English Settlement School, Oakland Oregon

Date added: September 08, 2022 Categories: Oregon School

The one-room school building completed and opened for use as the English Settlement School in rural Douglas County, Oregon stands approximately eight miles northeast of the City of Oakland among the region's rolling hills. Built in approximately 1910 during the height of production farming in the Oakland area, the building served as the only school in the English Settlement community and the school district until 1934 when the district combined with the nearby Oakland school system. The building itself is a modest interpretation of high-style schoolhouses promoted by reformers and state education officials from the mid-eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries. Although deteriorated after years of use as a livestock shelter, the building is little altered since its construction.

Initially explored in 1811, Euro-American settlement began in Douglas County in the 1840s. Movement into the area accelerated with the opening of the "Applegate Trail" in 1846. Although not incorporated until decades later, towns such as Oakland, Wilbur, Winchester, and Drain formed in the 1840s and in the 1850s Sutherlin, Yoncalla, Myrtle Creek, and Roseburg became established. In order to encourage rapid settlement the U.S. government offered settlers 320 acres per individual or 640 acres per family of free land for those willing to meet a four year residency requirement through the Donation Land Claim Act of 1850. The offer of land and the discovery of gold led to a population surge, and Umpqua County was organized 24 January 1851. The Donation Land Claim Act was amended several times, and was eventually replaced by the Homestead Act of 1862 that gave settlers up to 160 acres of land. Federal subsidy of railroad companies through the 1866 Oregon and California Railroad Land Grant and other initiatives encouraged the establishment of prosperous farming communities throughout the county.

Paralleling the settlement of the valley, early pioneers began to arrive in the Oakland/English Settlement area in 1846. Oakland itself was laid out in 1849; however the first residents did not arrive until 1850. Although never a large town, with the arrival of the railroad Oakland developed into an important commercial shipping center for the rich farmlands that surrounded it. By 1907 the town served as a major distribution point for agricultural produce between Portland and San Francisco. In that year 175 carloads of livestock were shipped, with turkeys being one of the area's major crops. Other products such as grains, dried fruits, wool, venison and salmon were also shipped from Oakland.

The farming area known as English Settlement, which was five to eight miles east and northeast of Oakland was settled by a group of farmers from Derbyshire and other English provinces drawn to the region by the lure of free land under the Donation Land Claim Act. Early English settlers to the Oakland area include George Shambrook, W.H.B. Deardorf, and Langley Hall who arrived in the early 1850s and earned their living as farmers and stock raisers. Census data from 1870, 1880, 1900, and 1910 show that a number of the residents were either themselves English or had one or more parents who were. The majority of these emigres arrived in the mid-nineteenth century. Many of these families farmed the land, but some worked in trades. Often newcomers came to the area upon the advice of friends and relatives. Thomas and Emily Baimbridge moved to the region because they already had friends and at least one relative who had come before them. Although commonly known as English Settlement, the families in the area were always outnumbered by their American neighbors, and by 1910 the English population had largely married into the local population that hailed from states in the U.S. Midwest and East. Although the community never established its own town, the residents did see to the education of their children and the community continuously operated its own school district until 1934.

From the eighteenth century until WW II, most communities, especially rural areas, educated their own children in local schoolhouses. Standard texts in the mid and late nineteenth century were McGuffy's Eclectic readers and the standard teaching method was rote memorization and recitation. By the 1880s most states required that teachers be at least sixteen years of age and be certified, which involved taking a one day test administered by the County Superintendent. No other training was required, but some teachers had other credentials. Generally men were preferred because they were thought to be able to handle the farm boys better than women. Administration of the schools was the responsibility of the School Superintendent, often an elected official, who organized teacher education and testing, supervised teachers, and provided supplies. By the mid-nineteenth century several separate Progressive efforts to standardize state-level education were underway, including teaching methods, teacher education, and building design. One aspect of these reforms was a push toward skills-based training. Another target of the reformers was the country school, which was thought to be backward. In 1908, then President Teddy Roosevelt pushed school consolidation as an answer to the "rural school problem" of poor teacher preparation and inadequate facilities. The debate continued through the next two decades with many educators, civic leaders, and state school superintendents proponing consolidation. Many State School Superintendents provided architectural plans for the model rural school to promote this shift. Encouraged by political pressure and a shift of the rural population to cities, consolidation began in earnest in the 1930s and continued through the early 1960s.

