Log cabin transformed into 1800s schoolhouse

April 03, 1995|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

When Carroll County Farm Museum opens tomorrow for the 1995 season, the "fur trader's cabin" will appear in a new role as a 19th-century one-room schoolhouse.

Staff members converted the small building -- it measures 19 feet 4 inches by 15 feet 3 inches -- to give visitors a taste of early American education. The school will feature a replica of a schoolmaster's or schoolmarm's desk made by an assistant county attorney whose hobby is woodworking.

"This is just something I've thought would be good for the farm museum, because we have so many schoolchildren who don't know that there were one-room schools," said Dottie Freeman, the farm museum's administrator.

The museum will be open only to school groups until May 6, when it will open to the public weekends. It is open to the public daily in July and August.

Visitors can enter the schoolhouse when a volunteer schoolmarm or schoolmaster is on duty. They will be able to touch the slates and check out tin lunch pails that might have held a sandwich made of molasses, lard or butter. Some lunch pails show 19th-century recycling at work. One, for example, originally contained "George Washington Cut Plug" tobacco.

When the exhibit is not staffed, a gate will bar entry but allow visitors to look inside.

"A lot of this [school furnishings] is going to be replicas," Ms. Freeman said. "Museums are hands off. This will be hands on."

A Mount Airy couple donated the log cabin to the farm museum in 1966. The building, constructed before 1859, was used as a ticket office and to represent a fur trader's cabin. But the fur trade of the 1700s was "out of sync" with the typical 19th-century farm family, whose life is depicted in the museum's farmhouse, Ms. Freeman said.

When Ms. Freeman became administrator three months ago, she asked curator Victoria Fowler to do some research on one-room schools.

The farm museum's one-room school, with a wall map of Maryland and a picture of George Washington, may be more elaborately decorated than most schools of the time, Ms. Fowler said: "Most of them were pretty sparse."

Assistant County Attorney Isaac Menasche made the teacher's desk, a copy of one that is on display in the museum.

"Schoolmasters' desks were generally locally made," Mr. Menasche said. "They were similar, but had a range of features because they weren't manufactured."

The desk he made includes such authentic features as dovetails instead of nails in the drawers, but he used a machine to make them because the desk is a replica, not a reproduction.

He estimated that the project took about 35 hours of labor. The farm museum supplied the materials.

Mr. Menasche has made Adirondack chairs and a schoolmaster's desk for his son, but he doesn't limit his woodworking to a single time period.

"I'm more of an eclectic person," he said. "I've made wall units, and whatever I wanted to make, I make."

Ms. Freeman said the one-room school will fit into the farm museum's effort to increase living history exhibits. In an average season, 10,000 students visit the museum, she said.

Carroll County has about 50 one-room school buildings still standing, but Ms. Freeman said she didn't try to acquire one because of a lack of space. The farm museum must keep many of its 140 acres open to accommodate events such as steam shows, Fall Harvest Days and the Maryland Wine Festival, she said.

The farm museum was the county almshouse until the County Commissioners closed it in 1965.

Ms. Fowler said she doesn't know where children who lived at the almshouse attended school.

"I don't think from what our records show that there were that many children [at the almshouse]," she said. "It was mostly older people."

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