Their new homes were four miles from church or school. Their neighbors taught their children at home until they were old enough to walk to town to school. Some of the children were taught very little because their parents were uneducated. These were fine people, owning good farms, living well according to their time, and eager for anything that would enrich their lives. They welcomed the suggestion that they should build a church and a school.
On a corner of the Steelman farm they built two buildings, alike except for the furnishings. They started Sunday School and organized a class which would later become a Methodist Church.
When the school was finished, they asked the Township Trustee for a teacher. He turned down their request, saying that he had no money for the teacher's salary. To their pleading he replied, "It aint never been done before. These people don't complain until you Buckeye's come. If ya can afford to pay cash fer a farm, ye can surely spare a horse and wagon to haul yore younguns to school."
The two families held a conference and decided to open the school themselves. Mr. Knaub said, "Caroline will be the teacher." The others argued that there were five girls older than Caroline, but his decision was firm. He knew that Caroline had finished the eight grades in six years, and had stayed on for two years as a teacher's helper, while she studied to prepare herself for the Academy. By moving to Indiana she had given up more than many of the others. He insisted, "Caroline will be the teacher. We will help her."
So little Nina Knaub became Miss Caroline. Rachel made her a new dress and Sallie pinned up her dark braids. They gathered all the books in both houses and carried them to the school. They boys stacked wood for the fire. With a roll of butcher's paper and sticks of charcoal they made letter charts, word charts, wrote simple stories. They made dozens of goose-quill pens and ink made of soot and poke berry juice. A flag hung from a wooden standard, a Bible and small bell were on the desk, the wooden water bucket was on its shelf. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln looked down on the Steelman School.
Fourteen year old Caroline was early for her first day of school, but some of the children were already coming across the fields by the time she arrived. By nine o'clock almost every seat was filled. The children were all ages from five to sixteen. Most of them had no idea in which grade they belonged. Some could read and write, but had no knowledge of Arithmetic. Others knew math but were poor readers. It was apparent that this could be no grade-organized school. Miss Caroline had never heard of Open Concept---she just had to find a way to help her children begin where they were and proceed at their own rate.
Caroline's father and some of the older girls came to help her test the children and get them into classes. Whoever heard of a teacher aide in 1866? Yet Miss Caroline had a succession of aides dropping in for an hour or so each day. At night they got together to discuss the children's progress, make plans, prepare projects and teaching materials. Team teaching is new?
Not long after the opening of school the children announced that 'Bijah wanted to come to school.
"He aint bright," his sister said. "He had brain fever." "Tell 'Bijah he is welcome," said Miss Caroline. "But, Miss Caroline," complained one of the girls. "He wets on himself and he stinks." "He won't leave his cat at home," said another. "Abraham goes everywhere he goes." "We will help 'Bijah to learn what he can. We'll worry about the cat when it bothers us." Seeing the frowning faces before her, she asked, "Don't you like to come to school?" "Oh, yes!, Miss Caroline." "Then don't you think we should let 'Bijah come, too?" "Yes, Miss Caroline. It's only fair."
So 'Bijah and Abraham came to school. Miss Caroline welcomed him and his huge calico cat. 'Bijah played quietly with his alphabet blocks until someone taught him to copy the letters on a slate. He learned that his casual attitude about his toilet habits was unacceptable, and he was soon leaving the room by himself. Abraham was well behaved.
Special lessons were planned for 'Bijah, including practice in improving his speech and coordination. Miss Caroline's school made provisions for the mentally handicapped.
After the harvest was in, a big boy appeared carrying his crippled brother on his back. "Mam said I could bring Cass to school if you'd let him come. I can tote him over here and look after him till plantin' time. He's real smart, and he can read."
Miss Caroline smiled at the bright blue eyes looking at her over his brother's shoulder. She guided Cass to a seat and found a chunk of wood for his feet until they could fix him a small chair with a lapboard. Cass was a happy little fellow, so eager to learn that the children enjoyed helping him. They discovered that he had read much more than any of them, and that he was a good teacher.
