital part of a home and Dahm was amazed it is still sturdy for its age.

The 1870 Atlas of Edgar County does not show Brocton as being laid out yet and no school. The 1894 Atlas has Payne Cemetery and a school one mile west of the Chicago and Ohio River Railroad where a post office was located at Payne Station. There is no information when the school was moved, probably in the 1950s.

Rae Payne Gher and Kay Payne Haddix provided information about the home and the school’s original location.

Larkin School District #90 was erected after 1870 but before 1894 on the north side of the Horace-Brocton Road about one-quarter mile east of the present state Route 1intersection. It was built on G. K. Larkin’s ground and was last used as a school in 1947. Students attended other schools following the Unit Four consolidation. Leona Davis was the last teacher in the building.

The building was sold to Bob and Corky Calvert, and the family remodeled it with the help of Corky Calvert’s father, Carl Pine. During the next several years, the front door was changed to the west side and eventually there were five rooms and a bath downstairs. Later on Corky and Don Parks lowered the ceiling and made two bedrooms upstairs, including a stairwell. The living room was large, but the other rooms downstairs were small.

Randy Bishop lived there for a while and then Susan and Vick Bowyer made it their home until 1979. It is now owned by Jennifer and Phillip Creech and is a nice appearing home converted from the old school.

Down through the years, the old one-room schools are no more a setting for formal education, but some are still serving worthwhile purposes.

The handful of schools that are now a home for people of our county is a testament to using materials wisely and not just tearing them down. There are some used by farmers as a hay shed or cattle barn until they fall down. There are a few that sit empty except as the home for raccoons and groundhogs. Even the old log schools were taken apart and moved for out buildings or even a short-term home while a new nicer home was being built.

Corky Davidson and Vick Bowyer helped with information for getting a better story about Larkin School.