Historic one-room schoolhouse

Retired teacher Midge Connon remembers a time when creature comforts like running water and indoor plumbing weren’t automatic givens at country schools throughout the district.

“There was no indoor plumbing and no running water whatsoever,” said Connon of the one-room Green School she attended from first grade through eighth grade. “We had to get water from a pump outside. We put it in crockery, and it probably wasn’t very sanitary.”

Those days are long gone, but not Connon’s memories of learning in a one-room setting, which she gladly shares with young students of today. So too, do her fellow Delta Kappa Gamma Alpha Xi chapter members, who for many years now have take on the historic Green School as a pet project.

Constructed in 1895 in Green Township, the school operated continuously through 1961. In April 1981, the wooden structure was donated by Mack and Betty Gamage to the Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan. The now defunct Alpena Board of Realtors raised the funds to have the school moved 18 miles to its current location on the museum grounds.

To enhance the experience of students visiting the museum, DKG researched the history of the school’s old-time curriculum and developed an educational packet around it.

“Some of the subjects taught were orinthology and agriculture,” Connon said. “That’s all on record at the state archives. In the early days of school, students only went for 180 days because of planting and harvesting.”

While on field trips to the museum, today’s teachers use the packets developed by DKG to teach their students about what school was like in the Alpena area 100 years ago. The packets were updated in recent years to also reflect current educational requirements in the state curriculum.

DKG’s commitment to Green School remains ever strong. Upon learning that the school was in need of some major repairs, including repairs to windows, siding and doors, and giving the structure a fresh coat of paint, they took ownership of raising the necessary funds.

“Members of DKG greatly value the educational and cultural heritage Green School brings to our community, and have been earnestly working to raise money for the repairs needed to preserve the one-room schoolhouse,” said Besser Museum Executive Director Chris Witulski.

Over the past 12 months, DKG members have raised $5,750 toward the $7,183 needed for repairs. They secured both private donations and grant funding from a Rural Partners of Michigan Community Grant, the Women’s Giving Circle and the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan.

“It is their hope that others will share in their commitment to preserve a unique piece of history that played an important role in the lives of so many others in Northeast Michigan, and that this piece of history will continue to impact the future of students who come to the Besser Museum to experience what life was like in a one-room schoolhouse,” Witulski said.

Work already has begun on the school and is being done by Bliss Painting.

Connon wasn’t the only member of her family to attend Green School. So too did her father, his siblings and her brothers. She fondly remembers the stories she heard growing up of how her dad and his siblings traveled daily to and from school on horseback.

“They didn’t have bussing in those days,” she said. “And if girls wanted to go on to high school back then, they boarded in with someone in town and worked for them.”

Connon and her fellow DKG members now are hoping that others will be inspired by the preservation of this slice of local history and help with the efforts to raise the remaining funds needed to complete the restoration of Green School.

Donations to the project can be made at the Besser Museum. For more information, call 356-2202.