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My meandering drive into the bluff roads on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River last Saturday led me to the tiny town of Otterville.

There I found Hamilton Primary School.

It's an attractive stone building, quite distinct from all the small, siding-covered, homes that make up the rest of this two street town.

There's some history to this schoolhouse. It dates back to 1836, but was extensively rebuilt in 1872 after a fire. Its founder was Dr. Silas Hamilton, a local physician, who acted to free a number of slaves that he presumably bought out of bondage. One of these, George Washington, became successful enough to establish a scholarship for African-Americans. This memorial statue to Dr. Hamilton was funded by Mr. Washington, a moving mark of gratitude.Fortunately, as is happening to more and more buildings as America wakes up to its historical heritage, this building is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Such a listing would be taken for granted in Europe, but it's a recent and very welcome development – one that I've witnessed during my time here.

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