Revisit history at Beaver Creek School and Museum

August 20, 1997

By Kate Coleman

Staff Writer

Photos by YVETTE MAY

Staff Photographer

Old photographs of teacher Jacob Ziegler, his students and the handwritten verses he composed about them are preserved behind glass in a frame at the front of the classroom in Beaver Creek School and Museum.

The late Merle Funk, one of the students mentioned in the poem, attended Beaver Creek School through 1918.

"F stands for Funk Merle, so quiet and steady, when classes are called, he is always found ready."

Funk, who grew up to teach English at Hagerstown High School, told a story that seems to contradict that verse. He recalled how the teacher would send two students to Beaver Creek every day to fill a bucket of drinking water for the classroom cooler. Funk made it a point to stumble and spill enough so he'd have to retrace his steps, get more water and stay out of class longer, according to Louise Beachley.


Beachley, who served as curator of Beaver Creek School and Museum for 20 years, helped collect the classroom furnishings and the wealth of items - many from her own family - which tell the story of a two-room country school house and life in Washington County at the turn of the century.

The brick building that stands today was not Beaver Creek's first school. Two schools had served the community before the Maryland General Assembly mandated public education in 1865. A stone structure, built in 1833, burned in 1845. A brick schoolhouse, built in 1858, burned in 1903. It's thought that local farmers provided the land, and local people pooled their resources to build the early schools, Beachley said.

The structure that stands today was completed in 1904 and operated as a public school until 1961. At that time its ownership went back to the County Commissioners, and the school was not used for a decade.

Washington County Historical Society accepted the deed at a picnic on the school grounds and began restoration in 1971. In 1990, application was made for the building's nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. That application is being revised and resubmitted, according to Pat Schooley, a member of Washington County Historical Trust and Washington County Historical Society.

Wooden doors, similar in design to modern overhead garage doors, divided the two classrooms in which eight grades were taught. Unusual for their time, these provided a larger space for programs or when the school was used as a community center, according to Mary Jo Wellman, Washington County Historical Society member.

The blackboards were there when the historical society began its work. Most of the double desks - a few of which have Bible verses in their ironwork - were salvaged from storage. One desk came from Pennsylvania, and another, which had been used in Beaver Creek School, was discovered under the porch of a stone house on Beaver Creek Road.

The museum on the south side of the building provides a close-up look at days gone by. The Lehman family provided items which recreate a cobbler's shop - cardboard patterns bearing names of local customers and lasts, or forms, on which shoes were handcrafted.

An area that looks like a barn holds the basket sleigh Louise Beachley rode in as a child. The horsedrawn vehicle could carry two adults and a child on a stool on the floor.

"There were no snow days," she pointed out.

Neither were there frozen waffles to pop in the toaster. A stovetop waffle iron with hearts in its design can be flipped to cook the other side. The tools in the tool shop area include a jigsaw operated by foot pedal, a wooden pitchfork, a hand-carved container for chalk and a plumb line, a paint grinder and planes used in the building of Hager House, home of Jonathan Hager, founder of Hagerstown.

 Beaver Creek School and Museum is open Sundays from 2 to 4 p.m., June through September. Admission is $2 for adults and free for children.

On Saturday, Aug. 23, the museum will be open from 3 to 5 p.m. Beaver Creek Christian Church, across from the museum on Beaver Creek Church Road, will host a Civil War encampment beginning at 10 a.m. There will be a 19th-century wedding at 4 p.m.

On Sunday, Sept. 21, there will be a small exhibit of flatirons from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Cornett of Clear Spring.

The last day of the season for Beaver Creek School and Museum will be Saturday, Sept. 27. The museum will be open from noon to 2:30 p.m., and Tom Wetzel will provide horse-drawn carriage rides. Donations will be accepted.

For information, call Washington County Historical Society at 301-797-8782.

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