ARCANUM — An open house began with the “Pledge of Allegiance” at the one-room Center School house in Arcanum, Ohio, Sunday, September 10.
So many people attended, that an overflow bled into the front yard. The schoolhouse, built circa 1884, was used until the mid 1930s, and sold in 1940. The site is private property, on the farm of Tom and Barb Jackson, but was open for the event, which was part of a self-guided driving tour of other old school houses in Twin and Van Buren Township. The event, led by Arcanum Wayne Trail Historical Society (AWTHS), Inc., Reference Library Coordinator Annette Stewart, featured a lesson on the school’s history, including times, dates, names, and a large amount of detailed history. In addition, guests were treated to colorful stories from past students, historical artifacts and refreshments.
“I just love history and I think it was important to get Tom’s (Jackson) perspective,” Stewart said. “Tom said, ‘This is where it all started’. I read in one of the notes that the school was the community hub for school, church, lectures and get-togethers. That is one reason why the preservation is so important to me. It’s really sad that many of the schools you go buy aren’t even there anymore, or in bad condition. Our historical society (AWTHS) members asked me to do a program a year ago on the old one and two-room schools in Darke County. At that time, it came up to have the open house since Tom was fixing it up. He got excited about it, and started working on it more. “If we don’t take care of the schools, they won’t be here anymore. We want to tell the story while they are here.
Some of the one-room school students were in attendance to share some of their stories. The following were parts of those memories from some former students, including: John Munn, Herb and Bob Anthony, who attended Center School; Glenn Eley, who attended Mt. Summit and Bill Young, whose mother Faye Corwin Burke, taught at Center, Arcanum, Gordon and other schools.
“I creeped out the window, only to find the teacher waiting outside; we tied to a dead mouse and hid it in the teacher’s drawer; a lot of ballgames took place between the schools; there was never a snow day, if we couldn’t walk it, our dad would hitch up a horse and buggy; I started school in 1932 when I moved here. I was in the second grade, in 1932. In 1936, when I was in the sixth grade we were transferred to Arcanum. One thing I thought of that I shouldn’t mention: these grade cards had a line on them with discipline. The teacher reported that I had a a habit of being a whisperer. The other thing was, I had three sisters: two of them went to school the same time I did. The teacher didn’t have to worry about my conduct too much, because my sisters would beat me home, and I got whipped when I walked in the door.”
Bill Young spoke about his mother Faye Corwin Burke, who taught at Center School from 1918-1921. When she was 17, she tested out of school and started teaching the next day.
“My mother said the first day she was here, the school was so rowdy, they had run the teachers off. I heard they dragged a teacher out of here and almost hung him on that oak tree. That teacher resigned, and they couldn’t get anyone to stay. Mother came here the first day and she said she couldn’t even get the kids to come inside the school. She said they were really rough, mean little critters; they were outlaws. She said they would get up and hoot and holler and scream, and she paddled and set them back down. The first day of school, she whipped every boy in this school. My mother was only about 5 foot 1 inch, but she wasn’t afraid of them. The next day one of the dad’s came up in a horse and buggy and asked her to come outside. He said, ‘Did you paddle my boy’s yesterday?’ She said, “I certainly did and I’m going to do it again today, right after you leave. He said, ‘I don’t want you to hurt yourself paddling those boys’. He handed the buggy whip to her and he said, this is what I use on them at home. My mother said, ‘Well I’m not going to use the whip on them.’ But she hung the whip above the chalk board, and she said she didn’t have any problems the rest of the year. My mother laughed about that so many times. They did settle down and she enjoyed teaching here. This dipper here, my mother kept. This is the original gourd she had when she taught, it was out on the well pump. She didn’t use the metal one out there because it would rust and blow away. Just about every kid in the school drank out of this thing. My mother said she really enjoyed teaching. I have a quilt that all of the mothers got together and made for her.”
“I do the program at the historical society, but when I am on-site and in that classroom, it is so neat and different,” Stewart said. “People just have that feel; these kids really sat in the classroom and were really taught here. Some people came from another county, and are thinking of fixing up their school house. We are so happy to inspire other people to preserve their schools.”
According to Stewart, sources of information about the schoolhouse came from: Twin Township Minutes, Plat Maps, Arcanum Newspapers, copies from the scrapbook on Faye Corwin Burke’s collection, Toni Seilers book about “One and Two Room Schoolhouses in Darke County” and old photos and souvenir programs in AWTHS’s collection and students stories.