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The Hunt for One Room Country Schoolhouses, continued...

Rhinelander and the CCC Museum

The next school on our self-designed tour was in Rhinelander at the old logging museum, now called Pioneer Park, where we had taken the children often, not only because it was an educational experience for them but because it was free. With ten children, free is important. The museum had been expanded to include the one-room school and a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) museum. Both were excellent and fascinating for different reasons.

In the CCC museum, there were photos of many of the camps of the area, including Camp Blue Lake which was my husband's camp when he was nineteen and a city boy turned forester. He often told of his year as a firefighter, librarian (since he was known for his love of books) and operator of the canteen where mostly candy bars were sold. It was an important part of his life.

The interior of the school building is an excellent replica and typical of one-room rural schools including the crockery bubbler which was thought of as almost avant-garde in our own schoolhouse. Mrs. Hughes, the docent, herself a former teacher, welcomed us and pointed out the school's itinerant history from the town of Newbold, then to the town of Pine Lake and finally, its move to Pioneer Park in 1975. Along the way it was Newhaus School, then Doyle School, then Pine Lake School #2 until it finally settled down to Rhinelander School Museum.

The docent in the CCC Museum who doubles as docent in the school, a lady named Lillian, was a treasure house of information on both the camp and school museums. She had been a rural school teacher for many years having had two years of normal school, as it was called, before beginning her career as a teacher. She planned to continue her education at the university but World War II, fate, and a growing family interfered and she never did earn a four-year degree which she regretted. She had a brother who was also part of Camp Blue Lake and she also taught many years in the northern, rural schools, so Lillian was a font of information about both schools and the camps.

From the Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce, we found the name and phone number of a woman who seemed to have keys to our next school in Merrill down the road about forty miles from Rhinelander. Armed with enthusiasm and wet in a warm, summer rainstorm, we headed south. After calling our contact person who gave us the name and number of the curator of the school, we found the school building was not open and had not been open all summer. The Brickyard School, as it is called, was located on the 4-H Fairgrounds in a most unattractive setting and was boarded up. We drove around the fairgrounds hoping to find someone who looked official enough to have a key for the school but without success. We took a few pictures of the school and decided to head for home and try another day. The day had turned very wet and cold and our spirits were likewise dampened to have come so far without success.


(left) The original school at Farmington now serves as the Town Hall

We learned that it would be wise to somehow try to determine if a particular building was open before driving fifty or a hundred miles on the assumption that it was just waiting for two adventurers to pay it a visit. However, that was not always easily done since not every school is located in a town large enough to have a Chamber of Commerce. In fact, one school was available only through contact with the mayor of the town


We licked our wounds for a while and the next Sunday (after determining through Jerry Apps', book that we might be more successful at finding an open school), we drove to Horicon, Wisconsin to the Satterlee Clark House grounds. Rather we were led to the place by a young man in a blue truck who offered to guide us when he heard us asking directions at the local Kwik Stop. We were unfailingly helped and directed in all our searches by someone who was interested in why two ladies of advanced years were trying to track down schools of even more advanced years. This young man with the blue truck told us of his aunt who taught in a rural school for thirty years. After the young man waved us in the direction of the Satterlee Clark House, he sped off.

The Horicon School was originally a log building located in Hustiford. By the time it was decided to move it to Horicon, it had been replaced by a brick structure which was moved brick by brick, each brick numbered and reassembled in its present location in 1993. One of the outstanding features of this school was its blackboards, the original boards which are covered with chalk writing, the most interesting one being "Reggie ___ is a pickle". On one of the shelves, this writer found a geography text which she had used in her own one-room school in fourth grade. Memories! Memories! On the teacher's desk was a laminated copy of a news article describing the history of the school. Since she did not have another copy, the docent agreed to make a photocopy of the article and mail it to us. Her grandfather had once owned part of the land just below the hill outside the school building and her interest in the whole museum was very apparent.

As soon as the docents or guides at the schools we visited learned we had also attended one-room schools, they were anxious to tell their stories of their experiences with the schools. When they learned that one of us had graduated from a country school and the other was still teaching, their interest was even greater.


(left) Two entry doors, presumably separate entrances for boys and girls.

One person told us of her Grandma Murphy who graduated from a one-room country school. She took some sort of test given by the county, passed it and was hired to teach in the school at the age of thirteen. Some of her students were older than she since farm kids, boys especially, were often far behind because they were needed to work on the farm. A docent in one of the schools we visited told us of her grandfather who began teaching at age fifteen where the male students had been harrassing the female teachers by locking them out of the school, refusing to do the necessary chores that made the school run, etc. This young teacher managed to not only get them to behave but he organized them into baseball teams to compete against each other.

Another story was told of a young woman who came to her one-room school where many of the students towered over her and were known to have caused a lot of trouble for previous teachers. She came to class with a gun shoved into the waistband of her skirt and when one of her students refused to remove his hat, she shot it off his head. This is either a tall tale or it happened in the wild west. The story goes that she did not have a "speck of trouble" for the rest of her time at that school.

Another school we located close to home was located n Historic Old Falls Village in Menomonee Falls at Highway Q and Pilgrim Road. The little docent was about 12 or 13 and became interested in guiding visitors around the school and a nearby log cabin when she visited the village as a girl scout. She was dressed in a long, calico type dress and, with her demure manner, was very much as girls of that time were pictured. She was not playing a role as occasionally historic villagers do but was what she seemed. The building itself held two types of student desks, one style from the 1800's and a more modern style from the 1900's.

The adult guide to the rest of the village, Helen Strehlow, was 74 years old and had grown up in the area. She was articulate and decidedly not shy. She told us of a teacher in the area who could give us a lot of information, where the teacher lived and that her name was Hortense Martin Gettlemann. She explained how the buildings in the area came to be located in the historic village, how the various tools were used, how the buildings were changed from their original design and why, and then told us that we "made her day". She invited us to the nearby ice cream place which we declined, being pressed for time. When we all got back to the parking lot, she slid out of her flowered, long, cotton skirt right there next to her big red truck and climbed into it having pronounced it a "perfect old lady car" since it was full of "automatic buttons and things to press".

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