Rain Swept and Abandoned: The Rocky Ford School, Casey County, Kentucky

The recent spate of rain drenching the Bluegrass has not only made my backyard soggy, but reminded me how frustrating rain can be when you are out in a downpour, trying to photograph historic resources. (Not that I will ever complain about the rain – as a farmer’s daughter, I know better.) Spring rains a few years ago found me battling a monsoon as my trusty field companions and I spied one incredible historic building after another – all on the other side of a swollen and swiftly moving creek.

A rain-swept view of the Rocky Ford School in Casey County, Kentucky.

The battering rain did no favors for the Rocky Ford School, a one-room schoolhouse in northwest Casey County, Kentucky.

Faded with time, but still legible – the school was built in 1896.

The long -abandoned frame building retained it octagonal date marker high in the gable, recording for posterity that the school building dated to 1896.

Interior of the Rocky Ford School.

Despite a partially collapsing roof, and decades of disuse, the blackboard still anchored one end of the schoolhouse interior, with the teacher’s raised platform directly in front of it. Other details remained – the sort of materials that HGTV remodeling shows hawk with zeal – beadboard, shiplap, and batten doors.

A Z-brace batten door inside the school.

In 1892, there were 70 districts in Casey County and 70 school houses. A Kentucky state law, passed in 1894, allowed school district trustees to be fined and prosecuted if they “failed to provide a suitable schoolhouse within a year’s time.”[1] The following standards were issued:

a total value of not less than $150; space of not less than ten feet square for each child of school age in the district; minimum height of ten feet from floor to ceiling; a minimum of four windows; one or more fireplaces with safe flues; and one or more doors with cloaks and keys to be held by the chairman of the district board of trustees, who was responsible for property damage due to neglect. [2]

Not perhaps a raging river, but I still wasn’t going to chance wading across on a cold spring day…

The Rocky Ford School, then, was part of a building campaign in Casey County – dozens of one-story, frame, front gable one-room schools, often located only two to three miles apart. Local historians have done an excellent job of collecting background information on the schools (there were 128 one and two room schools in Casey County at one point in the 20th century), and I helped document 20 of them still standing.  But sadly, these relics of education past are vanishing quickly – time, neglect, and yes, the weather – taking their toll.


[1] Ellis Ford Hartford. The Little White Schoolhouse. (Lexington, Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1977), 16-17.

[2] Hartford, 17.


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  1. Sheila says:

    My grandmother Sallie Ellis attended this school as she lived not far from it. Love having these pics.

    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      Oh that’s great! It’s a beautiful part of Casey County.

  2. David Ames says:


    1. Janie-Rice Brother says:

      I bet you know how hard it is to take pictures in the rain!

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