As part of a research project I had my student James Dupey take a 1927 atlas of Spokane county and make a Google map of all the old rural schools. These would have been one-room schools. The map reminds of us of the pervasiveness of this vanished institution:
View Rural Schools of Eastern Washington in a larger map
Mapping these mostly vanished sites is just the first step in what I hope will become a larger historical project involving one room schools in eastern Washington. The next step is to gather information. Another student, Michelle Reid, compiled a bibliography for researching the schools. We are also building a database of organizations that have archival information about the schools. The Eastern Region Branch of the State Archives, for example, has attendance records for almost all of the schools in eastern Washington, along with some architectural drawings for Spokane County schools and some teacher employment documents for Adams County in the early 1900s. Many small local historical societies have important caches of historic records and photographs as well.
We recently submitted an application for an NEH grant to carry what we are calling the Rural Schools Project forward. If it is funded, we will work with rural heritage organizations to host some public events to build interest in the project. We will scan documents in both public and private hands and put them online. We will conduct oral history interviews with people who attended and taught at these schools (and there are quite a few--some of these schools survived into the 1950s). Ultimately, we would like to create podcast tours that vistors could take that would lead them to the sites of some of these schools, providing historic information along the way. In addition all the information we gather will be geotagged and appear on the above map, so by clicking on a school you will bring up historic documents, photographs, and oral interviews from that school.
If the NEH doesn't bite, there are some other grants for which we will apply. The project could even move forward as part of a class if I can find the time to teach it.
If you have any information or leads on the rural schools of eastern Washington, please post it here.