This information is part of the Champaign County ILGenWeb Project. If you have reached this site by means other than The USGenWeb Project, The ILGenWeb Project, or directly, please visit the main Champaign Co, ILGenWeb site for more information regarding Champaign County, IL ancestors. Information contained here was submitted by Celia G. Snyder. Please do not repost this information without the express written permission of Celia Snyder.

Champaign County, Illinois

History of Blackberry School

by Rosa Townsend, 1970


Back in the early days, a tract of land four miles Northeast of Urbana was entered from the Government by Marshall Cloyde (Great Uncle of Lannie Thompson). On this land a log cabin was built, the present site of the Blackberry School. In this cabin the late Aunt Julia Clements was born. Some of her children attended this school. Mr. Cloyde's daughter and only child married Mathew Busey, and they inherited this land. It belonged to the Busey heirs until recently when the University of Illinois bought a portion of the tract surrounding the school. After many years this log cabin was torn down and about 1869 the first schoolhouse was built. It was a small frame structure entirely surrounded by timber.

This little schoolhouse, though very small, had a record of more than an average attendance. At times it was crowded to overflowing with pupils ranging from six year olds to full grown men and women.

In 1870, a fifteen year old girl by the name of Georgia McDonald taught this school, and we presume that she was the first teacher in the Blackberry District.

This small building was used until 1894, when it was moved to the Columbus Thompson farm, one fourth mile north, now owned by Lloyd Phillips, one of the late pupils of the Blackberry District who uses it for a garage.

Among the first pupils who went to school in this schoolhouse still living in or near the community are, namely: Mrs. H. M. Corray, Mrs. Etta Hoyt, Lannie Ford Thompson, and Lloyd Bowers (oldest). One parent of pupils attending this early school living in the community is Mrs. Mollie Smith.

As far as we can learn, only one teacher who taught in this little schoolhouse is living - Mr. Oscar Mosier of Indiana.

In 1895 a more modern schoolhouse was erected and is known as Blackberry School District 118.

It might interest you to know that we have two families with three direct generations who attended this school. They are: Mr. and Mrs. Earl Smith and Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Smith, their children and grandchildren.

One coincidence is a father and daughter who both taught this school - Mr. Snyder and his daughter, Minta Snyder, who taught seven terms.

Blackberry was the scene of much hard work on the part of both teachers and pupils, taking time for recreation and social activities. One of the special features was the literaries which were held several times during the winter months.

Like most schools, it has through the years produced a large number of teachers and students who have been successful in life and have gone to all parts of the country to make homes for themselves and help promote the general welfare of the community in which they live.

Blackberry was one of the outstanding rural schools. Its directors were conscientious, clear-thinking men who put forth every effort to make it the type of school of which we are all so proud.

The records show teachers throughout the years were paid from $25 to $125 per month.

The school was closed in May 1944, but was kept in repair pending a time when there might be enough students to warrant re-opening. The final chapter came in 1952 when the school was legally declared "dead" by being annexed to the Locust Grove District.

But there was still life in the old school and former pupils came back to hold reunions. Sometime in the early 1960's, the last reunion was held. Reunion officers were: Robert Kerr, President, Urbana; Mrs. Homer Smith, Secretary-Treasurer, St. Joseph; Mrs. Daisy Edwards, Corresponding Secretary, Urbana; Mrs. C. W. Woods, Program Chairman, St. Joseph; and Richard Marriott, Historian, St. Joseph.

Teachers of Blackberry School:

  • Georgia McDonald
  • ? Robinson
  • John Wilson
  • Hiram W. Snyder
  • ? Sperry
  • ? Donavon
  • ? Harmon
  • ? Bishop
  • ? Shaw
  • ? Rogers
  • Lizzie Ferris
  • ? Merrit
  • Frances Davis
  • 1888 Spring Term - Effie Harry Somers
  • 1888-1889 Winter Term - Ella Glascock
  • 1889-1890 - Abram Bowers
  • 1890-1891 - Laura Cooper
  • 1891-1893 - Laura Cooper Nogle
  • 1893-1895 - Osmer Mosier
  • 1895-1896 - G. O. Gordon
  • 1896-1899 - George Sparks
  • 1899-1902 - Lida Shobe
  • 1902-1903 - Grace Kearns
  • 1903-1906 - Josephine Carroll
  • 1906-1908 - Minta Snyder
  • 1908-1909 - Minne H. Richards
  • 1909-1910 - Mayme Crawford and Portia E. Ewing
  • 1910-1915 - Minta Snyder
  • 1915-1916 - S. G. Purcell
  • 1916-1923 - Lulu Clements
  • 1923-1924 - Eva Ross and Myrtle White
  • 1924-1927 - Grace Swartzlose
  • 1927-1929 - Margaret White
  • 1929-1932 - Bessie Peer
  • 1931-1937 - Violet Taylor
  • 1937-1943 - Blanche Hall
  • 1943-1949 - School closed for lack of pupils
  • 1949-1951 - Ethel Johnson

The last pupils were:

  • Dale Bratton
  • Nancy Bratton
  • Paul Bratton
  • Donna Kerr
  • Pat Kerr
  • Linda Kerr
  • John Phillips
  • Donnie Phillips
  • Pat Smith

Blackberry School, 1898

Transcribed names (as best I could decipher): Top: Myrlie Johnson, Daisy Neemder, Lizzie (Smith) Marriott, Mabel (Kirby) Weise, Nora (Kirby) Fuest, Lottie (Springer) Smith, James Harry, Ethel Springer, Cora Johnson, Ray Besore, May Besore, Daisy Edwards, Cecil Shobe, Eva Wilson, Marian Droun, Emma Droun, May Johnson, Robert McInnes, Mr. Sparks, Leda Shobe

Middle: Elmer Johnson, Frank Smith, Miles Clements, Mabel (Smith) Stevens, Earl Smith, Dick Kirby, Clint Kirby

Bottom: Esther Clements, Charlie White, John McCormick, Ralph Hasting, Mollie Johnson, Flossie(?) Elliott, Harry McCormick, Rose Droun(?)

Blackberry School Class, ca 1935

Back Row, left-right: Ruth Nelson, Millard Johnson, Mrs. Taylor, Glenn McInnes, and Marilyn Kerr

Front Row, left-right: Lois Kerr, Betty Smith, Teddy Smith, David Smith, and Lois Dunn


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