Recreation & Parks - Museum Division
Little Red Schoolhouse (Charlotte Hall School, c. 1820)
On the ground of St. Clement’s Island Museum
The Little Red Schoolhouse, built in the early 19th century, stands restored and preserved on the grounds of the St. Clement’s Island Museum in Colton’s Point, MD. This humble little structure stands as a monument to education in early America, representing one of hundreds of one-room schoolhouses that have dotted our nation.
Originally located on Thompson Corner Road in the Charlotte Hall area of St. Mary’s County, the land it sat on was purchased from the Edwards Family for $10 per acre. Records indicate that a good and substantial house of 16 feet square build of chestnut logs was erected for the sum of $150.
After completion, the school was attended by children in grades one through seven who lived within walking distance. But walking distance could mean a long way.
"We walked 5 to 6 miles each way to school," says Mrs. Gladys Herbert Bowling, who started attending the school in 1918 at the age of six, and who was graduated in 1925. It was often dark by the time the children got home. "There were no paved roads," Mrs. Bowling adds, and on rainy days the mud sometimes pulled the children’s boots right off their feet. In bad weather, there was no school. Mrs. Bowling says that when she attended, the school also had a "cloakroom" where grades 1 through 3 met, while grades 4-5 and 6-7 met in the larger room.
These were the days of no electricity and no plumbing. Light came through the large windows and heat was provided by the wood-burning stove. Winter mornings were quite cold until the stove got hot.
Water was only available by cranking an outdoor hand pump and the restroom was an outhouse - one for the boys and one for the girls.
There was no cafeteria, no gymnasium, no air conditioning nor bus transportation. The students who went to school here lived a simpler life. Though vastly different from modern schools, students still learned the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic.
The Little Red Schoolhouse was presented to the St. Clement’s Island Museum by the heirs of Maryland State Senator and member of the House of Delegates, Henry J. Fowler, Sr. Senator Fowler had attended the school in 1919. Many years later, Senator Fowler purchased the then-decrepit building from the St. Mary’s County Board of Education for $5. On October 25 of that year, the school was moved 3 miles from its original location to Horse Range Farm to be preserved as a museum.
On April 17, 1991, the schoolhouse was moved to its current foundation on the St. Clement’s Island Museum grounds. Also donated were the building’s contents, including the desks and a picture of George Washington, and a replica "two-seater" outhouse. Sadly, none of the contents are from the original schoolhouse.
The move itself was a community effort by volunteers, utility companies and local businesses. The caravan averaged a sedate 4 MPH on its 28 mile, 6-hour long trip as cables and wires were lifted to allow the 19-foot high structure to pass underneath.
Today, visitors to St. Clement’s Island Museum can enter this preserved "treasure" of yesteryear and almost hear the sounds of days past within its walls.
The Little Red Schoolhouse is open during the operating hours of the St. Clement’s Island Museum and is handicap accessible.