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One room schools shaped education in Douglas County

Schools were started in Oregon almost as soon as people settled in the state. Throughout Douglas County, some of the remnants of those early days of education remain visible.

One-room schoolhouses were the norm in the United States from the early 18th century to the middle of the 20th century, and almost half of all American schoolchildren attended such an institution.

In Oregon, a public school system was established in 1849. Most of those were one-room schoolhouses staffed by a single teacher, which offered education up to eighth grade.

The buildings were built for function, often just big enough to hold the expected amount of students and small enough for a teacher’s voice could be heard from anywhere in the classroom. Most were painted white and had wood stoves to provide heat.

Although one-room schoolhouses were widely used, the Oregon State Department of Education in 1914 began pushing reform and encouraging standardization of teacher training, texts and school design. By 1930, school consolidation was accelerated due to consistent pressure by the state and advances in transportation, which led to the closure of many one-room schools.

Currently, there are 18 school buildings in Douglas County that are eligible as Oregon Historic Preservation Sites and 27 buildings that are undetermined, but not all of those historic schools are one-room schoolhouses. The last time the list was updated was 2002, and it is possible that not all buildings are still standing.

Local historian and retired teacher Larry Moulton wrote a historic outline on Douglas County schools in October 2000 and revised it in November of 2003. Moulton did not return phone calls by The News-Review asking for help, but his research offered an in-depth look into one-room schoolhouses.

The records from 2002 included 31 one-room schoolhouses, of which nine were converted into a home, three are used as a grange hall, two as a shed. The remaining properties are either abandoned or have another usage these days.

Here are a few stories about one-room schoolhouses in Douglas County:

MSullivan / MICHAEL SULLIVAN/The News-Review  

Alex Freadman of Oakland flips through various maps of the world on display at the Upper Olalla Schoolhouse on August 20. Freadman attended classes at the one room school house from first grade through fourth grade.

Upper Olalla School

Alex Freadman said every day, a student would go underneath the Upper Olalla Schoolhouse to light the wood furnace that would heat the building.

On especially cold days, students would sit around the grate inside the building to get as much heat as possible, but when they needed to be able to see their work they’d move close to the windows.

Electricity came to the school in 1949, a year before the school was annexed to the Tenmile district. When the lights were installed, it was the first time Alex Freadman ever held a lightbulb.

Upper Olalla School District was active from 1894 to 1950 and the school building that’s still standing today was built in 1913.

The schoolhouse has the original blackboards, walls and floors, the windows are in the original framework and many of the panes are the original glass. Pictures and maps hanging in the school today were there in the 1940s.

Upper Olalla Ladies Club, which owns the building, hosts two fundraisers a year, an Ice Cream Social in August and a Chili Feed in March, to maintain the schoolhouse.

The club has overhauled the heating system, rewired the electrical system, replaced the hand pump with an electrical pump, refinished the floors, installed water pipes, and repaired termite damage on the front porch. Wolf Creek Job Corps helped install steps and handicapped parking.

In 1993-1994 the schoolhouse underwent major renovations, including a new roof, new skirting, a rebuilt brick chimney and water damaged wood was replaced.

Colene Freadman of the Upper Olalla Ladies Club said the restoration was made possible thanks to a donation by The Ford Foundation.

The school bell from the Lower Olalla Schoolhouse now sits atop the school building and can be rung from inside the school building as Alex Freadman demonstrated in August 2019.

Over the years the club and school alumni have worked to preserve memories of the schoolhouse. Some of those memories were recorded by the Upper Olalla Ladies Club.

This included Barbara Harland Carlson’s memory of doing piano exercised with her teacher, Mrs. Wheelock. Diane Good Carr remembered having to walk through a field with a bull to get to school and having to be very careful.

Alex Freadman said he remembers playing marbles and spin the bottle underneath the schoolhouse. There was a playground behind the school, which has since been extended and converted into a parking lot.

Squirrel Hill Academy

Squirrel Hill Academy, also known as Riversdale Academy or the Curry School, is the only one-room schoolhouse in Douglas County that’s still used as a school.

Patricia Duerfeldt, also known as Miss Barry, transports students back in time by teaching them classes as they would’ve been taught in the early 18th century when the school was in use.

Melrose Elementary School Principal Tammy Rasmussen said, “It’s just magical in how she sets the tone.”

