AN EARLY SCHOOL BUS, DRIVER AND PUPILS, Used
to Transport pupils to and from a county school
near Scotts in the early 1900’s. The conveyance was
operated by Allen Kline. The two-horse power vehicle
was commonly called a “Brat Wagon.”
Early School Bus Carried the Name “Brat Wagon”
Source: St. Joseph Valley Leader
The school bus came to a halt and the driver
waited patiently for the children to tumble
pell-mell down the lane, or dawdle reluctantly,
whichever action suited their mood. The kids
clambered into the conveyance and the driver
signaled to his horses to move on.
The time was the early 1900’s …about 1911,
according to Mrs. Maude M. Castle,
Howardsville, who relayed the following
information to our publication:
The bus was one of the first school
buses in use and was affectionately
termed “The Brat Wagon,” by everyone
concerned. The driver was Allen Kline,
of Scotts, Michigan, uncle of Mrs. Castle
and grandfather of Harold Gearhart,
Kline was a mustachioed gentleman,
extremely patient with his passengers
when they became fractious, and
therefore much loved by them. He had
a quiet way about him and could
quickly settle any of their difficulties.
The brat wagon was driven daily during
the school months to the country
school near Scotts. Actually, it was a
flatbed wagon with the sides built up
so seats could be installed. The seats
were nothing more than long boards.
At first, the “brat wagon” was enclosed
with canvas, which was later replaced
with boards. This made the interior
a little warmer, but during the
frigid weather, Kline spread straw on
the floor to keep the students’ feet
warm. He also used a small portable oil
stove to provide extra heat. This stove
frequently became a source of trouble
when it smoked, since everything, including
the children would become
covered with soot.
One particularly cold morning, Kline lit the
stove early so the wagon would be heated
by the time he and his morning chores completed
to leave on his rounds. The wagon not
only heated, it filed with smoke and Kline had
to quickly replace the straw and clean off the
seats. Even so, many of the children arrived at
school that day with soot on them and their
Once he had deposited his charges at the
school, Kline went to his drayman’s job, which
occupied him until the end of the school day.
By the time he had returned the youngsters
to their homes, it was supper time. Chores
and studying took up the rest of the evening,
with bedtime set at 8:30 p.m.
There was, Mrs. Castle concluded, little time
left for mischief.
Grosse Pointe Woods Welcomes the 2016 MORSA Conference
By Rochelle Balkam
The 2016 MORSA Conference was a perfect blend
of school and community. The gathering featured
the presentation of the historical context of the
Cook School and its role in the community along
with dramatic move to the present site in Ghisquiere
Park. John Parthum provided details of the
restoration. Rochelle Balkam presented the story
of one room schools in Michigan in a slideshow
entitled “ Primer, Chalk and Bells” to a receptive
audience that shared their own one-room school
stories. It was a time for net-working and creating
new bonds among the attendees.
The Podunk School in the Webster Township historic
site received 2016 William Winglar Michigan
One-room School Award. The award was accepted
by Dr. Daniel Chapman and Martha Zeeb, members
of the Webster Historical Society. Doctor Chapman
related the origin of the name and several anecdotes
from the history of the school. Podunk
School is the centerpiece of the park. It has been
carefully restored to its nineteenth century purpose.
At the completion of the program, the participants
were bussed to the historic Provencal-Weir
Home, built in the early 1800s. The tour of the
house was narrated by docent, Isabelle Donnelly.
She brought the era alive with stories about the
residents who lived there over the centuries. The
highlight of the tour was a schoolroom on the upper
floor, complete with schoolbooks, hats and
Rounding out the day was Suzanne Kent’s insider
tour of the magnificent Edsel and Eleanor
Ford Home on Lake St. Clair. The design by Albert
Kahn was inspired by the cottages in the Cotswolds
in England, with the grounds designed by landscape
architect, Jens Jensen. Mrs. Ford’s legacy is a
treasure for the community.
MORSA extends its thanks to Mary Kaye Ferry,
John Parthum, Suzanne Kent, Isabelle Donnelly and the
Grosse Pointe Woods Historic District Commission.
