Monday, February 28, 2011

Early School Routines

Column sent to Frederick Leader and Frederick Press
August 3, 2010
1902 Horse Creek School at its current site in Frederick's Pioneer Townsite Museum

Horse Creek was typical early School
One of the most popular attractions at the Pioneer Townsite Museum is the one-room Horse Creek School. Current-day school children often visit the school and imagine what it would have been like to attend classes there in the old days.
The school was originally located in the northeast part of Tillman County, four miles north and 7.5 miles east of Manitou. It was built in 1902 and the first term of school was held that year.
There were more than 100 one-room schools like this in the early Tillman County. The territorial governor had laid out plans for rural schools, attempting to have nine sections of land in each school district with the schoolhouse located as near the center as possible. Some of the early school districts had more than nine sections and some less, though, depending on creeks that ran through the school’s area. There were no bridges over the early creeks and children had to be able to walk to school.
The schools served grades one through eight, and were taught by one teacher. They had no electricity and no running water. Every rural school had a well or cistern to provide the drinking water. The cistern was a big hole in the ground, usually about five feet wide, with brick walls and a cover. When rainwater fell on the school building, the water was directed through gutters and pipes into the covered cistern were it was saved for drinking water. This was also how rural people saved water for their homes.
All schoolyards were approximately one acre. Every school had a storm cellar and two outhouses – one for boys and another for girls.
There was no hot lunch program in the early schools. Student lunches were whatever students could bring to eat from home.
The teacher’s only help was what the school children would volunteer to do for them. Children would volunteer to go get coal or water or whatever was needed because they liked to get out of the classroom.
The school day started at 9:00 a.m. Students marched in every morning and stood very straight by their desks. When the teacher greeted the last student through the door, the teacher would go to the front of the room.
The first thing they did was give the flag salute. Next, they had prayer. The teacher and all students who wanted to prayed.
They then quoted scriptures. All teachers tried to help the students learn their Sunday school memory verse for the next Sunday.
They then sang a song. The students could select any songs from the 101 Best Songs for Students songbook.
All teachers believed that students learned by doing. Therefore they read aloud, did spelling lessons orally, and did math on the blackboard.
For discipline, the teachers had a paddle.
In the wintertime, the teacher arrived early at school to start a fire in the school’s stove. Some stoves used coal and others used wood.
A kettle on top of the stove was used to heat water for washing hands.
The early-day teachers were paid anywhere from $18 to $25 a month. The teachers often boarded with a local family.
Horse Creek School was used as a school from 1902 until 1945. The state closed all one-room schools in 1945. By that time many of the one-room school districts had already consolidated to make larger districts.
Also, by the mid-1940s there were fewer families living in the rural school districts. As farmers got tractors they began buying up more land, which left many schools with just one family living on a section of land, whereas there had been as many as 40 families in one district.
Sometime in the early 1940s the North Deep Red Baptist Church, which was located near the Horse Creek School, was destroyed. At that time the church started having services at the school and it continued to meet there after the school was closed. The building served as the North Deep Red Baptist Church until sometime in the 1960s.
It was moved to its current site in Frederick and restored in 1977.
NOTE: Information in this column was provided by Mrs. Frances Goodknight.
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Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society’s board of directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at

1 comment:

  1. I love this article. My mother and most of her 8 siblings attended the school by Otter Creek. She had very fond memories of those days. This article helps me understand better what that experience was like for her. Are you aware of any information about the Otter Creek School? (I believe it was No. 73) I have a photo of it if you're interested in it. Ann Scott,