Holding on to History at the Wiley Rock Museum

Brooks Jones, Shay Pomroy, Nicole Piner, Marilyn Pearson – back row, Sally DePra and Yvonne Westoff


The museum serving Wiley has been closed for several years, but under the efforts of Wiley High School social studies teacher, Nicole Piner and several students, the museum plans to open for periodic viewing.

School Bell

With permission from the current caretaker of the rock schoolhouse, Sally DePra, Piner and several high school students, Brooks Jones, Shay Pomroy and Kolton Cass, work got underway on the museum last January.  The schoolhouse was built in 1938 under the Works Progress Administration, one of several construction projects in the nation during the Great Depression.   Piner said her interest in the school began after having used the building as an alternative classroom following the fire at the current school and some classes had to be shifted to available space throughout the town.

Original Slate Backboard

Piner said she and her three students started at square one, “We began by just cleaning up the room of all the accumulated dust from past years and after that, we started sorting all the documents and how they related to the artifacts on display.  It seemed like every time we started sorting, we’d be surprised by new findings.”

Commemorative Plaques

DePra said she was happy that work on the schoolhouse and museum is being carried forward, given how much time and effort Carla Scranton and Ruthie Esgar contributed to its restoration and eventually was saved from demolition in 2000 as a community center, mostly through the efforts of the Arkansas Valley Heritage and Arts Partnership.

Community Meeting Room is Available

The students enjoyed the historical aspect of their efforts but were surprised how quickly time would past during their classroom session, “We used to call it a time-sucker, as we thought we spent five minutes on our work to realize, a lot of time had passed, commented Piner.”

Brooks Jones, a senior, said he was interested in some of the agricultural aspects of the classes from decades ago as well as the World War displays, “I was learning about Wiley’s history and all that went into the making of the community,” the senior said.

Shay said her interests were also similar, “I was interested in the comparisons of the ‘now and then’ aspects of how they farmed and ranched decades ago and how it’s done now.”  Shay is a junior at Wiley and plans to stay involved in the work in her senior year.

Audrey Black, a former student, now in Grand Junction, was also involved in the clean-up work and related her interest in how Wiley started as a small community but grew into a much larger town and then eventually downsized in population over the years.

Piner joked that they found so many new items in their research that Sally DePra may have been adding new items to the museum without their knowledge.

Tours for students and teachers were offered this past summer during the final weeks of school and the work at the museum has become a part of classroom study with the intent to host a community history night to add to their knowledge of the museum from first-hand recollections and donated artifacts of Wiley.

Work progresses in small increments, given the amount of time Piner and her students can spend, but it’s time well spent as they explore the past years of their community in order to add to its future.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: Consumer Issues

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