Fruita Schoolhouse

Log cabin building with stone foundation, in front of red cliffs, yellow trees, and blue sky.
The Fruita Schoolhouse is nestled below Wingate Sandstone cliffs.

NPS/ Ann Huston

Black and white photo of school children and adults beside a rock carved with "Fruita Grade School"
Students in 1935 pose behind the schoolhouse. You can still see the rock with "Fruita Grade School" carved into it today. Please leave no trace of your visit, and do not add any writing or drawing to this historic inscription.


First Classes

Classes had been conducted for two years before the Fruita Schoolhouse was built, when Elijah Cutler Behunin donated land for a school building in 1896. He and other early Junction (later called "Fruita") settlers constructed the building. Even though only eight families lived in Junction, these farmers had large families. The Behunins raised thirteen children themselves, one of whom, Nettie, became the first schoolteacher, at age twelve. She taught children in the Behunin home before the schoolhouse was built. Nettie's first class had 22 students, three of whom were her siblings.

Originally, there was a flat, dirt covered roof on the school. A peaked, shingled roof was added in 1912 or 1913. The interior walls, originally bare and chinked logs, were plastered in 1935. The first desks were homemade, constructed of pine, and seated two students each. These were sometimes used to quiet unruly students. The teacher would seat a troublesome boy with a girl, and the resulting blow to his ego would often bring him under control.

Black and white photo of log cabin building with a flagpole in front of it, and cliffs behind it.
Imagine what it would be like to attend a one room schoolhouse. Would you enjoy having class with children of all ages?


A Day in the Life of a Teacher

Teachers taught the "three-Rs" to the eight grades at the one-room school. If a teacher felt qualified and had enough textbooks, other subjects such as geography, were added.

Students were full of pranks. To delay the start of class, they often hid the teacher's alarm clock in the woodpile. Lanterns used during night meetings were stored in the school, and a few enterprising students found that dropping a small piece of calcium carbide, taken from a lantern, into an inkwell produced a reaction that would cause the ink to overflow. If the inkwell was tightly capped, it would explode and spatter ink all over the room.

In 1900, the building was loaned to the Wayne County School District for the first county approved classes. Nettie, then 22, was the first authorized teacher. She was paid $70 a month while her male counterparts received $80 per month.

Listen to Janice Oldroyd Torgerson recount her time as a teacher in Fruita in 1934 (below). Classes of varying sizes continued until 1941, when the school was discontinued for lack of students.

The log building also served as a community meeting house and church. Desks were not bolted to the floor, so the room could be cleared for different needs. As late as 1924, the building was also used for dances, town meetings, elections, church youth activities, box suppers, and celebrations.


The Schoolhouse Today

In 1964, the National Park Service nominated the school to the National Register of Historic Places and subsequently restored the structure to the 1930s period. Today, the school stands in its original location, although Utah Highway 24 was added in 1962. Visitors may peer through the windows into the furnished structure and imagine what school was like, so long ago. Those with a good imagination can still hear that old school bell ring.

Please be respectful when you visit the Fruita Schoolhouse and leave no trace. Check out the Fruita Schoolhouse wayside sign, if you cannot visit in person.

Old-fashioned desks, tables, and wood-burning stove inside a small building with with walls.
The National Park Service restored the Fruita Schoolhouse to the way it looked in the 1930s, when it was bustling with students.

NPS/ Chris Roundtree

Last updated: May 7, 2020

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Torrey, UT 84775


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