From an article written by Clyde Decker and published in The Spirit of Democracy, Woodsfield, Ohio, December 16, 1980:

The Miltonsburg two-room school building (erected ca. 1893) is on TR 1001 (Campfire Road), near the junction with SR 145 in Miltonsburg. The Campfire one-room school was also located on TR 1001, in the southwest one-fourth of the southwest quarter of Malaga Township’s section no. 4. That school closed in the spring of 1930 with Elizabeth (Moore) Thomas, of Jerusalem, as the last to teach there. The Campfire School site is now under the waters of Monroe Lake.

Until 1921, pupils in grades one to four occupied one room of the Miltonsburg school building and the other was used by those in grades five to eight. From then until the end of the 1928-29 term, one room was used for a three-year high school and the other for the first eight grades. Beginning in the fall of 1929, the high school students were taken by bus to Woodsfield. Dedication exercises for the present Woodsfield High School building were held July 26, 1917. Prior to that, Woodsfield high school students attended classes in the upper story of the three-story brick school house on North Paul Street, erected in 1896.

After 1929, the eight grades at Miltonsburg school used the two rooms until 1942, when the enrollments lessened and just one room was used from then until the school was closed in the spring of 1957. The pupils now attend school at Woodsfield Elementary (building erected in 1953) and Woodsfield High School. The Miltonsburg school building is now owned by Mrs. Lou Stillion. Teachers who taught at the school include: Edward Holland, Paul Wiley, Thomas Latta, Kathryn Riemenschneider, Laura Riesbeck, Leo Reischman, Harlan Fogle, Bethel Scarborough, Germaine Haren, Laura Pfalzgraf, Violet Scarborough, Eleanor Christman, Herman Rubel, Mabel Harper, Guy Brown, John Harper, Arthur Willison, Hal Tanner, Edgar Shreve, Ophelia Mason, Mack Dougherty, Amos Copeland, Kathryn Horton, Helma Christman, Marie Straight, Dorothy Pennell, Harold Christman and Agnes Norris. Helma (Stephen) Christman was the last to teach at Miltonsburg. Mr. Harold P. Christman and Helma compiled this list of teachers.

A Brief Description of Life in a One-Room School in Miltonsburg, Ohio

Written as an English assignment in Woodsfield High School; probable date 1947

While this account was written by a fifteen-year old with the goal of getting a good grade in English class rather than establishing an historical record, it does contain some first-hand impressions of life in a one-room school. The Miltonsburg School actually had two rooms and a vestibule; however, it was technically a one-room school for me in that only one room was used most of the time when I was a student between 1938 and 1946.

The Three R’s: Country Style

To many people the one-room country school went out of existence at the turn of the century. To me it ceased to exist [only] when I graduated from one of these little schools.

Whenever I pass the old schoolhouse, I always re-live some of the times I had there. However, upon closer observation, I can see that several changes have been made. The old stove has been replaced by a newer one, and a piece of sheet metal has been put around it in an attempt to distribute the heat more evenly throughout the room. A new door has been added in the rear as a second exit. Electric lights and a new electric radio have been installed.

I realize that these improvements have added to the efficiency of the school but, at the same time, they have taken away part of the school that I liked best. As I remember the school, the pupils and the teachers lived in a world all their own. There was nothing at all to remind you that you were living in an age of atomic power and world crisis. I shall always remember it as it appeared to me during my first year.

My first day of school is rather vague in my memory. All I can remember is that my mother accompanied me until the first recess when she left me very much against my will. The school was probably at about the height of its glory. There were about 30 pupils crowded into that one room. As I remember, this little old building made as great an impression on me as any modern consolidated school could possibly have made. The building itself was about 50 years old. It consisted of two rooms and an anteroom. The larger of the rooms had been used at one time for the grade school, while the smaller one was for the use of the high school. The high school had long since been discontinued, and the 30 or 40 grade school students occupied both rooms. By the time I was in the Fourth grade only one room was used and we allowed to play in the old high school room when the weather wouldn’t permit us to play outside.