Riversdale Academy was built in 1901 and was in use until the late 1920s when the new Riversdale School was built. While consolidation was often a reason for moving building, at Squirrel Hill it was simply an issue of space.

The school building is 30-by-18 feet and would be used by three to 14 students. The “new” Riversdale School, now the home of Riversdale Church of Christ, had 4,232 square footage in space.

These days, Miss Barry teaches students on a strictly field trip basis and while some opt for classes in the fall, most classes take place in spring. There is no electricity, and therefore no heat or light, in the building.

Duerfeldt taught in the old schoolhouse for the first time during Pioneer Week when she was still a teacher at Melrose in the early 1990s.

South-facing windows in the original school were boarded shut sometime during the years the school was in use. An article by the National Institute of Building Sciences entitled ‘A History of School Design and its Indoor Environmental Standards, 1900 to Today, states that according to scholars at the time light should come over the left shoulder of each pupil, encouraging them to use their right hand for writing. The Upper Olalla Schoolhouse also had light come into the building from just two sides, in line with the standards at the time.

Volunteers and students had a lot to do with the renewed interest in Riversdale Academy at the turn of the 21st century.

In 1993, Girl Scouts Heather Burpee and Taira Curtis worked to move the old schoolhouse from a field off Garden Valley Road to its current location at Melrose Elementary School.

“I have grown up in this area and I went to school at Melrose Elementary, the present site of the Riversdale Schoolhouse,” Curtis wrote in her synopsis of the project for her Girl Scout Gold Award. “The schoolhouse on its new site is accessible to more people now. It will be used as a classroom to teach students history and it will be open to the public for a fee that will be used to maintain the building.”

Other Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, including Heather Campbell and Katrina Curtis, worked to refurbish the building to earn their awards.

The desks inside the school were made by the Roseburg High School shop class from the old football stadium seats.

When the school’s librarian was looking for someone to teach historically accurate classes, Duerfeldt came forward. “I stepped in and it has been my baby ever since,” Duerfeldt said.

“One of the things I love is that the students write with quill pens and they write in their own journal with ink,” Duerfeldt said. “Sometimes they come up to me and tell me they still have that journal.”

Students also get a fingernail and hand check by Miss Barry, and learn spelling, math and play an arithmetic game. Each session lasts about 1 1/2 hours, depending on how many questions students have after their lesson.

“I enjoy teaching them and letting them go,” Duerfeldt said, adding that every year she thinks it will be her last year as Miss Barry.

Rasmussen has worked to make sure the old schoolhouse plays a role in important events at the school, such as outdoor choir concert, fifth-grade graduation and even the Roseburg High School senior walk.

“When I first got here it seemed out of place, but it quickly became to take on a life of its own and become a part of the school,” Rasmussen said. “To see there’s still life around it is so important. We’re bringing life to that space. It’s not just history, but a place to grow new memories.”

Each year, Melrose fifth graders plant roses to line the path to the schoolhouse. When the RHS graduating seniors visit the school for their senior walk, students and lined the path to give high-fives.

“This couldn’t die. It’s just too special,” Duerfeldt said.

Mike Henneke/The News-Review  

David Kennerly, left, and Mark Fishbaugher walk toward the English Settlement School before work begins to remove two hives on the property last August.

English Settlement School

The school near Mildred Kanipe Park, about 8 miles outside of Oakland, is the only in Douglas County to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The school was built in the farming area known as English Settlement. The community never established itself as a town, but it did operate its own school district until 1934.

Friends of Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park would like to restore the school and open it up to classroom field trips.

“Our vision is to make it available for kids to go to school here half a day,” said Stephen Kennerly, a Friends of Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park board member in charge of historical preservation. He mused that the other half of the day, students could spend in the park.

While the Douglas County Historic Building Inventory lists the building construction as the 1870s, local historian Larry Moulton wrote that’s the original school building. Oregon State Historic Preservation Office staff concluded that this schoolhouse was built around 1910.

Mildred and Leah Kanipe used to attend the school, and Leah Kanipe taught at the school for two years after graduating from Oakland High School.

Like other small districts in Douglas County, the English Settlement school district continued to be a small rural school district with a single one-room schoolhouse and teacher through the early twentieth century.

English Settlement Schools physically demonstrate the ideologies that shaped American education. The building is a rectangular, one-story, wood-frame, front-gabled, one-room schoolhouse that’s 22-by-36 feet supported by its original system of wood girders and floor joists set on hand-placed field stones.

