The best birthday, inDEED!

school-NW-corner-smallIt all started on my birthday last month.

Okay, that’s not true.

It started a few years ago when my in-laws purchased some neighboring farmland with a sweet, little red brick one-room schoolhouse on it.

Actually, not then.

It started 22 1/2 years ago when I moved to the country and into a white house just down the road from a sweet, little red brick one-room schoolhouse.

Alright, it started when I was eight years old and fell in love with Little House on the Prairie.

So, now at least  we’ve got that straight.

I do know this.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a thing for old buidings.  Creaky, crooked farm houses.  Sagging, sorry old barns.  Little churches on corners flanked by long-forgotten gravestones. But, mostly, I ogled those little brick one-room schoolhouses.  And the one in my “neighborhood” (we use this term to describe a couple of square country miles) quickly became my favorite.

Over the past two decades, I’ve watched its bell-less bell tower topple. I’ve watched the wind snatch a slate  shingle here and there. And, sadly, watched as the front awning hit the dirt.  But even the harshest Ohio weather hasn’t faded the “1894” laid clearly in the roof slate. The foundation is sturdy and rock-solid.  And the brick walls, laid three layers thick, are square and sound.

My father-in-law has always known of my fondness for the schoolhouse . He promised not to tear it down. But, beyond that, I was never quite sure what would happen to this piece of local history.  It wasn’t mine to envision its potential.  But, I did. Every chance I got.

Fast forward to March 2012.  My birthday was a busy day.  A work day followed by a three-hour drive to pick up my oldest daughter from college for spring break. It was late when I finally arrived home.  My youngest daughter met me in the garage, a large envelope in hand.

“Grandpa was here.”

Okay.  He usually manages to make an appearance at least once a day.

“He left your birthday card.”

Okay. He’s good about birthdays. He’s never late with a birthday card.

“It’s really big.”

She had me there. It was  big. I entered the kitchen and gingerly opened the legal-sized manilla envelope.

“Situated in the Township of Liberty, County of Mercer, State of Ohio…”

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was holding the deed to the schoolhouse and two point three five acres of land. I was speechless. Mary Lennox couldn’t have been happier when her uncle Archibald Craven granted her wish for “a bit of earth.”

I made a tearful telephone call.  Don’t you love it when you can hear a smile over the phone line?

Me too.

So, here it is. And, yes, I have my work cut out for me.  It took 118 years for it to get this way.  I hope it won’t take as long to fix it up.


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18 comments on “The best birthday, inDEED!”

  1. Jan R Miesse

    This is the one you were telling me about. Love it! So happy for you.
    I’m sure I’ve seen it. Most have been torn down. Treasure it and be inspired! Hugs!

  2. Alta Jean Kuhn

    Michelle, I loved your story about the country school house. You will never forget this birthday!! Your friend, Alta Jean.

  3. Jane Suzuki

    so happy for you ! what a wonderful birthday gift– you have the best father in law, dont you , I have always wondered what the schoolhouse looked like on the inside! Let me know if you need any help in its refurbishing– I have a strong back and a willing mind.

  4. Wilma Houts

    How nice! Dreams do come true, don’t they? Let the work begin! I probably played softball at that school on a Friday afternoon when country schools got together for a little fun. I went to Joint Country School in 1931 until it closed in 1934 or ’35.

  5. Mike Houts

    I guess I need to apologize for helping grandpa tear the awning off your property. It was his at the time, but I hope you voted for remove rather than repair.

    • Michelle

      What? It was YOU? Just kidding. After the wind took half of it down, we agreed the rest should go. But we need to put a new one up, because after a rain I can’t ge the door open!

  6. Gena Bittner

    What a fabulous story and what a wonderful gift. I want to come out and meet it before and after the refurb. And I’d be willing to help you too. I’m happy for you Michelle. very cool thing for Elden to do. You are a gift to the family and what an appropriate expression of love. Hope to see you soon!

  7. Heather Hetterick

    That is so neat Michelle! I can’t wait to see what you do with it. My sister-in-laws family just refurbished a one room schoolhouse in Anna. I think you’d enjoy seeing what they did and they could be a great resource for you. The Elsass schoolhouse has its own Facebook group-

    • Michelle

      Heather, Those pictures are so inspiring! Thank you for sharing. I think they could have some valuable advice for me!

  8. Melanie Evans

    Michelle – I found your blog through my cousin, Amanda Gamble Kohnen. Our grandmother (great-grandmother) taught in a one-room schoolhouse that is still standing in Van Wert county. I so wish I was closer and could do something interesting with her schoolhouse. I, too, have such a fondness for old buildings and the history that they hold. BEST OF LUCK with your renovations! I’ll subscribe to your blog to follow your progress! Melanie (Berthoud, CO)

    • Michelle

      Hi Melanie! Thanks so much for your comment. I’ll keep you posted … it’s definitely going to be a long-term project!

    • Michelle

      Thanks! Keep your eyes out for more information… there’s more good news on the way very soon!

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