Recently, Mike and Valerie Brunhoeber, founders of the Country School Museum, Caldwell, received notification that the Spring Creek School, formerly District # 36, was listed in the National Country School Association of America Registry, the only association in the United States designated for preserving these schools.
To be listed on the registry, the Brunhoebers had to supply documentation that the school was “at least fifty years old and had been restored, renovated, or reconstructed to retain the integrity of their original design” and that the school was a country school.
“The buildings have to be mostly finished up,” said Valerie Brunhoeber, “we had to get the old classroom and the ceiling done. The floor was good enough.”
According to the Country School Association of America website,, at one time, more than 200,000 one and two room schools dotted the countryside in the United States.
There were approximately two hundred one and two-room schools in Sumner County until schools began to consolidate in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Today, few are still standing. Some have been moved, some have been turned into homes, hay barns or garages, some were demolished, and some remain, falling into disrepair as time goes on.
“They want to recognize the country schools because they are going away,” said Valerie Brunhoeber, adding that schools can be relocated from their original locations and even moved into towns if that will aid in preservation.
“The Spring Creek School was built in 1904 in the NW ¼ NW ¼ of the SW ¼ SW ¼ of Section 15-34-2W,” Brunhoeber said, “and its last year of school was the 1946-47 school year.”
The Brunhoebers now have two schools on the Kansas State Register of Historic Places,,  and the National Country School Association of America Registry.
Mike and Valerie didn’t originally plan to save one schoolhouse, let alone two.  They, like many others originally intended to purchase the first school, Belleview, formerly District # 68, and use it as an outbuilding on their farm.
But when they visited Belleview, they decided to preserve it as a school instead.
After hours of cleaning, hammering, sawing, scraping and painting, there was one thing Belleview still needed.
Bathrooms. Preferably historically accurate bathrooms.
Outhouses, to be exact.
And so Mike and Valerie went with Jerry and Marilyn Houlden to rural Corbin to check out the Spring Creek School, at that time owned by Marilyn Houlden’s Hess Family.
“We had tried to preserve the Spring Creek School,” said Marilyn Houlden, “my mother and her brothers and sisters had gone to that school, and so we painted it, and had it designated as a historic landmark.”
“But it wouldn’t have been saved, not where it was sitting,” Houlden said, “people were going in and stealing stuff and leaving the door open. It was falling into disrepair.”
The Brunhoebers went to see the Spring Creek School because it had two outhouses, one for boys and one for girls.  They planned to move the outhouses to their farm and use them for the Belleview school.
“We decided we needed to save not just the outhouses,” Brunhoeber said, “we decided we needed to save the whole school.”
“We didn't have the heart to see it continue to rot there,” Brunhoeber said, “it wouldn't have been torn down... it would have just sat there until mother nature took care of it in the years to come.”
“When Valerie and Mike decided to save the Spring Creek School, we had a lot of funds in our schoolhouse fund,” Houlden said, “so we purchased the moving equipment and paid someone to move it to the Brunhoeber’s farm.”
While most of the restoration and preservation work falls to the Brunhoebers, according to Brunhoeber Marilyn and Jerry Houlden, Marla Hess Stroud, and the Hess family have continued to help, and have donated a whole row of desks that were used in the Spring Creek School.
 “If I think something needs done, I can contact them,” Brunhoeber said, “they help raise money every year and they come and help scrape and paint.”
Recently, the Brunhoebers were interviewed for a “Positively Kansas” segment that will air on KPTS, channel 8, on Friday, April 5th at 8 p.m.. On Saturday, June 22nd, at 10:00 a.m., the Country School Museum, 1172 South Springdale Rd, Caldwell, KS 67022,  will host a ribbon cutting ceremony.
“The Hess family will help with the ribbon cutting event and the tours to show people what we’re planning on doing,“ Brunhoeber said.
“The country school museum is available for walk-through tours, and with groups of at least six kids or adults” Brunhoeber said, “we can have an actual program where we plan old-fashioned games and learn about early days’ school.”

 “Donations sure help,” Valerie said, adding that KanOkla Telephone Association has helped with funds that helped pay for moving the power lines when the school was moved, and buy supplies for the many repairs that the schools required.
The Brunhoebers gratefully accept donations. To learn more about donating or booking a tour, go to or mail checks to: Country School Museum, 1172 South Springdale Rd, Caldwell, KS 67022.
The Brunhoebers would also love to have old photographs of their schools, or digital copies of old photographs of the schools.
“We don’t have any old photographs of the Spring Creek school,” Brunhoeber said, “and we’d really like to have some.  It would be cool to find out when the corner entrance was changed to a front entrance.”