The German One Room Schoolhouse
Eliazbeth Borkholder asked me recently for historical information about the German one room schoolhouse that was moved from her Amish neighborhood. It is holding an Amish historical society meeting in March just down the road from Amish Acres.This is what I gave her.
The oldest Amish one-room school house in the Nappanee area was acquired by Amish Acres in 2004 for relocation, preservation, and restoration. It sat less than a mile from the farm since it was built in the circa 1880s. It is now used for interpretation to school groups. The school joins the original horse-drawn school bus that area children rode to and from the nearby Weldy township school. The building was never used as a graded school instead providing German instruction several afternoons a week following regular school in one of the nearby township schools. It has now been visited by several former students and a long time school master who found it restored as they remembered it.
The 20' by 44' structure features an entry way with boys and girls cloak rooms on either side of the front door. Lunch buckets were also kept in these rooms. A wood burning stove sat in the middle of the single school room where its stove pipe rose to a suspended brick chimney. Two rows of two-student desks were on either side of the stove. The girls sat on the left side facing the teacher, the boys on the right. Although remodeled, added onto and converted into a horse barn in its later years, original plaster walls and ceilings plus wood plank wainscot provide clues required for an authentic restoration of the building to be completed.
Numerous former students remember the interior layout and desk design so that recreation of the school is accurate. Ivan Hochstetler who has moved barns and log houses for Amish Acres over the decades attended German school there in 1935 for three years. He recalled a spelling bee was held in the evening once a week. The "black board" was simply the plastered wall painted black. The ceiling, side walls and wainscoting were all originally painted a light blue. Oil lamps hung from hooks in the ceiling to light the building in the evenings. The school was surrounded on three sides by a horizontal board fence. There was a coal and wood shed to the east of the school. Two outhouses were located south of the building. Ivan remembers that the school sponsored a spelling bee on Thursday nights for students and their families that included a pot luck supper.
Marie Redman, whose family built the round barn that was moved to Amish Acres to become The Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres, “taught” school for a number of years after it was restored on the historic farm. She wrote in the visitors' log she kept, “Visitors from every state in the U.S. plus Canada, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Egypt, England, Finland, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Korea, Lebanon, Mexico, Nepal, Norway, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Puerto Rico, Romania, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, and Ukraine signed a tablet in the school last summer!”