One Room Schoolhouse

By Denis LeDuc

Fall has arrived with its soft golden light. Trees are beginning to turn color, laughter is heard from the school yard at recess, and the school bell rings – calling the children back from recess and from the long recess of summer. Vigorous games of duck-duck-goose, leapfrog, and snap-the-whip, or perhaps baseball, come to an end. The children, divided by boys and girls, line up at their respective entrances under the sharp eye of their teacher, take their desks, all in a single room, and resume their lessons such as reading, spelling, ciphering as well as lessons for life.

Perhaps our only experience of the one-room schoolhouse was from reruns of “Little House On The Prairie” or stories of our grandparents, but the one-room school is older than America itself, and there was a time when almost every child was taught in a one-room school with a single teacher for all elementary grades. When pioneers settled an area, one of their first actions was to organize and build a school to educate their children.

Older children would help younger ones with their lessons, or be assigned chores such as bringing in water, or wood to feed the potbellied stove. Younger students might be tasked with erasing the blackboard, or dusting the erasers. All the students would help sweep and dust the classroom. Often bright students would move ahead quickly, overhearing the work of the older ones.

The portrait above shows the Mulvey School in Fraser in about 1910. It was located on 15 Mile Road, between Utica Road and Garfield. Notice the separate entrances for boys and girls that would have led to separate cloakrooms, the flagpole and rope, the chimney for the stove, the barn, and woodpile at the back. There is a cupola though no bell can been seen, and the schoolhouse is of simple clapboard construction. One boy has ridden his horse to school and many of the girls have ribbons in their hair. This was the local one-room schoolhouse for the area, one of maybe a dozen throughout our county at the time.

This photo is courtesy of the Fraser Historical Commission. Its goal is to preserve the history of Fraser including the Baumgartner House Museum and Depot at the corner of Kelly Road, in Fraser.

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