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Alumni share tales of Maher Schoolhouse

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Photo by Kaylee Dunham Patty Lee Porter, Dorothy Tracy Dunfelder and Hazel Childress listen to fellow classmates reminisce at the 100-year celebration of the Maher Schoolhouse, hosted by the Maher-Onion Community Club. The open house took place June 11 du

The 100th anniversary of the Maher Schoolhouse on Sunday, June 11, was honored by the Members of the Maher-Onion Valley Community Club. The club hosted an open house starting the presentation as if it was the start of a regular school day, with the Pledge of Allegiance, Lord's Prayer, followed by God Bless America and then the ringing of the school bell.

"In November of 1884, the Maher Community got together and voted on whether to have a school or not. Well, they voted 25 to nothin' in favor of a school, so Harry Grant was the first teacher in May of 1885. They had money enough for three months because Montrose County helped fund the school. After three months of school, they decided they had enough for three more months after the farmers and ranchers raked up enough money... Then the second year in 1886, Montrose County came through with $750... In 1892 and 1893 they had school on Crystal Creek, and from what I can find out that must have been right across from where the Fruitland Mesa head gate is now. Then in 1897 and 1898, they had school there again in the Jack Rundle home a little down the creek. In 1897 Harriet Carter was the teacher and the school had been started on the Carter place and had moved to the Rosslyn Place... In 1908 the Onion Valley School opened and Merwin Reynolds was the teacher. In 1912 Maher was in charge of the area school on Fruitland Mesa and the Onion Valley School. In 1916 there were 21 students that attended school and then the school burned down and this one was built. The 1920 records were lost and so I don't know what happened until the 1940s when I started school," said Orval Cotton

Currently, Randy Wolf is responsible for the upkeep of the building and his wife Barbara Wolf hung pictures on both walls of old students and teachers in honor of the school and its history. After a brief history of how the school came to be students from the past got up to share old stories and memories with other members of the community.

The students in attendance were Dan Reed, Marilyn Wood, Sally Allyn Skeels, Eddie VanDenBerg, Orval Cotten, Larry Cotten, Faye Cotten Robinson, Fern Cotten Reed, Ollie May Cotten Bass, Hazel Childeress, Dorothy Tracy, Patty Lee Porter, Bobby Reed, Donny Little, Joe Weinant, Rodger Meek, Charles Stoner, Barney Birch, Chuck Fry, Pat Collins and Jim Collins.

Sally Allyn Skeels was 5 or 6 when she started school at the Maher Schoolhouse and she had a big class with five kids in it. She remembered a big blackboard and when they got bored, they would come up with math problems and have each other solve them.

"I spent more time teaching than I did learning," Sally told the audience. "In the fall we'd come in the morning and it was always cold, so we'd sit around the stove for like an hour or so and read out of a chapter book. Then recess came and we'd play softball until noon, then we'd have lunch. After lunch, we'd play some more softball. Then we'd come back inside because somebody was going to come check up on us and we'd study a lot, maybe for a whole hour. Then we'd all go home. In the winter everybody brought their sled and there was the schoolhouse hill so instead of playing softball we would sleigh ride and we would sleigh ride and we would sleigh ride. It was, well, it was fun. I had no idea what this woman's name was that was supposed to be our teacher." The other students from that year yelled "Miss Dillan." Sally continued on with her story "Anyway, I guess about halfway through the school year they fired her. That's when we got a new teacher, and she taught us everything we didn't learn before. There were very few recesses, very short lunches, and we got out late. She was a good teacher, but I do remember Miss Dillan."

One Christmas the students remember that they were putting on a play and Dan Reed gave Orval Cotten a poem to read. "I'm glad I'm American, I'm glad I'm free, I wish I was a little dog and Hitler was a tree."

Each of the 21 students in attendance had the opportunity to tell their favorite memories and each one received many laughs and cheers. The celebration came to a close as everyone sang "God Be With You Till We Meet Again," and had a closing prayer.

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