The old Summit School house now sits empty, windows broken out, home to barn swallows, bees and an occasional possum. No one has used the building in years. Built in 1884, it still, however, stands straight and true and soon a major restoration program will be underway by the Marais des Cygnes Society.
Summit School was built in 1884. Because there was no town within the township, the school house also served as a community center and church. Summit School was the largest in the township and with its central location became the primary gathering spot. The Summit Literary Society met there regularly and at one of their first meetings in the building in 1884 debated the question of capital punishment. The land around the school grounds was purchased by William Seelinger and the Seelinger family helped maintain the school for many decades.
In the early 1950's Bates County consolidated the country schools into the city schools. Summit School was closed in 1963 and students began attending the Butler Grade School. It remained in use as a community center for the township, church meetings, acting as voting stations, hosting ice cream socials, and other events. The Summit 4-H also met there for several years. The township and neighbors have helped with maintenance over the years.
Restoration & Preservation
Overall, the building is in remarkably good condition. Five years ago, John and Maribeth Golliday donated a new metal roof which stopped interior deterioration. After the cleanup and Open House last summer, Poplar Heights staff covered the broken windows with sheets of tin donated by Dale Bettels. Some of the original fixtures remain. The piano still plays. About one-half of the desks are still there - both the original Summit school desks and desks brought to Summit when Fry School closed. The voting booths are still there along with a teacher's desk and a possum belly cupboard. The blackboards remain but the pictures of Lincoln and Washington, about one-half of the desks and the bookshelves disappeared about five years ago.
In the short term, the school will be kept secure and weatherproof while funds are raised for its move to Poplar Heights Farm and it's restoration. A series of fund raising events and solicited donations will be needed to meet the needed monies to complete the preservation.
The long term plan is to move the school building and outhouse to Poplar Heights Farm. It would be permanently located north of the Seelinger House and Orchard Pond in the field. This area is close to the house grounds and convenient for visitors and, because of the pond and the downward slope of the grounds, will have a sense of seclusion making it almost a separate property. The building will be set on a new concrete and block foundation. The old foundation stones will be used for benches. All of the windows will need to be replaced with custom windows to match the original ones. There are some minor structural issues to be repaired on the exterior and the bees must be relocated. Inside, the ceiling must be replaced, new wiring for the lighting, minor wall repairs, floors must be sanded and refinished. The building needs painting inside and out. The outhouse will also be moved.
The school will be used to show the one-room rural school experience to visitors, particularly highlighting the schools of Summit Township - Fry, Herrell, Summit and Redmon. In a township without a town, they served not only as schools, but churches and community gathering places. Work is already underway to gather the stories of the Summit township students and teachers, to locate old records, yearbooks and photographs and to collect items that would be appropriate for use in the school such as books, bookshelves, etc - everything down to the pencils at the desks. The school would also become part of a literacy program where visitors, particularly early grade school students, would learn about Missouri's history in the setting of a one-room school.
As the school building will be located at the junction of several hiking trails at Poplar Heights, future plans include development of a Nature Learning Center within the school and immediate grounds. Programs emphasizing STEM would give area students the opportunity to study science, technology, engineering and math in a hand-on natural environment. A school for the 18900's onward can teach energy alternatives by looking at the windmill in the north pasture, environmental concerns using drone technology to study erosion and so much more. Further, it's location on a Living History Farm that raises heirloom vegetables and old breed livestock makes it an ideal venue to offer programs exploring the options for nutritional food as it travels from field to table. Imagine the possibilities!
Anyone with information about the schools in Summit Township, Bates County, Missouri (Herrel, Fry, Redmon, Summit) are urged to contact Poplar Heights Farm. We are looking for old year books to copy and preserve, names of students and teachers, stories about the old school days.
Saving Summit School
Thanks to generous donations, including the most recent one of $2,500.00 from FCS Financial, Harrisonville, we now have enough to start the foundation for Summit School when weather permits this spring.
Now we must raise the funds to move the school to Poplar Heights Living History Farm where it will be fully restored. We need $30,000.00 to be able to make the move next winter when the ground is frozen and it can travel over the farm fields.
How You Can Help
Give any amount and you become a "Friend of Summit School"
Give $150 and you've paid for a new tin ceiling tile and your name on the map
Give $500 and get a name plaque on one of the 19 original desks still remaining
Give $1000 and get a name plaque on one of the eight windows
Give more and have everyone's eternal gratitude for going above and beyond (plus pictures, newspaper coverage and a plaque on the wall)
Remember - all contributions are tax deductible
For More Information or to Contribute
Contact us: email: email@example.com, phone 660-200-5620, mail: P.O. Box 266, Butler, MO 64730
and follow our progress at www.poplarheightsfarm.org and on Facebook