By Carol Wurschmidt
The Sam Houston Historic School House stands surrounded by fields, log fences, and a trickling stream as it was when built in the early 1800s.
It is now festively decorated in preparation for a candlelight tour from 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 3.
Sam Houston started the school when he was 19 years old. The settlers thought it was a great joke that Sam, who had little formal schooling, was opening a private school.
However, Sam, who had some formal schooling, had also read all the books in his father’s library memorizing nearly all of the 24-book “Iliad” and had spelled down many of the residents in the Maryville area.
Built of poplar logs, some of which are still there, on land donated to him, Houston’s one-room schoolhouse was opened with tuition of $8 payable in thirds of corn, calico, and cash.
The school year began after corn planting time in May and closed due to corn gathering and cold in the fall. His students, ranging in age from six to sixty, were also given a break in July for the wheat harvest.
Students used rough-hewn logs for seats and desks, quill pens for writing, and a fireplace for heat if they needed it.
Houston made the school a great success and, at times, had to turn away prospective students.
Some of the rules for the school were the same as today including, “If someone is new or lonely, be a friend,” or “If you forget your homework, be honest.”
Rules for the teachers were much harder at that time. The "1872 Rules For Teachers" list among other things, "Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys," as well as, "Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day's session."
Today's teachers would groan on hearing that teachers then received a twenty-five cent raise after five years of faithful service.
The schoolhouse is listed as a Tennessee historic site on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
It is located at 3650 Old Sam Houston School Rd. in Maryville. The Resident Manager can be reached at (865) 983-1550.
By Carol Wurschmidt