Owen Historical Society News: Preserve one-room schoolhouses memories

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Though sagging a bit in front, it seems to be holding up well for its age. Such is not the case for many others of its kind. Most have disappeared as over the years their sides gave way; and as they settled themselves upon the ground the rich earth embraced them.
Why is it this one remained long after the others were gone? Was its foundation firmer, wooden frame stronger, or roof more sturdy than the 80 or more others which served the communities of Owen County from the 1830s to the 1950s?
The Greenup one-room schoolhouse sits near the cemetery on Greenup Road. Although today its one room has expanded into two and at one time a porch added, it is still known to many in the county as the Greenup one-room schoolhouse.
As was true in so many of these one-room schools the small space they offered did not confine big dreams nor limit expectations.
Some schools held classes three months of the year, others five. All ages were taught together and these amazing environs of education contributed doctors, lawyers, judges, authors, painters and upstanding citizens to every community in Owen County.
Dedicated teachers without benefit of computers, internet or a wellspring of resources educated their pupils and inspired them. Most of these educators held the same morals and values as parents so it was not at all unusual for a disorderly student to be firmly disciplined by a teacher. Teachers started wood or coal fires in a pot-belly stove on cold mornings, and at times cooked soup or beans on top for the students’ lunch.
Out of their meager salary, some teachers would purchase items such as gloves, hats and scarves in the winter for children whose families could not afford even these necessities.
They taught the past and prepared students for the future. It has been said that a true teacher is one who, keeping the past alive, is also able to understand the present.
Author Georgia Green Stamper attended a one-room schoolhouse in New Columbus. Her husband Ernie Stamper attended another in Gratz, as did Larry Webster. All three were National Merit Scholars in high school and all are well-known for their many achievements.
As a young boy, Owen countian Vice Admiral Willis Augustus Lee Jr. attended a one-room school. At the young age of 16, he was admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy. He was promoted several times during World War I and by the time the United States entered World War II,  Willis Lee had been promoted to rear admiral. He earned many medals in combat including the Navy Cross, Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit. The Navy subsequently honored Vice Admiral Willis Lee by naming for him the destoyer-leader USS Willis A. Lee, one of the largest of its type ever launched.
Newspaper columnist John Forsee reminisced in one of his columns in 1951 of his days spent in a one-room schoolhouse called Oak Hill School.
According to John, this school was located on the old Monterey Pike not far from KY 227.
In a 1958 News-Herald article, John H. Miller recalls growing up in the Twin Creek Valley. “We had no school at Moxley. So we had to walk about 2 1/2 miles to the Old Mud Dobber School. My first teacher was Acie Judy. Others were James and Tiny Morgan and two younger sisters, Lois and Betty.”
No one knows for sure the origin of this rather unique name for a school. Perhaps it was called the Old Mud Dobber School because wasps shared their homes inside the school along with the students.
Many one room schools carried the name of the community in which they were located such as Long Ridge, New Liberty, Gratz, Clarks Ridge, Monterey, and Panther Lick. Others such as White Chapel, Teresita, Mint Spring, Brown’s Bottom and Buck’s Run might not be as well remembered but they too served as a repository of school day memories for many.  
Before schools were built students were educated in homes and churches. During the Civil War the children of Lusby’s Mill attended the “Gunboat House” school. Small boats traveling up and down the creek at night would often tie up to the porch of the Gunboat House to deliver supplies. Because of Owen County’s pro South sympathies these supplies might have been contraband to be transported to the Confederate troops.
Within the four walls of these Owen County one room schools a rich history was created and waited to be shared. Greenup school is only one of a few left standing. Its rooms where today mice make their nests once resounded with the voices of children reciting their lessons and laughing at the antics of the class clown. Included in its past are stories of Halloweens when youngsters would dress in homemade costumes and parade around the schoolyard and of special occasions when mothers would send cookies to share.
At Christmas, proud parents, along with friends and relatives, would sit on folding chairs in a crowded room while students preformed a traditional first Christmas play scripted by the teacher.
Though a day will come when the last one-room school is reclaimed by the land. it is vital we preserve the stories, pictures and memories of these important pieces of Owen County history. It takes the efforts of everyone working together to achieve this goal; so if you attended a one-room school in Owen County, write down those memories and share them with the historical society. We will do our best to preserve this cherished part of your heritage.


The Owen County Historical Society is conducting a membership drive during the month of October.
New members will be given a 2014 membership at a reduced rate of $20 for the year. If you join, your name will be entered for a chance to win one of six prizes. These include a gift certificate from Minch Hardware and one from North Park Pharmacy. The Smith House is donating a $10 certificate and New’s Cafe and Family Billards are each donating a free lunch. Hometown Pizza has graciously donated a coupon for a free large pizza.
Make checks payable to The Owen County Historical Society, 206 North Main St. Owenton, KY 40359. Please make a note on your check that this is a new membership.