Inside the building has a small entry vestibule and two cloak rooms, one for boys and one for girls, placed on the east end of the building.

Electricity was added to the building at some point, but it has not been used as a school since 1930.

Animals, both domestic and wild, used it as a shelter and home until 2005 when the Friends of Mildred Kanipe Memorial Park Association cleaned it out and secured the building with a lock.

When the school was closed, Mildred Kanipe started using the building for her sheep.

“We shoveled about an inch-and-a-half of sheep manure out of there,” Kennerly said.

Brush around the schoolhouse was cleared between 2006 and 2008, and the schoolhouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

A fence was installed around the perimeter in 2009 and since then the schoolhouse was pressure washed and painted, placed on a new foundation, the windows restored and new roof installed. Additionally, the Donna P. Woolley Trust donated 37 school desks from Sunnydale School near Drain.

Planning and funding has started for the interior of the schoolhouse, which includes fixing the ceiling, repairing the floors and painting.

Second annual N.U.T. Cracker Race draws cyclists from across the Pacific Northwest

The second annual N.U.T. Cracker Mountain Bike Race brought cyclists from across the Pacific Northwest to ride through the North Umpqua Trail Saturday morning — and drew them back to Stewart Park on Saturday evening for The Great Umpqua Bash.

With a reputation for being a “tough race,” the N.U.T. Cracker was 53 miles long and featured 4,400 feet of climbing downriver, said event coordinator Mike Ripley of Mudslinger Events that helped plan the race.

Riders took off down the trail at 8 a.m. from Lake Lemolo and finished the race around 2 p.m. at Tioga Bridge.

“The North Umpqua is just so beautiful,” Ripley said. “Some people are treating this like a bucket list item to do this.”

Riders were invited back to the Great Umpqua Bash on Saturday evening to celebrate completing the trail with food trucks, a beer and wine garden and a guest appearance from the Wildlife Safari cheetah.

The band Roseburg, named after the town where its founding members met, took the Nichols Band Shell stage at 7 p.m. and performed to a sparsely filled Stewart Park. An estimated crowd of 120 people cheered as the band came on stage.

Awards for the top three men and women racers were handed out at the Great Umpqua Bash as well. Loren Mason-Gere of Eugene took first place, completing the men’s race in a time of 4 hours, 45 minutes, followed by Scott Hood of North Bend and Trevor Schissler of Roseburg.

Schissler said he’s new to racing and has only participated in four other races before tackling the N.U.T. Cracker.

“I did better than I thought I would,” Schissler said. “(It’s a) great hiking trail, but a little more advanced for mountain biking. It’s pretty steep, you’re going to get a work out in.”

This year, two women participated in the race. Julie Browning, of Portland, took first place followed by Jennifer Hart, of North Bend, in second place.

Browning said this was her first year participating in the N.U.T. Cracker Race.

“I liked it — it was tough, but yeah it’s different than any other race I’d done,” Browning said. “It was beautiful. I wish I could have slowed down to look at the river!”

Katie Bryson and Kevin Gathers traveled from Anaheim, California, to spend Labor Day weekend in Roseburg. They found the Great Umpqua Bash online and decided to check it out.

“We actually just googled what’s going on — we’re from Southern California,” Bryson said. “So we just drove up here for a vacation ... we just meandered over here to check (the Bash) out.”

Bryson said they drove through Roseburg years ago and had always wanted to come back and explore the area.

Twenty-one cyclists registered and rode through the N.U.T. Cracker race, though only five of them were from Roseburg.

Daniel Sidder, of Corvallis, said he’s new to racing and wanted to give the N.U.T. Cracker a shot.

“I just saw the race and thought it looked really cool, we live up in Corvallis. I thought, “Well, might as well sign up and see how it goes!” Daniel Sidder said. “We camped up at Lemolo. It was a blast.”

Susie Sidder, Daniel’s wife, said there was a noticeable sigh of relief from cyclists as they passed the finish line.

“Everybody that came through seemed happy about their accomplishment,” Susie Sidder said.

Ripley said the trail is difficult even for seasoned riders, but he said he hopes to create more trails for riders of all experience levels.

“Honestly, its some of the toughest, most rewarding mountain biking anywhere,” Ripley said. “Everybody that lives in Roseburg should be super proud of this national treasure that most people really just don’t know about.”

