The History of Scattergood Friends School

Inception to Opening in 1890

Scattergood’s journey from conception to realization was a long one. Quaker pioneers arriving in Iowa from Ohio, known as The Hickory Grove Quarterly Meeting, longed to create a boarding school where their children could receive a “guarded education,” free from "early knowledge of, or contact with, the evils of the world." While initial preparations began in 1870, it was 20 years before Scattergood Friends School would open in 1890. According to early notes, “…the aim of the school is to give a substantial English education, suited to fit the average person for the ordinary duties of life, and at the same time prepare students for higher institutions of learning, yet it is still its distinctive purpose to shield the young from hurtful temptations and distracting tendencies during the character-forming period.” The first student body was exclusively Quaker and consisted of 25 pupils, each of whom paid a full tuition of $100 per year.

In 1917, Hickory Grove Quarterly Meeting left its parent organization, The Ohio Yearly Meeting to become part of the Iowa Yearly Meeting and with that, the ownership of Scattergood Friends School also transferred to the Iowa Yearly Meeting and that ownership continues today. This transition brought about many changes, from the addition of new buildings and fences to a loosening of the dress code for students-girls were no longer required to wear bonnets and boys no longer had to turn in coat collars.

World War II and the Refugee Hostel

In 1929, Scattergood, like the rest of the country, was caught in the wake of the Great Depression. The decision was made to close the school in 1931, with hope it would only be a one-year closure. Unfortunately, Scattergood remained closed until 1938 when the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) suggested Scattergood be utilized as a hostel for European refugees fleeing the Nazis. The campus was renovated and in 1939, the first refugees arrived. Refugees represented various backgrounds and Scattergood was once again operated in the Quaker spirit with which it was conceived. In addition to taking English classes, those living at Scattergood were also expected to take part in work crews as well as helping to grow and prepare their food. The need for the hostel subsided in 1943 and by 1944 Scattergood Friends School was open once again.

See the video about Scattergood Hostel

Moving Forward

The 1960s were a time for reflection and self-assessment for Scattergood, faced with the dilemma of how to integrate the school into mainstream society without losing the community spirit and Quaker values. The idea of a "guarded education" held by Scattergood's early founders came into direct conflict with the social trends of the 1960s. Eventually, students were allowed more freedoms concerning music, dancing, movies, clothes, length of hair, and basic student rights.

Further changes followed in the 1970s when Scattergood, with the help of non-Quaker educators, took part in a self-study resulting in more involvement in the surrounding community, the introduction of month-long service trips and strengthening of the Friends-in-Residence program. Scattergood continued its transformation in the early 1990s by becoming accredited through ISACS (The Independent Schools Association of the Central States), an organization in which Scattergood remains very active.

While the new millennium brought forth many changes for Scattergood such as the addition of technology in the classrooms, a technology program which provides every student with his or her own laptop, addition of online advanced course options and social media marketing, many things have remained the same. Students at Scattergood today continue to take part in the work crew system, attend Collection each morning and Meeting for Worship each week, and play a large role in the growing, harvesting and preparing of their food.  As it has since its inception in 1890, Scattergood continues to offer high quality, Quaker-based college preparatory education in a safe and idyllic setting, preparing students for higher learning as well as for life.

Scattergood Friends School in the 50's