Thursday, March 28, 2013

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!

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