Talbot County Free Library

Local Historical Narratives


The Little Red Schoolhouse

Susan Schorr

     Longwoods Elementary School, better known as the Little Red Schoolhouse, was one of 43 one-room schoolhouses being used in Talbot County in 1865. The average enrollment at the school was approximately 30 students and it is located near Wye Mills. For a brief time the school was known as Germantown Consolidated School (c. 1860), but the records indicate that Longwoods Elementary School was used most often.

     The little school was used until 1967, with some updates to its rustic beginnings. When the school was first established, there was a single potbellied stove in the center of the school. The teacher was responsible for cleaning and lighting the stove to provide heat for her students. On either side of the stove were rows of desks. The younger students and the girls sat closer to the front and the older boys sat in the back. The students in grades 1 through 7 were taught the basics - reading, writing and arithmetic. They also learned a little history and geography. The students provided their own lunch that they carried to school with them in pails or baskets. They usually ate at their desks, or outside if the weather was nice. There were two outhouses on opposite sides of the schoolyard ... one for boys and one for girls. Light was provided by candles and natural sunlight through the windows.

     Since paper was an expensive and rare item, it was only used for special reports that were usually completed at home. For the most part, children used slates to write on. Slates are small, hand-held chalkboards that were wiped off with a piece of cloth once their work was completed and checked by the teacher. The reading material came from McGuffy Readers and the Bible.

     As the years progressed, the school eventually added modern conveniences. Electricity for lighting was added in 1936, and the outhouses were replaced with indoor facilities in 1951. In 1944 a new teacher was brought in. Her name was Ruth Stewart Orrell and she saw to it that her students mastered the updated curriculum. By this time the students now only attended the school until the end of their 5th grade year. The last class to complete their education at the Little Red Schoolhouse was in 1967.

      In 1969, the members of the Talbot County Historical Society, and others who wanted to maintain a piece of Talbot County History, worked to restore Longwoods Elementary School to its original condition. They removed the indoor plumbing and erected two outhouses. They also removed the electric lights and other modern conveniences. The electric outlets were left intact, but carefully concealed to remain true to its historic beginnings. The Little Red Schoolhouse was honored by officials at a Dedication Ceremony on June 18, 1972 and can now be toured with special permission.