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BY MIKE AVITT
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and say, “why did that happen?”. It happens to me every night.
By 1917, every incorporated town in Ringgold County had built a brick high school except Knowlton, Ellston, and Beaconsfield. In 1917 only Mount Ayr had electricity, but Diagonal soon would. Knowlton would never get a brick school, but Ellston and Beaconsfiel would……both in 1930.
Beaconsfield voted to consolidate their school district in 1920. The new, brick schoolhouse was begun in 1929. The architects were Keifer & Jones of Des Moines, the same architects that designed the Ringgold County Home (1922) and the Ringgold County Courthouse (1926-27). The building was equipped with plumbing and dedicated Labor Day 1930. One newspaper reported that progress on the building was moving slowly, but I don’t know why other than the complications that came with winter and the Stock Market Crash of October 29, 1929.
Ellston was in an independent school district. Everett Adams and the Higday brothers were builders on the new school and the construction seems to have gone smoothly. The 1930-31 school year started one week late as the brick Ellston High School opened September 8, 1930.
Now both Ellston and Beaconsfield had new gymnasiums to play basketball in and I know Ellston previously played their home games in a barn but I don’t know what Beaconsfield did for a home court. I also know Ellston produced a hardcover yearbook as early as 1946. Beaconsfield waited until 1950 to publish their first annual.
Beaconsfield graduated its last senior class in 1958 with five students receiving diplomas. Beaconsfield then joined the Mount Ayr district. Elementary classes ceased in the spring of 1961.
Ellston probably benefited from the closing of Beaconfield’s high school because Ellston had its largest graduating class, eleven, since 1938. That was in 1959 and that would be Ellston’s last graduating class. Elementary classes were held for several more years.
In the early 1970s, the Ringgold County Historical Society announced they were negotiating to purchase the old Ellston school building for use as a museum. The deal never happened and the building went to use a farm implement repair shop.
The Beaconsfield building fell down over the decades. So, why were Ellston and Beaconsfield so late in building brick schools? Is it a coincidence they both opened the same year? Shouldn’t Beaconsfield have joined the Grand Valley School District since they were so close to Grand River and Kellerton? I don’t think I’ll get much sleep tonight.