Schooling in the West was highly valued and seen as the path to the future, and Oregon's Territorial and State governments took an active role in creating and administering schools. Providing adequate schools was one of the first priorities of the Oregon Territorial Legislature. A year after the U.S. Congress granted the northwest region territory status, the Oregon's Territorial Legislature created its public school system in 1849. Oregon's public education system became enshrined in the state constitution, which assigned the legislature the responsibility of establishing such a system and provided for an elected state superintendent of instruction. Seeing the need and advantage of an organized and uniform public education system, larger communities throughout the state began forming school districts in the 1850s. The size and boundaries of the individual districts took into consideration that students either walked or rode ponies to school, often over crude roads and in all types of weather. Public education was mostly a local matter throughout the last years of the nineteenth century. Following national trends, this changed as the State began to require that County School Superintendents submit annual reports. The Superintendents based their reports, in part, on written Teacher's Reports that were sent in by the instructor at each school. The documents show that while larger communities such as Portland, Roseburg, Medford, and Baker City had large populations of school children, well-developed educations systems, and a number of multi-room school houses, that the majority of the State's population attended small one-room school houses staffed by a single teacher through most of the early twentieth century. Teacher's education level and salary was higher in larger urban school districts, and often much lower in rural areas; thus reflecting the relative wealth of the communities the schools served. Despite the widespread use of one-room schoolhouses, in 1914 the Oregon State Department of Education began pushing Progressive education reforms by encouraging standardization of teacher training, texts, and school design through various publications. By the 1930s school consolidation accelerated due to consistent pressure by the State and advances in transportation, such as the wide-spread adoption of automobiles and the extension of highways, reduced the need for local community schools.

Early residents of Douglas County endeavored to ensure that their children received a basic education, and as the communities grew so did their education efforts. During the early settlement period most children were educated at home by their parents or were sent to a nearby home where a teacher, also an early settler, taught basic reading, writing, and arithmetic. One of the first school buildings in the region was the Roseburg Academy in Roseburg, Oregon, which was constructed in the 1850s. Beginning in the 1860s, almost a decade after the larger towns, smaller communities began establishing school districts and building their own schoolhouses. Most rural students received an eighth-grade education in single-room buildings made of rough lumber with a wood-burning stove for heat. Those who wished to continue their education attended institutions in larger towns and cities such as nearby Roseburg or Eugene to the north. It was common for area residents to be very involved in their schools as school board members or in other capacities. The clerk, for instance, was responsible for keeping the records of the school district, including the number of school-age children, ages four to twenty, in the district. The County attempted to standardize the education students received by proscribing what was taught. It was also required that all eighth-grade students pass a standardized test before receiving their diploma. To ensure the quality of instruction, the County held annual Teachers' Institutes. For instance, attendees at the August 1889 institute received instructions on new teaching methods and subject matter.

Standardized record-keeping, which began in 1900, allows for a more comprehensive look at the school system. For the period between 1900 and 1932 county-wide school attendance varied between four and five thousand students, with most between the ages of six and fourteen. At the beginning of this period most of the county's school districts had only a single school house, many of these were one-room schoolhouses. This changed as the county's population grew, but by 1925 ninety-six teachers still presided over one-room schoolhouses and many districts still maintained only a single school. As school districts grew, so did the length of the school year. In 1900 the school year in Douglas County averaged only 130 days, but by the 1930s it had lengthened to over 150 days. Reflecting national and state trends, few teachers had training beyond the county certification in the early part of the century, but by 1910 many had formal training. Teachers in urban areas were paid more, and women received about twenty percent less for their work than men.

The second English Settlement School, this building, was built on the Donation Land Claim of Joseph Deardorff, who sold his claim sometime in the 1850s to Winslow Powers, who had a Donation Land Claim adjacent to the east. Powers rented his then 640-acre ranch to Thomas and Emily Baimbridge in June, 1872 and sold it to them a few years later. When Thomas and Emily Baimbridge passed away, their land was divided among their six children. Their daughter Sarah, inherited the land that the farm buildings were on. The site of the school was inherited by Sarah's sister Mary. Sarah's husband, John Kanipe, bought back the land parcels that had been part of the original ranch, effectively restoring the parcel Thomas Baimbridge had purchased in the 1870's. When John Kanipe died in 1940, the land on the east side of Elkhead Road, what had been Winslow Powers Donation Land Claim, was left to his daughter Leah Kanipe. Her younger sister Mildred Kanipe received that part of the original Deardorff Land Claim that included the house and farm buildings and the English Settlement School. Although never married, Mildred Kanipe ran the family farmstead until she passed away in 1983. After her death the property was provisionally deeded to Douglas County for a park.

