Photo courtesy Laila BrownleePhoto courtesy Laila Brownlee

Preserving a piece of community history

One hundred and ten years after it was moved to its current location, a local one-room school was recently the focus of work by a group of volunteers intent on preserving a piece of community history.  
Royal Center School, which was placed in February on the National Register of Historic Places, was originally built in 1910. It was used in a nearby district before it was moved in 1913 to its location about 30 miles west of Faith. 
Most of last week’s volunteers at Royal Center were related in some way to Hugh Ingalls who attended Royal Center from 1935-43 and whose father Lawrence attended from 1913-15. The volunteers came from six different locations: Peggy Ingalls Rahn from Arizona; Misty Lambing Neisen and Joe Neisen from Idaho; Laila Ingalls Brownlee from Kansas; Michelle Dennis, Sharon Boe and Lisa Vig Loveridge from Rapid City, Michael Dennis and KC Bosch from Virginia, and Shane Lambing from Washington state. 
The goal of this work project was to replace missing or broken siding, scrape loose paint, and begin priming and painting the exterior. 
The original 14 by 16 foot structure was moved about six miles from the Horse Butte school district using two wagons and teams of horses.  At that time a length of eight feet was added to the classroom. Marie Patterson taught that fall, and she noted in a central Meade County history book published by the Stoneville Steadies club that the term didn’t start until December 8 because “…it took a little time to get a building.” 
By the time the school closed in the spring of 1951, several second-generation students had attended there: Lawrence Ingalls and his children: Mable (Stomprud), Hugh, Elaine (Rowett), Dale and Virginia (Brandt); Walter Ingalls and his children Catherine (Tift), Faye (Fees), Marlin, Howard, and Ann (Mahaffy). Two former students at the school later became teachers at Royal Center: Nadine Janke (Carswell) and Mable Ingalls (Stomprud). 
Other students who attended through the years included the children of Charles and Elizabeth Weiss, John and Mary Larkin, Carl and Olive Benson, John and Myrtle Symonds, Joseph and Berta Ellis, George and Maria Douglas, Walter and Mary Edgar, and Ed and Theresa Janke, among others.
In addition to Patterson, Ingalls and Janke, other teachers at Royal Center included: Edith Anderson (Dillard), Edith Anderson (wife of O.K.), Kathryn and Vincent Anderson (Edith and OK’s children), Thekla Mutchler, Esther Camery, Lena Staudenraus, Edna Kayrosvopio, Stella Fitzgerald, Elizabeth McTighe (Sundstrom), Adelle Schuelke, Gladys (Packer) Pullins, Hope Hubbard (Weiss Vig), Ramona Madison (Leibel) and Wilma Schell (Moore).
Throughout the years following its closing in 1951, various members of the community have worked to preserve the building including painting and reroofing. In 2005, three cousins, Howard and Hugh Ingalls and Joyce Weiss Baker, applied to the state of South Dakota to designate the school building and the surrounding land as a non-profit organization. 
Last fall, Michelle Dennis, a historic preservation consultant and second cousin to Eleanor Ingalls, wrote the nomination to have the school placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the Department of the Interior.
“I appreciate all the volunteers who came to help out,” Hugh Ingalls said. “I think it’s important to preserve our local history whenever we can, and very few of these one-room schools are left that are in good condition.”
Future projects will include completing the priming and painting work, as well as replacing the ceiling and repairing the windows. Anyone interested in helping with these or other projects related to preserving the school can contact Laila Ingalls Brownlee at

The Pioneer Review

221 E. Oak Street
Philip, SD 57567
Telephone: (605) 859-2516
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