Rural Schools Heritage Project:

You are invited to participate in this project devoted to gathering all the surviving information on Wayne County’s  more than 150 rural schools.   A Rural Schools Survey is available for anyone who attended a country school (including Cisne, Wayne City, Mt. Erie, and Geff High Schools) or wishes to interview a former student or teacher.  Along with this, the Society is gleaning its archives for school records, photographs, written recollections, and artifacts.  The collection will be organized into a permanently archived file.   In addition, as much of the written and photographic material as feasible will be gathered into notebooks.  Sample entries will be available at the Fairfield Public Library reference section.  Complete original files are available in the Early History Museum & Archives.  Please use our contact form to send us information.

Click here to read “And Then There Were None: One-Room Schools is Wayne County”

Olive Branch School

This one-room school was donated by the Musgrave family and moved from its location south of Fairfield to the Leo French City Park in the 1960s.  While a few other pre-consolidation rural school buildings exist, the others were remodeled into residences or used as sheds or are in ruins.  Olive Branch is the only one that survived intact inside and out. It was in relatively good shape since it was built in the early 1930s after the original building burned.   
The building was repaired and remodeled as a museum in memory of the more than 150 rural schools that once dotted the county.  The interior was repainted, black boards reinstalled, maps and prints hung, school desks aligned, and wiring connected.  The original white frame siding was painted red to model the “little red schoolhouse” of folklore.  However, only one or two frame schools in Wayne County were red; by far the most common paint used on exteriors was white.
The school is owned and maintained by the Fairfield Park District. Olive Branch School currently contains a long-term exhibit of photographs. For security reasons, the building is not left open.  The Society staffs the Olive Branch museum on selected occasions (especially during FCHS Homecoming weekend) and for grade school field trips.  Primary access is via the Leo French Park staff.
For more information see the Olive Branch Exhibit page here.

Any interested person who supports the preservation of this last surviving school building is encouraged to send donations  earmarked to “Olive Branch School upkeep” to the Fairfield Park District, Leo French Park, Fairfield, IL 62837.  Funding  is a growing problem, and your contribution indicates both support and appreciation for the Park Board’s many years of maintenance on this museum piece.

Wayne County Public Schools Hand Book and School Directory Collection

The county superintendent of school’s annual publication listed all the schools, trustees, teacher assignments, pay scale, curriculum and rules.  These handbooks are crucial historical documents and the primary way to trace exactly when individual country schools began and ended.  Old school photographs can often be dated by matching the teacher to the handbook listing.

The Society is working to gather a complete series of these yearly publications.   If you have a copy that we are missing, we would appreciate either its donation to our collection, or a complete photocopy of the “Teacher’s Directory” portion of the handbook.

Our collection currently begins in the 1911-12 school year and extends through the 1955-56 school year except for the following which we are missing: 1912-13, 1913-14, 1914-15, 1916-1917, 1922-23, 1923-24, 1924-25, 1938-39, 1953-54. We also could use any pre 1911 or post 1956 issues.

If you have a question that we could answer using our collection, please contact us! Answering your inquiries is a prime reason we preserve local history.

Like us on Facebook!

Promote Your Page Too

Hanna House Hours:

Saturdays April-October,
except holiday weekends

Early History Museum Hours:

Saturdays November-March,
except holiday weekends


Email us at
Contact Us Here

Website Builder