I began my teaching career in Ohio at Buckskin Elementary and Junior High School in South Salem. I spent five years teaching Special Education and in the process learned a lot about teaching and met some wonderful people, many who became life-long friends.
Recently a bunch of former “Skinners” got to swapping growing up in South Salem stories on Facebook. They talked about what some did behind the stone building during recess, playing dodge ball in the school gym and the welts they endured as a result, summers wading in Buckskin Creek, and a few things they may regret revealing. To me it sounded exactly like what life is growing up in a rural area and knowing everyone from birth on. South Salem was, and hopefully remains, one of those villages where everyone took the time to raise everyone’s kids.
That’s how I remember teaching at Buckskin, not being just responsible for your own class but being a teacher, mentor, and surrogate parent to all students. We were just a small country schoolhouse and with a sensed responsibility for every child.
There was a great deal of pride and sense of history in that school and the community. For years Buckskin had been a 1-12 facility until economic realities in the 1960s made it impossible to continue. In 1965 it became necessary to consolidate with Greenfield Schools and become a 1-8 school with freshmen being bused to Greenfield and attending McClain High School. It was a bitter pill for locals to swallow and it’s still possible to get a rise out of an old-timer by mentioning consolidation.
South Salem has several reasons to be proud. One is the “stone building,” now called the Academy. When I taught there the building was used as the industrial arts department. On the second floor there were two rooms, one for craft activities while the other was home to music classes. The ground level contained a well equipped wood working shop and a room for mechanical drawing instruction. I believe the building had also been used as the vocational agriculture shop during its high school years.
When built in 18421 it housed a college for the instruction of ministers, thus the name Academy. Several years ago the Academy ceased being used for classrooms, and today serves as a community meeting place. I’ve been to several class-reunions, birthday celebrations and most recently, a gathering place following a funeral.
Another of South Salem’s claims to fame lies in its cemetery. Buried there are the remains of Mary Morter who was a half-sister to England’s Queen Victoria and inline for the British throne. Mary fell in love with a common stone mason and ended up getting tossed out of the royal tribe.
Mr. Morter came to America and worked at Rucker’s Quarry near Greenfield, later sending for his wife. Hearing no news from her he decided to return to England and check things out. Ironically, their ships passed at sea with her returning to America and he to Great Britain. Once the ducks got lined up and the couple reunited in South Salem, Mary became ill and passed away. Her husband, using his skills as a mason, carved the marker that marks her burial site.
My original intent was to end at the previous paragraph. But, then it struck me that if I failed to mention Salem’s covered bridge someone may feel slighted. So, let me mention that South Salem is also home to one of the few remaining, most loved and best preserved covered wood bridge in Ohio, if not the nation.
NOTE: The faculty at Buckskin School in the early 1970s, as I recall it:
Thelma Eaton Knisley, Joann Boatman, Virginia Fuller, Mabel Drummond, Coreen Strietenburger, Carol Brady, Nancy Gingerich, Norman Gingerich, Joe Current, Dave Watts, Larry Chapman, Phyllis McNeal, Chuck Knisley, Carol Wilcox, Sally Sullivan
Jane Speakman, Hod Surber, Richard Shoemaker, George Beatty, Martha Johnson, Leota Johnson, Joann Anderson, Lois Baber, Janet Conway, Julia Eslegroth,