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One Room Schools

a virtual museum

by Gina Giuliano

Martin A. Eckert, my grandfather, was trustee for Bushkill School in West Shokan, New York during the 1940s. My grandmother, his wife Ann McSpirit Eckert, labeled and then saved many old documents by preserving them in scrapbooks. Recently, my mother acquired some documents that once belonged to Matthew Shurter, a teacher and professor during the mid-late 19th Century. His family saved papers for generations. Here are just a few images and PDF files that relate to the history of public education in rural America.

1942-43 Budget for Bushkill School


Budget for 1942-43




 Repairs, Painting &








 Janitor's Supplies






 Grading Yard


 School Yard Fence


 Repairs to Well




 Bushkill School's Bank Book
 These two photographs of the West Shokan and Bushkill Schools appeared in "West Shokan: Eden of the Catskills," written for the Shokan Baptist Church in 1930 by Elwyn Davis. On a "good year," the entire K - 8 population at Bushkill was maybe 10 students.

Bushkill School students and teacher, circa 1942-43; my mother Florence Eckert Giuliano is third from the left in the front row

Related Publication: It's A Wonder We Didn't Get Drowned

The first teaching experience of Helen Hussman Morris, who taught at a one-room school in Orion, Oklahoma in 1929, is described by her daughter: "Most of the pupils walked a mile or more to school, and many of them were barefoot; they saved their shoes for the cold weather in winter...she had 16 pupils in all eight grades represented in her school room. In the corner in the back of the room was a table with a bucket and a dipper for the drinking water. One of the girls offered to get a pail of water from the pump in the cistern" (Stephens, 1990, p. 40).

The tintype shows Matthew Shurter of Samsonville, NY, who was a teacher and professor in the mid/late 19th Century>


Back in 1868, a young teacher in Chicago named Mary Towne wrote to her mother, "The schools here are much more thorough and strict than any I ever saw before. No scholar is allowed who comes with dirty face or hands or clothes. The hair must be combed, clothes whole and clean or they are sent home to be put in order and if repeated 3 times they are suspended. Music is taught in all the grades. There is not one in my room (the 8th grade) who cannot give the sound of "Do" in all the keys and skip or sing by notes daily for 1/2 hour...in this grade, all over the city, the subjects are primary and secondary colors, how they unite, divisions of time, seasons, months and days, vegetables, their colors, use manner and growth, way of cooking...we never tell a boy or girl anything they can tell us. They are made to think" (Morgan, 1996, p. 38).

A Great Link on history of education (it will take you to PBS website)

 Teaching Certificate from 1885


Historic documents from the collections of Ann Eckert and S. Ethel Shurter, courtesy of Florence Giuliano.

Davis, E. (1930). West Shokan: Eden of the Catskills. Walden, New York: Ahrens Press.

Morgan, K. R. (ed.). (1996). My ever dear daughter, my own dear mother: The correspondence of Julia Stone Towne and Mary Julia Towne, 1868 - 1882. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press.

Stevens, D. M. (1990). One-room school: Teaching in 1930s western Oklahoma. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.

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