Like their neighbors, the residents of English Settlement valued education as evidenced by the early organization of a school district and construction of their first log schoolhouse in 1860. Originally organized as School District Five, the area's residents raised $50 by private subscription to run the school, and received $62.68 from the County. For the year ending in 1861 only eight weeks of school were held. The twenty-eight students in attendance were taught spelling, math, and grammar by a single teacher. In November 1875 the community discussed building a new schoolhouse in another location, but it is unclear if this was ever done. On 30 October 1886 residents organized School District Twenty-Six. It is unknown what prompted this, but the new district was far from School District Five, which suggests that the action was a response to changing settlement patterns. Records from School Districts Five and Twenty-Six for the period between 1860 and 1899 are unavailable, and most information about this time is anecdotal and based on local recollections as recorded in community history books. However, it is clear that the area's residents were actively involved in raising money for the school and making decisions about how best to educate their children.

Like other small districts in Douglas County, the English Settlement school district continued to be a small rural district with a single one-room schoolhouse and teacher in through the early twentieth century. Reflecting local trends, the community took an active role in education their children with many of the residents serving as teacher, clerk, or school board member. For instance, the Kanipe family was very involved with the district. In addition to sending their children to the school, Sarah Alice Kanipe served as the district clerk from 1903 and 1907, and her husband John Kanipe served as the Chairman of the School Board in 1926. The family also donated land for the building's construction around 1910, the building's estimated date of construction. Throughout the period one to sixteen school-age children lived in the district, but not all attended school. Those who did were taught the general county curriculum, including reading, writing, arithmetic, as well as topics in the sciences and humanities. Through 1911 most teachers had only a second or third grade school education, but beginning in 1912 the community's instructors had at least one year of training at the state school. Despite an increasing level of education, there was a fairly high turnover rate among the community's teachers, with most working only a year. This is perhaps because the district paid its teachers less than the average county salary. These trends continued for the next two decades. Records show that in 1930 the English Settlement School served eight children, was still taught by a single teacher, and was supported by a modest $516.88 in local annual taxes.

Like many small school districts in the nation and state, improved transportation led to school consolidations in Douglas County and the closing of many one-room school houses, including the English Settlement School. School consolidation began in Douglas County around 1930 due to improved transportation and rural depopulation. In the Oakland, area consolidation was contentious, as many small communities resisted losing their individual identity and control over the education of their children. However, with the exception of the Umpqua School District, the surrounding communities merged their schools with the Oakland School District. Reflecting this regional shift, English Settlement School District began sending their children to Oakland Schools in 1930, and in 1934 the school was closed and the area was officially annexed by Oakland Schools.


From the beginning of the eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth rural schooling in the United States was invariably tied to the one-room schoolhouse with almost half of all American school children attending such an institution as late as 1913. Far from an aesthetic choice, the one-room schoolhouse was a practical design that reflected the financial resources of the nation's rural communities, and was built large enough for the number of pupils expected to attend but was no larger than the maximum distance that a single teacher's voice could carry across a room. As Historian Andrew Gulliford notes, rural schoolhouse architecture is "above all, an architecture based on limitations." Although these vernacular buildings often reflected local ethnic building traditions, their form, detailing, and shape were limited by available local materials, the know-how of the builder, and the economic resources of the community. In most cases the buildings were purely functional as style was "an extra that was seldom affordable." A community's first schoolhouse was often built using volunteer labor and easily available materials, and was intended as an easy-to-build inexpensive temporary structure. As with most early buildings during Oregon's settlement history, these schools were small log or rough-sawn buildings with brush roofs. Reflective of this reality, the first English Settlement's school was reported to be made of hand-hewn timber, probably log. Most communities upgraded from this first structure to a second generation frame building as time and finances allowed.

The third building, or third generation schoolhouse was often larger and more decorative that reflected a community's growing wealth. These date to the last decades of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Architectural historian Fred Schroeder divides these into two main categories. The first Schroeder calls "vernacular" and differentiates between "folk vernacular," buildings that show strong local or ethnic building traditions, and "mass vernacular," types that reflect popular design trends and are built from milled lumber and commercial products. The second type are architect designed schoolhouses which are uncommon in rural areas. Most rural one-room schoolhouses are eclectic in that they use the commercial construction products seen in mass vernacular types, but are adapted by local builders to accommodate their ability and available materials. These eclectic vernacular buildings resembled rural homes or small country churches in their size, scale, materials, and construction methods. Most rural schools are rectangular or square one-story buildings with a gabled roof. The interior was commonly divided into a single classroom and a vestibule with cloak rooms for each sex. Efforts were made to give the inside a finished appearance. White was the most popular exterior color and green, red, blue, and brown were popular trim colors. More ornate buildings often had a round or square bell tower. Third-generation buildings were often influenced by Revival, Queen Anne, Richardsonian Romanesque, Bungalow, Mission, and International styles; however, the vernacular aesthetic often asserted itself as local builders created simplified interpretations of popular high styles.

