The Breakers, the historical society’s volunteer restoration team, recently uncovered a series of blackboards hidden behind a layer of wallpaper in the schoolhouse. Messages scrawled along the walls are dated 1906 and ’07.
“The volunteers were in the school house trying to decide what to do next in the restoration process, and member Mar Knittel decided to strip the wallpaper – the (school) building was later converted to a house – and this blackboard crumbled to the ground,” said ECCHS President Ginny Karlberg. “We looked at the pieces and reassembled it like a puzzle, and we were able to make out the message. There is that saying ‘if these walls could talk.’ Well, this wall is telling us all kinds of stories.”
The message on the blackboard reads: “This old school house has stood here for many a year. Its windows are broken by many a hand, but thank god its roof still stands.” Karlberg said the discovery of the blackboard is remarkable, and she’s grateful to Pearl Diamond, the person who scrawled the message more than 100 years ago. Members of the historical society are currently researching the Diamond family in hopes of learning more about the girl who left the message a century ago.
“She wrote this here so that whoever took down the wallpaper would know how important this building is,” Karlberg said. “You stand in here and you can feel the history within the walls and now the walls are talking back.”
Found on another blackboard is a sketch of a woman with her hair in a bun. The woman is drawn with a cinched waist and a large bust, no doubt the artwork of a young boy, said Karlberg of the Gibson girl sketch, which she suspects might be a sketch of the teacher. A few other notes have been discovered on the walls, and Karlberg is anxious to find out what other stories the schoolhouse will unveil.
The Eden Plain schoolhouse, originally located in Knightsen before moving to the historical museum on Sellers Avenue, offered education to children through eighth grade. Students would travel two to three miles for school each day, arriving on horseback, in wagons or on foot. These one-room facilities were often cold in the winter, but the Eden Plain schoolhouse had a wood-burning stove to keep the students warm. The building didn’t offer indoor plumbing, however, and drinking water was kept in a bucket next to the teacher’s desk.
Olive Fletcher taught at the schoolhouse, which was built in 1868, and in her memory, her son Robert has provided financial backing to help restore the schoolhouse to its glory days. The ECCHS has been raising funds for years to restore the schoolhouse and accepts donations of time, money and materials. According to local historian Kathy Leighton, it is the society’s hope that once the schoolhouse is refurbished, students will have the opportunity to spend a day in the schoolhouse, living out a typical school day at the turn of the 20th century.
For more information about the ECCHS, visit the society’s new website at www.ecchs.net.