Prairie College Country School and first “Talking Machine”

Prairie College Country School

Sherd and Laura Goff, my great grandparents, moved about 1898 to a farm south of Guthrie Center, along a hilly dirt road that was later hard surfaced and named Highway 25. They moved the pioneer house built in 1855 by Laura Goff’s grandfather, Ephraim Moore, and remodeled it. Their oldest daughter Leora, my grandmother, was seven then and sauntered with three siblings about ¾ mile to her country school called “Prairie College.”

Officially Valley No. 7, it was there she heard her first “talking machine.” The rest of the family was too tired to go, so they let her take their little dog Fanny. Her father told her that Fanny would take care of her.

Fanny wasn’t allowed in the house, but she followed Leora right into the schoolhouse and stayed at her feet under a desk. In her memoirs, Leora remembered that several people came and they had to take turns using earphones, so her turn to listen seemed so short. Leora “wasn’t a bit afraid” walking home in the moonlight with Fanny.

Decades later my mother and I used Leora’s memoirs for clues, searching for the places where her stories may have taken place. We traveled along Highway 25, turning off onto a gravel road to get our bearings, and surmising where the house might have been–back when her brother Rolla was born, and when she heard her first talking machine.

Along the road near the highway was a ditch full of glowing lilies–a common remembrance of where a country school used to sit. We think we may have found where Guthrie County’s “Prairie College” was, so the old Moore/Goff house must have been near there.

prairie college (2)
Prairie College school, 6 miles south of Guthrie Center, Iowa, about 1898. Back: Milly Moore, Forest Crawley, Mable France, Mattie Eweing, Bessie Crawley, Carl Crawley, Elsie France, Etta Moore. Front: Verna Davis, Ida Moore, Isaac Moore, Lonnie Crawley, teacher Clara Davis Olmsted (a student of Laura Jordan at one time), Guy Olmstead, Luella France, Ray Eweing, Leora Goff. Seated: Wayne Goff, Merl Goff.  Kids are barefoot.

Leora’s Early Years: Guthrie County Roots has more memories about attending Prairie College School.


  1. Oh my gosh, the wonderful nostalgia your grandmother gave your family to relish! The picture shows students standing straight and respectfully (except for seated children) and dressed well despite being shoeless. Thank you for sharing this, Joy.

    • Thank you, Nancy! It’s been such a delight to figure out which of Grandma’s stories fit the old photos, then travel through those gravel roads to figure out where they happened.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.