Seneca Schoolhouse

16800 River Road, Poolesville, MD 20837

Welcome to a typical school day in 1880 in Seneca, Maryland

schoolhouse angle 1.72Maryland, Virginia and Washington area children (and of course visiting friends) can enjoy a “back in time” experience of visiting and attending classes at a one room school – without a computer.

A carefully researched 19th century school day program is taught by a trained and costumed teacher.  The session  is given from 10 to 2 o’clock with time out  for lunch and outdoor games. This field trip is designed for fourth grade students as local history, but can be tailored to any age, including mixed-age groups.  We’re confident that scholars of all ages will find the 19th century time travel appealing, informative and fun!

To Bring your Class to the Seneca School House

The Seneca School House is open year-round.  Please check our calendar (on the left menu) and email us at info@HistoricMedley.org. with your class information and desired date(s).  You can also call (301) 972-8588 to schedule your visit.  An orientation packet will be mailed to you once a date is set.  Besides background materials, it will provide historically accurate “identities” for each student to prepare to be a time traveler.  Click here to review the Teacher’s Information Packet (in PDF format).

Fee Schedule and Payment

The fee is $200.00 per day.  An additional $8.00 per student is charged for groups over 25 persons up to a maximum of 28 students. There is no charge for teachers or chaperones.  Due to limited building capacity, your class may have to be split up if it numbers more than 28 students. This will be arranged when you book the trip.    Please bring your check made payable to Historic Medley District on the day of the field trip and give it to the teacher.  If booking more than one day, make your check out for the full amount on the first day and make note on the check the days for which payment is being made.

Party Rental

The Schoolhouse and two acres of surrounding parkland are available for  birthday parties, anniversaries, retirement parties, and family celebrations.  Party favors, gifts, and props as well as the services of a costumed teacher or docent can be  provided.  For information on cost or scheduling, call 301-972-8588 or email us at info@historicmedley.org

Seneca Gift Shop

Adventure in a one room School house at Seneca, Maryland in 1876. Illustrated by C.S. Watson. 82 pages.The shop offers an interesting selection of 19th-century school supplies such as Victorian-era toys, books and games.  There is also a special book, COUNTRY SCHOOL BOY, by  Bess Paterson Shipe which tells the story of the 1880′s Seneca Schoolhouse as seen through the eyes of a young man who actually attended the school.

Seneca, Maryland in 1880

Before 1865, Seneca children  were home-schooled by parents or tutors, or received no formal education.  In 1865, just as the Civil War was ending, Mr. Upton Darby, a farmer and miller (whose home still stands next to the Poole Store next to Seneca Creek) collected subscriptions from his neighbors to start a one-room school.  Families contributed cash and skills. The Darby family provided two acres of land as well as the stone and wood for the building.  Others offered to plaster and paint, or to dress the stone.  Families with more limited means cut and seasoned oak for the woodstove.  Others offered to board the teacher who moved from family to family each month.

The teachers were generally young unmarried men or women, and were paid a few hundred dollars a year.  The teacher would recruit new students because their salary dipped if their class count fell below 25 pupils.

Near the Schoolhouse is the C&O Canal.  Grain was taken by a small train along the Seneca Creek from the mill (where Old River Road meets Seneca Creek) to the C&O Canal.  There it was loaded on barges and taken northwest to Cumberland and south to Georgetown.  The canal lies alongside the Potomac River.

schoolhouse jpmsAlthough most of the students were drawn from local farms and settlements, many came from the barge families who plied the C&O Canal. During those winters of the “mini Ice Age” over a hundred years ago, the canal and river often froze solid.  Barge families, who were forced to tie up and wait for spring, sent their children to school rounding out classes reduced by epidemics.

At the juncture of Seneca Creek and Potomac River was a quarry and a stone-cutting plant, which supplied the beautiful red Seneca Sandstone.  There is was loaded on barges and wagons.  This red sandstone is what the Seneca Schoolhouse is made of.  The Smithsonian Institution’s Castle is built of the same Seneca Sandstone as the Schoolhouse.

Other interesting landmarks nearby include Montevideo directly across River Road from the Schoolhouse, and Rocklands on Montevideo Road.  Montevideo was built in 1830 by John Parke Custis Peter, great grandson of Martha Washington.  Rocklands, an exceptional Italianate house built of Seneca Sandstone, was the home of Mr. Lewis Allnutt who attended Seneca School as a young boy.

The Historic Medley District, Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to historic preservation  in western Montgomery County, leases and operates the Seneca Schoolhouse Museum in Seneca State Park.  We are delighted to bring Maryland history to life for your students.