History of the Little Red Schoolhouse and the Poland Historical Society

The following edited excerpts are taken from THE LITTLE RED SCHOOL HOUSE AND THE POLAND TOWNSHIP HISTORICAL SOCIETY, written by Mrs. Betty Jones in 2005. The complete history is available for reading at the Little Red Schoolhouse.

The Little Red Schoolhouse

The Poland Center School, known today as "The Little Red Schoolhouse” is a one-room red brick structure that replaced an old log school built in 1819 on the southeast corner of Center and Struthers Road. Due to the poor condition of the old log school, the Poland Township Schools purchased 1.5 acres on April 19, 1858, from Wright and Elmira Adair across the road at the northeast corner of U.S. State Route 224 (Center Road) and Struthers Road. The purchase price of the land was $80.00.

The brick building was used as a school for the children in the Poland Center area until it was closed in 1915 along with other one-room schoolhouses. County school boards were created in 1914 and there was a statewide reorganization of public schools in the state of Ohio. On July 18, 1914, the first board meeting of the Mahoning County Board of Education was held in the courthouse in Youngstown, Ohio and Poland Center School was closed in 1915.

From 1915 until 1979, the Schoolhouse was used by the local government, church services and various community purposes. The building sat idle during many of those years and eventually required major repairs and continued maintenance. Due to the deteriorating condition of the school in 1965, the Poland board of Education decided to sell it. Offers to purchase the school were not accepted by the School Board.

The Poland Township Historical Society

In 1979, a newly formed Poland Township Historical Society became interested in leasing the building. Through the efforts of Mr. Nick Jeswald, Poland Township Trustee, a letter was sent requesting a meeting with the Board of Education to discuss the purchase of the school.

After many meetings, the Historical Society consisting of Betty Jones, Nick Jeswald, John Scotford, Eleanor Whalen, Katherine Simmons, Pete Sturbi, chairman of the Poland Township Trustees and Attorney Donald Seeley was formed and incorporated as The Poland Township Historical Society. The goal of the Society was to save and restore the Little Red Schoolhouse. The Poland Board of Education and the Poland Township Historical Society entered into a 99-year lease agreement.

The Poland Township Historical Society and the Poland Village Library Historical Society merged in 1984. The Poland Township Historical Society maintained the name and the Poland Village Library Historical Society dissolved in 1985. In January, 2020, the name of the Society was officially changed to “Poland Historical Society” to reflect the inclusion of both Poland Township and Poland Village history.

Dedication Of The School

After many years of hard work by volunteers and craftsmen, the Schoolhouse was dedicated to the community on September 20, 1987. Upon becoming aware that the society was going to replace the cast iron school bell, a resident returned it after being stored in their barn for many years. Cast by C.S. Bell Foundry in Hillsboro, founded in the 1800's, in Highland County, the name is still legible on the bell. We were blessed with a beautiful sunny warm autumn day for the dedication. All churches of many denominations were invited along with the Poland Township Trustees, the Mayor, and Poland Village Council. The entire police and fire departments were included and the schools participated in the parade to the schoolhouse. The parade was led by the Poland High School Band.

The Addition To The School

In 1987, after the restoration of the school was complete, the great task of obtaining funds to put the addition on the school began. Funds were raised through an Annual Christmas Tour of Homes and flower sales. The addition included a full basement and another furnace to heat the addition. A kitchen, two handicapped accessible bathrooms, office, and cloakroom were also added to the back of the old school with an entrance facing Struthers Road. In 1992, the Society held an Open House and Dedication of the addition.

Since 1992, the Poland Township Historical Society has maintained the schoolhouse and has collected various documents and artifacts pertaining to the history of Poland. In recent years the Society has offered educational programs to the community and held Open Houses for residents and visitors to tour this historic building.

The schoolhouse was placed on the National register of Historic Places in 1982.

Town One, Range One

The history of Poland dates back to 1796 when the land was surveyed and registered Town 1 Range 1 of the Connecticut Western Reserve. Connecticut had over 3 million acres in Ohio, which became known as the "Western Reserve". The Western Reserve was sold to the Connecticut Land Company in 1796.

The Land Company sent surveyors led by Moses Cleaveland to the Reserve to divide the land into square townships, 5 miles on each side which is 25 square miles. Poland was the first Town in the first Range of the Western Reserve. Settlers began to trickle in during the next few years. Turhand Kirtland was a surveyor and founder of Poland Village in 1798.

The Poland Historical Society uses the Little Red Schoolhouse as a museum to preserve over 220 years of Poland’s interesting history. Displays include historical artifacts and books, family photos and diaries; school yearbooks, trophies, and memorabilia; newspaper articles and numerous miscellaneous items related to Poland’s history.