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A log building was the very first school that stood where M-106 intersects with Mt. Hope and Territorial Roads. This school was attended by some of the earliest pioneer children in the area and was know as #15 Waterloo Twp.
Attendance grew, and sometime before 1850, the Solomon Dewey Family donated land just east of the old site for a brick school building, to be called the Dewey School. Ida Kassel was the first teacher. During a meeting in 1883, the floor collapsed. No one was injured, only very scared! Bricks were salvaged, and together with new bricks from the Waterloo brick yard, used for the reconstruction of the school building.
As with most country schools, Dewey was more than a place of learning for children. It served the community as a center for families and was used for meetings, church services and funerals.
The new school had two cloakrooms: one for the girls and one for the boys. Proper desks were purchased and the girls sat on one side of the room, boys on the other. The youngest children sat at the front, close to the teacher. Behind the teacher was a blackboard. First through eighth grades were taught in the same classroom. The school was heated with a wood stove, located in the center of the room. The boys were expected to carry in a daily supply of wood, which was provided by families. A bucket of cool water with a dipper for drinking stood near the doorway. On a shelf in the cloakrooms, lunches were stored in metal pails that had their own lids.
Teachers rarely had time to teach more than the "3 Rs": reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic. Children did much of their learning by rote, which meant memorizing long poems and stories and reciting them to the teacher. Copy books and slates were used to copy lessons from the blackboard. Reading aloud was a good way to learn pronunciation and grammar.
One-room country schools were supported by every family in the community. A small amount went for the teacher's salary. Families took turns boarding the teacher. Families that could not pay with money gave the teacher goods such as corn or tobacco. The teacher traded goods for money or other items at the general store.
Teachers did more than teach the children: they also had to keep order in the school. With children of all ages learning different things at the same time, good behavior was important. Chores were assigned to the students. Most children enjoyed doing chores, but sometimes the teacher also assigned chores as a punishment. It was the responsibility of the teacher to punish children who misbehaved.
Dewey School was closed in 1956 when all the country schools consolidated to form the new Stockbridge Community Schools. Berta Matthews was the last teacher. A small group of former pupils and their friends met on the steps of Dewey with the hopeful intention of preserving their school as a museum. They were encouraged by George May and Solan Weeks, from the State Historical Commission. For one token dollar, the school, the land upon which it sits, two outhouses, and a woodshed were purchased. Authentic furniture and teaching materials of the 1800s were sought from donors for the restoration.
Since 1966, the Dewey School Memorial has been owned and operated by the Waterloo Area Historical Society. Every year in May and September, children come from near and far with their own teachers to experience some 19th Century rural schooling.
This is not the school attended by Jacob and Katerina Ruehle, as the Parks School was much closer to their home, but Dewey School has come down in history as a significant part of our heritage.
Arrange for your class or school group to experience a special class day at Dewey! Call (517) 596-2254.