School House Reflections,”
by Cheryl Vatcher-Martin, M.A.
Photo by Cheryl Vatcher-Martin, M.A. April 2016.
Michigan One Room School House Association is a
premier organization that works hard to inform educators,
museum curators, students and the general
populace on the importance of preservation of one
room schoolhouses and the artifacts when possible.
Sometimes the wrecking ball pummels a structure
and the memories that lie within; but the reminders
for some are the country school teacher’s bell, historic
ledgers, photographs and diaries. Housing these
items can be a challenge when the school house or
other historic structure is demolished. As some preservationists
may be looking for items to add to the
authenticity of their one room school house, one may
find needed items where a school may become a part
of the dust. If there is one piece of a demolished
school to be salvaged, at least that is a piece that continues
When the one room school house in Redford Township,
Michigan was demolished, the plan was to put a
bench or something along that line to recognize the
fact that the school stood there through three different
centuries. In my recent short historical book titled,
“One Room Schools –Vanishing One Room
Schools”, I capture some of the essence of it in my
fine art photography, as well as pertinent information
regarding same. Even though this one room school
was one that was in the Metro Detroit area, I wasn’t
aware of its history, until a few years ago. I knew that
the only way I could preserve some of its history was
through my new short book, and also I incorporated a
couple of other one room schools that are still standing.
One of them is the District No. 1 School House in
Romulus, Mi. that is open for a few hours on Sundays
for researchers and visitors. Another school pictured
in my book has an uncertain future. My hope is that
more schools and the contents therein can be saved.
I needed to go back to where the Redford School
once stood and reflect on what was there, and find
out what was done to at least recognize its historic
significance. The original historical designation
marker that was placed there in the 80’s, was not
removed from its spot, which was a relief to me. That
part of history had been undisturbed. Surrounding
the historic marker was a monument dedicated to its
existence, complete with the original brick that showcased
the year that it was hand hewn by bricklayers of
the day in the 1800’s, who probably were the parents
and others who had a personal interest in building the
edifice for the scholars to attend. On the marker
were pictures of the school, which gave it adequate
homage; considering its ultimate disposition as an
important landmark in Redford. I want to personally
thank everyone on the MORSA Board for what
was done to try to save this school. Even though
the school is no longer, I find the marker and the
contents on it a testament to the fact that those
who decided its fate realized that the greater good
would be accomplished by preserving a tidbit of it.
I’m glad I was a part of this fine group fighting to
save it. My take away is that we brought awareness
to others, and in the process we learned a lot about
the value of this school, and how we are doing the
best we can to preserve history of the one room
For those who are interested in learning about my
books, One Room Schools – Vanishing One Room
Schools, Haiku For You: With Some One Room
School House History, and others, by author Cheryl
Vatcher-Martin, M.A., please contact me via
Photo by Cheryl Vatcher-Martin, M.A. April 2016.
By Tom M. Johnson
As I wrote a few issues back, the one room
Branch School in Williamstown Township,
which I help maintain, was fortunate enough
to obtain on loan a McGuffey “curriculum
box.” The box contains a number of charts that
appear to be the complete curriculum for a
one room school. They were published in the
1880s and it is my assumption that they were
not commonly used because of its cost. The
previous owner told me that they are rare, but
that the McGuffey museum at Miami University
had one on display. I visited the museum
website and found that the museum is located
in McGuffey’s former home in Oxford, Ohio on
the campus of Miami University.
Wanting to know more, my wife Jane and I
planned a trip to Oxford, Ohio to see if we
could learn more about the “curriculum box”
and McGuffey. Since I am in the process of restoring
a 1925 Model T roadster pickup, it didn’t
hurt that the Model T Ford Club of America’s
annual meeting was being held that weekend
in nearby Richmond, Indiana.
We found the campus at Miami University
to be absolutely beautiful. The McGuffey
home, a brick structure built in 1833, fits in
perfectly. We had made an appointment and
the docent we saw was very knowledgeable, but
did not know much more about the “curriculum
box” than we did and had no suggestions for
where we could obtain more information.
