Scotch Settlement School in Greenfield Village. / Photo courtesy of Jeanine Miller
Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village offers an engaging look into the ways Americans celebrated Christmas in the past. At Scotch Settlement School, the holiday vignette reflects the Christmas programs that took place in the thousands of one-room schoolhouses that once dotted the landscape of rural America.
Students and teacher pose outside their rural one-room school in Summerville, South Carolina, about 1903. / THF115900
The schoolhouse—often the only public building in the neighborhood—was a center of community life in rural areas. It was not only a place where children learned to read, write, and do arithmetic, but might also serve as a place to attend church services, go to Grange meetings, vote in elections, or listen to a debate.
Students dressed in patriotic costumes for a school program, pageant, or parade, about 1905. / THF700057
People in rural communities particularly looked forward to the programs put on by the students who attended these schools—local boys and girls who ranged in age from about seven to the mid-teens. School programs were often presented throughout the year for occasions such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays, Arbor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and eighth-grade graduation. People came from miles around to country schools to attend these events.
Handwritten Christmas program from Blair School, Webster County, Iowa, December 23, 1914. / THF700097, THF700098
Among the most anticipated events that took place at the schoolhouse was the Christmas program—it was a highlight of the rural winter social season. Preparations usually started right after Thanksgiving as students began learning poems and other recitations, rehearsing a play, or practicing songs. Every child was included. Students might have their first experience in public speaking or singing before an audience at these school programs.
Interior of Scotch Settlement School during Holiday Nights in Greenfield Village. / Photo courtesy of Jeanine Miller.
The schoolroom was often decorated for the occasion, sometimes with a Christmas tree. During the late 1800s, when the presence of Christmas trees was not yet a widespread tradition, many children saw their first Christmas tree at the school Christmas program. Presents like candy, nuts, fruit, or mittens—provided by parents or other members of the community—were often part of the event. Growing up in 1870s frontier Iowa, writer Hamlin Garland recalled the local minister bringing a Christmas tree to the schoolhouse one Christmas—a tree with few candles or shiny decorations, but one loaded with presents. Forty years later, Garland vividly remembered the bag of popcorn he received that day.
Teachers were often required to organize at least two programs a year. Teachers who put on unsuccessful programs might soon find themselves out of a teaching position. Teachers in rural schools usually came from a similar background to their students—often from the same farming community—so an observant teacher would have understood the kind of school program that would please students, parents, and the community.
Children at times performed in buildings so crowded that audience members had to stand along the edges of the classroom. Sometimes there wasn’t room for everyone to squeeze in. To see their parents and so many other members of the community in the audience helped make these children aware that the adults in their lives valued their schoolwork. This encouraged many of the students to appreciate their opportunity for education—even if they didn’t fully realize it until years later. Some children might even have been aware of how these programs contributed to a sense of community.
Postcard with the handwritten message, “Our school have [sic] a tree & exercises at the Church across from the schoolhouse & we all have a part in it,” from 11-year-old Ivan Colman of Tuscola County, Michigan, December 1913. / THF146214
These simple Christmas programs—filled with recitations, songs, and modest gifts—created cherished lifelong memories for countless children.
Jeanine Head Miller is Curator of Domestic Life at The Henry Ford. Many thanks to Sophia Kloc, Office Administrator for Historical Resources at The Henry Ford, for editorial preparation assistance with this post.
Postcard, Aerial View of Greenfield Village, 1940 / THF132774
Henry Ford’s idea of re-creating a historic village in Dearborn, Michigan, began to take shape when he restored his own birthplace (1919) and childhood school (1923) on their original sites. In 1926, he proceeded with a plan to create his own historic village, choosing a plot of land in the midst of Ford Motor Company property and beginning to acquire the buildings that would become part of Greenfield Village.
One of Henry Ford’s earliest ideas for Greenfield Village was to have a central green or “commons,” based upon village greens he saw in New England. Ford envisioned a church and town hall flanking the ends of his Village Green. He couldn’t find exactly what he wanted, so he had them designed and built on site in Greenfield Village.
The design for Martha-Mary Chapel was based on a much larger Universalist church in Bedford, Massachusetts. It was one of six nondenominational chapels that Ford erected. This was the first and only one built of brick.
Ford named the chapel after his mother, Mary Litogot Ford, and his wife Clara’s mother, Martha Bench Bryant. The Martha-Mary Chapel has been used for wedding ceremonies since 1935, as shown here.
