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Vermillion schoolhouse replica to be refurbished

The Clay County log schoolhouse replica is in the market for a face-lift and a new home, said Tom Thaden, president of the Clay County Historical Society (CCHS).

The new replica will be situated near the Austin Whittemore House in Vermillion. Restoration should be completed no later than October 2014.

“Fundraising will begin immediately,” Thaden said.

The old schoolhouse replica has been ever present around Vermillion since 1938 when Dr. W. H. Over proposed to then University of South Dakota President I.D. Weeks to raise money to build a replica of the original log schoolhouse, which was the first permanent schoolhouse in the Dakotas, when it was built in 1864.

In hopes of illustrating education in the Great Plains during the 1800s, Over turned the construction of the replica into a community project, bringing in locals of Clay County and even students and faculty from the university.

Much like its inception, the CCHS anticipates community support and involvement in the schoolhouse’s restoration.

The committee is looking at a $15,000 to $20,000 campaign to relocate and fully restore the log schoolhouse.

The schoolhouse is currently situated on Dakota Street behind the Senior Citizens Center.

“Hardly anybody knows about it,” Thaden said. “That’s probably the biggest part of the campaign is to raise awareness.”

Having been used for countless purposes throughout its history, the log schoolhouse was originally intended to be used for education purposes alone, mostly to show the teaching environments of the early pioneers.

“It’s a major education milestone,” said Thaden. “The replica is to be a symbol of the educational zeal which motivated the early pioneers.’ was said by Dean of Education William Batson in 1939, and this pretty much sums up the importance of this schoolhouse.”

Thomas Brock, a first-year History major, is looking forward to the new replica.

“I’ve only heard of the schoolhouse once from one of my professors,” Brock said. “But it’s definitely something that needs recognition. It’s especially important for natives of the state to understand the state’s past.”

Over the span of about 50 years, the schoolhouse was shuffled through several other practices and was moved around Vermillion until finally settling down at its current location.

Within the last decade, the schoolhouse has remained still and dormant in the community and much of its framework has deteriorated.

The CCHS and the Clay County Historic Preservation Committee plan to keep the roof and the floors of the schoolhouse but want to completely restore the rest with the help of the community.