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History Spotlight: Windy Gap School

Photo by Thomas R. Fletcher

Most visitors know that Holly River State Park is famous for the Upper Falls, Schupe’s Chute, and the many miles and miles of hiking trails, but many visitors are unaware of the rich history that came before them.

The state park’s most historical attraction is the Windy Gap School House, a one room school house where the children of Hacker Valley Township attended grades first through eighth from 1902 to 1960. The Holly River State Park Foundation reconstructed the building in 1991 and has worked hard to preserve it for visitors of the park to experience.

Folks of Webster County understand the importance of the preservation of this piece of history. Inside, the school looks like time has stood still with maps, posters and work lining the walls, desks with the teacher’s old records, lunch pails, original desks still in perfect rows, and the potbelly stove from the original location. Located around back is the water cooler that an eighth-grade student was in charge of filling every day for student’s drinking water. Traditions are still kept alive in this school house in many ways, when touring the exhibit visitors will see local Webster County High School students volunteering as the class ‘Dunce.’

Holly River State Park Foundation officer Rose Ann Cowger is the niece of Webster County native, Anna Balli, who was a teacher at the Windy Gap School House for seventeen years. Webster County residents still come up to Cowger and tell stories about her Aunt teaching them in the school house.

Windy Gap School House is unique to Webster County in the way that so many residents still have close ties to the school, whether it be they attended, their parents attended or their grandparents attended. The Holly River State Park Foundation is passionate about keeping this part of history alive and well so relatives of Windy Gap Alumni and visitors can see the differences in going to school then versus now.

“Children were able to learn ahead in the one room school house set up. Once the teacher would finish with first grade, she’d move onto second, then third and so on. So, once students finished their lessons they could listen in on the other lessons around the room,” Cowger says.

The museum is located on the grounds of Holly River State Park and is open in the summer months on Saturday’s and Sunday’s from 1 pm to 4 pm. For more information on the school house and Holly River State Park, see their website.