Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of the Ozarks region and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Small Town High Schools

One-room schools for grades 1-8 are often cited as disappearing symbols of America's rural past, but high schools in small, rural towns have also become almost a relic of bygone days. Just as the one-room schools consolidated with K-12 districts in surrounding towns, many of the the smaller K-12 districts have either merged to form larger districts or consolidated with already-existing larger districts. In Missouri, consolidation of the one-room schools was pretty well complete by the 1950s. Consolidation of the small K-12 districts, on the other hand, continued through the sixties and seventies. (In a few cases, consolidtions continued to happen in the eighties, nineties, and almost up to the present day, but the bulk of them happened during the mid twentieth century.) Small towns that have been left without high schools often struggle just to survive, because, in many cases, the school was the main unifying social force.
McDonald County is one area with which I'm fairly familiar where a lot of consolidation took place. The county now has only one county-wide high school, located at Anderson. Prior to consolidation in the 1960s, it had at least six high schools. Anderson, Goodman, Noel, Pineville, Rocky Comfort, and Southwest City all had their own high schools. In addition, Lanagan had its own high school at one time, but Lanagan lost its high school before the sixties. There may have been other towns in the county, such as Powell, that had high schools at one time, but I'm not sure. At any rate, the point is that a county that had a whole slew of high schools at one time now has only one. In the mid sixties, Goodman consolidated with Neosho, while the other five schools went together to form McDonald County High School.
Some of the towns are still doing okay. Anderson, home to the high school, is still thriving. Pineville, the county seat, is still going fairly strong. Southwest City is home to a chicken plant or two and is still doing okay. Noel is famous as the Christmas town, and it still does fairly well. Rocky Comfort, on the other hand, seems barely to be hanging on, and its fate is probably more typical of small towns throughout Missouri and the Ozarks that have lost their high schools.  

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