First Wedding Held in Martha-Mary Chapel in Greenfield Village, 1935 / THF132820
The bell up in the tower, likely cast during the 1820s, is attributed to Joseph Revere & Associates of Boston, Massachusetts—a foundry inherited by Joseph from his more famous father, Paul Revere.
Bell, Cast by Joseph Warren Revere, circa 1834 / THF129606
Town halls were the places where local citizens came together to participate in town meetings. Town Hall in Greenfield Village is patterned after New England public meeting halls of the early 1800s.
Town Hall in Greenfield Village, September 2007 (Photographed by Michelle Andonian) / THF54040
These buildings also became gathering places for political elections, theatrical performances, and social events. We have often recreated the types of activities that might have appeared in town halls of the past, such as this 2007 performance.
Ragtime Street Fair in Greenfield Village, July 2007 (Photographed by Michelle Andonian) / THF52067
Scotch Settlement School
Henry Ford also decided he needed a schoolhouse for his Village Green. This one-room school—which he himself attended when he was a boy back in the 1870s—was from the so-called Scotch Settlement in Dearborn Township. Here it is on its original site in 1896.
Group outside Scotch Settlement School at Its Original Site, Dearborn Township, Michigan, 1896 / THF245422
Scotch Settlement School had been one of Henry Ford’s first restoration projects. In 1923, he had restored the school and operated it on its original site as an experimental pre-school—shown here around 1926.
Scotch Settlement School at Its Original Site in Dearborn Township, Michigan, circa 1926 / THF115902
Once in Greenfield Village, this school served as the first classroom for the Edison Institute school system that Henry Ford started in September 1929—an experimental combination of progressive education and “learning by doing.”
Henry Ford with Students outside Scotch Settlement School in Greenfield Village, 1929 / THF96582
Ford thought a historic inn would make a nice addition to his Village Green. In 1927, he purchased this old 1830s-era inn from Clinton, Michigan—shown here on its original site in 1925. Even though this was never its name, he called it Clinton Inn.
Eagle Tavern at Its Original Site, Clinton, Michigan, 1925 / THF237252
Clinton Inn first served as a cafeteria for students attending the Edison Institute schools. When Greenfield Village opened to the public in 1933, it was the starting point for carriage tours. Later, it became a lunchroom for visitors, as shown below.
Visitors Lunching at the Clinton Inn (now Eagle Tavern), Greenfield Village, 1958 / THF123749
When we decided to turn Clinton Inn into a historic dining experience, we undertook new research. We found that a man named Calvin Wood ran this inn in 1850 and called it Eagle Tavern. Today, we recreate the food, drink, and ambience of that era.
Eagle Tavern in Greenfield Village, October 2007 / Photographed by Michelle Andonian / THF54291
You can learn more about Eagle Tavern in this episode of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation, this blog post about creating the historic dining experience in Greenfield Village, and this blog post about our research and interpretation of drinking at Eagle Tavern. Also check out this blog post I wrote on how our research changed the interpretation of five Village buildings, including Eagle Tavern.
J.R. Jones General Store
What would a village green be without a general store? The J.R. Jones General Store was originally located in the village of Waterford, Michigan. Here it is on its original site in 1926, just before being moved to Greenfield Village.
J.R. Jones General Store (Just Before the Move to Greenfield Village), Original Site, Waterford, Michigan, 1926 / THF126117
We decided to focus upon the era of James R. Jones, who operated this store from 1882 to 1888. During that time, Jones sold everything from coffee and sugar to fabrics and trims to farm tools and hardware. No wonder it was called a general store!
J.R. Jones General Store in Greenfield Village, September 2007 (Photographed by Michelle Andonian) / THF53762
Check out more content about the J.R. Jones General Store on this episode of The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation and the related content on our web page.
Logan County Courthouse
This courthouse, from Postville (later renamed Lincoln), Illinois, is not just any courthouse! From 1840 to 1847, Abraham Lincoln was one of several lawyers who practiced law here as part of the 8th Judicial Circuit. Later, it was a private residence, as shown here about 1900.
Group outside Logan County Courthouse at Its Original Site, Lincoln, Illinois, circa 1900 / THF238618
Lincoln thrived on the judicial circuit—handling all sorts of cases, representing different types of people, and getting to know local residents. All these experiences helped prepare him for his future role as America’s sixteenth president.
Lithograph Portrait of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 / THF11619
To Henry Ford, Abraham Lincoln embodied the ideals of the self-made man. Ford searched for a way to memorialize Lincoln’s accomplishments. When he learned of this courthouse, he obtained it, then had it dismantled and reconstructed on his Village Green.
