Iowa Rural Schools Museum

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Iowa Rural Schools Museum

122 West Second Street
Odebolt, Iowa

Open Hours from Memorial Day through October
Wednesdays 10am to 4pm
 Saturdays and Sundays - 2pm to 4pm

Also open by appointment by calling
Carol Raasch at 712-830-8328.
The Museum is heated!

Visit our new web site!

View our brochure


(The following information is taken, in part, from a brochure distributed at the grand opening of the museum on June 15, 2013.)

The Iowa Rural Schools Museum captures the spirit and pride of Iowa's rural past.  The school once stood in Richland Township, Sac County, Iowa, and was known as Willow Tree or Richland #1.  In October 2011 the school was moved to the nearby town of Odebolt by the Rural Legacy Project committee and has been restored to the Victorian look it had when it opened in 1883.  It is representative of the 12,623 schools that were part of the Iowa rural schools system and helped shape Iowa's rural development and character.  This museum celebrates the contributions of rural schools in Iowa.

Step back to the 1880's ... Many artifacts are original to Willow Tree/Richland #1 or from similar nearby schools.  Some date back to when the school opened in 1883.

  •  See rare globes, atlases and resource books.

  •  Sit in double desks of the 1880's and know how to tell the age of school desks.

  •  Learn how industry, scholarship and citizenship were highly regarded and rewarded.

  •  Find out how a teachers' graded certification influenced employment.

  •  Learn about the standard curriculum for all grades and view a required 8th grade exam.

  •  Learn how life skills of observation, sewing and music were built into the curriculum to support academics and character development for both boys and girls.

  •  Find out about the role that rural schools played in maintaining community health.

Change across time ... See exhibits and learn about change from 1880 through the 1950's when most rural schools had closed.  Primers and textbooks; student and teacher desks; technology to teach music; clothing, fabrics and shoes; school lunch pails; children's toys; children's chores; writing instruments and media; pencil cases; and the use of itinerant teachers.

Special items to look for ... Zinc-lined dry sink; 1875 Iowa Atlas and 1900 school globe; early mechanical pencil sharpeners; ink crock used by teachers to fill ink wells; Anker blocks and pencil cases brought by immigrants from Europe; complete set of Teacher Cyclopedia available to all teachers in the system for direction and guidance; an extensive collection of books and resources open for research on Iowa rural settlement and rural schools; beautifully restored 1880's wood stove and kerosene heater; collection of primers used over time; student awards and certificates that reflect community values.

On the grounds ... The museum grounds are located in a charming heritage square in Odebolt.  They feature a delightful, life-sized sculpture of children called "Time for School" by Dr. William Faller, nationally known for his country school works.  In 2015 a new sculpture was added, donated by the Gronemeyer family in memory of  P. Dale and Marge Gronemeyer. It is entitled "Recess" and depicts children playing on a tire swing.  The photo to the left also shows the outdoor, roofed classroom.

The museum sits next to a restored Pioneer Home and across the street from the Odebolt Historical Museum.

For children ... The museum will be offering fun classes and special events for children and adults to try their hand at work and play activities from the 1880's to the 1950's.

Below is a slideshow of the museum and some of its holdings. 
If you are unable to see it, or to enlarge it, please CLICK HERE
or if that fails, CLICK HERE.

     The Iowa Rural Schools Museum was developed through the dedication and efforts of many individuals and groups throughout the community.  Special recognition goes to the work of the Rural Legacy Project Committee and Chair Carol Raasch, the support of the City of Odebolt and Mayor Ron Rex, and technical guidance from the museum curators, Sandra Kessler Host and Dorothy (Dee) Kessler Engstrom. 
     Funding and donated items have been provided by generous individuals who have a connection to and love for Iowa's rural schools. Critical funding was provided through grants as well as from:  Google Matching Gift Program; Renze Charitable Foundation; Sac County Endowment Foundation; Keep Iowa Beautiful; and Paint Iowa Beautiful.

Rural Legacy Project ... This museum is supported by the Rural Legacy Project Committee.  They are seeking funding for state-of-art electronic self-guided tours; on-line search ability, virtual tours and on-line learning opportunities; networking with other nearby museums and historic sites to create a coordinated tourist destination; using technology and resources to help other groups in small Iowa communities learn how to preserve their historical sites; and continue to develop and improve museum exhibits.

 Proceeds from the below books also go to fund the Rural Legacy Projects, including the Iowa Rural School Museum.


Iowa's Rural Settlement
Text Book and Instructional Resources for a 3 week Unit in American History - by Dorothy “Dee” Kessler Engstrom, Ph.D.

Iowa's Rural School System; A Lost Treasure
The Key to Iowa's Rural Settlement, featuring Richland #1 School in Sac County, near Odebolt, Iowa - by Sandra Kessler Host

Iowa Historic Schools; Highlighting Victorian Influence

Click to order the above books

 All book proceeds go to help fund the Iowa Rural School Museum and Rural Legacy Project.



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