By the end of 1919, school attendance in the Monroe County town of Lovilia had grown to the point classes were held in five different buildings labeled as “fire traps and unsanitary” by the Lovilla Press. Residents rallied around the issue and overwhelmingly passed a $42,000 bond issue to begin construction on a new school. Featuring modern brick and a full basement, the two-story, 60 x 90 feet building was completed in the fall of 1920.
In 1956, the Lovilia School District had 305 students, including many from students in Marysville and Hamilton, communities in adjacent Marion County. When the Marion county school board mandated students attended schools within their own county, Lovilia’s enrollment declined and plans were developed to consolidate schools in Melrose, Lovilia and Albia to a single district. Despite meetings and protests, reorganization went into effect with the last Lovilia High School class graduating in 1962.
Despite assurances that eight grades would remain in Lovilia, by 1977 only students through fourth grade remained in Lovilia. The school was shuttered entirely shortly after, with all students bussed to Albia. The school building today is privately owned.
The Gillett Grove Town Hall is located in a refurbished one-room schoolhouse on the west side of the Clay County community. Founded incorporated in 1874 and named after area residents the Gilbert brothers, 55 residents call Gillett Grove home according to the 2000 census. In February 2010, area residents overwhelmingly voted to resolve the South Clay school district and its last remaining school in Gillett Grove. Students were separated into other school districts including Spencer, Sioux Central, Clay-Central-Everly, Ruthven-Ayrshire, and Laurens-Marathon.
This historic one-room school house sits two miles northeast of Ottumwa in the center of the the unincorporated community of Dahlonega. Built in 1921, the 1,100-square-feet building served area students through the 1958-59 school year. Although it’s been vacant since that time, it served as the township polling place through 1986, and time and money has recently been invested to revitalize the building with a new roof, new paint, and improved interior.
Dahlonega was once a thriving hamlet and in 1843, was one vote short of becoming the Wapello County seat. Legend says the one vote loss was due to Lewis Clapp, an early settler who owned an apple orchard on the west edge of Dahlonega who was concerned a county seat designation would cause the community to grow so much that mischievous boys would steal his fruit.
Despite the election results, Dahlonega experienced growth in the following years and decades. A post office was established within the general store in June 1844, while the first church and school were built in 1846. By 1850, the town population had risen to 150; that number doubled by 1856. By that time, Dahlonega was home to three general stores, a tavern, a blacksmith shop, two meat-packing houses, a public hall, a pottery shop and hotel.
By 1900, the town’s population had diminished and stores and businesses shuttered. The Dahlonega Post Office was officially discontinued November 30, 1907.
More than 16,000 Iowa farms went under during the well-documented midwestern farming crisis of the 1980s. The farming crisis had wide-ranging effects on rural communities in the state, as local businesses and schools were closing at alarming rates. In 1986, the Boston Globe sent a features writer to the small Taylor County town of Gravity to take an in-depth look at the effects of the farming crisis on a ‘typical’ rural Iowa community.
The population of Gravity had halved between the 1940s and 1980s, and in the article, local residents lamented at the resulting losses: since the town’s heyday, the barber shop, opera house, and hardware stores were gone. The newspaper was no more, and the local bank branch operated only six hours a week. The biggest loss for the community may have been the local school, which closed in 1982.
The three-story brick building was built as a high school in 1929. Classes were reduced when Gravity became part of the Bedford Community School District in the early 1960s, and the school was closed entirely following the 1981-1982 school year. Unlike many former school buildings across the state, the Gravity school has been well-maintained since its closure. Despite the loss of the school, Gravity is home to a post office, community center, American Legion hall, and a new bar and grill restaurant.
Between 1950 and 1960, the state of Iowa lost over 3,000 school districts as part of a widespread consolidation effort across the state. The Taylor County community of Sharpsburg was no exception, as on July 1, 1959, voters in the area voted to consolidate into the school district in Lenox, a larger community 10 miles to the south and west.
While students in grades 7 – 12 were bused to Lenox, the Sharpsburg building continued to operate as an Elementary School following the consolidation. In the early 1960s, the Lenox Community School District proposed a series of bonds to construct a new high school in the city of Lenox. Various versions of the proposal were voted down by district residents eight times before approval was granted to construct and equip a $350,000 high school building in 1966.
The opening of the new high school marked the end of the Sharpsburg school, as area residents could easily be accommodated in the Lenox facilities. Final classes were held in Sharpsburg in 1968, and the school was sold by auction to a local resident for $2,100 in November 1968. Following the sale, the building was the building was used to store small square bales of hay and straw. The property is owned by the same family and continues to be used for agricultural purposes as private property.