Opened in 1896, Stove Prairie School is the oldest operating “one-room” school in Colorado. Stove Prairie joined PSD in 1960. Now one of the three mountain schools, this little school “at the end of the rainbow” offers a multi-grade learning environment.
Written By Mrs. Rosemary Vannorsdel
Originally published in the Stove Prairie Cookbook.
The original one-room school house was constructed in 1896-1897, by Mr. Emanul Vannorsdel and Mr. Harlen Bosworth. The Bosworths arrived in Stove Prairie from Bellvue in the fall of 1894 with two school-age boys. The Vannorsdels arrived in early Spring of 1895 with five sons and five daughters from Beaver City, Nebraska.
Mr Vannorsdel, who lived one mile south of the crossroads, sawed the lumber for the school at his sawmill. He and Mr. Bosworth, who lived two miles west of the crossroads on the county road know as the Flowers Wagon Road, built the school with occasional help of other neighbors in the area. That same little one-room school still stands as part of the present Stove Prairie School at the crossroads.
The school house had a belfry at first, but was removed after the first year because snow sifted down into the classroom when the wind blew. The school was heated with a wood stove that stood in the middle of the room. On cold days the children froze on one side and baked on the other side.
It was one of the many duties of the school children to carry wood in for the stove. The wood was furnished by the parents, who where usually also the school board. This was still the policy in the late 1940s and 1950s. It was a happy day for children, parents, and the teacher when a gas stove was fianlly bought for the school about 1955.
Water was not available at the school house then. Families living near the school brought water each morning. Later, water was piped to the school from a spring one-fourth mile east. This was very good water.
In 1904, thirty-seven pupils attended this little one-room school, and with just one teacher. Soon after that, three other schools were started in District 18. One was in a small log cabin on Buckhorn Mountain, known as the Welch Park School. Another school was started on Kimball Hill, about three miles south of Stove Prairie School. A third was started on Buckhorn Creek. That school house still stands on the Wertz Ranch.
With the new school starting, there were only two students left near the Stove Prairie School, Blanche and Dana Vannorsdel. It was decided to close Stove Prairie the year, and Blanche and Dana drove a horse and buggy to Kimball Hill School for one year. By the time school opened in the fall of the next year, two new families had moved in near the school. The school reopened and has not been closed since.
School board meetings could get a little rought back then, too. Our school board might think their meetings get a little hot now, but all the old-timers remember on school board election when several people from the district's outer edges came to the school with guns strapped on, and in a very ugly mood. It seems they were getting pretty tired of all the school board being from right around the school, but when all the votes were counted, the same ones still had the most votes. They went away without anyone getting shot.
The first teacher was Miss Belle Thompson. Teachers in the early days of the school had to board with the families in the community. Keeping a teacher was a problem in those days. Many of the teachers married young men in the community and a new teacher would have to be found. More often than not, teachers that came to teach in the mountain shcools are very special people. They very often give much more to the community than just teaching. Children at Stove Prairie School are each treated as a special person instead of a face in a large crowd.
In 1964, a new classroom was added -- and with inside restrooms for the first time in 67 years. In 1972, we finally got our long hoped for multi-purpose room, a new classroom, and an office.