The Adams School district #20, originally district #8 when
a part of Gentry County, is better known as The Nation. Today
the building stands as The Little Red Schoolhouse. It is now the
site of the annual Blue Grass Music Festival held each Labor Day
weekend and is hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Trustin Wilkinson.
The Adams schoolhouse is one of the last of some 50 rural schoolhouses that once dotted the countryside at two-mile intervals.
When the area was yet an unorganized area administered by Gentry County, as early as 1845 families began to move into the area in the northeastern part of what became Worth County in 1861. Among those very first settlers were Pleasant Adams, the Allen's, the Neal's, the Dehart's, and Major Calvin Hartwell from north of Albany.
According to the GENTRY/WORTH COUNTY HISTORY 1882, "One among the earliest attempts to establish a school (in Smith Township) was that of Major Calvin Hartwell, who taught in the northeast part of the township. He understood and appreciated educational facilities, and so thoroughly interested was he in the cause of education among the masses that he opened a free school for the benefit of his and his neighbor's children."
Hartwell first held his school sessions in his home and later a schoolhouse was built in the area. Records indicate that Hartwell's school was the first established in Smith Township and possibly the first to be established in the area that was to become Worth County. It is interesting that the restored Adams building represents one of the first, and is one of the last of the country school buildings in the county.
The present building is not the first schoolhouse in the district. The late Patsy Long, granddaughter of Pleasant Adams, stated that the first school building was a log building which was located on the floodplain of Lott's Creek and sat on the west side of the Creek. The building was stained green and the floor was only sod with benches made of split logs.
On October 10, 1868, Calvin Tilton of Allendale, the County Commissioner of Education (later known as the County Superintendent of Schools) met with the local board, T.D. Roach, concerning the school. As a result of this meeting a one-acre parcel of land in Section 14-66-30 was deeded by Pleasant Adams and his wife, Psalm Powell Adams, to the district for a consideration of $5.
The Pleasant Adams land eventually came into the hands of George and Josie Lyle Conn. The Conn's built the large home now occupied by their daughter and her husband, Trustin and Leah Wilkinson. Leah was born in that house and has spent her entire life in the Adams district.
Leah Conn Wilkinson relates the following about the Adams School. "After heavy rains the seemingly tranquil Lott's Creek, which divided the district, belched muddy desolation on the entire valley, including the little log schoolhouse.
As the hills east of Lott's Creek became thickly populated, rumblings of moving the schoolhouse to that side of the creek became loud. The directors on the north side of the creek would not allow the issue to come to a vote in the district. The wicked, winding little creek pretty well divided the residents into the 'Martin's and the Coy's'.
Finally, after nearly thirty years of bickering and many heated arguments, it was brought to a vote on April 2, 1889. The people on the east side of the creek won the vote with 16 voting to move the schoolhouse and 5 dissenting. A six-month term of school was voted at the meeting with L.W. Murray being elected for a three-year term and J.T. Petry elected for a two-year term. When the motion to move the schoolhouse was found to be in the affirmative Larry Murray resigned in a rage.
Chief among the 'easterners' were the families of Rueben Roach, John R. Weddle, John Peters and Aaron Allen. The 'westerns' were the Pinkerton's, Murray's, Dehart's, Adam's and Neal's.
The new site chosen, in the center of a high bluff, was beautiful. Bordered by timberland on the east and north and a hickory grove on the south, it seemed to serve as a beacon over the entire valley. The new one-acre site was purchased from James Petry for $5.
A contract for three cords of hardwood, either hickory or oak and two cords of linn or maple was to be 'got up' by T.D. Roach for $1.50 per cord.
The enumeration of the district was sixty pupils, with thirty resident taxpayers listed.
The people on the bluff had won the election, but the battle raged on. What had begun as a humble log schoolhouse known as the Adams from 1868 to 1889, when moved across the river became known as The Nation, even though the official name remained the Adams.
The Nation School still served as a community center. Weddings, Sunday School, Church and neighborhood gatherings were still held in the building but it was not unusual for these meeting to be punctuated by fistfights in the Hickory Grove.
This log cabin structure burned to the ground February 18, 1904. George Conn, one of the directors drew up the plans for the building. A.A. Weddle sawed out the oak frame, Bud Calhoon laid the foundation and the chimney, Reece Tandy and Stanley Moreland were the carpenters and many of the patrons supplied voluntary labor. Arthur Weddle dug an eight-foot hoe and walled it up for a well for $7.50. No water! Miss McClain was the first teacher to teach in the new building."
The late Kemp Gregg, in an interview with a Grant City Times-Tribune correspondent, stated that on the designated election day the 'west of the creek' group arrived one by one, and as the time for the appointed meeting drew near, it appeared that the 'east of the creek' group were not coming after all. But suddenly the eastern families were spotted approaching en masse, causing someone to exclaim, "Boys, we're licked! Here comes the whole damn Nation."
Folklore says that this is when the term 'Nation' was first used to designate the area NOT SO! Documented research at Northwest Missouri State Teachers College (now Northwest Missouri State University) done in 1933 reveals that the area had long been called The Nation by lingering Indian tribes who had been pushed westward by white pioneers in the 1832-1840 era.
The Indian Treaties of 1832, 1837 and 1842 forced some Mesquackie and Sac remnants into this territory already occupied by some Osage and Sioux Indians. None of the tribes wanted to lose their identity so they agreed to call the area The Indian Nation.
These Indians were eventually pushed northward into Iowa territory by the treaties. They were removed to the Red Rock area, later to become the only Indian purchased reservation, the well-known Tama Reservation.
The late Kemp Gregg had yet another explanation of how the area came to be known as The Nation. The story appeared in the January 22, 1938 issue of The St. Joseph News-Press and was from an interview of Mr. Gregg by a correspondent for the paper.
The tale, while an interesting one, has the marks of being just that, an interesting tale. As Mr. Gregg related the story:
"The Nation contained not more than forty acres when the name was first applied to it by Squire Neal (William A. Neal), a Worth County justice-of-peace, whose home was about three and one-half miles east and slightly north of Allendale.
The families lived there, right close together, and they racketed right smart," continued Gregg in his quaint, descriptive language. "They just little rackets at home--nothing that ever went to court and no law was ever brought into it because they always settled things themselves. And because there wasn't any outside law, old Squire Neal called it The Nation.
When it started out it was just a little patch but it got to aspreading and in about five years it had got to the place Squire Neal was in it. It kept aspreading until it took in Allendale and Hatfield. The Nation was always 'over there'. Ask someone if they live in The Nation and all of them say they don't, that it is 'over there somewhere'."