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Bloomfield 3rd graders get a hands-on history lesson at Frye's farm

Friday, October 12, 2012

Contributed photo Lavon Jeffers demonstrates to Bloomfield third graders how 19th century Hoosier farmers used cow bells of differing tones to determine where cattle were located in their fields. Jeffers demonstrated antique tools and their use to the students during their class field trip to the rural Bloomfield farm, the 12th consecutive year the students have spent a day there learning about the past.
It's a long time -- if only a short distance -- from the one-room schoolhouse in Bodwell where Daniel and David Frye learned their lessons to the modern classrooms of Bloomfield Elementary School.

"I've worked at Bloomfield Schools now for 35 years, and it's amazing to me how much it's changed just in the time I've been there," Daniel Frye said.

The Fryes once learned from the same teacher their father knew. Now, the brothers -- assisted by their families and friends -- are teaching lessons all their own, preserving the past by letting schoolkids experience it firsthand at their Park Community farm in rural Bloomfield.

Contributed Photo Daniel Frye stands on the steps of his 167-year old log cabin and explains its history to students. Originally constructed in Scotland around 1845, the cabin was deconstructed then carefully rebuilt at his rural Bloomfield farm over five years, with work completed in 2000.
Marjorie and Lavon Jeffers recalled their days in the one room schoolhouse to the kids, while the Fryes demonstrated how the antique tools stored at the farm were once used to farm crops.

"I think it's very beneficial to them," said Daniel Frye. "It shows them how hard people had to work, because they couldn't do things like just go to the store and buy something. It also shows them how those people made the best out of hardship, and always tried to make their work fun."

Thus, for Bloomfield Elementary's third graders, a taste of history came Thursday in homemade butter, served atop miniature muffins.

Contributed photo Taylor Burks, left and Kylee Turpin carry water in preparation for washhing clothes at a "creek" -- really, a trough -- as Hoosiers once did in the past.
The past was illuminated in the dripping hot wax of candle-making, or counted out in the shells of corn shucked into pails.

They even learned how clothes were washed by hand, taking turns trekking to a trough that served as a substitute for a stream.

"I liked the candle-making," said Kinley Moody, 8. "There was hot water and wax, and then you'd dip the string in it, and when it came out it'd get solid."

Hunter Neukam, 9, proved an old hand -- relatively, that is -- at corn husking and shucking.

"I do that with my papaw sometimes. It was pretty easy," he explained. "So I'm used to doing that. My right hand's probably my best hand at it."

David Frye even taught the children a few dance steps as a band of friends and neighbors performed, educating them about "The Cowboy Stroll" and the ever-popular "Chicken Dance" -- moves kids considered highlights of the day.

The most impressive aspect of the day, however, came when the children could literally step inside a piece of the area's history.

Frye's great-great-great grandfather constructed the cabin originally, and it's now one of the oldest standing structures in Greene County, dating back to 1845.

The cabin, constructed 166 years ago , was well-preserved thanks to descendants building a newer house around it.

When that house was torn down, Daniel Frye and his family salvaged the cabin from its location near Scotland, carefully dismantling it, labelling every piece, and then reconstructing the family homestead on his farm in rural Bloomfield.

Now, it's as it was, well before the current elementary school even existed.

Inside the cabin, the rich smell of wood smoke from ham and beans cooking in the fireplace fills the air.

A hundred-year-old sleigh blanket covers the bed. Old toys sit on shelves.

A wooden duck which once amused generations of children now long since grown has lost its wheels.

The project took five years, and upon its completion in 2000, regular visits to the Frye property became the Bloomfield Elementary School's annual third grade field trip.

The effort's lasted so long that all four teachers who originated the effort -- Carol Talbott, Mary Stalcup, Janet Shirley and Cindy Moody -- have now retired.

"We had no field trip, and then Daniel volunteered. It grew from a few hours to the whole day," explained Moody, who donned a flowered pioneer dress, complete with a white bonnet and pink apron.

"What Daniel said, at the time -- his exact words -- were 'this is the third grade field trip'," Stalcup said.

Moody eventually composed a successful grant application, attaining funds to expand the effort. That money also purchased a gift for the Frye family -- a clock which now sits in the cabin, reeling off the moments and years.

Three of the retired teachers -- Stalcup, Moody and Talbott -- returned Thursday to assist their successors Erica Pemberton, Caleb Dunkerly, Stephanie Arthur and Sheila Corn.

"The day was wonderful -- just beautiful weather, and a good time was had by all," Arthur said.

This year was special to Daniel and his wife Mary.

"We've got two grandkids in the third grade this time," he explained. "They get to show the other students how to weave rugs."

The grandkids, Wyatt Frye, 9, and Emmy Todd, 8, proved adept instructors, leading their classmates through the methods of deftly weaving rags and scraps into rugs.

"We now have a lot more volunteers," Daniel Frye said, estimating around 20 contribute their time and effort to make the trek back into history a success.

Nobody, he added, works harder than his wife Mary, who actually had to prepare for the schoolchildren's visit twice, first when rain delayed the annual outing last week, rescheduling it to Thursday.

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Thank you for keeping Greene County History alive!! From a former Scotland Gal!!

-- Posted by mamacha on Fri, Oct 12, 2012, at 11:17 PM

Wonderful day and thanks to all that helped make this such a great success every year the kids love it. Big thank you to the Frye's! What a blessing you are to the community!

-- Posted by Oillover on Sat, Oct 13, 2012, at 12:00 AM

I would have loved to visit,us old timers could add to a bit of history.

Jim Elgan


-- Posted by elganj on Sat, Oct 13, 2012, at 9:16 AM

Loved it!

-- Posted by redbarn on Sun, Oct 14, 2012, at 5:57 PM

Your awesome Dave!!!!!

-- Posted by judy.k.wright on Tue, Oct 16, 2012, at 2:48 PM

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