Emmons History

Emmons Staff

Emmons School History

Established in 1844 as a subscription school, the first Emmons School was located on what is now the southeast corner of Beach Grove Road and Route 59 (once known as Grass Lake Road). Myron Emmons (1805-1893) who had migrated to Antioch two years before from Caughdenoy, New York, settled on a farm of 440 acres. Myron donated a portion of his farm for the school house.

Myron resided on his farm until 1868 when he moved into the village of Antioch and went into partnership in a general store with his eldest son, Rockwell Dean. A letter written by Myron in 1878 tells of his trip to California in 1850 and his return with $500 in gold dust. Myron remained in the general store business until he retired in 1887.

First Emmons School Staff Photo

The first Emmons School was made of lathe and plaster and the oak lumber donated by each family. It measured 16 x 24 feet and was heated by a box stove, which could accommodate logs three feet in length. The desks were boards on the side walls and one end wall of the room and the seats were planks with legs.

There was no school tax at the time so each family gave money according to the number of their children that were pupils. The first teacher Mr. Miller, the second, Mr. White and others that followed boarded with the half dozen or so families in the district. The length of the teacher's stay with a family was determined by the number of children that family had enrolled in the school. The teachers were paid twelve dollars a month.

It was determined that the Emmons land was too low, so in 1870 land for a new site was purchased from John and Josephine Grimm for twenty dollars. The schoolhouse was moved to the new site directly across the road from where it had been originally built. The schoolhouse door faced west with several windows on the south wall. The Emmons land was returned to the Emmons family.

Prior to the turn of the century Emmons was District 7 of the 11 school districts in the Antioch area. Each school had three directors that managed school business. By 1905, the schools in the county were reorganized and Emmons was given the district number 33. In the early 1900's enrollment varied from 20 to as many as 37 students.

The building was remodeled in 1916 at a cost of $900, yet was not considered a standard school. The heating and drinking water system were far below the necessary requirements . Since there was no well on the grounds during the 1920's, the teacher, Ida (Runyard) Kufalk, carried water from her parents' farm across the road (northwest corner of Beach Grove and Route 59). The teacher was also responsible for starting the fire in the morning. Ida's student, Ardis (Toft) Pedersen remembers the odor of the chemical toilets in restrooms on the east end of the building.

First Emmons School BuildingTeachers in the 1920's needed to have one year of college to teach in a country school like Emmons, or two years to teach in a city school. Louise (Sheehan) McClure's salary was $125 a month. Two days a year the teacher was permitted to visit other school programs in the county.

The community also used the Emmons schoolhouse. Church services, public meetings, political meetings, box socials and square dancing all took place in the school or on the school grounds.

During the summer of 1934, a new brick schoolhouse was built on the site. The superintendent at that time was W.C. Petty and the directors were E.P. Dressel, T.E. Hanson, and P.C. Toft. That brick structure had an oil furnace, boys and girls cloakrooms, indoor flush toilets, a library and a teacher's room. The basement of the build was used for indoor play. The former frame structure was sold and moved to the Nielsen Corner (northwest corner of Grass Lake Rd and Route 59) and became part of their restaurant.

Emmons remained a one-teacher school into the 1950's. In the early 1950's there were only eight students in the school. There was a proposal to close the school and send the students to attend school in Antioch. Members of the community were so strongly opposed to the idea that the school remained open. In 1954, from the close of school in the spring until it reopened in the fall, the enrollment grew from twenty-four to forty-eight students. A second teacher was hired. Mrs. Helen Wolfinbarger, principal, taught the 5th-8th grade students downstairs in the basement and the 1st-4th grades were upstairs with Mrs. Cohnen as their teacher. By 1956, Emmons was over-crowded and the 7th and 8th grade students did attend school in Antioch while the first addition was being built.

The new addition provided three classrooms and two restrooms on the main floor and a basement area that had a stage for student plays and graduation. Later in 1967, another addition was built with three more classrooms, office space and a gymnasium. Classrooms were also built on the basement level. By 1990, thirteen classrooms were in use in the school.

In 1970, the district had 1,000 or more voters and could elect its first school board members. The members of the first seven member board were Alan Thain, Ruth Duha, Richard Dubek, Harold Wilson, Dan Maras, Richard Ruck, and Delores Bowers.

Sketch of Emmons New Building

When school opened for the 1994-1995 school year Emmons enrollment was 303 students. Ground was broken for a fourteen-room addition during the summer of 1994. The cost of the addition was 1.5 million. Teachers and students were able to move into the classrooms in that addition in May of 1995. The one room brick schoolhouse built in 1934 remains in use as the library.

Resources: Antioch Township, The First Hundred Years, 1837 - 1937, Knirsch, R. Seltar 1987; The Emmons Family Genealogy from 1639 - 1905, Emmons, Edward Neville; 1905 History of the Town of Antioch, Emmons Students. 1918 Imperial Land Title, Inc. Libertyville, Illinois; Lake County Museum, Regional History Archives, Lakes Region Historical Society; William Thompson, former Regional Superintendent of Schools, Lake County, Illinois. Memories of former staff & students of Emmons School.

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