Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Postcard: One-room Amish school near Arthur, Illinois


In August 2016, I had a unique post about the Water Garden at Rockome, a former tourist attraction in Arcola, Illinois. This undated mid-century postcard would count as a bit of a followup to that. It was produced by Genuine Natural Color Made by Dexter Press of West Nyack, New York. It was published by C.L. Bence of Mattoon, Illinois. And Bence was also the photographer.1

Here's the postcard caption:
GREETINGS FROM ROCKOME — ARCOLA, ILLINOIS
Amish children attending 1 room school near Arthur, Illinois. The Amish people may be seen in most of the rural section near Arthur, Illinois. They are a religious sect who have retained most of the customs of their forefathers and make their living mainly by farming without aid of modern equipment.
Arthur is about 10 miles west of Arcola. Its Amish community was founded in the 1860s. Wikipedia adds: "The village of Arthur characterizes itself on its website as an Amish-friendly community, with more than 4,000 'Plain People' living in the town and surrounding rural townships. The Amish settlement near Arthur was founded in 1864 and had 30 church districts with about 150 people per district in 2013. Arthur community was the 8th largest Amish settlement in the world with 4,410, as of 2017."

The website Amish Illinois says this about current education in the Arthur area:
"The Amish schools around the central Illinois area are usually one or two room rural schools and they are staffed with their own teachers. These teachers are usually Amish men or women who have completed eighth grade.

"Amish children start school at the age of six and attend elementary school through their eighth grade. The Amish children walk, ride bicycles, or drive a horse and buggy to school. Each school is overseen by trustees to make up a board and records are kept for state inspection. The Amish schools are funded by the church districts. The school building have wood or gas stoves and no electricity. The Amish schools are built to use natural lighting.

"In school the Amish children learn English, reading, spelling, and penmanship. In arithmetic the Amish are taught addition, subtraction, multiplication, decimals, division, and weights and measurements to use in everyday life. All books that are used in the Amish schools are selected by the trustees.

"Amish schools stress community and accuracy rather than speed. Also, honesty, love, and cooperation are regarded highly by the Amish in education. The older Amish children help out the younger children in the shared classrooms. Amish families in the school district rotate preparing a hot lunch for the students."
So life at the Arthur-area schools probably isn't much different than it was when this photograph was taken a half-century or more ago.

Footnote
1. Here's a small news item from the April 2, 1963, edition of the Journal Gazette of Mattoon, Illinois:
"C.L. Bence, 12 Noyes Court, has been awarded a wristwatch as a prize in the Dexter Bonanza Contest sponsored by Dexter Press, Inc., for color photographer-distributors. This was the first nationwide sales contest sponsored by Dexter Press, which prints postcards, color brochures and stationery."

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