It stands on a knoll overlooking the Black Vermilion River in Marshall County, Kansas. Itís not a one room school house --- itís a two room school house. The building is made of cut limestone and inscribed over the entrance is the following: "Dist No. 1, 1870."
A. G. Barrett (my great grandfather) first came to Marshall County in 1854 to scout the Kansas Territory for the Ohio Land Company. He came back again in 1856, but it was 1858 before he brought his family to Kansas.
His wife Mary was concerned about education for her six children. She rode horseback around the neighborhood soliciting funds and support for a school. The first school was a 14 by 20 foot wooden structure built from lumber sawed at Barrettís Mill and completed in 1859. In 1870, a one room stone building was erected and in 1896 a second stone room was added, to accommodate a total of 80 students.
There were four grades in each room, with one teacher for each room. Each room had a Round Oak stove for heat, and for awhile I had the job of coming to school early during the winter months to build a fire in both stoves. My first earnings were 5O cents per month from each teacher.
The school house was also a social center. School board meetings were held after school hours and once a month there were Parent-Teacher meetings (PTA). We always had a Christmas program that included a Christmas tree with many decorations that included lighted candles. (It's a wonder the place never burned down.)
A last day of school program was held the last weekend in April. It was a carry-in basket dinner followed by awards, recitations and plays by the children. Later, the boys challenged the fathers to a baseball game while the girls played their own games, and the mothers visited while they cleaned up after the basket dinner. On one occasion, the baseball game was suspended because it was snowing so hard we couldn't see the ball. It was on April 30th --- my birthday.
To raise money there was always a box supper, where all the ladies brought specially prepared box lunches tied with beautiful ribbons. The boxes were not identified and were auctioned off to the highest bidder. It wasn't uncommon for two or more rival male bidders to pay a high price to share the box lunch prepared by their current lady-love. The money raised was used to purchase extra teacher supplies for the classroom.
This country school, like most others in those days, lacked many of the niceties of these modern days. However, there was a camaraderie that prevailed that seems to be missing today. We learned our ABC's, but, more than that, we learned that our success or failure in life depended pretty much on our actions, or reactions, to situations we faced. We also learned that there were results of our deeds or misdeeds, and we couldn't blame it on our learning disabilities, our low IQ or something else. We took whatever the Lord gave us and did the best we could with it.
across the road from the Barrett homestead.
(Editor's note: George Schiller's children heard tales of his trudging miles and miles through bitter cold and snowdrifts every day to school, when in fact, it was less than a block, door to door.)