Reflections: Morrow County’s one room schools continue to intrigue

By Evelyn Long - The Sentinel

The one-room schools in Morrow County intrigue me so much that I am writing a second column on the subject.

Reading the book, “The Silent Bell,” by Charles Mosher, I learned there were log cabin schools, more then 60 of them in Morrow County from 1815-1830. The early settlers were determined to provide education centers for their children. Typical of these was the log cabin school constructed in Cardington in 1824.

Made of logs daubed with mud and greased paper for window lighting, students sat on benches made from split logs. The building was heated with a fireplace. The cabin was located just west the railroad, behind the building that was once Zeb Russell’s business. The site was selected because it was near a spring. The school site was moved several times in the village before the Union School was built in 1854.

The Friendsborough School. a log building, was located on the north side of the Delaware and Mansfield Road at the northeast corner of what today is State Route 42 and County Road 9. Later, a one room school was built on that site.

It was a step up when the one-room schools were constructed of more sturdy lumber, with pot belly stoves, desks and windows. There were 130 of these schools in the county. Every school had a belfry from where the bell’s ringing called school to order, to dismiss and for those special events.

I have several photos of one room schools- one from the late Earl Sage is of the students standing in front of the Pompey School, County Road 166 Lincoln Township; another is of students in “D Primary, Cardington,” and one from Ruth Smith Farmer of the Locust Corners School, now owned by Don Lee.

I have two photos given to me by the late Dr. Stanley Brody, one of the students in Shawtown School, 1912 and the other unidentified. I look at the students in these photos and wonder why, in every case, not one youngster had a smile. Were they mesmerized by the camera -uncomfortable because they were cold or had to wait so long for the camera to “snap,” or told “don’t smile!”

Reading the biography of the late Carrie Philbrook, who completed 46 years of teaching in 1956, I learned that she began her career in two one room schools before joining the faculty at Cardington in 1914.

Mosher’s book is filled with personal memories of many students. One of them that he describes is of Miss Philbrook, who had a habit of tossing wash water from the hand basin through an open window. One chilly day she tossed the soapy water out the window onto the head of a young student and her long brown hair.

I remember my mother, a young student at the Gooseheaven School recalling one day looking out the window as her father drove up to the intersection with his horse and wagon and Mother shouted “There’s my dad!”

Mosher names many teachers who overcame the challenges of that era including next to nothing pay, to give our ancestors an education. I am thankful that the early settlers had the foresight to provide their children with an education. I wonder where we would be today if they hadn’t.

Thank you, Mr. Mosher, for writing such an insightful book. It can be found at our county libraries.

By Evelyn Long

The Sentinel

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