"First Court House of Logan County Where Abraham Lincoln Practiced Law, Lincoln, Ill.," 1927 Postcard / THF121352
After the courthouse was reconstructed in Greenfield Village, Ford filled the building with Lincoln memorabilia. The chair he subsequently purchased, in which President Lincoln had been assassinated, is visible inside a glass case in this 1954 photograph.
Logan County Courthouse in April 1954, Showing the Abraham Lincoln Chair Then on Exhibit in Greenfield Village / THF121385
Dr. Alonson B. Howard was a country doctor practicing medicine near Tekonsha, Michigan, from 1852 to 1883. Dr. Howard would have attended to everything from pregnancies to toothaches to chronic diseases such as kidney disease and tuberculosis.
Portrait of Dr. Alonson B. Howard, 1865-1866 / THF109611
The building, originally constructed in 1839 as a one-room schoolhouse, was conveniently located in the front yard of the Howard family farm. So, when the school moved to a new building, Dr. Howard took over this building as his office.
Dr. Howard's Office at its original site, Tekonsha, Michigan, March 1956 / THF237140
After Dr. Howard’s death in 1883, his wife Cynthia padlocked the building and there it remained—virtually intact—until removed to Greenfield Village between 1959 and 1961. It opened to the public in 1963.
Interior of Dr. Howard's Office at its original site, Tekonsha, Michigan, March 1956 / THF237188
You can learn more about Dr. Howard’s life and work in this blog post.
Greenfield Village’s historic buildings were not Henry Ford’s first preservation effort. Ford’s restoration of his own childhood home in 1919 set him on a preservation path. And it was just the beginning. Soon Ford began to restore other buildings.
In 1919, Henry Ford contemplated the importance of his own birthplace when a road improvement project required the farmhouse be either moved 200 yards from its original location or be torn down.
Henry Ford birthplace after it was moved 200 yards and restored, 1923. THF255378
Ford on the porch of his restored childhood home in 1923. THF96278
Ford decided to move the house and restore it to the way it looked at the time of his mother’s death in 1876, when he was 13 years old. For Ford, the project was personal--he took charge of the birthplace restoration, meticulously re-creating the details of the house.
Ford’s assistants placed this advertisement in the Detroit News in the fall of 1922. THF136552
After an 18th-month-long search, a Starlight stove like the one Ford remembered from childhood took its place in the restored Ford birthplace.THF255596
Ford worked hard to find original or similar furnishings. For 18 months, he searched for a Starlight stove like the one in the dining room when he was growing up. Ford’s staff contacted stove manufacturers and dealers and used the network of Ford Motor Company branch offices and automobile dealers to comb the country. When nothing turned up, his staff even placed advertisements in Detroit newspapers--though not revealing that it was Henry Ford who wanted the stove. After a nationwide search, Ford’s desire for a Starlight No. 25 was satisfied at last. He found one in a small Michigan town, paying $25 for it. Piece by piece, Henry Ford was re-creating his childhood home as he remembered it.
Sunday parlor in Henry Ford birthplace, 1923. THF96899
When the restoration of Ford’s childhood home was complete, people were awestruck by its authenticity. It seemed remarkable to him, and others, how a re-created environment could catapult one into another time and place.
In 1923, Ford bought and preserved the red brick Scotch Settlement School he had attended as a child. Henry Ford kept the building on its original site while he supervised every detail of its restoration.
Henry Ford’s restoration of his birthplace had received extensive press coverage. Not surprisingly, Americans deluged the wealthy man with pleas of assistance for preservation projects of their own. Although Ford turned down most requests for assistance, a few caught his fancy.
The Wayside Inn in the mid-1920s, after its restoration. THF132883
Henry and Clara Ford periodically visited the Wayside Inn, whose doors had been opened to the public. By 1927, however, Henry’s attention increasingly turned to his plans for his historical village and museum in Dearborn.THF 98987
Ford agreed to assist in the restoration of the 1686 Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Massachusetts, west of Boston. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had made the inn famous in his Tales of a Wayside Inn. The author’s “Psalm of Life,” read by Ford in the McGuffey Readers of his youth, was among the industrialist’s favorite inspirational verses. Ford purchased the inn for $65,000, restoring and furnishing it at significant expense. He bought up much surrounding land and even diverted the Boston Post Road to keep automobile traffic from ruining the bucolic setting.
