The first one-room schoolhouse in Routt County was a cabin owned by the Crawford family, and the last was the Mesa Schoolhouse. Although the Crawford cabin is long gone, the 100-year-old Mesa Schoolhouse still stands on the west side of Highway 40 south of Steamboat Springs.
If you go:
What: Pioneer Days at the Historic Mesa Schoolhouse
When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Tuesday, June 28 and 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, July 29
What: Open house at the Historic Mesa Schoolhouse
When: 1 to 3 p.m., Thursday, June 16, Tuesday, July 12 and Friday, Aug. 12
When this school held its first class in 1916, Routt County had 58 one-room schoolhouses and 45 school districts, as compared to 13 schools and three districts today. Classes in the schoolhouses ranged from three to 40 students and covered first through eighth grades, all taught by one teacher.
The first teacher at the Mesa Schoolhouse was Mary Officer, a pretty 20-year-old who had moved to Sidney with her family in a covered wagon when she was a little girl. Mary lived in the teacherage, a tiny one-room house next to the school, which was a common feature of many schoolhouses. Her duties included general school maintenance and cleaning, starting the coal fire in the stove each morning, filling oil lamps and trimming wicks and developing lesson plans for all grade levels in her classroom.
As time passed and Routt County towns and cities grew, the school districts were consolidated, and the one-room schoolhouses gave way to modern schools in town. Originally meant to serve students on ranches far from town, by the 1950s, the schoolhouses were no longer necessary, a result of transportation and growth in town populations.
At the end of the school year in 1959, Steamboat’s Mesa Schoolhouse was the last one-room school in Routt County to close, ending a historical chapter in our educational history.
During the winter, the Mesa Schoolhouse is shuttered and locked, but when local schools close for summer, the Tread of Pioneers Museum opens this treasured landmark’s doors for tours and fun activities that showcase the pioneer spirit of one-room schoolhouses.
On June 28 and July 29, the Tread of Pioneers Museum will present “Pioneer Days,” a program of pioneer activities and crafts for kids ages 5 and older with an adult from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the schoolhouse. Activities include pioneer stories, candle dipping, making mountain man pouches and tin punched ornaments, and more.
On June 16, July 12 and Aug. 12, the museum will also host open house events from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Mesa Schoolhouse. Museum staff members dressed in historic costumes will take you back in time to experience student and teacher life at the turn-of-the-century in this one-room schoolhouse. You’ll learn about historic toys, recess games, and Routt County school history. Kids can play with the toys and ring the school’s bell.
We are thrilled to have Cheri Daschle, the granddaughter of the first teacher at the Mesa School, volunteering with the museum at the school this summer.
Special thanks to Historic Routt County and the city of Steamboat Springs for their co-sponsorship of these events. For more information, contact the museum at 970-879-2214 or treadofpioneers.org.
Tamra Monahan is museum assistant at Tread of Pioneers Museum in Steamboat Springs.