School in the Early 1800s


Attending school in the early 1800s was a privilege because every community didn’t have one. In those days, children went to subscription schools where parents paid the teacher a certain amount for each child. Parents also provided wood for the fireplace.

Families usually took turns boarding the teacher, or “master” as he might be called. The young scholars liked this arrangement as it gave them extra time with their teacher. Country schools didn’t hire women.

Boys and girls learned the three R’s together — “reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic,” better known as reading, writing, and math. They also played blind man’s bluff and ran races at recess. Cat and corner ball were two of the ball games they enjoyed.

School usually lasted four months during the fall and winter and then students were done for the year.

The master quizzed students on spelling daily where he gave the words aloud for the class to spell. Neighborhood schools competed periodically throughout the winter so the best spellers from each school could go toe to toe.

The schools were usually log cabins with a puncheon floor, clapboard roof and door, and greased paper in the windows. One wide fireplace took up one side of the school. The clay and wood chimney was built on the outside.

Split log benches with the flat side facing upward and round stick legs served as seats. Students used wide split slabs along one side of the room for writing tables.

-Sandra Merville Hart



“Clapboard,” 2015/06/15

“Puncheon floor room,” Historic New England, 2015/06/09

Welker, Martin. 1830’s Farm Life in Central Ohio, Clapper’s Print, 2005.