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A chance to experience a day in the life of a school child in 1893

Jonesborough Days visitors got a chance to experience some of what children in 1893 went through during a school day if they stopped by the Discovery Park during the Jonesborough Days Festival.
Jonesborough Days visitors got a chance to experience some of what children in 1893 went through during a school day if they stopped by the Discovery Park during the Jonesborough Days Festival.


“School days, school days, good old golden rule days…”  Remember that song? Come experience it for yourself on Friday, July 22, at Oak Hill School’s Big Kid Day.

Built in 1886 by the Knob Creek Community, Oak Hill School welcomed first through eighth graders until 1952. It was a part of Washington County Schools, and today it’s the largest artifact in the collection of the Jonesborough-Washington County History Museum and Archives.

Relocated to Jonesborough in 1996, the school has been restored, and today it transports students back to the 1890s as a part of the Oak Hill School Heritage Education program.

The program typically attracts students who get up and go to school every morning, but that will change on July 22 when students 18 and older are invited to come back and experience a school day in 1893. Class will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 1 p.m.  The cost per student is $5.

“Big Kid Day is a chance to compare and remember your own school memories,” said Marjorie Shaefer, also known as Schoolmarm Miller.

Shaefer serves as one of the schoolmarms for the program.

“My grandma was a schoolmarm in 1900, in a one-room schoolhouse and grandad began his teaching career as a schoolmaster in a one room school in Northeast Texas,” she continued. “I heard their stories. Now I have a chance to share in their experiences. I love being a schoolmarm.”

A day at Oak Hill School is based on the Manual of Instructions and Regulations for the Government of the Public Schools and School Officers of Washington County, published in 1892, and relies heavily on the three R’s, reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Former schoolmarm Kathy Mays recalls, “It was wonderful being a part of the development and implementation of the Oak Hill School program.

“As a schoolmarm watching the wonderment of the students as they ‘stepped back in time’ was delightful. The participation in living history allows all of us, child and adult, to really see a glimpse of the past and creates conversations of learning. Oak Hill is an experience you will enjoy.”

Journey back to 1893 and learn the little-known history behind the Pledge of Allegiance. “Most people assume the Pledge of Allegiance is as old as the United States,” former schoolmarm Millie Palese shares. “And it’s interesting to see their reactions to the history.”

History is a big component of the day, but there’s also time for recess with period-appropriate games, and the most frustrating and enjoyable activity of all — penmanship with the quill pens.

“Parents should transform themselves into 4th graders,” encourages former schoolmarm Rebecca Wolfe.  “It might have an impact in today’s classroom.”

Big Kid Day is a fundraiser for the maintenance of Oak Hill School and the continuation of the Heritage Education Program.  Experience this wonderful, living resource first hand, and help the Heritage Alliance preserve it.

“There’s a bigger difference between school in 1950 and today, than there was between 1892 and 1950,” Palese says. Oak Hill School “was not that different from what I experienced as a child.”

Today, though, it is very different, but “children love a very different experience.”  What can big kids expect to take away from the day?  “The breadth of the experience,” Palese assures, that’s what adults always take away.  “They know it is more than one day, and that there is a bigger perspective.”

Be a part of the experience of local history.  Reserve your space at Big Kid Day by contacting the Heritage Alliance at 423-753-9580, or email [email protected]  Help us preserve the experience for future generations.

The Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia is dedicated to the preservation of the architectural, historical, and cultural heritage of our region and to providing educational experiences related to history and heritage for a wide range of audiences.

For more information, call 753-9580, or contact the organization via email at [email protected]  Additional information can be found online at