Bissell Buzz 2016/16

The first building you see when you enter the gates of Fort Bissell, is our schoolhouse.  This is past season has confirmed this once again – it most certainly is the most popular part of our museum for children to visit.  It may be attributed to the fact that they can sit in the desks, write on the slates, ring the school bell and in their “recess” go and play on the merry-go-round outside.  Usually the parents find it hard to get the children to leave after this.  Many an older person will remark that they went to a school similar to ours and would get all nostalgic whilst reminiscing over their school years.Schoolhouse

Behind the door we have a map of Phillips County with all the names of the various school districts. Our schoolhouse is no 97 (Dayton Hopper) and was situated just north of Stuttgart, but the first grade school district was in fact Bissell School.  District No. 1 was organized on March 1, 1873 with William Albaugh as the teacher.  The following year there were thirty-seven organized school districts in the county.  According to the annual report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction there were 292 students in the 37 schools – 143 girls and 149 boys.  There were sixteen school houses: seven log, eight frame and one stone.  In 1880 there were 104 school districts.  In 1890 it grew to 130 and by 1900 there were 132! Sadly very few of these schoolhouses are still around and those that still are, mostly in a state of ruin and disrepair.

Although the official season for 2016 has come to an end and our gates are now closed for daily tours to the public, we still have one more function left for the year. Our fourth annual Chili Cookoff will be held on September 25th.  This will be a fun event with music being provided by Cowboy Bob.  Our Blacksmith shop will be in operation and our photo booth will also be available with a professional photographer to capture those special fun moments!  This is our only fundraising event for 2016, so please come and join us.  Entrance is by Free Will Donation.  Farmer’s National Bank have pledged to equal the amount of donations up to the first $1000.  A hearty thank you in advance for that support!!  For entry forms or information for team participation, please call H&R Block on 785-543-2239.  Closing date for entering a team is September 19th.  Funds raised will go towards the repair of the roofs of our schoolhouse and general store – which both lost a lot of shingles during the past season’s storms.

Our season for 2017 will officially open on Memorial Day, but school tours can be arranged to take place before that.  We want to encourage the schools to bring their pupils to come and enjoy learning about history that happened here where they live.  Regular updates and photos will still be posted on our Facebook page.  We can be contacted on 785-543-6212 or on email at

Ruby Wiehman – Curator