One of the photos that I’ve gotten the most questions about that people see at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home and Museum in Mansfield, Missouri is the large log cabin with Rose Wilder Lane Hall on it near the end of the exhibit. This building is part of the Freedom School, a Libertarian institute in the 1960s which Rose Wilder Lane strongly supported. She wrote to Herbert Hoover urging his support, which he politely declined, and donated money herself. She also spoke at the school and the only known recording of Rose Wilder Lane’s voice, sadly no longer available for sale, was a copy with a lot of background noise of a speech she made there.
Connie Neumann, a fellow LIWLRA board member, has made a study of Laura connections to her state of Colorado and has even tracked down the former Freedom School campus. The Rose Wilder Lane Hall still stands, but is now part of a private camp and is not available for visits.
I wanted to share a history of the school I found in the 1964 Bulletin from the Freedom School. It’s located outside Colorado Springs, Colorado. This particular volume has a lot of photos of the camp besides the history piece I’m sharing below, so watch for a copy if you’re interested in the camp. I especially like that they thought a librarian was essential and that the school is located near Plum Creek. Reading it now, it makes me sad that they never did accomplish the goal. Eventually the school will move to California and then seems to disappear completely. This is still an active line of inquiry so if anyone else knows anything about the school or has even seen of their certificates, please share. See the exact text from 3 sections of the bulletin below, paragraph breaks are as in the original.
Freedom School Story
In the fall of 1955, Mr. and Mrs. Robert LeFevre bough the original 32o-acre site for the Freedom School. The LeFevres, their son, and the present school treasurer, registrar, and librarian moved into yellow frame cabins located near the banks of Plum Creek, which winds its way down Stone Canyon.
Mrs. LeFevre stayed on the property which the entire future staff worked in Colorado Springs and Denver. Each returned to the mountain home at night after work to take on the task of building, with his own hands, a school. All paid board and room to the school.
It was these payments which, month after month, added up to enough money so that logs and cement could be bought. To tell others about the school, a direct mail program was started.
The school was incorporated, in 1956, as a non-profit, educational institution. A four-figure gift from Mr. Reno Sales in April, 1956, convinced the staff that others felt as they did.
Volunteers came from nearby communities to help with the construction and finally, on June 3, 1957, the school opened for the first class. Four students were enrolled.
Small contributions trickled into the Freedom School. When these were added to the money the staff paid for board and room, a small dormitory building for four students could be constructed (Deer Haven).
It was during the construction of another dormitory cabin (Tall Pines) that Freedom School was remembered in the will of Mrs. Elizabeth Nicklaus….the first really substantial money the school had received. Part of this money made possible a new two-story building (Reno Sales Lodge), which contained a classroom and accommodations for eight students.
Today most of the staff members work full time at the school. Nine additional people have joined the permanent staff and three buildings have been added to the school complex, the largest of which is the three-storied Rose Wilder Lane Hall. The building is named in honor of Rose Wilder Lane, author of “The Discovery of Freedom,” who in the early development of the school made a crucial mortgage payment.
As of October, 1963, over 600 students had complete courses at the Freedom School. In addition, Mr. LeFevre has talked before groups across the country and conducted special executive seminars on and off campus.
The president is looking forward to the day when there will be a four-year liberal arts college and graduate school on the present 526-acre site located in the rugged foothills of the Rockies.
The Freedom School complex at present covers approximately twenty acres of its heavily wooded 526-acre campus. From a valley floor of 7,000 feet, the campus rises sharply with attractive lodges set at different levels. Eleven verandas give the student a panoramic view of distant buttes of western plains or rapidly raising hillsides studded with towering pines.
Imaginatively constructed log buildings, with distinctly modern facilities, offer the student an appropriate setting for philosophical inquiry.
The Freedom School provides an intellectual avenue toward economic truths. From the primary and basic definitions of truth and freedom the student moves rapidly through the philosophy of socialism, communism, and interventionism to individualism.
The course of instruction is intensive and demanding. It isn’t a “snap” affair. Ideas presented are far reaching and challenging. To complete the course successfully, it is not necessary to agree with the points of view offered. But individual effort is necessary even though conformity is neither required nor sought.
The school does not issue credits or diplomas for its two-week course. Certificates of proficiency are presented to those who successfully complete these courses. No certificates are awarded during Workshop attendance.
UPDATED October 19 2016: I did a read through and I didn’t see any need for update. I did add my signature block.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.