OLD SCHOOL OF THE DAY
Roberts’ School House
Wayne County Historical Museum
1150 North A Street
Richmond, Indiana 47374
Rebekah Roberts was born on August 8, 1787, in Union Co., South Carolina, to Thomas and Nancy Ann (Whitson) Roberts. She married Nathan Hawkins (b. 1782), the son of Nathan and Ann (Cook) Hawkins, on November 26, 1807 in Warren Co., Ohio, and the pair had ten children in Wayne Co., Indiana. In 1812, Nathan and Rebekah entered a claim with the United States government near Webster, Indiana, or Dover, a small town north and west of the early settlement of Quakers which is now Richmond, and intended to build a cabin on their 40 acres of land. Shortly after the family settled near Webster, the War of 1812–a conflict fought between the United States, Great Britain and their respective allies over maritime rights–broke out, and the British government began supplying individuals who raided pioneers’ homes and settlements on the American frontier. Savage Indians came through the Fountain City area. Because their farm was not safe, Nathan, Rebekah and their two children at the time sought refuge in Richmond, Indiana, with Rebekah’s brother, Thomas Roberts. There was not enough room in the farmhouse, though, for both Thomas’s and Rebekah’s families, so Nathan and Thomas built a separate cabin for the Hawkins family as a temporary shelter for the Hawkinses. The men of the family felled these great logs, rived the shingles, made the walls weatherproof and hung a crude door so they might settle. There was no floor and apparently no window.
In February 2015, the War of 1812 ended, and the Hawkins family returned to their land claim in the north. After their house was vacated, a young man by the name of Robert Bratton came along who wanted to teach school. It was arranged that he should board with the Roberts and hold his school in the log house vacated by Nathan Hawkins. This is how it became one of the first school houses in Wayne County, if not the first school house in Richmond. This was long before free public schools were established. The Quaker settlement (Richmond) had no school so the family donated it for the first school house. It was used in 1813-14. The cabin still did not have a floor or a window. In 1840 builders added a wooden floor, chimney, and a ceiling. The school house was probably heated by a small wood fire in a large pot on three legs. The stove is from the 1850s. Some years later the log house was moved near the Roberts residence, where it was used for various purposes. This cabin is called the Roberts’ School House because for many years it stood on the corner of the Robert’s farm at the present intersection of South 14th and “A” Streets. By 1900, the Roberts’ family farm was well within Richmond’s city limits, and most of the land had been sold to residential developers; after Jonathan Roberts’ death in 1902, the Old Roberts’ Schoolhouse was given to the city, as well. A number of residents and local historians advocated for the restoration of the Schoolhouse, and one resident, Albert W. Reed, donated funds to move the cabin to Glenn Miller Park for its preservation. The Old Roberts’ Schoolhouse was moved for a third and final time to the front lawn of the Wayne Co., Indiana, Historical Museum grounds in 1938. Guests can view the Hawkins family’s cabin-turned-schoolhouse and /read about the school’s history on a display inside the log cabin:
Sitting on one of the crude, backless, split-log lab benches, it is hard to imagine the voices of the children as they repeated the teacher’s words, teaching them by rote. This type of teaching was call a ‘Loud or Blab School.’ The students had few books, if any, and wrote on slates with slate pencils. Paper was expensive and hard to get. Students wrote with goose or turkey quill pens and homemade ink when paper was available. Students used whatever books their family might have and it was usually the Bible. A few school books were printed in the eastern states, but the McGuffy Readers (1836), printed in Ohio, became the United States’ most influential school books until the 20th century. The teacher punished naughty children in several ways. One was by seating them in the coldest part of the room. Other punishments were to face the corner or to feel the whack of the paddle or hickory stick. Dunce caps were not used until 1893. Teacher’s helpers were the older boys. They would come early to chop the fire wood and fill the water buckets. Every one drank from the same dipper which helped to spread colds, measles, scarlet fever, whooping cough, mumps, and cholera. School terms were only a few months. Teachers’ salaries came from a fee paid by the parents.