Rural Training Schools

By the end of the 19th century, many graduates from Oregon State Normal School were hired in rural areas of the state. These rural teachers reported to their county superintendents that they had little contact with their colleagues in other rural communities and were rarely visited by school district officials. As a result, in the late 1890s Oregon State Normal School set up an observation contract with two schools in rural Polk County to give teachers-in-training an opportunity to observe what it was like in a small school setting. In 1917, this program was expanded when Oregon Normal School (ONS) (previously the Oregon State Normal School) hired M.S. Pitman to develop a Rural Training Center Program. Between 1917 and 1938, students were sent to live at one of ten schools in Polk and Benton counties to receive experience in a rural setting.

The forerunner to the Rural Training Program was Cochran School in Dallas and soon joined by Elkins School in Airlie. These schools were used for observation where students in the training program could experience a rural classroom.  There are few details of the agreement with Cochran (sometimes spelled Cochrane) or Elkins, nor the details of the expectations of participants in the program.

By 1916, in order to earn an elementary teaching certificate, ONS students were required to participate in observation and practice teaching in an affiliated training school for six weeks. Many selected to live at a Rural Training Schools rather than the urban Monmouth and Independence Training Schools. The rural classrooms were supervised by a critic teacher who had experience in rural communities.  The salary of the teacher performing critic duties was paid for by ONS, but they remained employees of their individual district.  The rural experience consisted of two weeks of observation, two weeks of assisting with lessons, and two weeks of teaching responsibilities. Student teachers rotated through such that there were no breaks in elementary classroom lessons creating consistency of education for the rural elementary students.

The Rural Training Schools Program operated between 1912 and 1940.  The ten rural schools participated in the program from the many small, remote communities throughout Polk and Benton counties.

Unlike the “urban” training schools in Monmouth and Independence, student teachers temporarily lived in the rural communities where they taught, and ONS encouraged local involvement. In some communities, in addition to academic lessons, children who attended rural schools learned how to raise farm animals, such as chickens and cows, and to maintain basic gardens. Produce was sold at market and the proceeds used for lunches. 

Many of the rural training center buildings still stand and have been repurposed; while others have been absorbed in renovations or replaced with modern facilities. Oak Point and Elkins school buildings are now both privately owned residences; Rickreall school is now a privately owned business; and the Children’s Farm Home is now a residential treatment facility. Of the ten original rural training centers, only the Falls City and Independence schools are still used as teaching facilities.

The map below allows you to see where each was located.


  • A - Cochrane Observation School (1899-1912) Forerunner to the rural schools program for observation only.
  • B - Elkins Rural Center (1911-1930), Airlie
  • C - Monmouth Training School (1916-1986-OSNS/ONS) Urban school with observation & teaching experiences
  • D - Independence Training School (1917-1957) Urban school with observation & teaching experiences
  • E - Oak Point Rural Center (1917-1935), Independence
  • F - Mountain View Rural Center (1917-1927), Corvallis
  • G - Eola Rural Center (1921-1927)
  • H - Rickreall Rural Center (1923-1940)
  • I - Children’s Farm Home (1924-1931), Corvallis
  • J - Falls City Rural Center (1925-1928)
  • K - Fairplay Rural Center (1925-1930), Corvallis
  • L - Valsetz Rural Center (1925-1932)
  • M - Greenwood Rural Center (1929-1938), Independence

Cochran Rural School Observation Center

In 1898, in a means to accommodate the needs of student teachers needing rural experience, Oregon State Normal School entered into an agreement with Cochran School in Dallas for student teachers to visit a rural classroom. There is conflicting information on the precise location the school, but it was somewhere north of Monmouth. The school was used as an observation classroom from 1899 until 1912, when the student teachers began to rotate teaching in several rural schools with a critic teacher on site. Cochran was a forerunner in developing the Rural Training School Program.

Elkins Rural Center

The two-room Elkins School was near the town of Airlie, close to the rail line that ran between Airlie and Monmouth.  It served as an observation classroom from 1911 until it officially became part of the Rural Training Program in 1917. Once part of the program, a critic teacher was paid to observe and guide a Oregon Normal School (ONS) student through observation, assisting in the classroom, and practice teaching.  Elkins Rural Center included a working farm for local students to receive training in gardening and raising animals.  It was a residential placement center for ONS students, and they lived in the Elkins community during their six week experience. It was dropped from the program around 1930 when the Southern Pacific Railroad abandoned the line.   The school building has been renovated into a private home.

Oak Point Rural Center

Oak Point Rural Center was located north of Independence near the intersection of Greenwood Road and the Independence Highway (OR-51). This one-room school house was added to the Rural Training Program in 1917 and dropped in 1935. This center was a residential placement for Oregon Normal School students. Along with the scholastic lessons in the school house, Oak Point also provided training in farming and gardening with a truck, garden, and chicken shed. The profits from produce sales supplemented the hot lunch program. The school building has been renovated into a private home.