Right in the center of the room in which we had classes was an old pot-bellied stove. It had been heating these same four walls for over 50 years. The floor next to the stove was worn thin from the combined effect of the hot coals that had fallen on it and the scraping of the coal bucket which was always standing beside it. Whenever there was a snow, the bottom of the stove and the floor around it was always covered with gloves that had been placed there to dry. They may not have made a very favorable appearance, but they did increase the humidity in the air.

On each side of the stove were rows of seats running perpendicular to the blackboard which covered the entire partition that separated the two rooms. Behind the stove six or eight extra seats had been added to take care of some extra pupils that had arrived from another Fox Hollow and Johnson Schools—one-room schools that had been discontinued. The seats next to the windows (and farthest from the stove) were the largest and, therefore, for the higher grades. As the seats declined in size and became closer to the stove, the occupants were of corresponding lower grades. I’m not sure but what the first grade who had the seats closest to the stove and supposedly the most comfortable were not in reality the most uncomfortable. It was quite common to get up from your seat with one side of your face flushed to a bright red from the heat.

However, to every pupil the most desirable seat in the whole school was undoubtedly the hottest one. It was one of the new seats that had been added to take care of the extra pupils. The reason that the person sitting in this seat was envied by every other pupil was that the stove was directly between this seat and the teacher’s desk. The student sitting here could get away with murder. Even if he were caught and was lucky enough to get off with only a lecture (which was usually a shaming before the whole school), it was impossible for his face to become more red than the stove had already made it.

In the right corner of the [old high school room} opposite the blackboard, were some bookshelves that reached clear to the ceiling. This was referred to as the library. The only books that it ever held were textbooks and they were practically all in use during the year. Hence we found various used for those empty shelves. One of the chief uses being a ladder to climb to the top of the room and write our initials in dust on the ceiling.

In the other corner of this room was a little cabinet about four feet high which held what was left of the high school textbooks and equipment. It contained many things that were very fascinating to young boys looking for trouble. Among its contents were a balance scales, some wooden geometric triangles, squares, spheres, etc. Whenever the teacher was not around we made some uses of these things that he probably would not have appreciated. We found the geometric spheres (which were merely wooden balls about four inches in diameter) the most interesting. There were two of them in this cabinet and whenever we got hold of them we would roll them back and forth over the floor. We almost always succeeded in getting them back in their place before the teacher came around to catch us. I say almost because one time it wouldn’t have done any good to hide the balls, for there was too much evidence lying around. Now in the middle of the room was an old stove which was even older than the one in our room. Water leaking around the chimney had run down the stovepipe and rusted it almost in half in places. The object of the game was to pass both balls under the stove at the same time without hitting either the stove or each other. As the game proceeded, we became more engrossed in it and before long the balls were practically being thrown across the room instead of being rolled. Suddenly one of the hit a leg of the stove with just enough force to cause the already weakened stovepipe to give way and come tumbling down amid a great volume of dust and soot. As the dust cleared away we realized the seriousness of the trouble we were in. Through the soot we saw the teacher standing in the doorway. Stovepipe was lying all over the room with the old stove standing right in the middle of the room looking like a poor crippled old man. It was hard to believe that that innocent looking hunk of iron had been the trigger that set the whole thing off. Needless to say the equipment in that cabinet lost all of its fascination as far as the four of us boys were concerned.

School became awfully boring for me at times. It’s a good thing that I was able to watch the other classes recite. Classes began at nine-o-clock in the morning; a fifteen minute recess at ten-thirty; then classes again until twelve-o-clock. Lunch hour and then at one the afternoon classes began; second recess at two-thirty and school was dismissed at four.

The pattern most teachers followed was to recite all eight grades in one subject during each period of school. This means eight classes recite in an hour and a half with about ten minutes for each class. In order to get a little more time for each class some of them were combined. For example, one year the third and fourth grades study third grade subjects and the next year they both study fourth grade subjects. The same thing was done with fifth and sixth grades and seventh and eighth grade subjects. Only if you started to school in the “right” year would you study third grade subjects in the third grade, fourth grade subjects in the fourth grade and so on.

