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Taking You Back in History: Chalk Board Days Part 2

By Kathy Brown, Groveland Yosemite Gateway Museum/Southern Tuolumne County Historical Society

Groveland's "Little Red Schoolhouse" 1905

The first segment of “Chalk Board Days” mentioned the students of Big Oak Flat walking over the Divide to be taught at a school in Garrote (Groveland) after their school's demise. That school, referred to as “The Little Red Schoolhouse,” was known to exist by 1867.

Mary Sweaney De Ferrari, who launched her teaching career in Groveland in 1912, wrote her first impressions of “Little Red Schoolhouse”. “It was a one-room, barn-like affair, spacious and cool. Three rows of double desks were nailed to the floor. Four windows were on each side of the room, and one at the end admitting light to the teacher's desk. Slate blackboards occupied the space between the windows. There was an organ, a dilapidated foot-pump instrument which squeaked out the marches and was used as an accompaniment to “America” and other favorites such as “Billy Boy” and Rig-a-Jig. ... In the center of the room was a box-heater, but it never did heat the room adequately.”

She also related that some of the children walked three miles to school. They were expected to to do chores at home, and at school as well, before the school day started. The boys hauled water from the well and stacked firewood brought in by wagon by area ranchers. The girls swept the floor and cleaned blackboards.

Mary taught in several Groveland area schools after attending Normal School. She told of passing a rigorous teachers' exam at the Tuolumne County Courthouse in 1912. It lasted six days and at the end she received her Teacher's Certificate. She said teachers were expected to follow a strict morality code. They were not allowed to smoke or drink in public and were supposed to avert their eyes when passing a saloon. Early teachers in this area were often housed in the Priest or Baird hotels or with area families.