It was a spelling bee in progress at the Rose Hill School, an historic one-room schoolhouse built in 1895, but now located behind the small Cherokee Strip Museum – all about this unique area which was partially populated by an 1893 land run – in Perry, Oklahoma.
The students I saw were from a modern school near Tulsa, but once brought by bus to Rose Hill for a day of pioneer schooling, they were transformed by period attire and their surroundings.
I almost missed this magical moment, because I was in a hurry to get down to the Oklahoma City area for a business meeting. Thank goodness I decided to hop across the little wooden footbridge over a creek and poke my head into the classroom “just for a minute.”
The real teachers were seated in the back to watch, but the starched-shirt pioneer teacher substitute seemed to need no assistance in class control as students were marched through spelling words at fourth grade level, with each word featured in a sentence that might have been used one hundred years ago in McGuffey’s Reader (sentences featured a lot of farm work, like churning butter.)
It was a lovely fall day, with leaves swirling over the period toys laying outside – like wooden hoops – and there were student bonnets neatly hung on pegs in the mudroom entrance and little lunch cans in a hutch.
For a huge American history and Little House on the Prairie fan like me, it was one of the best 20 minutes Â I’ve ever spent in a museum, with its original cast-iron stove in the middle and wooden desks in tidy rows.
Visit Rose Hill School on Facebook, and if you want to see a class in session yourself, they’re held between 9:30 am and 1:30 pm Monday through Friday (but the Cherokee Strip Museum itself is closed on Mondays.) Visitors are welcome to tour the school any time, and watch a bit of any classes in progress, but for the full experience you’ll need to be brought there with a student group, arranged through the museum.
For a quick meal while in Perry, drive into town (it’s right off of Interstate 35, past the corporate headquarters for Ditch Witch construction equipment) and try the Kumback Cafe on the town square, serving thousands of customers for decades, including a visit by gangster Pretty Boy Floyd.