[A typical day in life of a first grader]

First thing in the morning came the arithmetic classes. There were eight of them for arithmetic and spelling were two classes that were never combined. When the teacher said, “first grade arithmetic,” we would parade up to the bench at the front of the room where the classes were held. Our class usually consisted of the teacher holding up cards with addition and subtraction problems on them. The first one giving the correct answer would get the card. I fear that no one got much work done until our class was over, because we fount it impossible to give the answers both quickly and quietly.

After we were through, the only thing that we were asked to do was not disturb anyone else. This part of the day was about the hardest for me to bear. [Advanced] arithmetic classes aren’t very interesting to a person just learning to add and subtract. All that I remembered from watching these classes was that the fifth grade was the largest class with five boys while the sixth was the smallest with only one girl. I was always glad when first recess came.

Between recess and noon the English or language classes would recite. Our [first grade] language class was the same as our reading class. It consisted of more cards only these had words on them instead of numbers. We went through the same process that we did with the numbers, with a disturbance equally as great. As soon as seventh and eighth grade English was over we were dismissed for noon. For almost half of my first year, I carried my books home at noon explaining to everyone that I was afraid someone would take them.

First thing after noon the first and second grades had their reading classes. Then the third and fourth had Hygiene, the fifth and sixth had geography, and the seventh and eighth had history. I always enjoyed the history class, not because it was history, but because almost every afternoon during this class our teacher became extremely sleepy. It could have been because he didn’t like history and I used to think it was because he was used to taking a nap at this time. Whatever his reason was, the fact remained that he did become [unaware] of what was going on in the school. The pupils in the class would take turns reading paragraphs from their books, and many times they would have the entire school snickering about some extra words they would add as they read. While the class was reciting, the teacher would be sitting at his desk holding his book in front of him. Slowly his eyes would begin to close and then his book would drop to his desk and at least partly awaken him. This would be repeated several times before the class was over. Luckily he always managed to get awake enough to dismiss us for recess.

After the last recess, the first two grades had a writing assignment but I don’t remember too much about what went on. I do remember though that sometimes we wouldn’t get some of the seventh and eighth grade classes finished in the afternoon and they would be finished first thing in the morning. Once the teacher got behind like this it was mighty hard to catch up without missing a class.

I enjoyed school even more after the first few years when I could take a more active part in the games. Little children were allowed to play in all games and they were supposed to be taken care of by the older ones. However, until you were in about the third grade the older pupils would run all over you if the teacher was not around.

In order to get back to school faster at noon and therefore have a longer time to play, I found a short cut from my home to the school. It went over someone’s fence, through a row of their potatoes, over a creek, through small woods, and through our own garden, but it saved a good five minutes each way. We had quite a variety of games; some new, some old. Of course, there was always baseball, or rather “string ball,” hide and seek, and other old standards.

Some of our favorite games were played by the whole school. The most popular of these that all the school took part in were “Black Man,” and “Base.” In Black Man, two goals were set up at each end of the playground. Two pupils, usually the bigger boys, were chosen to be in the middle. The object was to get from one goal to the other without letting these fellows hit you on the back three times. If they succeeded in tapping you three times you had to stay in the middle and help them catch the others. The winner was the last one to be caught.

We had two variations of the game of base. One was called “Round Base,” and the other had the obnoxious title of “Stinkbase.” In Round Base, the goals were set up the same as in Black Man. A couple of the big boys would choose sides thus dividing the players into two groups. One group would take one goal the other group would take the other. The object of the game was to circle your opponent’s goal [complete a “round”) without being tagged by one of them. If you were tagged you had to play for that side for the rest of the game; or until you were tagged again [by a member of your original side]. The winner in this game was the side with the most players at the end, or the side with the most “rounds.” Sometimes it happened that one side had the most players, but the other side had the most rounds, and an argument resulted as to who was the winner. The teacher always settled these arguments one way or the other.