Rectangular schools, the most popular form of eclectic mass vernacular school buildings, were balloon-frame buildings with a simple gabled roof. Hipped roofs became popular in the twentieth century. The type generally had a single entrance on the short side of the building, which was sometimes sheltered by a porch or portico, but was often open to the elements. Entry doors usually faced south or east. Many buildings had separate entrances for boys and girls, although more practical-minded communities often installed only a single door to cut costs. Many had three to four widely spaced small-pane windows set in a double-hung sash, often on the north and south sides of the building to provide the best possible light. Almost all were clad in mass-produced roof shingles and clapboard siding, as these products were inexpensive and widely available. Before 1870 most vernacular schools were unpainted, but the introduction of linseed oil paints and manufactured pigments made painting affordable. Most schools were painted white. Wood stoves were the most common heating method, thus brick chimney's and metal stove pipes were often added. School yards were simple. Paths through unkempt grass were at times cut to outhouses, but were otherwise not mowed. Interior spaces were similar to other third generation schools. At times attempts were made to plant the school grounds with ornamental plants.

The remarkable similarities between schoolhouses, especially for third-generation buildings, are in part a result of the proliferation of pattern books written by educational reformers beginning in the 1830s and through the early twentieth century. In an attempt an to improve the educational process reformers produced designs for ideal schools that addressed setting, materials, design, and the layout of the interior space. In 1831 Educator William A. Alcott published an essay entitled, An Essay on the Construction of School-Houses. In it Alcott called for the arrangement of desks in rows to allow for the circulation of students and the teachers, large windows for light and ventilation, and space to store teaching aids. He also suggested that an area be left around schools to allow children to play.

Revolutionary for its time, Alcott's design was widely adopted across the nation. The most influential among the school designers was educator, Connecticut legislator and U.S. Commissioner of Education Henry Barnard. Barnyard's School Architecture, first published in 1832, called for stylized buildings set in pleasant semi-rural settings, which Barnard thought encouraged learning. The plans also addressed adequate lighting, circulation, and ventilation. Other architects and reformers continued to refine these ideas through the nineteenth century, through the Progressive-Era push to standardize school design.** Plans issued in the early 1900s by State governments during the school reform movement, such as those made available by the Oregon Department of Education, were based on popular styles of the period such as the Bungalow Style and generally featured hipped instead of gabled roofs. The more traditional designs continued in rural areas for many years.

One Room schoolhouses in Oregon

Despite local differences in material, setting, and style, Gulliford states that one-room schoolhouses "nonetheless constitute a distinctive building type" that is recognizable across the nation. Beginning as crude temporary buildings during the initial settlement period, schoolhouses became more functional as they moved West with the Frontier. With the aid of schoolhouse plan books, such as Henry Barnard's School Architecture published in 1831 and the cultural template in the minds of the pioneer builders, these traditional vernacular school buildings were transported to the West Coast in the 1870s and 1880s. The common features of the folk-inspired and plan-book derived buildings include rectangular shape, large windows, open interior space, bell tower (when it could be afforded), rural setting, and since wood was the most available building material in Western Oregon, frame construction. These a few of the other one-room rural schoolhouses in Oregon include the Soap Creek School, Adir Village vicinity, Benton, Co; Victor Point School, Silverton vicinity, Marion Co., Parker School, Independence vicinity, Polk Co.; Dry Creek School, Summerville vicinity, Union Co.; Briedwell School, Amity vicinity, Yamhill Co.; and Rock Hill School, Sheridan, Yamhill Co. The structure of a seventh schoolhouse was incorporated into the Lowell Grange in Lowell, Grant Co. Of the six schools, one building has been converted into a private residence, leaving only 5 representatives of this particular building type with both their interior and exterior intact. Each of these resources are rectilinear third-generation eclectic mass-vernacular schoolhouses constructed in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. In most cases the buildings are constructed using fieldstone foundations, balloon frame construction, a gable-front roof, and make use of bead board, shiplap, double-hung windows, and panel doors for finishing materials. Most are set in picturesque rural settings and were painted white. Interior layout is similar with one or two entrances, vestibules, and cloak rooms. All six are located in the northern Willamette Valley. The principal difference between the resources is in stylistic details. For instance, built in 1889 the Victor Point School's architecture is described as a vernacular adaptation of late Victorian architecture or Rural Gothic. Similarly, the Briedwell School, constructed in 1895, also mirrors contemporary Victorian styling. Both buildings have bell towers. Built during the same period, the Dry Creek School does not reflect a particular architectural style and does not have a bell tower, but exhibits classical detailing. The Rock Hill school does have a bell tower, but this 1910 building lacks distinctive ornamentation. The 1914 Parker School and the 1935 Soap Creek School both feature a bell tower and are constructed to resemble the craftsman style, which the Oregon State Department of Education proponed during this time period. The imitation of specific architectural styles or the inclusion of a bell tower indicates that these schoolhouses are high-style interpretations of the building type. Only relatively wealthy communities, such as those of the Willamette Valley, would have been able to construct such buildings. Thus the collection does not accurately reflect the geographic and stylistic variety of this resource type in the state.

