Schoolhouse erected in 1905 remains a connection to bygone community | #teacher | #children | #kids

The Osage Bluff School remains the only standing building denoting the existence of the community from which it took its name.

In 1885, Osage Bluff had a reported population cresting 100 residents and boasted traditional rural business such as a blacksmith shop and a general store. The first school in the area, local resident Kenneth Braun said, was a log building that was erected around 1895.

“That old school was located across from my home on Route B, about a quarter-mile from here, and set down in a holler,” he said. “For whatever reason, they quit using it, and there’s nothing left of it now.”

But several years later, a new schoolhouse was built, which became Osage Bluff R-12. This durable, one-room structure survives to this day, thanks to the dedication of Braun and the suggestion of many neighbors who have since died.

“In the year 1905, a new school was built on the corner of Mathias Sommerer’s farm,” wrote Hazel Braun, Kenneth’s wife, several years ago in a brief history of Osage Bluff. “Two barbecues and dances were held to pay for the building. Beer was a nickel and barbecue 50 cents.”

She went on to write that the entire cost for erecting the new school house was $700, with the contractor being Christian Jacobs, whose father, John, was one of the pioneer residents of Osage Bluff. Also, the previous log school had been located on the farm owned by Christian Jacobs.

“The new schoolhouse that was constructed in 1905 had a limestone block foundation, and the exterior was made from cedar weatherboard,” Kenneth Braun said. “In later years, they built a small wall along the north side of the building to block the windows, which created a narrow closet room.”

According to Volume VII of the Ohio Public Health Journal from 1917, “The light in the modern school room should be admitted from one side only, and the seats should be arranged so the light is admitted at the left of the pupils. It has been found that this method of lighting is better adapted to school room needs.”

Kenneth Braun said, “Another interesting feature I discovered in the construction of the building is that they poured concrete five feet high inside the walls. Years ago, George Jacobs (son of Christian, the school’s builder) told me that they did this since there was a lot of hunting in the area and they didn’t want a bullet coming through the walls and striking a student.”

For several decades, Osage Bluff R-12 School was the only public school in an area surrounded by parochial schools, such as those in nearby Wardsville and Honey Creek. In 1930, a midnight picnic was held at the Osage Bluff as a benefit for the school and, for many years, the schoolhouse served as a voting precinct for elections.

According to the Miller County Autogram in its edition printed May 21, 1942, Barbara Miller, a recent graduate of Eugene High School, had been hired as the teacher at Osage Bluff for the coming term. In 1945, Archie Smith was serving as the teacher and helped plan a dance to raise money in support of the war effort.

On Feb. 22, 1947, the Osage Bluff 4-H was organized with Archie Smith serving as the first adult leader of the group. For years, the 4-H held meetings in the Osage Bluff schoolhouse until the group eventually disbanded.

“The school was closed in 1949 when it consolidated with the district in Eugene,” Kenneth Braun said. “For a while, it continued to be used as a meeting spot by the 4-H, a coon hunting club and the Osage Flood Control Association (the latter of which worked with the Corps of Engineers regarding the dam and flood prevention along the Osage River).”

He continued, “When the school consolidated, what generally happened is many of the Protestants went to Eugene and the Lutherans to Honey Creek. If you were Catholic, you went to Wardsville. Some of the other students went to Osage Bend or Westphalia since they also had public schools.”

Braun moved to the community of Osage Bluff in 1969, and the schoolhouse sat near his home on one-acre that was still owned by the Eugene School District.

“Upon advice from the school’s attorney, the board adopted a resolution to the effect that the school’s interest in Osage Bluff School … was of no value and therefore, the board voted to issue a quit-claim deed to the current owners of the property,” reported the Eldon Advertiser on July 12, 1984.

“The property was deeded to Edna Sommerer, and I purchased the property from her,” Kenneth Braun said.

Since that time, he has worked to restore the old schoolhouse, thus maintaining a tangible connection to a community that has all but disappeared. The building caught fire in 2017, but thanks to an alarm he had installed, the fire department arrived in time to save the historic building and the damage was soon repaired.

“When I first came to own the schoolhouse in 1984, I thought about tearing it down putting up a big shed, but some of the old-timers from around here about had a fit over that,” he said. “They were good neighbors and loved the schoolhouse, so I decided to keep it and cut a bigger door in the front so that I could use it as a shop.

He added: “It is definitely an important part of Osage Bluff history, and I guess you can say that I just fell in love with it over the years.”

Jeremy P. Amick writes on behalf of the Silver Star Families of America.

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