Charter Oak School is located one
mile east of the rural community of Schuline in Randolph County. The
structure is one of the few remaining octagonal-shaped, one-room, school
buildings in America. Classes were held in this building from 1873 until
1953 when it was closed due to consolidation. Charter Oak School was the
third school to be built in the area. The first was a one-room log
school and later a one-room frame building was constructed.
In the early 1870s a young teacher, Daniel Ling, came to the Schuline
community. Records show he was “educated in the East, was scholarly,
could read Greek, and was a skilled architect”. Ling felt “an eight
cornered building with windows on each side would offer improved
lighting since light comes from all sides as nature intended, and would
also offer better wind resistance to storms.” Blackboards painted on
walls could be seen from any part of the room when lesson outlines were
given. Ling convinced the local school board of directors and area
residents that his architectural plan of an octagonal building was
sound, and was chosen to supervise construction of the building.
Construction by carpenters William Holcomb and Franklin Adams cost $1000
which was raised in a bond issue.
Up to this time, the names of Old Oak, Boyd School and District 7 were
used locally to refer to the school. Residents and students were very
proud of their new brick building and wanted a special name for it. A
large, beautiful oak tree stood on the grounds. According to early
residents, a student, Agnes Houston, suggested the name Charter Oak in
honor of the famous Charter Oak of the Connecticut Colony.
School started in the new building in the fall of 1873 with Miss Avis
Allen as teacher. Attendance varied throughout the years with a maximum
of 46 pupils reported one year. The school also became a community
center and was used for public and farm meetings, church and Sunday
school, spelling bees, speaking contests, political rallies and other
civic affairs. Throughout the years, structural changes were made. Some
of the changes were made for convenience and some to conform to State
regulations. These included a bell, tuck-pointing, adding a vestibule,
two additional windows and a door. Charter Oak was closed in 1953 when
the need for the little one-room schools declined and the children were
sent to larger consolidated schools.
The vacant school building deteriorated and became a target for
vandalism. Later it was sold at public auction and a former teacher,
Miss Nellie Ohms, purchased it for sentimental reasons. Because of its
unique design and historical significance, the Randolph County
Historical Society became interested in the building. Miss Ohms was
contacted and was very receptive to its restoration. In 1960, it was
sold to the Society for $600. Numerous fund raising events were held to
pay for the building and for its restoration. The most famous of these
was the Corn Fest, which has become an annual event, held on the first
Saturday in August.
Major restoration was completed in 1968. In 1970, the state became an
official Illinois State Historical Site and a historic plaque donated by
that office was erected on the grounds. In 1978, the school was placed
on the National Register of Historical Places. A board of directors
supervises maintenance and upkeep of the grounds and building. The
school is still being used on field trips where elementary school
children spend a day experiencing what school was like in the past.
Visiting the Charter Oak School
The Creole House
open for tours at the annual Corn Fest on the
first Saturday in August. Any
other time it is open for groups or individuals by appointment.
Parking is on the gravel drive.
The Randolph County requests a small
donation from visitors to help in maintaining the Charter Oak School.
Directions: The Charter Oak School is located approximately one mile
east of Schuline. The school is 4.8 miles east of IL-4 on Schuline Road.
From Evansville off IL-3 take Charter Oak School to Broad Street and
travel west approximately eight miles to the school. The Charter Oak
School is on the south side of Schuline (County Road 4).
Learn more about the Sparta area.