Those Places Thursday – Wilmington No. 13 School House

Wilmington Township School House No. 13

I know it may seem a bit odd to feature an old one room school house in a “Those Places Thursday” post, but that one room school house actually has an interesting family connection.  The old school house stood at the corner of State Road 1 and County Road 44 in DeKalb County.  I can remember driving by the old shell of a building at least once a week as a young child, and then once I was Jr. High and Sr. High School, I passed it every day on my way to school.  I had always heard my father refer to it as the “Hablawetz School,” but I never understood why.

1880 Land ownership Map – Wilmington Township

When I started my genealogy research in my 20s, I finally asked why the school was known as the Hablawetz School.  My father explained that the old Wilmington Township No. 13 school house was called that because my great great  grandfather, Anton Hablawetz, had donated the land for the school house and built it himself.  As you can see from the 1880 plat map shown here, Anton owned the northeast 1/8th of Section 36 and the northwest 1/8th of Section 35 in Wilmington township.  Anton had donated (as seen on the map) a small section of his farmland to build the school.  In today’s society, it may not seem like a lot of land that was donated, but when you put it in context, it was a huge sacrifice for the community from an Austrian immigrant who had only moved to the county a few years prior.  

A biography that I found of Anton in a published history of DeKalb County states that when Anton bought the land, it was wooded and uncleared and he cleared it all for farmland by hand.  Imagine spending days and weeks cutting down trees, pulling out stumps, clearing rocks and brush and finally having your land ready to farm and then giving away part of it for the betterment of the community!  As you can see from the map, Anton’s farm house stood just across the road a bit from the school house.

Both the one room brick school house and the old farm house are gone now.  Both were torn down for more “modern” structures.  I drive by occasionally and see the mound of dirt where the school house once stood, and realize that this monument to the generosity of one Austrian immigrant is long gone and left only for the memories of those who paid attention to it.  I have a few pictures, and have been able to find a few pieces of records from classes that went to the school, but that is about all that remains.  Somewhere, the stone that was over the door of the school is supposed to be preserved and may someday be used in the construction of another school in the local district, but if it isn’t, I’m hoping to obtain one very heavy piece of family history!

Those Places Thursday – Sycamore Hills Farms

Sycamore Hills Farm

“Those Places Thursday” is another daily blogging prompt from Geneabloggers that I couldn’t wait to write on because it gave me a chance to highlight not only a location where several generations of Washler’s lived and worked, but also where I grew up – Sycamore Hills Farms.

The farm located in Concord township in DeKalb County, Indiana has been in the Washler family since sometime between 1880 and 1900.  As of yet, I have not been able to find the actual land records to show the exact date that Curtis and his family moved to this location, but through census research, I have been able to confirm that it was prior to the 1900 Census and after he had moved out of his father-in-law’s home where he was living in 1880.  (The lament of all genealogists – If only the 1890 Census was still in existence!)

Curtis and family – circa early 1900’s

The farm has remained in the Washler family since that original purchase, passing from Curtis to his son (my grandfather) Donald and then to my father.  The picture above was taken sometime prior to the late 1970’s when my family moved there (it doesn’t show the new house which was built across the drive from the old farm house.  It wasn’t until my father owned the farm that the name “Sycamore Hills” was “officially” used, but Dad has told me that the name had been kicked around for as long as he could remember.

I can remember when we first moved there, the old house still stood and served as both a “museum” of sorts since it held remnants of my father’s childhood and the years before, and also as a “playground” for me as a young boy.  What young boy could resist the urge to explore an old abandoned house and the dark basement underneath??  Of course, the time came when the house was no longer safe to explore, and it was eventually torn down leaving only the windmill and old stairs standing for most of my childhood.  Now, many years later, even the windmill is gone (it became a danger to leave standing), and the old cement steps have been overgrown with weeds and some bushes.  There are still huge bushes standing at what use to be the corner of the house.  Those and the overgrown stairs are reminders to the family of the past.

It’s kind of an ironic twist of growing up that as a kid, I couldn’t wait to leave the farm and go off to see the world outside of that little corner of DeKalb County, but now, decades later as an adult, I sometime find myself longing for life back at the farm.  I can’t say that I would ever consider moving back to the farm, but having that as a place to always go back to is something that I hope never changes.