This one-room building was originally the Garo schoolhouse. The school was built in 1879 so that the three R’s could be taught. Until the mid-1930’s the children of gold miners, merchants and ranchers of South Park attended classes in little schoolhouses just like this one. It was moved to South Park City in 1960. Painted red with white trim, the schoolhouse stands out among other buildings in town. Typical of the schools in the mining camps and towns of the early west, it is a picturesque building with a small entryway and belfry.
All grades were taught in this one-room schoolhouse. Like the other schools in Park County one teacher taught every class. Two of the most well-known teachers at the Garo school were Mrs. Alice McLaughlin Wonder, who taught during the years 1898 and 1899, and Mrs. Mayme O’Mailia, who taught during the term of 1912 and 1913. Mrs. O’Mailia taught ten grades including Chemistry, English and Latin at a salary of sixty dollars a month. Once the teacher began ringing the school bell, boys and girls scurried to meet her so that they would not be tardy. Some children traveled long distances on foot or perhaps on a favorite horse. A distance of five miles was not uncommon. After a flurry of activity, wraps were hung and lunch pails were put aside. With a slap of a stick by the teacher, pupils were signaled to be at their desks.
The desks are arranged in four rows. On the right side are the most ancient desks in Park County; all of these were handmade in Fairplay. The double desks in the center row are from the Lake George School (a small town southeast of Fairplay in park County) and were patented in 1872. On the desk’s cast iron frame are mottos. Each desk has two mottos, one on each side. The sayings are “Improve The Time; Strive— Win; Try Again; Be True; Knowledge Is Power; Patience Wins; Never Give Up; and Be Kind.” Other desks came from the 1885 schoolhouse at Hartsel.
In the front of the room, behind the teacher’s desk, is a large blackboard and wall map of the United States showing the Colorado Territory. On the desks are slates, used for writing, along with rags for erasing. McGuffey readers, the standard textbook of the Garo School from 1879 can be seen. A Trippensee Planetarium, used to depict the planets in their orbits, sits on a shelf. Pictures of some of the students with their teachers line the entryway.
When admiring this small, rustic school building and its basic teaching tools, one feels pride for those pioneer teachers. Many of the leaders and statesmen of our country were taught in their classes.