District 41 Goes to Belden School
For the past six years, Abraham Lincoln School in Glen Ellyn holds a school auction. Among the items auctioned is a trip for fifteen lucky students to travel to Belden School, the setting for the Belden Boy Series. The children enjoy a morning of old fashioned learning in this one-room schoolhouse set deep in the magical woods of Galena.
Peter McDugal, the main character of Belden Boy, greets the children with his hiking stick in hand, and leads them down into the valley where Belden School sits waiting. The children can hear the school bell ringing in the distance signaling the start of school. Welcomed by Miss Bishop. the compassionate teacher from the story, the children find their desks inside Belden School and begin their lessons as they begin to write on their slates. Our modern day students are transformed suddenly into children from a different time, partaking in lessons such as elocution (tongue twisters), reciting reading verses as they each “toe the line” at the teacher’s desk, arithmetic lessons that reinforce life on the farm, and, of course, the exciting spelling bee!
At some point in the forenoon, Miss Bishop allows Peter and the children to enjoy recess outside Belden School’s doors. Each child is handed an apple by Miss Bishop as the children walk outside to play stick ball, or maybe a game of marbles. Some head to the creek for a wet adventure, to be sure.
The morning unfortunately ends too soon and our 1800 students return back to the 21st century all smiles, with memories that will last a lifetime.
~ p. j. hartenaus
Belden School Travels
One couldn’t be any further from home when presenting the story of Belden School, that is, six hundred and sixty-two miles from Galena to LaTrobe, Pennsylvania. The Country School Association (CSAA) asked p.j. hartenaus, author of “Belden Boy – The Adventures of Peter McDugal”, to bring the story of Belden School and Belden Boy to their annual conference in 2009.
Set in the hills of Pennsylvania at St. Vincent College, the conference was in the Fred Rogers Conference Center. With books and the model of the stone schoolhouse in tow, p.j. began her presentation with the story of Peter McDugal and Franky, the fictional characters in the Belden Boy Series, and their adventures in and around Belden School in the late 1800s. Though many of the stories are fictional, some truths from the elderly who attended Belden School in the 1930s and 1940s are woven into the storyline.
Describing the river town of Galena with its outcroppings and unique topography, p.j. also spoke of the cozy location of Belden School set deep in the hills of The Territory. Hearing the story of the Belden Boy Series, and the journey of Belden’s restoration that led to its grand opening in September, the audience of retired teachers and one-room schoolhouse enthusiasts asked for more. So, p.j. invited the audience to sit back and enjoy a journey into time as her presentation closed with the CSSA Award winning video…a tribute to Belden School. Beautiful music was the perfect addition to the old pictures of Belden from its past, right to the present.
P.j. reflects that the story of Belden School is unique. Territory residents are proud of their gem, set in the hills of this beautiful area. We are the keepers of this school and its doors will open once again this fall on September 5, 2009. One attendee said that the story of Belden School brought her to tears, saying that the video and presentation was very moving, thanking Belden for being at St. Vincent College.