Presentation Drawing, "Proposed Development of a Colonial Village of South Sudbury, Massachusetts," 1926 THF58202
Ford clearly contemplated even grander plans for the Wayside Inn and its surrounding property. A “Proposed Development of a Colonial Village of South Sudbury, Massachusetts…done at the Lowthorpe School of Landscape Architecture” in 1926 shows a “village” composed of the Wayside Inn, houses, a church, a mill, and other buildings. Although the plan was never realized, Ford may have been working out ideas that were later revealed in Greenfield Village.
Botsford Inn in Farmington, Michigan, 1925. THF108707
Musicians’ Stage in Botsford ballroom, 1925. THF108709
Closer to home, Ford refurbished the old Botsford Inn on Grand River Avenue in Farmington, Michigan, in 1924. The inn had once served 19th-century travelers en route from Detroit to Lansing. Ford’s staff sought out old-timers who remembered the inn in its heyday and used their recollections to help furnish the place. Ford added a maple floor to the ballroom and, for a while, held old-fashioned dances there.
Ford had turned down a request for funds to restore Williamsburg, the colonial-era Virginia capital. He was more interested in creating his own village closer to home, which would include buildings from different time periods and places. In 1927, Ford began to gather buildings for what would become Greenfield Village.
Scotch Settlement School being reconstructed in Greenfield Village, 1929. THF138711
Ford birthplace being moved to Greenfield Village, 1944. THF136562
Two of Ford’s early preservation projects would find their way into Greenfield Village. During the summer of 1929, Scotch Settlement School was dismantled and moved as Ford’s historical village began to take shape. Ford’s birthplace would be the last building moved to the village during his lifetime. By the 1940s, the city of Dearborn was growing up around the Ford family homestead, and the house required 24-hour security protection. In January 1944, the home was cut in two and hauled by truck a few miles from the Dearborn farmstead to its new location in Greenfield Village.
As another school year begins to wind down, take a look through our digital collections at all things related to school.
First Day of School Along with the first day of school often came fresh new school supplies: crayons with pointy tips, pencils with pristine erasers, and even a new schoolbag or backpack. And for many, it meant getting a brand new outfit to wear on that all-important first day of school.
Saluting the Students of the AAA School Safety Patrol® Like clockwork, fall’s arrival brings with it a return to school for children throughout the United States. Whether they walk, ride a bike, take a bus, or get dropped off by an adult, the students’ daily trips to and from class will be safer thanks to the dedicated efforts of the AAA School Safety Patrol. Established by the American Automobile Association in 1920, the program’s core mission – to encourage safety awareness among young people – remains unchanged.
Lunchbox Fandom Since the 1950s, children have been persuading their parents that they absolutely must have a school lunch box sporting their favorite character.
This 1927 Blue Bird is the oldest surviving school bus in America. Albert Luce, Sr., built his first bus in 1925 by mounting a purchased wood body to a Ford truck frame. The body could not withstand the Georgia roads. Luce, convinced he could make a better bus, applied a steel framework under the wood body. His success led him to make school buses full time.
This is the first in a long line of buses made by Blue Bird, one of the country's major school bus builders. It is the oldest surviving school bus in America. In 1925, Albert L. Luce, Sr. owned two Ford dealerships in Georgia when a customer came in and ordered a bus to transport his workers. Mr. Luce purchased a wooden bus body and mounted it on a Ford Model TT truck. But the body began rattling apart before the customer could even finish paying for the bus. Mr. Luce was convinced he could make a better bus body and, by 1927 he had built the school bus you see here. The key to success was a strong steel framework under the wood. Within a few years Mr. Luce sold his Ford dealerships and began making school buses full time. Chassis: 1927 Ford Model TT Truck Engine: 176 cu. in., 20 hp Body: Hand built using steel and wood.
William Holmes McGuffey School The McGuffey School was built in Greenfield Village in 1934, created out of barn logs from the 1790s southwestern Pennsylvania farmstead where textbook author William Holmes McGuffey was born. Children living in frontier communities learned to read in rustic schoolhouses like this one. McGuffey's Eclectic Readers gave them an easy, standardized way to do it.
Miller School Henry Ford attended Miller School at age nine. He followed a favorite teacher, John Chapman, there from the Scotch Settlement School. The small, one-room building was typical of rural schools throughout the United States in the 1800s. Ford had this replica built in Greenfield Village in the early 1940s.
Scotch Settlement School Henry Ford attended this one-room schoolhouse from age seven to ten. Because of Ford's fondness for his teacher John Chapman, he not only followed Chapman to Miller School but also brought Chapman's house to Greenfield Village. This school, originally built in 1861 in Dearborn Township, was the first classroom of the Greenfield Village school system Henry Ford started in 1929.
