Union Grade School

Union Grade School – No one recalls where Union Grade School got its name, but on October 12, 1875 William Mooberry donated a half acre of ground in the southwest quarter of section 31 to the School Trustees of Washington Township with the reservation that it revert to him if it were no longer used for a schoolhouse.  The parcel is located on the south side of Farmdale Road approximately one quarter mile east of Bittersweet Road. The school may have existed there prior to the formal transfer because Washington Township School #9 is shown at that location on an 1872 map of Washington Township.  This school became School District #55 on July 1, 1901 and on September 16, 1907 a new schoolhouse was opened.  It is believed the original structure was destroyed by fire as well as this at a later date. A concrete block building, built in 1933, still stands and is believed to be the third structure to serve there as a schoolhouse. Martha Herm, executive director for the Center for the Prevention of Abuse, attended Union School as did her father and grandfather.  Martha, who attended Union from first to fourth grade, recalls the lighting as two electric light bulbs hanging from a very  high ceiling  and when it was really cold being “ordered” to march around the room to stir up the heat rising up though the two registers from the coal furnace in the basement.  There was a privy on each side of the schoolhouse, one for boys and one for girls that served as safe spots when playing tag at recess.  Martha relates that the school closed in 1954 because the school board could find no one who wanted to teach in a building that had no running water, the teacher had to carry two pails of water into the building every morning – one bucket to wash hands and one bucket to put in a drinking dispenser, and where they had to stoke a furnace located in the basement.  Martha states: “All of the families were fairly poor and uncultured, generally.  But then, we didn’t know any different”.  Efforts were made to join Washington School District and then East Peoria District #86, but both districts refused to offer bus service.  Upon finding Morton School District would provide bus service to the area, Martha’s mother, Dorothy Herm, who later served on Illinois Central College’s first board of trustees, organized a petition for part of the district to join Morton School District.  The area containing the south one-half of section 30 in Washington Township and the southwest one-quarter of section 25 Fondulac Township transferred to District #50. The remainder of District #55 students transferred to Morton. After the school closed, the County Board of School Trustees sold the property to Martha’s father, Richard A (Dick) Herm at a public auction held in Morton School District’s gymnasium on July 7, 1955.  Martha currently owns the building.   Dick is well remembered for his farm reports that he gave on radio and television for thirty years and his familiar “It’s a beautiful day in the bullpen” remark at the start of each program.  Today, most of District # 55 remains part of Morton District 709.

Compiled by East Peoria Historical Society