The other form of Base, Stink Base, was played as follows: We have goals the same as in Round Base; however, about ten feet in front of the right end of each goal was a little marker called the stinkpot. In this game a point was scored if you reached your opponents goal and then returned to your own goal without being tagged. You could not be tagged while you were on your opponent’s goal. If you were caught [tagged] you were placed on the stinkpot and could be taken off only if you were tagged by one of your players.

If more than one player was consigned to the stinkpot the last one tagged had to keep a foot on the stinkpot while the earlier persons tagged could stretch toward his own goal as far as possible while holding the hand of his fellow player. If several people were tagged the game evened out a bit as the line stretched closer and closer to the home goal making the tag to set them free more easy to accomplish.

In both games of Base, the player leaving his goal last had the authority to catch any of his opponents who left his goal before him. The winner in stink base as you may have predicted was simply the side with the most points [rounds].

These are only a few of the games we played. We had many which we devised for ourselves. We had four or five acres of open fields around the school in which we could play cops and robbers. The coalhouse made a rather dirty but otherwise excellent jail. We also had a perfect background for the cowboy version of cops and robbers. Many times when the bell rang some of us would be “riding the range” a half-mile or more away from the schoolhouse.

Of course, all cowboys need hideouts. A few of us who lived in town were always together whether we were “good men” or “bad men.” We decided that we would locate a hideout that the other kids would never find. Now right next to the school was an old building that had been used for a packing house for tobacco. While we were in school we were never allowed to go into this building; however, those of us in town spent many hours climbing around the beams and crossbeams that reached to the roof. Then one day a local farmer who had rented the building stored a large amount of baled hay in it. It wasn’t long before we saw the possibilities that this offered. In about a week’s time we had passageways all through the bales. There was no place on the surface that one could see an entrance. A bale had to be moved in order to enter any tunnel. We kept the “country kids” puzzled for a long time. Since we were not supposed to be in this building, they never even gave it a thought. We never did tell them where our hideout was. There was a rather dejected group of boys around when that farmer removed his hay and destroyed all our hours of work.

As I think over my eight years in this little school, it seems that there was a new adventure every day. To many people the pupils in a one-room school are being cheated out of what they deserve in an education but I’ll always know that there is something about a school like this that a large modern school can never offer.

I would never trade my eight years in my little one-room schoolhouse for the best that modern education has to offer.

The Miltonsburg School

The 1869 Noll Atlas shows a school building in Miltonsburg in the approximate location of Lot 10, which was privately owned until about 1860, when it probably was purchased by the Board of Education. Although the Land Ordinance of 1785 stated that Section 16 in each township was to be reserved by future states in the Northwest Territory, Ohio legislation authorizing County Commissioners to levy a tax for funding schools was not passed until 1825, and not until 1847 were Boards of Education authorized to hire and pay teachers. Monroe County and other parts of southeastern Ohio were slow to accept the idea of common schools supported by public funds even though the early settlers apparently gave education a high priority and supported subscription schools as early as 1815. It is likely that public ownership of Lot 10 marked the beginning of the public school movement in Monroe County; however, a small private school building on Lot 10 may have been replaced by the two-room building that was constructed in the 1890s.

In the 1890’s a school building with two rooms and a vestibule was built on Outlot 10. It is possible that a smaller, one-room building was replaced by this structure which, from 1921 to 1929, supported both a grammar school and a three-year high school. Between 1925 and 1942 the eight grades were divided into two rooms and from 1942 until it closed in 1958 it operated as a one-room school. In 1869 there were eight schools in Malaga Township and by about 1900 there were approximately 165 schools in Monroe County.

Richard Riemenschneider attended Miltonsburg High School in about 1928. Although his home was near Malaga he was the only one who could operate the family car and it fell upon him to drive his sister, who was the Miltonsburg Elementary School teacher. One of his favorite memories of the year he spent in Miltonsburg High School was attending a box social where he outbid a fellow student (Robert Block) for a pie baked by Evelyn Young who later became his wife. In telling the story he admitted that he later walked her home, and kissed her good night. (Evelyn lived with her parents Edward and Mary (Mamie) Young at Lot 11.)