Stratton House Inn Logo
Stratton House Inn :: Flushing, Ohio Photographs of Stratton House Inn

Historic/Scenic Roads

Olney Friends School
   Aaron Frame's Diary
   Mary Smith Davis

Belmont County
Bicentennial Minutes
Bonny Belmont
Little Home Histories
Howe's History
Belmont Apple
Flushing Ohio
George Washington
Johnny Appleseed
John Brown's Raid
Rural Electrification

Harrison County
Franklin Museum
George/Tom Custer
Morgan's Raid 1863
Black Baseball Hero

Jefferson County
James Logan
Mount Pleasant

Brief History of Inn

Change Font Size:
Increase font size Decrease font size Restore default font size
 Olney Friends School - History: Fire and Rebirth -- 1910-1920s
Current Main Building, as Rebuilt in 1910

See previous entry: Olney Friends School - History, 1874-1909

On the afternoon of Fifth-day, Third Month, thirty-first (Thursday, March 31), 1910, the school building was destroyed by fire.

Originating in the belfry -- probably caused by a spark from the chimney alighting in a sparrow's nest -- the flames spread slowly but relentlessly. Faculty and students of the school and neighbors worked tirelessly to combat the fire. An alarm was sent to the Barnesvi!le fire department, but it was slow in arriving because no team could be immediately found to haul the fire engine. The water supply was soon exhausted, making further efforts to save the building useless. Some of the furniture and equipment was safely removed but much was lost.

We cannot dwell here upon the feelings of gloom akin to despair which descended upon teachers and pupils on that late afternoon in early spring, as they watched their loved Olney reduced to a shell containing only charred and twisted ruins. But we may say, in passing, that the subsequent years of her history have but given another illustration of victory arising from apparent defeat. A writer in the Olney Mirror tells us that, "The morning after the fire found things in a chaotic state. A general search for missing personal property began. The `best' hat might be found in one place, the `best' suit in still another; and perhaps after some weeks, garments long given up as lost would appear in the most unexpected places."

"Unprecedented, was the object that called together the Committee on the following day. With solemn feelings the members gathered in a room in the Yearly Meeting house, coming from Stillwater, Short Creek, and a few from Salem, to consider what could be done for the school in its present extremity. Few saw a possibility, at first, that it could be continued. But a statement was made that the three-story dwelling at Tacoma, erected and occupied by Francis and Mary Davis, would be available. (It was a striking coincidence that Mary Davis passed away just as the school building which her husband had built and in which she had been so interested, was burning.) After careful deliberation of the Committee, it was unanimously decided to attempt the continuing of school in this dwelling."

Only a marvelous spirit of co-operation and self-sacrifice, not only among teachers and students, but also among people of the community and families of students, made it possible to carry on school under such difficult circumstances. The girls found temporary homes with families in the neighborhood. After spending a few nights in the barn, the boys occupied the Hoge "cottage" at Tacoma. Beginning on Secgnd-day (Monday) morning following the fire, classes met in the Stillwater Meeting House. Soon the "Stanton mansion" at Tacoma was ready and the girls moved into it. Meals were served, and classes held there for the remainder of the term. Some classes had to be omitted, such as writing -- there were no desks -- but the required year's work was compleled. The class of 1910 had the unique experience of graduating under the trees in the yard on an improvised platform made of a barn door. Under these arrangements, temporary though they were, the students cheerfully endured much discomfort. Surely there was in them some of the stuff of which pioneers are made. This was the spirit through all the substitutions and makeshifts necessary between the fire and the completion of the new buildings.

