The original Mt. Horeb School was a log cabin built in 1841. In 1861 a larger school was built. Unfortunately, it burned to the ground on October 15, 1888. Another school, pictured here, was built in 1889, remodeled in 1925 and closed in 1958 when the new Jefferson Elementary School opened. It was then torn down.
I had the opportunity to interview Mrs. Elizabeth McMurray Felknor, a teacher and principal at the original Mt. Horeb School from 1935-1937 and Mr. Alton Green, a student at Mt. Horeb during the 1940′s. They shared the following memories about their time at MHES.
One of the many jobs of the principal was to build a fire in the coal burning stove each morning. Mrs. Felknor would make hot chocolate or soup to keep the students warm on cold days. Students would also sit around the stove to keep warm. If the day was especially hot, class might meet outside under the oak trees that grew around the school.
There was a cemetery beside the original school. If there was a funeral during the school day, the students had to stay inside the school (no recess or outside lunch) and be very quiet and respectful.
The school was divided into two classes, the lower grades (1st-4th) and the upper grades (5th – 8th). The attendance records indicate that the number of students varied from year to year. However, the most recorded in attendance (39 boys and 37 girls) was during the school year 1944-45.
The students walked to school most days. Sometimes if there was a lot of snow, they might get to ride to school on horseback! The students helped out by carrying water in from the spring, sweeping the floors, and cleaning the blackboards (which were actually boards in the wall that had been painted black). The spring water was kept in a bucket and students drank from a common dipper. A cistern was used to collect rain water from the roof for the students to also use. Students had to use outdoor toilets (or outhouses).
Students brought their lunches to school each day. They would eat outside if it was warm enough. Later, a kitchen and cook were added to the school.
The students also had recess each day. There was seldom any playground equipment (like balls, bats, jump ropes). Students invented, improvised, and relied on their imagination and surroundings for entertainment. Some games included tag, relay, ring around the rosy, hopscotch, red rover, etc. Sometimes they would climb up in the attic and hide. It was a great hiding place until somebody fell through the ceiling.
English, math, literature, writing, spelling, and geography were a few of the subjects taught. Sometimes students were required to memorize poetry. The older students would often help the younger students with their assignments.
Special thanks to Mrs. Elizabeth Felknor, Mr. Alton Green, and Mrs. Lu Hinchey (Jefferson County Archives) for their assistance.