Edmond home to first schoolhouse
by Bobby Anderson
Nestled between a Jiffy Lube and a strip mall, one of the most historic buildings in the state sits quietly along a bustling Second Street in Edmond.
Walking inside the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse is like taking a step back in time. Thanks to care and painstaking renovation, the earliest one-room schoolhouse in Oklahoma feels like a piece of undisturbed history.
For people like Beverly Terry, it’s a labor of love.
Terry is an Edmond High grad and prior officer for the Edmond Historic Preservation Trust. She enjoys seeing the looks today’s school children have when they walk inside for a tour.
“It shows how hard it was for kids those days,” said Terry, tugging on the school bell which chimed twice daily. “A lot of kids in this area rode goats to school.”
HISTORY BEHIND THE HISTORY
On a summer day in 1889, Jennie Forster marched into Brown’s Lumber Company and ordered enough lumber on credit to build a schoolhouse for the new village of Edmond, Oklahoma Territory. The Ladies School Aid Society, consisting of 15 women, had been formed and the ladies were determined to have a proper school for the local children.
Jennie (Mrs. George) Forster was the president of the society. Among the other members were Mrs. L.G. Wahl, Mrs. C.A. Dake, Mrs. Frank Kiedrowski, Mrs. E.W. Erisman, Mrs. H.H. Moose, Mrs. Peter Wilderson, Mrs. J.J. Shen, Mrs. Alvin Ricketts, Mrs. John Pfaff, Mrs. Henry Morrison and Mrs. F.S. Peck.
The women set to work immediately to earn the money to pay back the lumber bill. They badgered their husbands, as well as the other town merchants and citizens. Mrs. Forster joked in later years she was sure the businessmen “felt like running out the back door when they saw me entering the front door.”
The 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse on 124 E. Second Street is possibly the last remaining original 1889 structure in Edmond. The Historic Schoolhouse was restored as an Oklahoma Centennial Project by the Edmond Historic Preservation Trust.
The State of Oklahoma granted the renovation project $75,000.
The Schoolhouse re-opened to the public on April 15, 2007. The first class of students to visit the historic site on the first Schoolhouse Field Trip was in the fall of 2008.
Many people drove past this historic site when it was the boarded up Sanders Camera Shop, not realizing they were seeing and passing by a historic building.
This special restoration project was carried out due to the efforts of the local Trust, local historian Lucille Warrick and a group of concerned citizens. Major restoration uncovered the original blackboards buried underneath the interior walls.
A sample was sent off to a lab in New York and the results showed the blackboard material was a combination of burnt sweet potato and milk.
During a five-week summer period, students are able to come for authentic school activities designed to teach them what it was really like to go to school more than a century ago
The building was a schoolhouse for just 10 years. Even an extra room in back couldn’t keep up with the tremendous growth the territory was experiencing.
The building was sold and passed through four different families. The Sanders family was the last owner, using it for both a residence and business.
Codes of conduct for teachers – who earned a monthly sum of $32 – are framed on the wall.
Here’s a few:
· You will not marry during the term of your contract.
· You are not to keep company with men.
· You may not loiter downtown in ice cream stores.
· You may under no circumstances die your hair.
· You must wear at least two petticoats.
· You may not ride in a carriage or automobile with any man unless he is your father or brother.
Preservation Trust members like Terry are walking history books, not only about the schoolhouse but the town in general.
“People don’t realize there were no trees at all in Edmond,” Terry said. “One of the guys bought 2,000 trees and let everyone have trees to put around their property.”
The Schoolhouse is open to the public the first two Saturdays of each month from 1-4 p.m. and by appointment at 405-715-1889.