Belden School


Just a short walk up Old Stage Line Trail, Belden School sits in the Greenspace "common property" in The Galena Territory. Built in 1859, the one-room schoolhouse served the area’s school children until 1943. From then it sat silent in the woods until 2009 when it was restored and reopened.

Today the Belden School offers a historic and lively look into schooldays of yesteryear. Students of all ages can experience the schoolhouse and its programs on chosen Saturdays and at special events June through October. Docents are available to explain the past, present and future of this historically restored one-room limestone schoolhouse.

The school was named after Thomas Belden, an early settler and a school trustee. The structure is located on a thickly wooded hillside flanked by a steep gully on the downhill side. Classes were held in 1943 when small school districts consolidated.

Admission is always free!

2021 Belden School Open House & Special Events Schedule

First and Third Saturday June through October, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m.
*All Open House and special events pending adherence to COVID-19 restrictions*

Remaining 2021 Open House dates - Sept. 18 (with special guests), Oct. 2, & Oct. 16

September 18

Belden School Open House from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

History of Belden School in the 1800s: Local historians and actors will engage visitors with dialogue and stories about life in the late 1800s from noon until 1 p.m.

The public is welcome to attend a unique program hosted by the Belden School Preservation Commission featuring two famous women in U.S. and Galena history, Susan B. Anthony and Mrs. Annie M. Chetlain on Saturday, Sept. 18 at about 10 a.m. at Belden School.
From the desk of Mrs. General A. L. Chetlain…

To my dear family and friends,

I am delighted to announce that I will travel to Galena this coming Saturday day with my dear friend Susan B. Anthony for a special presentation by us at Belden School. The one-room limestone school, built in 1859, serves the local children in the township east of Galena proper.

Ms. Anthony, who resides in Rochester, New York, will travel by train to our home in Chicago, and then the General will escort us to Galena in his private rail car. The timing of this event is fortuitous because the General has important meetings in Galena and Dubuque over the weekend, which allows us to enjoy a wonderful time together while he is engaged in doing what he does.

I have arranged a special fitting session with Mrs. Boggess, my dressmaker, for Ms. Anthony and myself. The shops along Main Street, that I most love, have agreed to extend their Saturday evening hours, too.

We will return to Chicago on Monday and after a proper rest - although she is a woman of tremendous energy and strength - Ms. Anthony will return to New York.

Both Ms. Anthony and I share a strong interest in education and women’s rights, which the General wholeheartedly supports. We are indeed honored to speak before the local community at the school.

The school is located at 52 Heatherdowns Lane in rural Galena, known as The Galena Territory. We will be in attendance from ten o’clock in the morning until Noon approximately, or perhaps a bit later depending on the heat and humidity. We would be delighted to have you attend.

I have enclosed a photograph of Ms. Anthony and myself, taken quite some time ago, in the parlor of Mrs. E. B. Washburne’s beautiful home on Third Street in Galena.

Your devoted correspondent,
Mrs. Annie M. Chetlain

Click for a Timeline of Belden School (1858-present)

1858   One square acre of land in southwest Guilford Township in Jo Daviess County was purchased for $30 by school trustees of the Town of Guilford.
1859   Belden School was built of native limestone at a cost of $900. The school was named after Thomas Beldin (1799-1859), an early settler in the area who also served as a school trustee.
1860   Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. Ulysses S. Grant and Elihu B. Washburne were citizens of Galena. A teacher's salary was $6 per month.
1880   A law was passed in Illinois requiring schoolhouses to have outhouses, so two were built at a cost of $17 each. The boys' outhouse was in the front of the building and the girls' outhouse was in the back.
1926   Belden originally had only one door. In 1926 it became law that schoolhouses had to have another exit door. A new fire door replaced a window on the side of the building.
1943   Small school districts began consolidation and the last classes were held at Belden School.
1955   The schoolhouse and one square acre of land were sold at auction for $25.
1974   The Branigar Organization acquired the school property, surrounding lands and many farms to begin development of The Galena Territory.
1992   The land and schoolhouse were transferred to The Galena Territory Association on July 30, 1992.
2004   A group of Territory residents interested in restoring the building formed The Belden School Restoration Committee. A comprehensive five-year plan was implemented. Through donations, fundraising and grants from the Galena Belle Questers and The Galena Foundation, Belden School was brought to life.
2005   Electric service was brought to the building.
2006   The exterior limestone was tuck-pointed.
2007   Donated items, including desks, a stove and books were acquired. A cabinet, original to the school, was returned to the corner of the classroom.
2008   A new roof and historically accurate windows and doors were installed.
2009   Restoration of Belden School was complete and opened to the public.

Belden School Commission

Belden School is governed by the Belden School Preservation Commission. The Commission consists of volunteers and reports to the Galena Territory Foundation—a 501(c)(3) organization. The Commission meets on the third Friday of the month, February through October in the Owners' Club Lounge.

The original 2009 Belden School Preservation Committee. They are, front row, left to right, Joyce Mondala, and Linda Neissner. Second row, Maureen Fletcher, Vicky Gehling, and Dee Carlson. Third row, Sandy Clark,  Madelynn Voorhees, and Ginger Bartot. Standing, Toni Klingler, and Pat Harte-Naus. 

2021 Belden School Commission Officers: Chair Shelley Halter, Vice-Chair Marla Bernhard, Secretary Susan Hartmann, and Treasurer Sandy Clark. 

Belden School Preservation Commission is growing. We welcome men and women of The Galena Territory to consider joining us. For information about Commission membership please contact Shelley Halter at 815-790-3912.
The Mission of the Belden School Preservation Commission is to recognize and promote Belden School through preservation of the structure and its environs for the benefit and education of future generations.

Special Thank you When local historian Bob Kleckner (1929-2011) rescued old journals from one-room schoolhouses in the area, little did he know that two of those journals would one day provide to a group interested in finding out more about little abandoned Belden School hidden in The Galena Territory.

Find Us: Belden School

Open the first and third Saturday,
June through October
10 a.m. - Noon

52 Heatherdowns Lane in The Galena Territory
Galena, IL 61036