Rural 1-room schools eventually merged into one public district
by Cheyenne Thomas
Education has always been important for the people living in the Loyal area. From the moment the first settlers began to arrive and clear the land for their farms and businesses, schools have been right up there as one of the first things to be established. Looking back on the history of education in the Loyal area, there have been many schools, and many changes that led to the creation of the schooling system known today.
Starting at the beginning, the first schools began to appear in the Loyal area after 1868 when the first settlers had started to raise families. Records from the time are uncertain as to the dates of when a few of the schools were first founded, but the first school with a confirmed date of founding was School District Number 4, which was better known as the Spokeville School and Joint School District Number 1 of the Towns of Sherman and Loyal. This school was founded in January of 1886 and was located approximately a half mile south of Spokeville. Though there is no record of what the first school building looked like, the school was recorded to have been rebuilt in 1883 and again in 1914 when it was built using bricks. The school continued to be used at that site until 1956 when the school was attached to the Loyal Public School District.
The next country school that had an early start date was School District Number 5, also known as the Mack School. Founded sometime after 1868, the school was named after one of the first settlers of the Loyal area, Erastus Mack, who leased the land on which the school was built. The school was only recorded to have been rebuilt once in 1922 and was added to the Loyal Public School District in 1969.
The third school district operating in the Loyal area during its early days was School District Number 2, located in Dodgeville. The school was built in the spring of 1867 with classes first starting that same summer. The building itself was originally a wooden frame building and was used until 1916 when a new site for the school was purchased a mile east of the old location and built. Classes continued there through the 1930s when records show the school held several votes on whether or not to close the school and send their kids elsewhere. By 1943, the school had been permanently closed and the students sent to the Loyal Public School District. However, the Dodgeville School wasn’t officially recognized as joined with the Loyal Public School District until 1954.
The final country school that had a connection to today’s public school was School District Number 1 in the Town of Loyal, also known as the Lyons School. The first records from this school were dated on June 5, 1882, though it is believed to have been founded at an earlier date. The original location of the school is unknown as is the location of its second site, which it moved to during the fall of 1882. The location of the Lyons School was changed one final time in 1887 when a new building was built on an acre of land owned by W. Lyons on the northeast corner of Section 29. The school paid $1.25 for the land and remained in that location until 1957 when they consolidated with the Loyal Public School District.
All of these area country schools eventually joined with the Loyal Public School District, which is located today at 514 W. Central Street in the City of Loyal. This school was originally founded sometime before 1873 when the first school was built within the city limits on the west side of town. The original building was made of logs and was 16 ft. by 20 ft. and was used until 1881 when a four-room school was constructed on the same site. The first high school classes in the area were first offered in 1896 when the school also hired its first principal, Mr. A.C. Finn, to its staff of four teachers.
After the high school was added, enrollment numbers continued to increase at the school, creating a need for more space. The first addition was made in 1903 with a wing added on its north side. This coincided with a change to the curriculum, changing the course of high school study from three years to four years. In 1914, a second wing was added to the building and the first agriculture classes were offered in the same wing. The addition of more students and more subjects eventually forced the district to rent a former church in town beginning in 1928 to house classes. The Adventist Church was rented at a rate of $15 per month and was the site for manual training and physical education. Although the school was expanding, space and money proved to be difficult to come by as the school entered the 1930s. In 1932, enrollment in high school courses had to be limited to 30 freshmen and teacher salaries had to be cut by 20 percent to keep the school afloat. The following year, teacher’s salaries were cut by an additional 15 percent, and a plan to build a new school was abandoned due to high costs.
Things finally came together for the school in 1937 when they were able to afford building a new school. It was completed in 1938 after delays in construction and included a gymnasium, high school assembly room and classrooms for both elementary and high school students.
As the country schools began to close and join with the Loyal Public School District, the district took it upon themselves to expand again several times during the 1950s and 1960s. Administration offices, classrooms, a lunchroom, teacher’s lounge and storeroom were all added in 1954, with more classrooms added in 1963. In 1965, the school added a final large addition that gave the school building the general appearance it still has today.
Since then, the Loyal Public School District has had several construction projects to remodel and maintain the building, but has otherwise remained physically unchanged. Inside however, the school continually adapts new technologies and ways of learning for its student body to keep them in step with the changing world.
(The preceding school history was excerpted from the Loyal Centennial Book published in 1970.)
The first Loyal High School was built in 1938. The school district had financial troubles in the years just prior to construction as the Great Depression laid waste to the economy.