Historic Schoolhouses, Custer County, Colorado

To provide education in far-flung areas of Custer County the rural community required 25 one-room schools, five miles apart, with local residents supporting the individual districts.  One-Room Schoolhouses, a comprehensive discussion of Historic Schoolhouses, Custer County, includes a foldout map showing the approximate locations of the school districts throughout the county.

Song

A school is a place where children can grow like flowers in springtime with water and love.
Our school it will show nature and man at work with each other, hand in hand,
I’ll give them fine books to read, good values, I’ll plant the seed . . .
in healthy minds, so they can grow, so they can find their way.
A school is a place were children can grow like flowers in springtime with water and love.

—From the Musical “All aboard Westcliffe”

Historic One-Room Schoolhouses in Custer County, Colorado

Westcliff School—named after the town of Westcliffe, Colorado.
Willows School—named after the abundant Willow Bushes along the road leading to the school.
Adobe School—the building was made of adobe.
Canda School—named for the family that gave the land for the school. The children called the school “Pinegrove” because it was located in a grove of pine trees.
Rosita (Jail ) School—what the building was used for before it became a school.

The buildings were small and consisted of one room. There were outside toilets, either a two-hole outhouse or two outhouses, one for boys and one for girls.

The heating system was usually a wood- or coal-burning potbellied stove maintained by the teacher. In winter months the children sometimes put their lunch pails near the stove for a hot lunch or near the door for a cold lunch.

Some Facts: Early Custer County Schools

Subjects covered in the rural schools were: Math, Reading, Spelling, Penmanship, History, Geography, and Civics. If a teacher was talented in Music and Art those subjects were taught as well. One Custer County school had an organ.

Ages of students varied. A class in 1885 included several boys 18 and 19 years of age. Sometimes a teacher brought her toddler to class in the absence of a babysitter.

In 1910, the average pay for a teacher was $40 a month; in 1939, $75 per month; in 1946, $1,350.

The school term ran from 60 days to 4 months a year due to the weather and the participation of students in farm and ranch work. It was amazing that learning even took place with such short terms, mixing of different grade and age levels, and the teacher’s janitor duties.

According to 1946 records, school was to start September 9 but was postponed due to the polio epidemic.

Before 4-H was organized, the schools offered awards for exhibits.