The English Settlement Schoolhouse

The builder of the English Settlement School is unknown, but it is evident through the attention to detail that this school was built with skill and experience. The building retains its original interior and exterior features. It is exceptionally intact and possesses integrity of design, materials, workmanship, setting, and location. It embodies the distinctive characteristics of an American rectilinear eclectic mass-vernacular schoolhouse, a folk design common from the beginning of the eighteenth century through the middle of the twentieth Century. The English Settlement Schoolhouse also exemplifies the characteristics of a third-generation schoolhouse, which typically began with a crude log school building, followed by a small frame schoolhouse, followed by a larger, stylized schoolhouse.

Available records show that this building is possibly the third schoolhouse in the English Settlement. The building was likely built around 1910, and was operated until 1930.

The setting of the English Settlement School in an open picturesque area in close proximity to a major road among the farms of English Settlement reflects the historic placement of schools, but also the ideals proponed by pattern books. The placement in a relatively flat lightly-treed camas prairie with views of the surrounding rolling hills, yet tucked out of the prevailing winds suggests attention to contemporary wisdom that education buildings should be set in an beautiful and healthful atmosphere conducive to learning. The historic landscaping on the south side of the building shows intentional efforts to beautify the area and enhance the building beyond the natural environment. Placement of the school on the major local highway is a logical choice, and fits the historic pattern of locating schools so that no one family had to send their children too far from home. As was the accepted wisdom for choosing a school location, English Settlement School is aligned on an east-west access to allow the windows to be placed on the north and south facades, which was thought to be optimal for providing adequate light and ventilation.

Although not remarkable, the building's construction is representative of similar schools. Like other Oregon examples, the building is placed on readily available field stones and constructed with the light and versatile balloon-frame and truss system. Using existing physical evidence and historic photos, it is clear that as originally built the school made use of mass-produced building materials such as wood shingles, shiplap siding, dimensional-lumber corner boards, wire nails, red brick, and bead board and decorative moldings for the interior. Lumber for construction no doubt originated from one of the county's numerous lumber mills. Other materials were most likely obtained locally or shipped in by rail to Oakland. Although the original roof and chimney are no longer present, sufficient historic material still exists to demonstrate the clear departure from the more crude construction and limited building materials of first and second generation buildings, and demonstrates English Settlement's rising economic fortunes during Oakland's heyday as an important shipping point for agricultural goods.

Interior finishes and the building's design likewise demonstrate the community's wealth and common educational practices. Although the building's design is not attributable to a specific architectural style, attention to finish details and a vague classical styling are demonstrated by the decorative crown moldings over the doors and windows, enclosed eaves, and frieze boards. The interior shows similar attention to detail with the use of moldings and the alternating direction of the bead board used throughout the interior. These details show the community's efforts to provide the best possible school for their children and emulate the designs popularized by pattern books. In the interior, separate entries from the vestibule into the main classroom and closets for each sex mirror the belief in separating boys and girls in the education process. Although no longer present, the rear shelving and partition are modest attempt to provide the storage areas for teaching aids proponed by Alcott. Still, the limits of the community's finances are also evident in the building's construction and layout. The simple exterior decoration, mix of square and wire nails, use of knotted lumber, lack of a bell tower or porch, and a single one-door main entry show that even while emulating high-style schoolhouses, the community made practical compromises. The interior shows similar patterns in the use of only a few finish materials.