DeWitt Schoolhouse
A Step Back Into Time

 
 Our class spent a day at the DeWitt School in Spring Lake, Michigan. The one-room school was originally built in 1891 and had a tremendous impact on the culture of this area until its closing in 1957. Through the efforts of the Spring Lake Bicentennial Committee, the school was restored and deeded over to the township in 1976. We had an opportunity to step back in history because of the hard work and generosity of a great many people. Share with us in our adventure of discovering the family atmosphere of a one-room schoolhouse.
       
Students attended DeWitt School in days when outhouses were tipped over at Halloween, boys soaked girls' pigtails in inkwells, prayer and Bible readings were included in the teacher's contract, and teachers were paid $3 per week. Through contributions of area persons and groups, the restored school provides a beautiful historical setting for our fourth grade students.

       

Question: Which of the Tri-Cities was originally called Mill Point?
Answer: Spring Lake, which was settled in 1838, and where a lumber mill was built.
       

Our teacher, Phyllis Blake, began the morning with several lessons in geography and history. We also worked particulary long on our cursive penmanship as we rewrote a poem by Joyce Kilmer.

After lunch Mrs. Blake helped us complete an art project: making a sillouette using black and white paper. At the end of our day we read several short stories from the McGuffey's Fifth Eclectic Reader which was published in 1879.

       

Our desks were attached to the seats of students sitting in front of us. They were made from hardwood and iron. We didn't use the inkwells which were part of each desktop, but discovered we could store some of our things below the writing surface.

The floors were also hardwood and light was provided by the six windows and converted gas lamps. The pot belly stove was something most of us had not seen before.

  Click the apple and check out this web site devoted to one of the few living one room schools.
       
   A teacher's desk, blackboard, maps, book
cases and this Mason Hamlin pump organ sat in
the front of the room. Above the organ keys
were various "stops" which could be pulled to
produce different sounds. As long as you
pumped both foot pedals, you could hear the
music throughout the classroom. From the many old books to the pictures of former Presidents on the walls, we were able to "feel" a part of our own heritage.
       

We enjoyed our day at DeWitt School and even had a chance to enjoy the beautiful spring weather. The following games were among the many 19th century children played: hide and seek, tug-o-war, drop the handkerchief, touch football, tag, follow the leader, blind man's bluff, and Simon says.

Discipline was strict in classrooms of the 1800's. Pupils spoke when called upon by the teacher or requested permission before speaking. The teacher's enforcement of classroom rules was firm and even the slightest infraction was dealt with promptness.

       

If your class would like to visit the DeWitt School and use the school as part of a unit on Michigan history or American education, contact the Tri-Cities Historical Museum
in Grand Haven, Michigan, at 616-842-0700.

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