Driving along County Road 525E in northern Jackson County, you take a few bends in the road, and just like that, you’re out of Bobtown.
The community used to have a school and a store, and everyone knew each other because they were related.
Today, the school and store are gone, and the people there don’t know each other like they once did.
“I don’t think anybody is related anymore. Before, you had to be related to live there,” Diane Isaacs, 67, said, laughing.
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Harlan Dringenburg said when the community lost its school in 1939, it just wasn’t the same.
“Used to, we knew everybody in the whole community,” the 89-year-old said. “I’m not living right in Bobtown anymore, but I don’t know everybody in Bobtown. I think when you lose your school, you lose that contact with people.”
Neither Isaacs nor Dringenburg live in the heart of the community like they did when they were growing up, but they are just a few miles away from those bends in the road.
Bob Chasteen owned the grocery store, and the town was named after him.
While Dringenburg doesn’t recall going to the store, he fondly remembers attending the one-room schoolhouse. One teacher taught all of the students, and Dringenburg said he was one of four kids in his grade.
“We’d have recess in the morning and afternoon for 15 minutes,” he said. “The kids wouldn’t be the only ones out there playing. The teacher would be out there with us, and they would play games with us. When the water (from the fork of White Creek) got up, it would get up to the back of the school and flood. If it froze in the wintertime, we would go out there and skate on that, and the teacher would be right there with us.”
He also remembers the school Christmas programs. He said the whole community went to those, not just the students and their parents.
“All of the kids took part in it that were in school. We all learned pieces, and we would sing songs,” he said. “It was a Christian Christmas program. Most of us went to church at that time in that area.”
An area church’s annual picnic also was a big draw.
“My folks went there all the time to that picnic, but they were Lutheran, and this was Methodist. That didn’t make any difference. We all just went,” Dringenburg said.
“I remember looking forward to that. That was our big Bobtown fling,” Isaacs said, smiling.
Isaacs said her parents spent most of their school years at Bobtown, but it was closed by the time she reached school age, so she went to nearby White Creek Lutheran School. That was a two-room schoolhouse with Grades 1 through 3 in one room and Grades 4 through 8 in the other.
“If you could get your lessons done, you could listen in on the teacher teaching the older ones,” she said. “If that was your subject that you happened to like, you could pick up a lot.”
Bobtown’s school was open from 1897 to 1939, and then the building was moved to nearby Cortland. It now serves as a grainery.
The closed because of the push for consolidation at the time.
“All of these one-room schools all through the county were being closed,” Dringenburg said. “They wanted everything bigger.”
From eighth grade on, Dringenburg attended classes at Cortland until graduating in 1944. Isaacs attended Cortland High School until it closed in 1965, and she finished out at Seymour High School.
At Cortland, Dringenburg said one teacher taught two grades. It was still that way when he returned there to teach after graduating from Indiana University.
After serving with the Army, he returned to teach at Cortland until it closed, and he finished his career at Seymour. He retired in 1991 after 43 years of teaching and manned the family farm near Bobtown.
Isaacs spent some time overseas while her husband served during the Vietnam War, and they returned home in 1970 and built a home three miles east of Bobtown. She’s retired after 18 years as a teacher’s assistant at Zion Lutheran School in Seymour.
While she no longer lives in Bobtown, Isaacs said it’s nice to know that the house in which she grew up is still standing. He brother lives next to it.
“That means a lot,” she said.
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Did you grow up in one of the small communities in Jackson County? Do you still live there or close by? If so and you would like to share your story, email [email protected] or call 812-523-7080.