Appreciating country school life

Published: Jun. 4, 2020 at 10:31 AM CDT
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The Freeman School stands as a reminder of how important education was to pioneers who settled Nebraska.

The National Park Service took over the school in the 1970's, and the building has been restored to the 1890's era. The school building is on the National Register of Historic Places. The school actually opened in 1872.

Daniel Freeman who was the first homesteader, had children going to the one-room school. At that time, children used Bibles as a way to learn to read. Freeman did not want his kids learning from a Bible. So he challenged it. His case went to the Nebraska Supreme Court in 1899, and at that point in time it was decided that teaching kids to read from a Bible was a violation of "church and state". That case law is still used today, and this case is just one of the reasons why this building is unique.

Homestead National Monument of America Superintendent Mark Engler says the school is significant for many reasons. "Today we talk to visitors about how it was used," Engler said. "It was a place where social events would take place. Box lunches would happen here, and the building was even used as a voting precinct."

Engler says while Nebraskans may be more familiar with one-room schoolhouses, visitors from other parts of the country may not be. "I think we need to keep in mind that these places are very special, and while they may be common to us, they are not common to everybody," Engler said. "It's important that we take care of these schools, because they represent a part of our past, and we can learn from them."

Earlier this year, we told you about an effort to renovate the shutters and windows at the Freeman School. Wood working experts at the Beatrice company called Ratigan Schottler built new windows to original 1800's specifications. Park Superintendent Mark Engler says crews are currently working on the project. Windows have arrived from Kansas City, and installation could happen the week of June 8. Crews are also at the school scraping paint. We'll keep you up to date, as park employees continue their commitment to maintaining this historic building.