Over the past several months I have done several
extensive on line searches and can find no additional
information about the box. I have, however,
learned a great deal more about McGuffey.
He appears to be a fascinating individual with a
photographic memory and was respected as a
teacher, academic administrator and a humanist.
William Holmes McGuffey was born in 1800 and
died in 1873. His parents had emigrated from Scotland
and brought with them a strong belief in the
value of education and were Calvinistic Protestants.
He received his initial education at the Old
Stone Academy in Darling, PA. At 14 years of age
he began teaching school as a “roving” teacher in
both Ohio and Kentucky to students who were
both younger and older than he was. He continued
his education during off periods and in 1826 at age
26 he graduated from Washington College. He was
subsequently appointed to the faculty of the new
Miami University where he spent ten years. During
his last two years there he wrote the first four
graded McGuffey readers. Actually he was asked to
do this by a small publishing company in Cincinnati,
Ohio. His name had been recommended to them
by his friend Harriet Beecher Stowe. For his efforts
he was paid $1,000.
McGuffey spent the rest of his career in higher
education, first as president of three different institutions
and then from 1845-1873 as chair of Mental
and Moral Philosophy at the University of Virginia.
It is interesting to note that his brother Alexander
actually wrote volumes 5 and 6 and in 1879
they all were revised by others to become less
moralistic and more secular. William Mcuffey had
nothing to do with these revisions.
To me, one of the more amazing facts I learned is
that McGuffey readers are readily available and are
being used today in some home schooling and in
certain Protestant religious schools.
I am going to continue my quest to find out
more about the “curriculum box” which appears
to have been assembled after McGuffey’s
Oh, and by the way, the Model T meet was
helpful in my restoration efforts.
Fourth Grade lesson plan by teacher, Louise
Zahn, 1918-1919., Popkins School.
“Grandma taught at the Popkins School at
Plymouth Road and Earhart the last couple
of years. She lived in an apartment
above my Grandpa’s brother, Ed Zeeb,
whose farm is now in the middle of US 23
along Plymouth Road. Before that she
taught at a school on 5 mile Road.”
~Granddaughter Martha Zeeb, Washtenaw Co.
MORSA to Sponsor
Schoolhouse of the Year Award
By Larry Schlack
One of MORSA’s most significant activities
is sponsoring the annual Schoolhouse
of the Year Award.
The award gives the recipient
schoolhouse a cash prize of $250 and a
plaque designating the school as the William
Winglar One-Room Schoolhouse of
MORSA began giving the award in
2011 and the first winner was Stone
School at 2600 Packard Road in Ann Arbor.
Succeeding awards have gone to:
- Quincy School in Branch County,
- Hart One-Room School in Frankenmuth
- School Section School in Richmond
- Branch School in Williamston in
- Podunk School in Dexter in 2016.
The award is limited to one-room
schoolhouses that have not been converted
to other uses such as homes or
MORSA urges those interested in applying
for the 2017 award to look at and
submit this application form.
- Big blue Beans in a brown blown bladder.
- Bloom, beauteous blossoms, budding bowers beneath! Behold, Borneas' bitter blast by brief Bright Beams becalmed; balmy breeze; breathe, banishing blight, bring bliss beyond belief .
- Betty Botter bought a bit of butter. "But," she said, "this butter's bitter. If I put it in my batter, it will make my batter bitter. But a bit of better butter will make my batter better." So Betty Botter bought a bit of better butter, and it made her batter better.
- Fanny Fitch fried five floundering fish for Francis Fowler's father.
- I never felt felt feel flat like that felt felt.
- What whim led "Whitney White" to whittle, whistle, whisper and whimper near the wharf where a whale might wheel and whirl?
- Thomas Tattertoo took taut twine to tie ten twigs to two tall trees.
- When a twiner a-twisting will twist him a twist For the twining has twist he three twines doth untwist; But if one of the twines of the twist do untwist, The twine that untwineth, untwisteth the twist.
- The sixth sheik's sixth sheep's sick.