Rebuilding Friends Boarding School at Barnesville, Ohio

Eight days after the fire it was decided to rebuild, and in two and one-half months plans for financing and building had been considered and work commenced. William L. Ashton and Joseph C. Stratton were the first solicitors for the new building, with Edmund Smith working in Iowa. When they decided to put up the girls' dormitory, Jonathan Binns went to Iowa and helped Edmund Smith, while Samuel Hall and Walter Thomas went over Ohio. Much aid was given by Philadelphia Friends, both in money and furnishings. The sum of $50,000 was donated by over eight hundred contributors. Gifts for specific purposes and special equipment were received to the amount of $4,100. Joseph C. Stratton was authorized to have general charge of the rebuilding, purchase necessary material, hire all the help, make and execute any additional plans for the rebuilding. He was assisted by Perley Pickett as time keeper and pay master -- his records were never challenged by any of the men -- and by Edward F. Stratton who, with Wallace Doudna, installed the plumbing and electrical equipment as the building progressed. Materials were purchased from local firms and from Hoyle and Scott of Cambridge whenever possible; nearly all firms gave special prices, thus sacrificing their profits, to assist in the rebuilding. The labor was largely drawn from Barnesville with the liberal assistance of Friends in the neighborhood. Walter Shaw measured and accounted for all the lumber used; other Friends who put in all or part time as carpenters, teamsters, or general helpers were Oliver Morris, Clark Edgerton, Henry Harvey Jr., Walter James, Thomas and Howard Parker, J. Wilmer Hall, Willis Doudna, Clifford Groves, Oscar Bailey, Arthur Hartley, Wilson Hirst, Ellis Bundy, Wilfred T. Hall and William G. Steer. Richard Corbin of Barnesville was the master carpenter and general foreman. Jeptha Blowers had the contract for rodding the buildings as protection against lightning, he also aided liberally in the grading and planting of the campus. The heating plant was installed by a Wheeling firm and the electrical equipment was furnished by the George Worthington Co. of Cleveland and purchased through James Maule.

The new school is arranged according to a different plan from the old. As before there is a central or main building; the old walls were used for this, so its outward appearance is little changed except for the removal of the third story in compliance with state building regulations. Within, its appearance is much altered. "To an old scholar entering the building for the first time since its restoration, the old and the new mingle in a way to tug at the heart strings. Up the battered old stone steps the way is so familiar, but at the top he is confronted by very modern doors where the weathered old front door of many memories should be. Once within, everything is so new, yet with a suggestion of the old about it. At first he feels somewhat lost in the strange halls but he soon gets adjusted and heartily rejoices in the improvements he finds on every hand." The halls run the length of the building with no dividing doors. The old central stairway is gone. The collecting room (now the library) with its wide doorway is more spacious, and the meeting room on the second floor is no more. Space occupied by washrooms and trunk rooms has been put to other uses. Replacing the old third floor sleeping chambers, basement wash rooms and trunk rooms, are attractive and comfortable dormitories; the girls' dormitory (now the former girls' dormitory), slightly northwest, and the boys' northeast of the main building and facing each other across the campus. They had rooms designed for the accommodation of two to four students, rooms for teachers, and a parlor for social gatherings and "parlor meetings." All buildings were "fireproof" throughout. They were supplied with steam heat, electric lights, gas where needed, and city water from Barnesville. The gift of the Alumni Association was the inter-communicating telephones connecting the more important rooms in the various buildings and thus saving many steps. The "Fire School" gave an electric clock and repeater system which automatically rang the bells for rising, meals and classes.

The first building ready for use was the boys' dormitory. Beginning Eleventh Month, seventeenth (November 17), 1910, it was used as headquarters for the school. The attic and upper floor were used as sleeping rooms by the girls and teachers. Part of the rooms were used as classrooms. The basement did duty as kitchen and dining room, white sheets serving as curtains to separate them. Because of the difficulty in getting help, some of the girls helped with the dining room work, both here and at Tacoma. The boys occupied the upper part of the power house until a few rooms in the main building could be made habitable. Its twelve windows, left open for ventilation, afforded an excellent entry for soot which accumulated on beds and occupants until they could scarcely be recognized in the morning. One night an owl came in with the soot but made a hasty retreat, followed by a pillow.

The old evergreen hedge was removed. "It was on the afternoon of Thanksgiving day, 1910. The boys were busy chopping down the hedge which had so long bounded the lawn at Olney. They worked industriously for a long time and soon great piles of green branches were seen where before had been the time honored hedge. Then just as the afternoon light began to fade, flames were seen darting upward as if some wandering gypsy tribe had built their campfires near old Olney's walls. The fire crackled and sang, bringing up many memories of the past to all who saw it. Many were heard to say, `I hate to see the old hedge go.' The sparks flew merrily. Then darkness came, the fire died away, the autumn rain came softly falling, pattering on the dead leaves and hissing among the red hot embers."

The work of hammer and saw went busily on, and Commencement, 1911, was held in the new assembly room. "This commencement beheld the results of a year of planning and toiling by devoted friends of the school, a new plant practically complete. There was little time on this day to hark back to old things except to compare them with present blessings. The consciousness of the year's hopes and struggles was more or less in every mind, but with the joy of fulfillment in our hearts a note of something like jubilation ran through all the social intercourse of the day."

