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Robinson’s one-room schoolhouses: Education in a simpler world

The Aiken School was built in the 1880’s on what is now the home of the Chartiers Country Club golf course.


By Janet Gonter

Robinson Township was once the home of 10 one-room schoolhouses, all built between 1837 and 1911.

The small schools were located throughout the township, and with no transportation provided, the students walked to school—sometimes for miles. Schools had no indoor plumbing and no central heating; the coal stove was manned by the teacher. At the time, girls often had to drop out of school to help with their large families, and boys as young as 10 often had to work in the coal mines to help feed the family. Education beyond fourth grade was a luxury few could afford. It was just the way things were, and few complained.

Kansas School

Times were tough, but students and teachers were surprisingly positive. The Kansas School, located on Regina Drive, was a good example. In a 1920 school newspaper, teacher Miss Anna Reis wrote that she had raised money, “by giving entertainments and socials” to purchase “pictures for the walls, lamps, Victrola and records, and dumbbells.” She added, “In the Fall, we purchased a dodge ball” that enlivened recess and the lunch hour. Miss Reis’ class that year consisted of 36 children in grades 1 through 5, all in that single classroom.

Hall School

The Hall School on Devassie Road was another much-loved schoolhouse. The late Elizabeth Lanigan attended school there and remembered in a long-ago interview, “My brother and I took care of the school. We cleaned early in the morning and fired [the] furnace. We had to go outside to the coal shed and fill the coal bucket . . . and before we’d come home at night we’d have to sweep and dust.”

#7 Frame School

Elizabeth became a teacher in Robinson in 1929 at the age of 18. She was paid $900 a year to teach at the #7 Frame school, located where Juliano’s Pizza is now. It was a job she loved, although things were still tough and about to get tougher with the onset of the Great Depression.

At least three of these old schools have been converted into homes – the Hall School on Devassie Road, the Kansas School on Regina Drive, and the original Forest Grove School on William Drive. Today, you would never guess they were once one-room schoolhouses. If only those walls could only talk!

It is hard to believe that just over a century ago, an education, no matter how brief and simple, was a thing to cherish all through life.

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