Greenwood Rural School

Greenwood Rural School was located on Greenwood Road between the Oak Point and Eola schools. It was added to the Rural Training Program in 1927 during a peak enrollment period for Oregon Normal School students in need of practice teaching placements. The building was much like the one at Oak Point; a single-room school house. Greenwood was dropped from the Rural Training Program in 1937 as the Oak Point’s enrollment dropped and there were not enough students for the practice teachers to fulfill practice teaching requirements.

Eola Rural Center

The one-room Eola School was northeast of Oak Point and Greenwood schools, in the hills above the Willamette River. Eola School was part of the Rural Training Program from 1921 to 1927. This center was a residential placement for Oregon Normal School students. The building in this picture served the community until 1937, and was the oldest schoolhouse still in use in Oregon. This building was replaced with a then-modern building in 1938.

The first school was built in 1853. Miss Abigail J. Scott, best known as the suffragist Abigail Scott Duniway, was the first teacher. The original school burned down and was replaced by a second school in 1858.

Mountain View Rural Center

Mountain View school was located five miles north of Corvallis, near the Lewisburg crossroads on Hwy 22. This multi-room schoolhouse was part of the Rural Training Program from 1917 to 1927. This center was a residential placement for Oregon Normal School students. This building no longer exists, and was the second of three buildings. The first building was one of Benton County’s first schools opening in 1848 and was also the location of Benton County’s government in 1850. It is unclear how many school buildings were on this same site, however the current Mountain View School building was opened in 1957.

The Rickreall School

The Rickreall School was near the intersection of Highways 22 and 99W. Constructed in 1923, it was considered to be a model school building with running water and electricity in every classroom. Rickreall School was part of the Rural Training Program from 1923 to 1940. This center was a residential placement for Oregon Normal School students. Prior to this modern building there was a previous school in Rickreall, however it is unclear of the exact location. This building in this image is still standing and was sold in 2009 by the Dallas School District. It is currently hosts antique vendors and is used for community events.

The Children’s Farm Home

The Children’s Farm Home was located north of Corvallis on Highway 20. The school was built by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1924, starting with a large house called Malliot. Buildings were added, (including the one pictured here) to the 300-acre campus to give a home to orphans, neglected children, and those whose parents could not care for them. In addition to their studies, the children were required to work on the farm, the products of which made the home a self-sustaining facility.

The Children’s Farm Home was a residential placement for Oregon Normal School students and part of the Rural Training Program from 1924 to 1931; the campus closed in 1978.

After purchase by Trillium Family Services, the main building received massive renovation and the farm home campus is now used as a treatment center for children with mental health disorders. More information on the current use is available at

Valsetz School

Valsetz School was located in the now-extinct lumber mill town of Valsetz, fifteen miles west of Falls City in the Coast Mountain Range. The town of Valsetz was founded in 1920 and the School included in the Rural Training Program in 1925 through 1932. This center was a residential placement for Oregon Normal School students.

As the Lumber Industry died out, so did the town. By 1932 attendance was so low at Valsetz School that there were not enough students for practice teaching. Old timber was depleted by the 1970s and the town was removed and the property added to the Valsetz Tree Farm in 1984.

Falls City School

Falls City School was part of the Rural Training Program for only three years, 1925-1928. This center was a residential placement for Oregon Normal School students. With numerous renovations and upgrades since the 1920s, the school building is still in use today.

Falls City originated as a lumber-town and once supported three lumber mills. Unlike Valsetz, the town was not owned by the timber industry so when the mills were shut down, Falls City’s closer proximity to Dallas, Monmouth and Salem allowed it to become a commuter town for employment.

Fairplay Rural Center

Fairplay School was located between Corvallis and Albany on Highway 20. The first school, a one-room, white frame building, was constructed in 1913, but burned down after several years. A second school of the same design replaced it. Fairplay School was part of the Rural Training Program from 1925-1930. This center was a residential placement for Oregon Normal School students. A three-room building replaced the original building in 1948, and with further additions, is the site of the current Corvallis Waldorf School. For more information about the Corvallis Waldorf School visit,


The Norm, (1922). Oregon Normal School

ONS Bulletin, (1916). Oregon Normal School Bulletin.

Rural Centers Bulletin. (1922). Oregon Normal School.

Wall, Lucille Eugenie. The Growth and Development of Practice Teaching Facilities at the Oregon Normal School. Unpublished Thesis. WOU Archives.


The primary research for this information was prepared by Jerrie Lee Parpart, WOU Archives Coordinator, and edited by Stewart Baker and Hannah Hardcastle, Institutional Respository & Systems Librarian and WOU student employee, respectively. Scanning of the images was completed by Marta Herring, WOU Archives student employee.

Original Omeka ID: /collections/show/8