Thus, out of ruins and disaster grew our present school. Many were the problems met and solved by the building committee. Many were the sacrifices made by Friends who contributed money, good will and hours of loving service. But "the efforts necessary in rebuilding created wider interest in maintaining our school on a healthful educational basis." The new school is more efficient than the old.

"As we think of the rebuilding of our Boarding School, we find that the carrying out of well-laid plans, the directing of this or that part of the work, the averting of trouble between various groups of workmen (and possibly Committee members), was due largely to the diplomacy and untiring efforts of one individual -- Joseph C. Stratton, backed by his faithful companion, Elizabeth B. Stratton. Probably no one will ever know how many times in the early hours of the morning, while the rest of us -- who had less responsibility -- slept, plans for the coming day's work were discussed by these faithful companions in their efforts to carry out the trust which they had accepted. Joseph Stratton's ability to handle men in a kind and brotherly way made it possible to carry on the work with the minimum of friction. One instance of this ability to get along with people will suffice. When the rebuilding program had proceeded far enough so that the location of the boys' dormitory had to be decided, the Building Committee went over the grounds with that object in view. One would say, "I would like to see it here"; another, "I think it should be there"; and still another would have a third location. Each had his own reason and idea until one of the Committee said, "Well, Joseph, if this building is to be located, I guess thee will have to do it." His prompt reply was, "If it was left to me, I would put it right there." One after another of the Committee said, "I am satisfied," and in a few minutes the present location of the boys' dormitory was settled.

Increasing interest in athletics and recognition of the value of organized sports and physical training in the development of mind and body, made it necessary to build a gymnasium. Most of the labor on the building was done by the boys. It was completed and opened for use in 1912. Used on alternate days by boys and girls, the "playshed" -- as it originally was called -- made possible active recreation through the winter months and on many rainy days.

An attractive cottage for a resident married teacher was added to the group of buildings on the campus in 1917.

Students became interested in Student Government in 1915. Starting with unsupervised study periods, the idea grew and strengthened. The following year student government was officially recognized "for the purpose of raising the ideals of the school to higher standards and developing in each individual the power of self government, the basis of which is self control."

A great deal of care and thought was given to the health of the children. Epidemics could not be entirely prevented, but strenuous measures were taken to control contagious diseases. Health certificates were an entrance requirement, and a yearly physical examination was made of all students. Stress was laid on hygiene at all times, but even so the nursery had its inhabitants at intervals.

Tucked away, just a little off the main road, lies Friends' Boarding School. Although somewhat changed from the 1920s, when the following description was written, these words still describe much of the spirit, character, and appearance of Olney today. "The well kept acres of the farm make a lovely setting for the school buildings and campus. If we approach by the maple-arched brick walk or by the curving drive, the effect is equally pleasing. We see the same tennis courts and baseball field, the teacher's cottage, nestling cozily beside the walk; the green lawn and brick buildings; and farther on the white-painted gymnasium and farm buildings. Even the nearby power house with its towering stack, fits unobtrusively into the picture. West of the campus, beyond the pasture, is the `girls' woods' and the spring. To the east and to the south are cultivated fields; and to the north is Stillwater Meeting House in its grove of trees. Back of the main building are the spacious vegetable garden, gynmasium, and the farm house, once known as the laundry. West of it is the old orchard where long stemmed violets may be had for the picking; and the grape arbor of more recent years. We must not forget the old pines on this side of the campus, with their crowds of noisy blackbirds in early spring; warm, piney smell on hot days in early summer; and mournful voice in the storms of winter. Over the hill and down the hollow, lies the road to the skating pond. Mention of the pond will recall to many an Olney boy the hours of labor spent on it in order to have the pleasure of ice skating. Away on another hill lies "the twenty acres," a tract added to the original farm, and appreciated by girls and boys for the apple orchard."

3 diamonds

This is the home of Friends' Boarding School -- Olney, as so many have come to call it: the Olney that has endured through one hundred and fifty years of sunshine and shadow, carrying through it all the high purpose of giving a quality and loving education to the children of both Friends and non-Friends. And who shall say that the spirit of the place has not woven itself into the surroundings? For over the entire scene, winter or summer, no matter how great the activities of the moment, lies an undefinable atmosphere of contentment and peace.

See next entry: Olney Friends School - History: Student Life at Olney, c.1926

For the table of contents and first entry in this series, please see: Olney Friends School, Barnesville, Ohio

3 diamonds

Source: This entry is adapted from Olney, 1876-1926, a booklet published on the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Olney Friends School in Barnesville, Ohio.

Jump to top of page  Top Link to this page  Link to this page