Henry Ford collected many highly significant buildings for the historical and educational institution that would become Greenfield Village—Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Lab, the Wright Brothers’ Cycle Shop, and Luther Burbank’s Garden Office among them. However, some of the buildings destined for the Village had a very personal connection to Henry Ford’s own history. One such building is the Chapman Family Home, where John B. Chapman and his wife Susie lived during the 1870s. Chapman was a teacher first at the Scotch Settlement School and then at Miller School—and at both schools was a favorite of one of his young pupils, Henry Ford. We’ve just digitized a few photographs related to the home and to the teacher, including this portrait of Chapman himself. Visit our digital collections to see more images of the Chapman home and the family and learn about the teacher who inspired Henry Ford.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
For a few years starting at age seven, Henry Ford attended a one-room schoolhouse, the Scotch Settlement School, located on Warren Avenue in what was then Dearborn Township, Michigan. When he was developing Greenfield Village, Henry Ford acquired the school, relocated it to the Village, and opened it as a multi-grade classroom for the Edison Institute Schools in fall 1929. We’ve just digitized 75 images of the school on its original site, including this well-labeled image of the 1925 funeral of Mrs. Susie Chapman, wife of one of Henry Ford’s favorite teachers, John Chapman. (Chapman himself had died two decades earlier; his family home and another school at which he taught are also preserved in Greenfield Village.) Henry and Clara Ford appear at the far left. Visit our digital collections to view more images and artifacts related to the school.
Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.
As a precursor to the school year, we took a visit to the one-room schoolhouses at Greenfield Village. And well, I think the thought of a summer being over was a little overwhelming for certain members of my crew.
We spent some time inside the McGuffey Schoolhouse, erected in 1934 by Henry Ford to honor William Holmes McGuffey. It’s built from logs taken from the Pennsylvania farm at which McGuffey was born in 1800. The McGuffey Eclectic Reader series of texts were commonly used in schoolhouses across the United States. Our nine-year-old Henry eagerly stood at the teacher’s podium and began to lecture his five-year-old sister on the Civil War. I attempted to explain to him that the Civil War hadn’t even occurred at the time the readers were written. Chronology wasn’t going to slow him down.
When we looked inside the Miller and Scotch Settlement schoolhouses--school’s Henry Ford attended in the 1870s--I have to be honest, I yearned for a little bit of their simplicity.
A clean slate.
No clutter, wires, smart boards, website passwords, Internet policies, consent forms, security doors, and bins of paper waiting to be recycled. Don’t get me wrong, I think technology is great and a welcome result of much of the innovation showcased at The Henry Ford. But I can also say, one of things I like best about Greenfield Village is how a visit transports you to simpler times. And I’m sure that many parents who have been presented with the infamous “school supply list” and navigated through back-to-school shopping mayhem, might just agree with me and find themselves (at least occasionally) hankerin’ for the bare walls those 1800s school houses.
Henry Ford moved the Scotch Settlement Schoolhouse, and the home of his favorite teacher, John Chapman, to Greenfield Village in 1934. When Ford was nine, Chapman left the Scotch Settlement Schoolhouse and went to teach at the Miller Schoolhouse, Henry Ford transferred and remained Chapman’s student until he was 15. (Built at Greenfield Village in 1943, the Miller Schoolhouse is an accurate a replica of the original building.)
The Scotch Settlement and Miller Schoolhouses remind me of the schoolhouse on the 1970s television show “Little House on the Prairie.” I remember visiting the schoolhouses at Greenfield Village as a girl and pretending with my older sister. I was always (appropriately) outspoken, freckly and big-toothed Laura. She was beautiful Mary. I remember hoping my parents would just leave me so I could imagine all the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories I had read and the sentimental NBC/Michael Landon versions I patiently waited for each week. Oh how I yearned for one of those bonnets. (Which, by the way, are for sale in the gift shops!)
Students used to walk several miles to school each day since the one-room schools were in rural communities. (You can tell your parents that there is no evidence that the route was uphill both ways.) If children arrived early, they could play with their friends until their long school day started. Students of all ages shared that one room with girls on one side and boys on the other. They learned arithmetic, spelling, geography, music, history and art, and older children were assigned necessary chores like washing blackboards, preparing firewood and clearing snow.
Children shared books and brought books from home. Books like the McGuffey Eclectic Reader and the Webster’s Blue Back Speller were passed from generation to generation. The main focus in education at the time though was proper moral training and character development.