On a summer day in 1889, Jennie Forster marched into Brown’s Lumber Company and ordered enough lumber, on credit, to build a school house for the new village of Edmond, Oklahoma Territory. The Ladies School Aid Society, consisting of 15 women, had been formed and the ladies were determined to have a proper school for the local children.
Jennie (Mrs. George) Forster was the president of the society. Among the other members were Mrs. L.G. Wahl, Mrs. C.A. Dake, Mrs. Frank Kiedrowski, Mrs. E.W. Erisman, Mrs. H.H. Moose, Mrs. Peter Wilderson, Mrs. J.J. Shen, Mrs. Alvin Ricketts, Mrs. John Pfaff, Mrs. Henry Morrison and Mrs. F.S. Peck.
The women set to work immediately to earn the money to pay back the lumber bill. They badgered their husbands, as well as the other town merchants and citizens. Mrs. Forster joked in later years she was sure the businessmen “felt like running out the back door when they saw me entering the front door.”
The ladies had other fund-raising ideas, the first being an ice-cream social featuring blackberries, ice cream and lemonade which raised $25. Several of the women wove rugs to sell and they held other socials, dinners and suppers. The town pulled together and by August of 1889 the new school house was completed on one of the six future school house lots.
By the end of the first school year, all the money for the lumber had been paid back and most importantly The Thanksgiving Game DInner to benefit the project raised enough money to finish paying the school teacher, Miss Ollie McCormick, for the school year. A tuition didn’t have to be collected from the students, making this a free public school.
The first class of 19 students reported September 16, 1889. By the end of the term there were 37 pupils. By summer of 1899 the town had outgrown its little school house. Ten years to the month of when it was built, the structure was sold and remodeled into a home, which it remained for almost 100 years.
Making the Case for Restoration
Through the passing years most people forgot about the school and many were convinced it no longer existed. There were a few, however, who believed the school house was still on the old school lots on East Second Street…part of the boarded up Sander’s Camera Shop.
The Edmond Historic Preservation Trust had considered the school house as a future project from its beginning in 1982. Local historian and Trust member Lucille Warrick finally convinced the Edmond City Council members that not only did the school house still exist but possibly was the last remaining original 1889 structure in town. In 1997 the council gave the Trust the go-ahead to “investigate, acquire and preserve” the historic structure.
Once again a group of concerned citizens, led by a strong-willed woman, went to work on the 1889 school house. Immediately research was begun to prove to the nay-sayers that this was, indeed, the original school house. It was a great day when the inside walls of the old camera store were taken down and the original blackboards, painted on the walls of the old school, were revealed.
April 15, 2007, following years of hard work, the official dedication of the building was held. In the fall of 2008 a class of students from Russell Dougherty Elementary School walked two blocks down the street and through the front doors of the old school to begin a day of instruction in the manner of 1889.
The children of Edmond were attending the town’s first school house once more.