After last week’s post on the old observatory at Ohio Wesleyan University, I thought I’d share another Ohio school thing with you. Well, not a school thing, but an actual school!
There’s also canning to do (two pounds of hot peppers are waiting on the kitchen counter and a few pounds of fresh Ohio-grown apples in the pantry). Hence the brevity.
This is Prentiss Schoolhouse No. 8 in nearby Canal Winchester—a really charming little town, the sort you could use to base your charming Americana television drama with a heart of gold in.
Unfortunately, there does not seem to be much information on the schoolhouse itself, and what data there is often conflicts with itself. Still, even the bare facts are good to have! Probably built during the 1850s on an acre of land purchased from a farmer, this one-room red brick schoolhouse once sat on Gender Road. Usually about 15-16 children, enrolled in grades 1-8, attended classes here, taught by one teacher until 1922, when Canal Winchester’s schools were consolidated.
At this time, according the purchase deed for the property, the building reverted back to the farmer’s family since the building was no longer being used as a school, and the little building then served as a residence and various business concerns, including coffin storehouse. It was during this time that the chalkboard, which once covered an entire wall of the building, was replaced by windows and a door (you’ll notice that each end of the schoolhouse is oddly identical).
In the 1970s, the farmland on which the schoolhouse stood was sold to new owners (presumably the developers who turned both sides of Gender into your typical American big-box wasteland) who did not want the old schoolhouse. Happily, they offered it to the Canal Winchester Historical Society, providing the group move it, which they did in 1980. (For the curious, it took ten men to move the 230-ton building.) Prentiss Schoolhouse No. 8 now stands on the edge of Canal Winchester, right on High Street, beside an historic mill and train depot, and serves as a building used by the Historical Society (though the building itself belongs to the village).
If you’re interested in what the days were like for the students and teachers in such schoolhouses, this site provides an overview (though no doubt many of us have memories of Little House On The Prairie in their heads); here’s another, that’s more in-depth and compares such schoolhouses of the American Midwest to those in Norway. I’ve also found a Plan and Grade Book dating to 1890 that tells us what was expected of students in each grade; what do you think was expected of second-graders in 1890? So far as arithmetic,
All possible combinations of numbers from one to twenty. Multiplication tables one through six. Practical problems.
Count by 2s, 3’s, 4s, 5’s to 20 and back to zero, beginning with different numbers.
Find fractional parts of composite concrete numbers below 20.
What about third-graders?
1. Notation, numeration, addition and subtraction to 100.
2. Multiplication tables through five. Division by 2, 3, 4 and 5 of numbers below 20. Problems
3. Find halves, thirds, fourths and fifths of numbers below 20. Multiplication again through 6.
4. Find fractional parts to sevenths of numbers below 70. Tables through 7. Practical problems.
5. Multiplication and fractional parts 8, 9 and 10. Practical problems.
6. Write and read numbers through thousands. Addition and subtraction, involving the process of tens, i.e., borrowing and carrying.
Third-grade history includes names some grown adults in this day and age have not heard of:
1. Study of individuals by means of stories told to and repeated by puplls.
Stories of King Phillip, Leif the fortunate, Columbus.
2. DeSoto, Marquette, Cortez, Champlain.
3. Miles Standish, Raleigh, John Smith, Roger Williams, Nathaniel Bacon.
4. William Penn. Peter Stuyvesant, Lord Baltimore.
5. Washington, Franklin, Henry, Jefferson, Hamilton.
6. Calhoun, John Brown, Summer, Lincoln, A. H. Stevens, Grant, Garfield.
Those third-graders were also expected to “commit to memory selections and parts of selections containing gems of thought” from their reading (sort of Benjamin Franklin-esque, isn’t it?) and properly read world maps that included temperature zones and agricultural information and local flora & fauna, all while keeping their compound fractions straight. Fourth-graders embarked upon world studies as well as the study of Native Americans and a contrast study of Southern planters, Northern planters, slavery, and the differences between free & slave labor.
It was obviously a very different sort of education than most of us received, but considering some of the people who came out of such schools, I’d say they were quite successful. Often, I’ve wondered if hearing the lessons for younger children were a good review/foundational boosting for the older students, and that hearing the lessons for older children whetted the appetite and provided a sort of mental “stretch” for the younger students. Moreover, I’ve no doubt that students helped one another with classwork during the day.
In fact, a few one-room schools remain in operation in New Hampshire!