History

Historical Buildings at Knott’s Berry Farm

Earlier this year, we visited Knott’s Berry Farm for the Boysenberry Festival and I found myself taking a trip down history lane as we walked through Ghost Town. I love all the historical buildings. And I find myself wanting to sit down and take in the environment and let my mind wander back in history.

Ghost Town was originally built by Walter Knott in 1940, inspired by his mother’s 1868 journey to California in a covered wagon. It came about because people were waiting hours to eat at his wife’s restaurant and they needed something to do. He started with a main street, where he built a saloon, sheriff’s office, assay office, barbershop, and more.

If I could bring my laptop and write while sitting amongst it all, I would. From the one-room schoolhouse, which is a major setting in my novels, to the train, which carries my teachers west from Cincinatti (in 1869), it all transports me back 150 years.

Denise M. Colby standing in front of historical red one-room schoolhouse at Knotts Berry Farm
Here I am standing in front of Knotts Berry Farm’s One-Room Schoolhouse, which is similar to the one in my fictional town of Washton

FUN FACT ABOUT ME: I love searching for and finding one-room schoolhouses. Take a look at my page dedicated to those I’ve captured during my travels.

Train Engine rests amongst the historical buildings in Ghost Town at Knott's Berry Farm
Since my boys were little, our family has had a love affair with trains. Fun to be up close to an engine such as this one sitting on a rail in Ghost Town at Knott’s Berry Farm

Historical Buildings Show Us What Life Was Like

Historical towns were much smaller than towns today, with a main street that housed a general store, blacksmith shop, livery, and hotel. One-room schoolhouse’s sometimes doubled as a church or meeting hall, and majority of people ranched or ran a shop. A town grew if it had a train station.

I attempted to capture the essence of this old town in my photos and jot down notes to remember the feelings and emotions that bubbled up to the surface while I was there. This way I could carry them into my stories when I write.

Do you get a sense of history when you see these images?

One of the cool things about the Blacksmith shop is that they make and sell pieces in the store.

It’s amazing to see keys, branding irons, horseshoes, and locks that were made by hand.

The blacksmith shop is one of the historical buildings at Knott's Berry Farm

Have you ever visited Knott’s? Or is there another town that you like to visit to look at the historical buildings?

Denise M. Colby loves history, books, Disney, and musicals and not always in that order. Besides her blog here, she also contributes monthly at a writer’s blog A Slice of Orange.

History

Harriet Bishop, First Public School Teacher in 1847

I love history and in my one-room schoolhouse and schoolteacher research for my book, I found an article titled Harriet Bishop, Frontier Teacher by Zylpha S. Morton through the Minnesota Historical Society. Harriet traveled by herself to Minnesota in 1847, leaving her family to go live in a community smaller and more rural than anything she’d ever lived in, all to become a teacher.

Blog Title with the words Harriet Bishop , one of the first public school teachers; 1847; History; Writer's Research by Denise M. Colby

Men were teachers of choice in the East, but as the West expanded the opportunity arose for women.

She was sent by a board, that actively sought ought opportunities to bring women teachers to these rural areas. The thought was women would have a greater impact on their students.

This board, National Popular Education, was organized in Cleveland on April 7, 1847. The aim of the board was to “advance the cause of Popular, Christian Education in our country” by encouraging well-qualified “Female teachers” to take positions in the remote West.

Their first class of twenty-six young women, received prep training in New York State before being sent out to parts unknown. This prep training school was led by Catherine Beecher (sister of Harriet Beecher-Stowe)—the teacher whom I reference in my novel (I’ll share more about her in a future post). Harriet Bishop was from the first graduating class of this organization.

Harriet Bishop was also one of the first to volunteer to go to a small settlement outside of what we now know as St. Paul, Minnesota.

A place that had five stores, a dozen families, and about 36 children.

Room and board was furnished by one family who had four children in return for free tuition. She had to bring her own schoolbooks, as the nearest bookstore was over three hundred miles away.

According to Morton, Harriet’s preparation included “a review of the common school subjects, in addition to lectures on domestic economy, health of children, punctuality, truth and honesty in the schoolroom, diet, how to avoid sectarian jealousy, how to deal with party politics, and how to meet petty gossip”.

The last item in the training course was considered necessary because it was said that as soon as a young woman set foot in the new West, some man would promptly woo her from her profession and make her his wife. It seemed to help because by 1858 (10 years later), the board had sent 481 teachers to the West and only 75 had married.

Another tidbit from this article — it turns out the pupils who attended the schools were the ones who entered into matrimony. They made the claim that school and the lessons they learned in running a household helped them find a mate.

I’ve used some of this history in my story.

My heroine, Olivia Carmichael, goes west to teach through one of these organizations. She just happens to go way further west…all the way to California.

She too has to live with families of students for her room and board, and learn how to live in a more remote area.

But more on that later—this post is about Harriet and to acknowledge what she was known for — the first public school teacher in the area.

Old black and white photo of Harriet Bishop one of the first public school teachers in 1847
This photo can be found in the Wikipedia entry on Harriet Bishop

She had a lot of courage to leave her family behind (with the mindset of never seeing them again). In digging around further, I’ve learned she stayed in the St. Paul area for the rest of her life and was instrumental in starting many charities and fundraisers. She married, divorced, and petitioned to get back her legal maiden name successfully. She also wrote a few books, too.

She made an impact on her community and her students.

Like all the teachers I know today.