District No. 12 Maple Corners School
1941 Fitchburg Rd.
The last school district to be formed in Fitchburg was District 12, which raised taxes to pay the salary of a teacher and build a schoolhouse in 1864. This building was similar in size and shape to the other early schoolhouses. In 1881, about 100 maple trees were planted by the school which was situated at the junction of two roads. The school was thus called Maple Corners and in 1917 the name was made official.
School life at Maple Corners was described by Genevieve Lacy Purcell who taught at Maple Corners from 1919 to 1922. The school district boundaries encompassed close to 4 square miles. As there were few roads in this farming community and even fewer cars, students had to walk to school. For two families the trip was almost 2 miles each way.
Unlike today, there were no janitors to clean the building and grounds; no electricity to provide light or turn on a furnace; no water taps to get a drink or wash hands. Thus, it was up to the teacher to do these jobs or delegate them to students. The school was heated in the winter by a potbellied stove. The wood, paid for by the district, was cut to size, delivered and stored in a woodshed. A student was then paid 10 cents a morning to come early and get the fire started so the room would be warm before the other students arrived. This arrangement sometimes did not work as planned and the students would huddle by the stove nearly burning their face and hands while freezing their behind unless they rotated their body frequently. Students also had to take turns helping the teacher clean the school. The two jobs none of the students liked were cleaning the erasers and cleaning the outhouses.
As there was no water at the school, an older boy, assigned by the teacher, would take a pail to the neighbors (only a couple 100 yards away) to get water. He usually had to get another pail of water around noon. Being progressive, they had a hot meal program called the Mason Jar Project. Mothers would supply food that could be placed in mason jars that were then placed on the stove in a cooker with water.
Students typically had two recesses besides their noon break for lunch. As a swing set was not available until later in the school’s history, the children were on their own. Throwing balls and playing baseball were popular although occasionally these activities resulted in broken windows. Other games were pom pom pullaway and Farmer in the Dell. The children liked to play crack the whip where they would link hands into a line and then move back and forth trying to fling the last person in line. Usually the last person was young so the teacher put a stop to that game.
Although the schoolhouse was built for teaching, it was also used for community events like Christmas plays, picnics and district meetings. When events were held at night gas lights had to be borrowed from neighbors that had those types of lights.
In 1955, a cement block addition was added to the building which contained the stove. Indoor plumbing and toilets were also installed in this addition. At some point a swing set was also installed in the playground. Maple Corners school finally closed in 1965 due to the state mandate to close all one room schools in Wisconsin. The school was sold and it continues to be located at its original site.
In 2001, the Fitchburg Historical Society in conjunction with the City of Fitchburg erected an historical marker at the school site.