TwHP Lessons

The Freeman School:
Building Prairie Communities

[Cover photo] The Red Brick School.
(Homestead National Monument of America)


t seemed, as I recall it, a lonely little house of scholarship...But that humble little school had a dignity of a fixed and far off purpose...It was the outpost of civilization. It was the advance guard of the pioneer, driving the wilderness farther into the west. It was life preparing wistfully for the future.

James Rooney,
in Journey from Ignorant Ridge, 1976

The Freeman School, or the Red-Brick School House as it was originally called, served the community of Blakely Township, Nebraska from 1872 to 1967. It is representative of the one-room schools that once dotted the landscape of the American West. At the time it closed it had the honor of being the oldest, continuously used one-room school in the state of Nebraska. The Freeman school served not only as an educational center, but also as the church, a meeting hall, the township polling place, and as the social and political center of the community. At present, the National Park Service maintains and preserves this historic structure that is located within the boundaries of Homestead National Monument of America in southeastern Nebraska.

Although no children's voices fill the yard, the red brick school still offers visitors the lesson that one-room schools were not only places where children learned reading, writing and arithmetic, but also places where far-flung families could gather to forge a sense of community.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Plat map of Blakely Township

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Red Brick School
 2. The Community's Experience
 3. The Treasurer's Account Book

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. The Red Brick School,
 2. Teacher and pupils, 1914
 3. Children in front of school, 1913
 4. Interior of Freeman School
 5. Children at play
 6. Evening at the school

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. And Today in the School
 2. To Preserve or Not to Preserve
 3. How Did My Town Grow?

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Homestead National
Monument of America

This lesson is based on the Freeman Homestead and Freeman School, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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