The Water Valley Schoolhouse, a Testament of Truth

The Water Valley Schoolhouse, which now sits on our ranch in Cheyenne County, originally sat several miles down Sand Creek, about six and a half miles northeast of Chivington and was last used as a school nearly one hundred years ago. By the time I was about ten-years-old in the early 1960s, it was an empty deteriorated building. 

The Water Valley Schoolhouse on our ranch in Cheyenne County. The iron fence was once around the old Kiowa County Courthouse in Eads.


Having grown up near Water Valley, my family drove by the old townsite when we took the longer route to the Chivington Friends Church. ‘It was a change of scenery,’ my dad said. Either route was an endless and monotonous prairie, scattered with sagebrush—only interrupted by an occasional soapweed. The houses in this fifteen-mile stretch could be counted on one hand.  

I was just a kid when I saw the derelict one-room schoolhouse on the edge of the road and was intrigued by it. I dreamed of moving it to our ranch. In the early 60s, I made a pictorial leather carving of it for a Chivington Indians 4-H Club project from a photo I had taken.

The only building left to mark the Water Valley townsite, the schoolhouse—originally twelve feet by sixteen feet with one window on each side and one window on the back. Many years ago, an eight-foot addition to the rear of the building added one window to each side.

Mary Rehm Buck Forsyth, Andy McCracken, Doug McCracken, Clara Pickett Gereke, and Lois McCracken(?) Nancy McCracken Walker was likely the photographer. Mary and Clara both taught at the school. Doug attended school there. Mrs. Buck was my second grade teacher at Eads and Mrs. Gereke was one of my junion high teachers at Eads. One of our dreams is to reunite the merry-go-round with the school. If you know where it’s at, please let us know.

Clarence Woelk saved the schoolhouse from its demise when he moved it to Sheridan Lake for his roadside history park in the ’80s. His daughter Zelpha knew of my interest in it—a deal was made. Sheri and I moved it to our ranch on November 14, 2016, now ten miles up the creek from its original location.

We Found the Lost Sand Creek Site, Chuck Bowen and Mike Bowen
The Water Valley Schoolhouse on its way to our ranch in 2016.

The schoolhouse sat in the center of the 1887 Water Valley townsite, in the center of four sections allotted for the town. The iron fence was once around the old Kiowa County Courthouse in Eads. The Elgin windmill was on the ranch when my grandpa bought it in 1948, probably made in the 30s.

Several years ago I added a potbelly stove that can keep the building quite warm. I’ve also added kerosene lamps and school desks from the era. 

The location of Water Valley proved invaluable to our Sand Creek discovery. Some in academia and the National Park Service claimed we found the New Chicago townsite. Fortunately for us, the Water Valley Clarion newspaper documented the location of Water Valley and a 1917 issue of the Kiowa Couny Press documented New Chicago was two miles north, three miles east of where NPS claimed I found New Chicago. The spot on our family ranch the NPS claimed was New Chicago was actually littered with artifacts that could only be from the Sand Creek battle, not a proposed townsite that never came to fruition. 

One-room schools were steadfast in teaching values. The Water Valley Schoolhouse stands as our monument of truth and honesty. 

You can read more about the schoolhouse, Water Valley and our discovery in our book, We Found the Lost Sand Creek Site, which can be purchased here. If you purchase through Amazon, please consider leaving a star rating and review. 

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