Saturday, August 1, 2009

The One-Room Schoolhouse-Private Schools

The one room schoolhouse was one of the features of new cities as they grew in the United States. There are a songs, books, quilts, and legends of the one room schoolhouse.

Most villages had small private schools. John Horner established the town of Centerville (now Fremont) and built a small school house there in 1850. It was the first English language school in the Alameda County. Harvey Green and Rev. W. W. Brier both taught here. (Tri-City Voice. Nov. 28. 2007.)

In 1850 the first Alvarado School was a private school in someone's home not a one room school house. (Union City Museum Newsletter, Vol 1 No 2, May 1999) At that time California had few schools so many students had to go to a one room schoolhouse or have school in someone's home. Five students had school on Smith Street in the home of Captain Marsten. They paid tuition of $5.00 a month. In 1860 the school was moved to 4167 Horner street, still in a someone's home. Sometime between 1860 and 1878 the first formal Alvarado School two room building was erected on Water street.

If students went to a one room schoolhouse, families had to pay for a teacher and provide everything needed for the school. Students went all the way though the grades. All grades were taught at the same time by one teacher. Students often sat on a bench. Some schoolhouses had no windows and if they had heat it came from a wood stove. Many schoolhouses had a large bell on the front or the side for the teacher to ring to call the students when school was to start. In fact for many years Alvarado had a big bell. All students either walked to school or rode a horse. Parents provided meals for students and took turns chopping wood for the wood stove. They often had few materials like textbooks. Teachers and students were required to clean the school.

The Privy
Parents were also expected to repair the outhouse where teachers and students used the toilet. It was called the outhouse because it was outside. During pioneer days it was called the "privy". In the winter the privy was freezing and in the summer smelled on hot days. Students were used to this because they all had an outhouse at home. Students who had no shoes walked to school in their bare feet which was difficult in the winter. The following photograph is an example of a one room schoolhouse. If you look closely at the picture you can see the bell over the door.

In Castro Valley in 1866 pioneer settler Josiah Grover Brickell donated land for 'educational purposes only' and paid the salary of the teacher, who taught children in the one-room schoolhouse by day, and farmhands by candlelight at night.

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