Looking through a Geography book, one of the boys saw a picture of a sedan chair. "Hey, Miss Caroline," he shouted, "if we made a chair like this we could tote Cass to school when Tom has to go to plowin'." A committee went to Mr. Knaub's blacksmith with the idea. He helped them to build a chair, complete with curtains to shelter Cass from the weather. Cass came to school like a prince of Cathay, a troop of shouting children following. Miss Caroline's school accepted the physically handicapped.
From the beginning, the parents showed great interest in the school. During her second year, Miss Caroline learned that many of them were studying at home from children's books, some learning the basics from their children. Miss Caroline proposed to her father that they be permitted to come at night. Thus began the 1867 version of Adult Education.
Each student brought his own light, and studied the subject of his choice. There were no charges, except the stipulation that everyone was to stay after "books" to learn hymns for church service. They learned the hymns by rote and memorized the words. This was the part of night school they enjoyed most. They learned the joy of singing, the beauty of the old hymns. For the first time they understood why their Buckeye neighbors sang in the fields, in the house, and held nightly song-prayer services. Their efforts were reflected in the Sunday Services. Steelman Church was known throughout the area for the beauty of its congregational singing.
Three years after the opening of Steelman School the Trustee decided to take over its operation. Miss Caroline applied for the job, but was refused. The Trustee said flatly that her Pap didn't vote right.
Miss Caroline returned to her home chores until she married John Steelman. She told her children these stories of "Miss Caroline's School."
The author, Madge M. Steelman, was Caroline Knaub Steelman's granddaughter. Madge was the daughter of Fred Danks Steelman, Sr. and Aurelia D. Knight. Madge's brother was Fred Danks Steelman Jr. who was killed in Normandy, France in 1944.
When the Knaub Family moved from Ohio, they had 10 children. They were close friends with the Steelman Family who also had 10 children. The Steelmans and the Knaubs moved to Gibson County, Indiana, at the same time. With 20 children between them they wanted a school. The local trustees decided the "Buckeyes" from Ohio could build their own school. So they did. Unfortunately the school house was demolished in 1999.
The Knaubs and Steelmans needed a teacher and Caroline was chosen. This is the story of 14 year old Caroline as a school teacher. Her sister, Sally, in the story who fixes Caroline's hair is Sarah, who was George Field's first wife. She died during the birth of their baby Wilbur Wallace.
Before George Field married Lavica Hinkle, (Gene Field's great grandparents) George was married to Sarah Jane Knaub. They were married in a double wedding ceremony with her sister Caroline Adelia Knaub and John Wesley Steelman, Jr. The marriage took place in the home of the girl's' parents, Norman and Caroline Knaub near Hazleton, Gibson County, Indiana, on September 15, 1875. Caroline was almost exactly one year older than her sister Sarah. Lavica was a first cousin of John Wesley Steelman Jr.
In 1876 both sisters had their first babies. The babies were named Wilbur Wallace,son of Sarah and Eva May, daughter of Caroline. Sarah died the next day from complications of childbirth. The two babies died within a month of each other in the summer of 1778. Sarah, Wilbur and Eva May are buried in the Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Hazleton, Indiana. Caroline and John Wesley Steelman Jr. are buried in the IOOF Cemetery in Hazleton. George married Lavica Hinkle
The photograph of the exterior of the Steelman Chapel was taken in 1994 by Eugene and Lucie Field. The interior was photographed in 1968 by Howard and Miriam Grasz Field. Unfortunately, by the summer of 1999 the chapel had been demolished. In the nearly 30 years between photographs much deterioration had occured. Even between a visit in 1994 and 1997 the chapel had begun to slide off its foundation. None of the interior furnishings remained. In 1968 the building was well painted and still used as a chapel. We felt this was a historical treasure of Gibson County, Indiana and should have been preserved.