In the last half of the Nineteenth Century and beginning of the Twentieth, many pupils were educated in a one-room building where eight grades all learned together. For some it was the place their school days began and ended.
While some of the iconic structures have been torn down and others repurposed as homes or businesses, a few have been made into living history museums. The Collins School in Steuben County is one. It rests in a green grove of trees, across from a cornfield on State Road 120.
The brick schoolhouse was built in 1877. It succeeded a log structure which remained on the property for many years.
To whom do we owe gratitude for its restoration? Well, it was someone I think would be proud I used the object pronoun in that last sentence. Her name was June Collins. Miss Collins’s family owns the property on which the school sits.
She was a pupil here and a teacher here, at the beginning of her long career in 1939. She moved on to work in town schools with multiple rooms (including my sister’s second grade class). When the old building was auctioned, Miss Collins bought it, and with the help of family, colleagues, and former charges, fixed it up. She lovingly filled it with artifacts from days gone by.
June Collins herself was its first tour guide. Today her great-nieces and nephews carry on, during June, July, and August on Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. Next week I’ll show you what this room for learning offers visitors who continue to climb its worn steps.