EDMOND — Nestled between an oil change business and a nail salon and facing Edmond's busy Second Street is a white wooden building from another century. The contrast is even more striking inside the 1889 Schoolhouse, especially during summer camp.
On a rainy June morning, Christy Adel, known as Miss Terry to her pupils, is dressed prim and proper in a long-sleeved buttoned floral top and floor-length skirt. She greets the children by asking if they are ready to enter 1889.
Twice every summer, the building comes alive during three-day camps sponsored by Edmond's Historical Society and Museum in association with the Historical Preservation Trust.
The camps are open to ages 6 through 12 and feature a “schoolmarm” ready to teach them about life in Oklahoma in the 19th century.
“It's historical fiction,” Adel said. “The history I teach is accurate, but I teach it as if I'm telling the children my own story.”
Playing the role, Adel described her family coming to Oklahoma for the Land Run of 1889 and how she lost the man she was engaged to amid the chaos.
“That's the only way a woman could be a teacher in 1889. She couldn't be married,” Adel said.
Pieces of history
The rule is one of several that teachers had to follow in those days. A framed copy of the rules decorates the mantel of the 24-by-36-foot building that once housed Oklahoma's first public school.
After it was passed from owner to owner and some changes were made to the building, doubt arose as to whether the schoolhouse was the real thing.
In 2002, researchers backed by Edmond's Historic Preservation Trust, the city council and private donors uncovered the original chalkboards, painted onto the walls and still bearing chalk marks from 123 years ago.
The chalkboards are now framed and adorn the walls, reminding modern-day students of children who once sat where they sit and learned vocabulary, arithmetic, history, home economics and morality.
On each desk is a copy of The McGuffey Reader, a book likely used in 1889.
Reliving the past
On the first day of camp, Adel tells the children what she will teach them and how she expects them to behave. They are not to raise their voices above a whisper unless called upon; they must stand to speak. The campers are required to bring their lunches, but nothing that would not have been used in 1889.
“No Ziploc bags,” Adel reminds them.
Adel said parents are often surprised by how obediently the children behave while at camp.
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