Heritage, Volume 04, Number 02, Fall 1986

graduation from secondary school and
success in earning the highest teaching
certificate, Ella began her forty-six years
as a teacher by becoming the one room
instructor in the small community of
Crabapple. During her years as a teacher,
she obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in
1945, and a Master of Arts Degree from
the University of Texas.
Rural school teaching was a catalyst to
college for many bright, ambitious, but
poor Texans. For lawmaker Sam Rayburn,
one room school teaching in East Texas
made it financially possible to graduate
from East Texas Normal College. For
Walter Prescott Webb, country school
teaching in Central West Texas was a
stepping stone to the University of Texas
and to a career as a noted historian.
With all the autonomy that a teacher
had over the school, there were some
matters that were not in an instructor's
jurisdiction: salaries ($25 to $36 per
month), length of the school year, and
number and ages of students in attendance.
In the 19th and 20th centuries
these factors varied from school to school,
but around 1915 the state started to exert
control over these components and the
common schools became more standardized.
This trend toward standardization
and equalization continued until the demise
of the common school.
It was not until the Compulsory
School Act of 1915 that communities
were given minimum standards of operation
and state money was appropriated for
teacher pay. By 1916 all school children
in Texas between the ages of eight and
fourteen were required to attend school
for at least three months; by 1917 at least
four months; and by 1918 and thereafter,
at least five months. School districts
wishing to operate for more than five
months had to obtain the additional
teacher salary from the local community.
One room schools in Central Texas,
like one room schools in the rest of Texas,
reflected the vernacular architecture of
the place and time. Choices of building
materials and the style itself mirrored the
communities architecture. Thus, when
the Germans of the 1840s to 1880s were
building log structures for their homes,
they also used this building style for their
schools. By the late 19th century these

co
log shelters were becoming inadequate
and the new school buildings, like new
homes, were superseded with local limestone
constructions.
The 19th century Central Texas
schools tended to be symmetrical, with
opposing windows on opposing walls for
light and a central entrance. These early
schools looked much like little chapels.
Numerous 19th century, limestone, symmetrical
schools are standing today in the
Hill Country. Three classic examples are
the Grapetown, Sisterdale, and Crabapple
Schools.
By the 20th century, common schools
in Central Texas were beginning to be
replaced for a second, third, and in the
case of some older schools, even a fourth
time. Although a portion of these newer
schools continued to reflect preference
for the limestone and symmetrical features,
many districts began to utilize the
newer style of wooden frame construction
built in accordance with standardized
plans. Examples of the new style can be
seen in the second school built at White
Oak in the 1920s and the fourth one room
school built in 1930 in the Meusebach
Community. Both buildings are standing
today in Gillespie County. These buildings
show features from guidelines suggested
in a 1910 publication entitled One
and Two Room Rural School Buildings with
Plans and Specifications.
The Meusebach and White Oak
schools are frame structures that have a
"modern" asymmetrical window plan; one
wall contains a row of five or six windows,
with an adjoining wall with a row

Meusebach Creek School, Gillespie County.
Located near the verdant creek named after
nearby Fredericksburg's founder, Meusebach
Creek's 1930 frame school was the last of four.
It shows the influence of the widespread
dissemination of standards and guidelines for
rural school architecture in the twentieth
century. These included providing for healthful
light and ventilation. Classes originally began
here in 1858 and in 1869 included four black
children, an unusual early example of integration
in the deep south.

of three or fewer windows. The standarized
placement of windows was important
for adequate air circulation, and for
the best natural light, electricity did not
come to schools in the Hill Country until
the late 1930s. Along a third wall the
plan suggests a blackboard but no windows,
and the fourth wall contains the
building entrance. The Meusebach school
also has the standard, recommended
cloakroom.
Throughout the history of each country
school, small architectural and structural
alterations emerged when the
community was able to afford the improvements
and when the technology for
such improvements was readily available.
Some school communities built attached
sheds to porches for needed play, storage,
or community space while other communities
changed the structures to accommodate
sanitary improvements. Cave
Creek and Nebgen one room schools
exemplify communities that chose to
transform the facade of their building by
placing embossed tin over the wooden
exteriors.

Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 04, Number 02, Fall 1986. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45442/. Accessed September 20, 2014.