During World War II, the Scattergood Friends School, located east of West Branch, served as a refugee camp. This exhibit was generously donated and became a permanent part of our museum in 2009. It is the only permanent Scattergood exhibit in existence.
Scattergood was originally a Quaker boarding school founded in 1890. It closed in 1931 because of the financial strife of the great depression and the correlating reduction in student enrollment. Before the start of the second World War a group of Young Friends in the area reached out to the national council with the suggestion of opening the school as a place for displaced Europeans to come and farm during the summer months. At the same time the tensions in and around Germany, who blamed the Jewish people and others for their poor economy since their defeat in World War I, were increasing greatly. Many people deemed it necessary to leave their homeland to ensure their safety and freedom. The Quakers were assisting as many of the refugees as they could by sending them to communities in Europe, north eastern America and Cuba to name a few. The national council of Quakers took the idea of the Young Friends and decided in January 1939 that Scattergood would become a hostel to those displaced by the political upset in Europe. The hostel then operated for four years, closing in 1943. During this time the hostel served 185 guests: men, women, children, those of Jewish faith, Christian faith and even agnostic. It was run by a strictly volunteer crew of various backgrounds, faiths, and coming from locations around the globe. In 1943 the hostel closed its doors but the facility and grounds became a school once again and is in operation today.
Scattergood was very unique not only because of its location but also because of the operational structure of the facility. It was the only rural location for displaced Europeans. The Quakers thought the location good because the quiet rural life would offer an opportunity for the guests to heal mentally and emotionally while adjusting to their new homeland. Though antisemitism did exist in the mid west and even in the communities of Cedar County it wasn't as strong as in the metropolitan areas of the Eastern United States where jobs were very scarce and immigrants were often blamed for the shortage. Each resident and volunteer contributed to the functioning of the hostel community. Chores, everything from sweeping to farming, were shared by all. All of the guests were led through a strongly regimented curriculum of English language and American culture by the volunteers to help them acclimate to their new homeland as quickly as possible. All of the guests of Scattergood were able to go and live successfully after leaving Scattergood. Most took jobs of service such as teaching and social work.