by Bill Hartman
I grew up in Crawford County and have been interested in the old one-room schools for a
long time. I noticed that some of them were in such poor repair that they were eventually
demolished. It was concerning to me that we were quickly losing some of these relics from the past. Finally I decided recently to look around the county and see how many of them are still standing. I found 18 of them that are not currently being used as private residences and took photos of them. Also there are 12 homes that had originally been one-room schools. Of the 18 that I found, the majority of them were concentrated in the northern townships of our county. Two were found in Lykens Township, three in Chatfield Township, four in Cranberry Township, and one in Auburn Township. Also there are two in Sandusky Township, two in Whetstone Township, two in Bucyrus Township, and one each in Dallas and Tod Townships. Two of them are currently owned by the townships, in Auburn and in Sandusky. Also one in Chatfield Township is owned by a church. In addition, it appears that at least two of them had previously been converted into homes, but were later abandoned.
An excellent resource that I have found on the subject is Rural Schools of Crawford County Ohio, 1820 to 1930 and is my source for much of this article. Prior to reading that book, I did not realize that each of these one-room schools had its own name. All I had known before was the number of the school and the year that it was built, shown in the stone engraving over some of the schools’ doors. One of the more interesting names of the remaining schools is Hogtown, which was a nickname for the village of North Liberty, located at one time just south of Chatfield. It was nicknamed Hogtown because John Henry, who was the founder of the village, was known to shoot the neighbors’ hogs. Also, I learned that the first generation of schools were generally constructed of logs, then later made with a wood frame, and finally of bricks. Generally the brick schools were built in the 1870’s and 1880’s, with some exceptions. The one room school that is being used by Auburn Township was built in 1905. Also the Maple Grove school in Lykens Township is the only remaining school that was built of wood. It was completed in 1876 to commemorate the centennial.
At one point there were over 110 of these one-room schools in Crawford County! There was generally a school every two square miles. In the schools, the students were taught for a total of eight years, though the children could progress upward as they were able. Attendance could be an issue, especially in the summer, due to the requirements of farming. As a result a law was enacted in 1877 that ruled that children were required to be in school for at least twelve weeks per year. The subjects that were taught included: reading, writing, arithmetic, spelling, history, and geography. One of the remaining schools, the Lutheran Nazareth “Schule,” was taught half of the day in English and half of the day in German. Initially the teachers were only required to have had eight years of education and to be at least 16 years old. By 1880, however, Ohio required teacher certification. According to Rural Schools of Crawford County, female teachers were not to wear make-up, dress in a faddish way, court during the week, stay out late at night, or marry. However, there were exceptions. The teacher’s contract always included the clause, “being of good moral character.”
In the early 1900’s, there was increasing pressure to consolidate rural schools. In the Ohio Teacher periodical from 1903, there was reference to consolidation and centralization, stating, “While the plan is rapidly gaining ground in Ohio, much still remains to convince both patrons and teachers that it is a wise and safe policy.” By 1914, the momentum appeared to be firmly in place to consolidate the schools in Crawford County. F. G. Bittikofer, who was the first Crawford County school superintendent, played a large role in spearheading the consolidation process. He had written an article in the Ohio Teacher titled Community Units as School Communities. It was described in 1914 that the townships were essentially functioning as the school districts. He proposed that the new unit of the school district should be the community. He went on to say that fourteen community centers were agreed upon, eight of which were located in the villages and six in the “open country” that would use a rural church as a nucleus. The first of the consolidated schools to open was Lykens School in the Wynford district. Of course there went on to be another round of school consolidation in the early 1960’s. And the cycle goes on. However, we should not forget the one-rooms schools and their significant impact on Crawford County and its history.
Guest blogger, Bill Hartman, is a native of Crawford County and a one-room school enthusiast and photographer. Visit his website at crawfordcountyohiooneroomschools.weebly.com to learn more about his work. He also photographs and documents Crawford County Ohio barns and Crawford County Ohio churches.