At least 5 dead in West Texas shooting after traffic stop

ODESSA, Texas — At least five people were dead in West Texas after a man who was stopped by state troopers when his vehicle failed to signal a left turn opened fire and fled, shooting more than 20 people before he was killed by officers outside a movie theater, authorities said Saturday. Three law enforcement officers were among the injured.

The shooting began with an interstate traffic stop in the heart of Texas oil country where gunfire was exchanged with police, setting off a chaotic afternoon during which the suspect hijacked a U.S. Postal Service vehicle and began firing at random in the area of Odessa and Midland, hitting multiple people. Cell phone video showed people running out of a movie theater, and as Odessa television station KOSA aired breaking developments on live TV, their broadcast was interrupted by police telling them they had to clear the area.

Police initially reported that there could be more than one shooter, but Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke later said there was only one.

“Once this individual was taken out of the picture, there have been no more victims,” Gerke said.

Gerke described the suspect as a white male in his 30s. He did not name him or a motive but said he has some idea who the gunman is.

The terrifying chain of events began when Texas state troopers tried pulling over a gold car mid-Saturday afternoon on Interstate 20 for failing to signal a left turn, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Katherine Cesinger said. Before the vehicle came to a complete stop, the driver “pointed a rifle toward the rear window of his car and fired several shots” toward the patrol car stopping him. The gunshots struck one of two troopers inside the patrol car, Cesinger said, after which the gunman fled “and continued shooting innocent people,” including two police officers.

Gerke said that in addition to the injured officers, there were at least 21 civilian shooting victims. He said at least five people died. He did not say whether the shooter was included among those five dead, and it was not clear whether he was including the five dead among the at least 21 civilian shooting victims.

The shooting comes just four weeks after a gunman in the Texas border city of El Paso killed 22 people after opening fire at a Walmart. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this week held two meetings with lawmakers about how to prevent mass more shootings in Texas. He said he would visit the area Sunday.

The West Texas shooting Saturday brings the number of mass killings in the U.S. so far this year to 25, matching the number in all of 2018, according to The AP/USATODAY/Northeastern University mass murder database. The number of victims also has reached the level reached in all of last year at either 139 or 140 depending on whether the West Texas suspect was one of the five police say are dead.

Seven people remained in critical condition at one hospital hours after the West Texas shooting, said Russell Tippin, CEO of Medical Center Hospital in Odessa. He said a child under 2 years old was also transported to another hospital. He also said one person the hospital had received had died, although it was unclear if that victim was among the five dead that Gerke reported.

Tippin said 13 shooting victims were being treated at the hospital Saturday evening but he did not give their conditions or other information about the victims. Social workers and professional counselors are at the hospital to provide support to the families of shooting victims, Tippin said. He also said the hospital has been locked down for that safety of the staff and patients.

Dustin Fawcett was sitting in his truck at a Starbucks in Odessa when he heard at least six gunshots ring out less than 50 yards behind him.

At first, he thought it might have been a tire blowing but he heard more shots and spotted a white sedan with a passenger window that had been shattered. That’s when he thought, “Oh man, this is a shooting.”

Fawcett, 28, an Odessa transportation consultant, “got out to make sure everyone was safe” but found that no one had been struck by the gunfire nearby. He said a little girl was bleeding, but she hadn’t been shot, and that he found out she was grazed in the face.

Fawcett said authorities responded quickly and when police pulled out their rifles and vests he knew that “this is not a drive-by. This is something else, this is something bigger.”

Vice President Mike Pence said following the shooting that President Donald Trump and his administration “remain absolutely determined” to work with leaders in both parties in Congress to take such steps “so we can address and confront this scourge of mass atrocities in our country.”

Pence said Trump has deployed the federal government in response to the shootings. He says Trump has spoken to the attorney general and that the FBI is already assisting local law enforcement.

Trump has offered contradictory messages in reacting to recent mass shootings. Days after the El Paso and Ohio shootings he said he was eager to implement “very meaningful background checks” and told reporters there was “tremendous support” for action. He later backed away from those changes, saying the current system of background checks was “very, very strong.”

Most recently, Trump has called for greater attention to mental health, saying that new facilities are needed for the mentally ill as a way to reduce mass shootings. However, some mental health professionals say such thinking is outdated, that linking mental illness to violence is wrong, and that the impact of more treatment would be helpful overall but would have a minor impact on gun violence.

Odessa is about 20 miles southwest of Midland. Both are more than 300 miles west of Dallas.