Tracking Your Past

Doris Green

As the Wisconsin Historical Society opens several sites to visitors, one River Valley site that also offers a walk into history is Harrisburg School. 

Located east of Plain at E7646 Cty Rd. B, Harrisburg School and Museum will open 1-4 p.m. on two Sundays this month, Sept. 5 and 19. The school offers some older adults an opportunity to remember their childhood and may pique the interest of children in the lives of their ancestors.

Aside from an accessible ramp, the little white clapboard school has changed little since its construction in 1892. The one-room school served up to 33 students in eight grades. It closed with consolidation in 1955, with Harrisburg students afterward attending school in Spring Green.

One of nine one-room schools once located in the Sauk County town of Troy, Harrisburg School is the only one still intact on its original site. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2015, the school and museum is operated by the Harrisburg Troy Historical Society (www.harrisburgtroyhistoricalsociety.com). First settled by Jonathan Whitaker Harris in 1848, Harrisburg at one time boasted a blacksmith shop, telephone exchange, stagecoach stop, inn, store, post office, two cheese factories and two churches. 

The 1892 school was actually the third school for the community. The 38- by 28- by 14-foot building had a basement, a furnace and a bell tower. Two front entry doors separately served girls and boys. Outside stood two outhouses, a merry-go-round, slide and teeter-totters. A ball field extended the schoolyard and a flagpole was added. Inside, the teacher’s desk and a piano rested on a platform at the front of the room. Old-style school desks lined up in rows, blackboards adorned the walls and a reading table centered a library alcove at the back of the room. A stoneware water cooler stood near the entries. Students took turns cleaning the blackboards, sweeping the floor and carrying in water. 

While the school’s first floor appears much the same as it did in the early 20th century, the basement became home to the Harrisburg Troy Historical Society’s museum and, among its many items, features a potbellied wood-burning stove. In 2017 the society built a new Harrisburg Heritage Museum on school property, which features area farm and home artifacts, as well as tables, chairs and much-needed storage space.

If you go, be open to artifacts that inspire your own family education stories.

Doris Green authored “Elsie’s Story: Chasing a Family Mystery” and “Wisconsin Underground: A Guide to Caves, Mines, and Tunnels.” Also available: “Minnesota Underground: A Guide to Caves & Karst, Mines & Tunnels,” co-authored with Greg Brick. Visit http://henschelhausbooks.com.