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OHIO Eastern to celebrate 150th Anniversary of the Great Western Schoolhouse

Ohio University Eastern will be hosting a celebration to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Great Western Schoolhouse, along with OHIO Eastern’s 65th Anniversary.  

In the 19th and 20th centuries, most American students attended class in a one-room schoolhouse. The schoolhouse would be filled with area children from grades one through eight. All the children would be taught their academic lessons by one teacher.  Imagine a room lined with rows of children sitting in desks, the youngest children seated in the front, followed by the older children filling the desks in the back of the school room.  

The Great Western School, located on Ohio University Easternʼs campus is one of the few one-room school buildings still standing in Belmont County.  This one-room schoolhouse house was built by the Clark Construction Company in 1870. The school remained open and in use until 1952.

The clay for the hand-made bricks to construct the building were taken from the farm pond. Roof support beams were hand-hewn from trees in the schoolyard. The iron bell, which is housed in the cupola, was cast by the J.B. Foote Company in Fredericktown, Ohio.

“Most of the students who attended the one-room school became productive, life-long citizens in the communities in which they lived, utilizing the skills which were taught in this little one-room schoolhouse,” shared Ann Rattine, Great Western Schoolhouse Schoolmarm.

The school remained in use for 82 years with enrollment fluctuating from as few as 9 students to as many as 70. During this time in history, school was not mandatory, and students were not obliged to be in attendance. Many families needed their children to assist at home or on the farm.

Nancy Wright Easton, a former student recalls a fond memory of her schoolmarm during her years attending class in the one-room schoolhouse.  “I remember when my teacher, Mrs. Goldie Skaggs told my mother to let me wear pants to school instead of dresses all the time. I loved Mrs. Skaggs for that,” she shared.  “I also remember a time when two bad boys kept putting dirt in the water cooler.”

A fellow classmate, Walt Secrest remembers Mrs. Skaggs fondly for the way she controlled the classroom, and he attributes the coursework for his career choice. “The math classes, I believe are why I became a CPA, certified public accountant,” shared Secrest.

In 1976 as a Bicentennial project, National Trail #348 of the International Questers restored the building after the schoolhouse fell into disrepair following its closure in 1952. The Quester Chapter initiated a concerted effort to preserve local history, maintaining a vital link to local cultural and educational heritage.  

The restoration of this one-room schoolhouse provides guest the opportunity to step back in time and experience what education would have been like for children in the 19th and early 20th centuries when students learned the three Rʼs- Reading, ʻRiting and ʻRithmetic.  The Questers continue to maintain the school, conducting tours and providing hands-on educational classes throughout the year to local school students.  

The Great Western Schoolhouse is one of the historical sites that the Belmont County Tourism Council recommends visiting when tourist plan a visit to Belmont County. Visitors can experience a piece of local academic history that has been preserved. The schoolhouse is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Join us on Saturday, June 18 to celebrate this historic occasion.  The festivities will begin with a historical program that includes presentations by the Incoming Quester President for the State of Ohio, Melissa Reinbold and Schoolmarm, Ann Rattine at 1:00 p.m. in the Shannon Hall Theatre.   An open house will follow with refreshments, flag raising, and period games at the Great Western Schoolhouse on the west side of campus at 2:00 p.m..  The schoolhouse will be open for guided tours and former students will be onsite to share personal recollections from the past.

This event has been made possible with support from the National Trail #348 of the International Questers and Belmont County Tourism Council.  For more information visit ohio.edu/eastern/65th-anniversary.