Walking to school uphill both ways and other “truths”- A glimpse into the life of pioneer children at Crosson School

When it snows today, we curl up under our blankets, type a post on our Facebook page asking if anybody has heard whether or not the school is closed, get 30 or more responses concluding it is and proceed to call the boss stating, “I can’t work today, school has been canceled and I don’t have a babysitter”. However, life wasn’t so easy for our pioneers. Let’s take a journey back to the early 1900s and a little two-room schoolhouse called Crosson School.

It’s the year 1910 and a brand new schoolhouse was just built on Irishman Charlie Crosson’s land (present day 196th and Sweeney road by Shadow Lake). This must have been exciting for the children since the original school house was getting cramped. The new school could hold up to 25 students and had two rooms!

The previous school, a one room shack at best, was built on log pillars 2 feet off the ground. Those poor teachers would often find the room suddenly rise up and then fall down in the middle of a lesson, as mischievous school boys used a plank like a lever, hoisting the small school in the air.

There weren’t any buses in 1910, instead you walked to school. And yes, they did literally walk to school, uphill both ways, sometimes over 3 miles. The trails were filled with logs that had fallen over, trails overgrown with brush, tiny streams, swampy marsh, hills and several animals, including bears. And when it snowed, you did not stay home. Ellen and Anna Peterson, students at Crosson, recall walking to school in the snow. “…in winter when the snow got too deep, Dad would take us with the horse and sleigh.”

Teachers were strict and if you misbehaved, you were likely to get smacked with a ruler. “There was the time one little girl whistled,” Ellen recalls. “Nobody would say who did it; so, everybody got a smack on the knuckles with a ruler. That hurt! One boy got up and walked right out a school. When he returned the next day, well he really caught it. She had no business being a teacher. She had an awful temper.”

But not all teachers were strict, Miss Carrie Smith was popular amongst the children. After the annual Christmas party, she let each child pick out a decoration to take home. But she was also quite clever in getting the children to behave.

When October came around, the Native Americans would pick cranberries on Otter Lake (Spring Lake today). When the children heard the noise of the Natives, Miss Smith would say, “You better be good or the Indians will get you.” Scared, the children dared not move, afraid an arrow could strike at any moment.

Another great teacher was Anne Ryan. She not only taught at the Crosson school for 4 years, but also continued to teach at the new Maple Valley school. She would later move to Seattle after marrying Seattleite Andrew Morrison. But that didn’t keep her away from the little town she loved, nor the friends she made. The Maplevalley Messenger mentions her visiting Maple Valley on the weekends.

When the children were allowed to play outdoors, the school yard was an imaginary playhouse under a fallen hemlock bush, boulders to crawl up on and a field to toss around a baseball.

In 1920 Maple Valley School was built and the Crosson school became a home to Charlie Crosson. It still stands today, and if you look around you may even get a glimpse of an old farmhouse, although most are gone, replaced with newer homes.