Looking Back: A school bell rings, a legacy remains


It was the fall of 1932 when a 19-year-old Ruth Carter Barhorst started teaching grades 1-8 at the rural Short School located four miles outside of Fort Loramie, according to her youngest daughter, Lisa Everman, of Maria Stein.

When Short School’s doors were closed for the last time, Carter Barhorst was the last person to ring the school’s bell.

On June 23, Carter Barhorst’s daughters Everman and Nina Prenger, of Celina, had the chance to ring the same bell.

The daughters were attending a ceremony recognizing the instillation of the bell at the Wilderness Trail Museum’s barn in Fort Loramie. The bell was donated by Maurice Quinter, of Fort Loramie, who owns what’s left of Short School off of Galley Road.

Ruth Carter married Robert “Bob” Barhorst in 1938, becoming Ruth Carter Barhorst.

She then had five children which included Betty Hoffman, Connie Behnen, deceased, and Robert Barhorst.

Carter Barhorst lived in Fort Loramie during her 42-year teaching career. Schools she taught at included Sherman Rural School, which was located three miles east of Fort Loramie, and St. Patrick’s School, which was located in St. Patrick, about 5 miles northeast of Fort Loramie.

Life was different in a one-room school.

Everman told stories she had heard from Carter Barhorst. Every school day morning while working at Short School Carter Barhorst would walk to the houses of her students to walk with them to school. On cold days, she would bring heated potatoes with her and hand them to her students to keep their hands warm. When they arrived at the school, they would put the potatoes on top of a potbelly stove where they would stay until the the students would eat them for lunch.

In the single room school, Carter Barhorst taught first through eighth grade. She arranged her students into eight rows that were parallel, with the front of the room. First graders sat in the first row, second graders in the second row and so on with eighth graders in the back row. Students in rows one and two, three and four, etc. were tasked with helping each other with schoolwork as Carter Barhorst would walk among the rows helping where she was needed.

“She was disciplined but she new the gift of loving a student and making the best of them.” Everman said.

As she worked in small rural schools, Carter Barhorst occasionally encountered more extreme forms of adversity.

According to Everman, a blizzard during the winter of 1935-36 almost trapped Carter Barhorst and her students in Short School overnight. Heavy drifting snow and a temperature of 15 degrees below zero prevented the students from walking home. Parents and school board members came in cars to pickup the kids. Cars became stuck in the snow drifts until they were pulled loose using horses.

Another day of excitement occurred during a writing lesson at St. Patrick’s School in 1937. Carter Barhorst noticed plaster falling from the ceiling. Students were shaken out of their seats and onto the floor. One student’s arm was broken in two different places. Ink pens fell from desks. Some of their pointed tips stuck into the floor. Carter Barhorst initially thought the schools furnace had exploded before realizing it was an earthquake. They quickly exited the building. One frightened student wouldn’t let go of her so she carried him out of the school. She described the sensation of leaving as similar to that of “walking up a very high hill.”

A third dramatic tale took place while she was teaching at Sherman Rural School in 1949. A tornado was getting near the school, so she gathered 49 students in grade 1-8 and herded them into the schools basement. From a small window in the basement, Carter Barhorst watched as the roof of a nearby barn was torn off by the tornado. The school building was left standing so after students had calmed down they were directed back to their seats and class resumed.

Carter Barhorst has left a legacy that started in 1932 and continues today.

“She loved those little kids.” Everman said of her mom’s dedication to her students.

When Everman was 8, her mom asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up and her response was, “A teacher.” When she grew up she did become a teacher for 35 years.

Out of Carter Barhorst’s 11 grandchildren, 8 of them have become educators.

Reach Sidney Daily News reporter Luke Gronneberg at 937-538-4823.

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