JEFFERSON SCHOOL HOUSE #5 OPENS DOORS TO THE PUBLIC THIS SUNDAY

Photo by Jan Shupert-Arick “Zoom thru Zulu” is scheduled for this Sunday, October 9, 2005.  Experience the history of this old one-room schoolhouse and the annual 10K run event along old Lincoln Highway.
Photo by Jan Shupert-Arick “Zoom thru Zulu” is scheduled for this Sunday, October 9, 2005. Experience the history of this old one-room schoolhouse and the annual 10K run event along old Lincoln Highway.
On Sunday, October 9, 2005 an open house sponsored by the Schoolhouse Restoration Committee will be held at the Jefferson #5 one-room schoolhouse from 12:00 noon – 4:00 pm. The schoolhouse, built in 1892, is located near the intersection of Bertrand Road and the old Lincoln Highway, just west of St. Louis Besancon Catholic Church, and east of New Haven, IN at the historic French settlement of Besancon. Look for the church steeple north of U.S. 30. The public is invited to tour the schoolhouse at this point in the restoration project to imagine a time during the 1890s-1930s when the children of this area were being educated. The cloakrooms are still there along with some of the original wallpaper. Visitors will walk over the front steps worn down by the many children passing through these doors.

The school officially closed in the spring of 1939 when the new St. Louis Centralized School opened to students in this area. Eileen Lomont, who is 90 years old and currently lives in Champaign, IL, was the last teacher at Jefferson #5. During the 1938-1939 school year her first and second grade students included Duane Dager, Robert Bell, Robert Snider, Russell Oberley, Ivan Leppert, Robert Whitacre, John Ladd, Geneva Kerr, Betty Zehr, Betty Sipe, Deloris Middleton, Catherine Johnson, Imogene Behres, Lucille Ulmer, Donna Hamm, Norma Gerardot, and Mary Louden. At that time the third/fourth, fifth/sixth, and seventh/eighth grades were taught in other Jefferson Township district schools. Records show that in March of 1910 a spelling contest was held at this school with Miss Hallie Hume as the teacher. The successful contestants were Fred Tustison, Julia Ryan and Wilbur Webster.

After the close of the school, the building was used for many purposes over the years including a clubhouse and a place for grain storage. For many years the building was vacant and the deterioration began. To rescue the building and also serve as a memorial to their parents, the children of Allen J. and Gladys Nail Lomont used a portion of the family estate to purchase the schoolhouse in 2002. Allen was a farmer and former Jefferson Township trustee, and Gladys had been a teacher in several one-room schoolhouses in Allen County. The family thought it fitting that this school be restored in their memory. The schoolhouse was then given to the St. Louis Catholic Church.

To date, a $10,000 grant was given by the Spencer Foundation and the children of Monroeville Elementary raised over $225 for the project. The Minihaha Foundation matched the students’ fundraising efforts and challenges others in the community to show support by giving additional gifts. The money is currently being used for the exterior brick restoration. More funds are needed to bring this building to its original integrity and again serve the purpose of education by inviting school groups, historical societies, and others with similar interest for tours. This schoolhouse will also be used as a meeting place for organizations as was often done with these schoolhouses during their original lifetime.

The restoration committee is currently going through the process of placing this schoolhouse on the National Register of Historic Places. The nature and history of the one-room school define its registration requirements. These schools should be in their original location to qualify. The single room buildings should retain their massing, form, and pattern of openings. The interior integrity is a key aspect of the schoolhouse design. The one-room schoolhouse must retain its class space as an undivided volume with no partition walls. The simple woodwork of schools is also an important part of their character and should be in evidence. The one-room schoolhouse was an absolutely essential part of the district school system in Indiana. Over 700 one-room schools still survive in Indiana today dating between 1865-1900. Many of these schoolhouses have been restored to their original rural charm and used once again for educational purposes.

“Zoom thru Zulu,” an annual 10K run event to benefit the scholarship fund of the St. Louis Academy, will also be held on October 9th. Runners will start and finish near Jefferson #5 as they trek down the historic Lincoln Highway – our nation’s first coast-to-coast highway. Information on the historical highway will be available at the schoolhouse along with a photo collection and other information about one-room schoolhouses in Allen County. Jan Shupert-Arick, the Indiana State Director of the Lincoln Highway Association will be attending.

Former students and their families are extended a special invitation. The schoolhouse restoration committee is interested in historical materials related to the school, the interurban, and the Lincoln Highway. If you have historical materials, please contact Mick Lomont at 260-749-9467. A mystery remains on the absence of early photos for this schoolhouse. If you have photos or know someone who does, please contact the committee.

Send donations to: Schoolhouse Restoration Fund, c/o Grabill Bank, P.O. Box 125, New Haven, IN 46774. Contributors’ names will be registered and the list maintained to eventually be displayed when the schoolhouse has reached its goal of complete restoration.

While some will be “Zooming thru Zulu” and will pass Jefferson #5 on Oct. 9, others will have the opportunity to experience the history of this area and help preserve this schoolhouse for current and future generations. Parking will be available at the St. Louis Recreation Hall and west of the church.

The Waynedale News Staff
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