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But that’s the problem: it shouldn’t blend in. In fact, Ed Snyder is looking for help to bring it back out of obscurity in Hampshire County as a museum and walk-in artifact illustrating education as it was more than 150 years ago. 

The building is the Walnut Grove School, and the original structure was built in 1850. It’s a 1-room school, and likely one of the oldest and best preserved in the state, said Snyder, whose late wife Joy’s family was the Tutwilers, who actually founded and received their education at the school.

“The school was founded by (my wife’s) great-grandfather on the family farm, and it stayed on the family farm until it closed, I think around 1935,” said Snyder.

The school closed in 1935, but in August of 1973, Clyde Tutwiler (Snyder’s father-in-law) sold the building to the school board, who moved the structure from its original location on Little Cacapon Creek to where it sits now on the HHS campus, near the agriculture buildings.

Clyde Tutwiler sold it in 1973 with the purpose of the board turning it into a museum, Snyder explained. But that didn’t really happen.

“I don’t think it's really been touched in 50 years, and probably another 70 before that,” Snyder said with a laugh. “The school hadn’t been used since the 1930s except for a few visitors who went through after it was moved.”

He added, “I obviously don’t like the idea of a 150-year-old relic in the county just sitting idle.”

Snyder’s plan is to bring some attention back to the history of education in Hampshire by opening Walnut Grove School back up to the public, without using any county funds (only private donations), and maybe even looking into getting it on the National Register of Historic Places.

“That was Mr. Tutwiler’s original reason for donating it, so it could be used as a building museum,” Snyder said. “I see no reason as to why it shouldn’t qualify. If it can’t be the National Register, then the state one.”

One-room schools aren’t necessarily uncommon in the Mountain State, but Walnut Grove School has a step up above the rest: it is still furnished with the same items as it was when it was used 150 years ago — chalkboards, desks, you name it.

He even reached out to the Country School Association of America, he said, to see what they thought of the historical goldmine that is Walnut Grove.

“They said, ‘You’ve got a real gem here,’” chuckled Snyder. “Usually they have to go hustling for furniture and donations and stuff like that, but it’s already here.”

Snyder lives in Winchester now, but the school and the Tutwilers have deep roots in Hampshire County. Snyder’s wife Joy had 2 sisters, Betty and Dorothy. Betty is the only one of Clyde Tutwiler’s children still living, but Snyder says he has several nieces currently in the county as well, including Rhonda Dante, Theresa Hoff and Sonya Mowery.

“I’m really doing this more as a memorial for my wife and her family,” Snyder said about Joy, who passed away last fall. He said that while Joy’s family has the ties to Walnut Grove, he won’t be able to complete the project on his own.

He has posted information on the Hampshire History Facebook page (“I’ve gotten a whole bunch of new contacts just from the comment section,” Snyder said with raised eyebrows. “I was surprised there was that kind of interest in an old school.”) and is looking for help, maybe from the Retired School Employees Association, to bring the school back to being a museum and educational tool.

Snyder said that someday soon, he also hopes to see someone write a book about the history of 1 and 2 room schools in Hampshire County. With over 140 of these rural schoolhouses originally across the county, Snyder says current numbers have dwindled to around 30.

“(Walnut Grove) is the most complete schoolhouse,” he pointed out. He’s looking to mark it as a historical site and a nonprofit, showing Hampshire County that history is, and continues to be, right in its backyard.

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