National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior

National Register of Historic Places Program:
Back To School: One-Teacher Public Schools of Missouri

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.


Spring School and Cave Spring Cemetery - first property in this MPS

One-Teacher Public Schools of Missouri

This multiple property submission provides six associated contexts for Missouri’s historic public schools. Beginning with the History of education in the settlement and early statehood period of Missouri, the contexts go on to cover the Growth of public education, Rural schools and the Rural Renaissance, Rural education during the Depression and World War II, and Post World War II School consolidation. The Architecture of the one-teacher schools is also addressed.

The majority of one-teacher schools in Missouri were located in rural areas of the state, outside the political boundaries of towns and cities. They existed in every county and serviced rural townships and small villages. Examples of public one-teacher schools did exist in towns and small cities, and were constructed to serve as segregated schools for small African-American populations.

photo Hicklin School
Photograph courtesy of the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office

The identification and evaluation of Missouri’s one-teacher school types was based on existing data from several sources: architectural and historic surveys of Missouri towns and counties, published county rural school histories, websites of county historical and genealogical societies, and National Register of Historic Places nominations for one-teacher schools. The Historic American Building Survey photographs of schools in Missouri were also reviewed.

To compile and define property types and registration requirements, approximately 924 survey forms and historic photographs of Missouri's one-teacher schools were reviewed. This number included examples from 76 of the state's 114 counties. It is unknown how many of these buildings are extant, or how many extant examples were not included in the sampling. At its peak in the first decade of the 20th century, Missouri supported over 9,000 one-teacher schools. Many of the schools that were extant at the time were second or third generation buildings and many of these were later replaced or modified-some as late as the early 1950s. While the sampling is but a percentage of the total number of historic school buildings that once existed in the state, the date of construction for the sampling range from the mid-1800s through the 1950s, covering the major period of rural school development. Also included in the sampling are examples from all geographic regions of the state, so regional variations could be assessed.

White Hall School in the Greenwood property
Photograph courtesy of the Missouri State Historic Preservation Office

To date, at least 14 one-teacher public schools in Missouri have been listed in the
National Register either individually or as part of larger farm complexes. One of the oldest, White Hall School on "Greenwood" in Howard County, dates from 1860 with additions c. 1920. The listed schools include several examples of mass vernacular school types--generally frame, gable front buildings--dating from c. 1875 to c. 1913, and at least one plan book school (Hicklin School in Saline County). Pleasant View School in Johnson County is very likely a plan book school or architect designed due to the refinement of its room arrangement and architectural features, and its similarity to one-teacher schools identified in other counties. All of these schools were listed for their educational and/or architectural significance.

Read the MPS Cover for One-Teacher Public Schools of Missouri

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