A one-story wooden building painted off-white has two windows and a central doorway.

Many rural Midwestern towns like West Branch placed a high value on education

NPS Photo by John Tobiason


Iowa in those years was filled with days of school, and who does not remember with a glow, some gentle woman, who with infinite patience and kindness, drilled into us those foundations of all we know today.

Herbert Hoover


By 1853, enough people lived in West Branch to build and support a public school. Hard work was a core value of the Quaker townsfolk, but so too was education—for both boys and girls. Herbert Hoover's own mother, Hulda had been a teacher in neighboring Muscatine County before she married. Because the Society of Friends raised much of the money for the construction of this one-room schoolhouse, it was also used as the town's first Quaker meetinghouse.

An 1870s classroom displays wood and iron pupils' desks in rows and a teacher's desk on a raised platform.

Schoolhouse interior

NPS Photo by John Tobiason


The Growing School

In 1869, after the town built a larger schoolhouse, this building was used as a classroom for the primary department, or youngest grades. Herbert Hoover entered public school in 1880 at age 5 and spent three years in the primary department. It is unknown if Hoover's class met in this building.

Reading, Writing, And Arithmetic

Miss Lizzie Chandler taught "Bertie" Hoover for first and second grade. Each day, Miss Chandler filled her blackboard with lessons of arithmetic and spelling. Students shared reading books, and practiced penmanship on slate chalkboards. Herbert also came to admire presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, whose portraits hang on the schoolhouse walls, as men of exceptional character.

Heat Stove

The only source of heat in this schoolhouse came from a pot-bellied wood stove located at the back of the room. The eight large windows let in lots of natural light, but on cloudy days, it was the kerosene lamps that helped to brighten the room.


Pursuit Of Higher Education

The value the Hoovers' placed on education paid off in 1891. 17-year old Bert Hoover enrolled at Stanford University, determined to become a mining engineer.

Did You Know?