Webutuck Elementary School students visit one-room Indian Rock Schoolhouse

The 19th-century one-room school experience came alive for Third Grade students from Webutuck Elementary School during their annual visit to the Indian Rock Schoolhouse in Amenia on Friday, May 31. Webutuck librarian Elizabeth Murphy authentically portrayed the schoolmarm.

Leila Hawken

Webutuck Elementary School students visit one-room Indian Rock Schoolhouse

AMENIA — Eager to experience the supreme authority of the schoolmarm and the possible embarrassment of a dunce cap, students from Webutuck Elementary School’s Grades 2 and 3 paid their annual visit to the Indian Rock Schoolhouse in Amenia on Friday, May 31.

First came the third graders to settle into hard wooden benches, after bowing or curtsying to the schoolmarm. They sat up straight, faced forward and paid attention to schoolmarm Elizabeth Murphy, Webutuck librarian, who provided facts about daily life and lessons in a one-room schoolhouse.

Murphy serves as school librarian and is also a past president of the Indian Rock Schoolhouse Association that was formed in 2001. Her goal as schoolmarm for the day was to show the students what school was like in the 1850s, she said.

“I’m the only one left from the beginning of the project to save the schoolhouse and establish it as a local historic landmark,” Murphy said, as she prepared to greet the two classes. The schoolhouse continued in use until 1927.

With schoolmarm Murphy in charge, a few children were selected to sit on the dunce stool and wear the traditional cap, probably with broader smiles than would have been characteristic of their counterparts in times past.

Children were invited to imagine school with no running water, drinking water scooped from the nearby brook, no electricity, light from a single kerosene lamp, no transportation, neither books nor paper, but slates and chalk, and strictly disciplined behavior.

Murphy explained that schoolmarms in the 19th century would not have been allowed to be married. If they were married, their place would have been at home helping with the farm and raising the children who would have attended the school.

Following the schoolhouse experience, students were released to the outdoors to enjoy historic games and help with planting flowers to beautify the site for the summer.

The second graders would arrive at noon.

In order to be called a museum, the Indian Rock Schoolhouse must be used by children at least once a year. This annual visit serves the purpose and provides an enriching experience for the Webutuck students.

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