The oldest existing school in Wayne County can be seen today on the grounds of the Wayne County Historical Museum on North A Street, but it’s been situated in a few spots since it was built in 1812.
One of Richmond’s early pioneers was Thomas Roberts, and he owned a farm on land that originally was southeast of the growing village. Today that land is approximately the block bounded by Main, South E, South 9th and 16th Streets. His sister and brother-in-law Nathan and Rebecca Roberts Hawkins owned land north of Richmond, near present day Webster, but the War of 1812 created fear that Indians encouraged by the British would prey on American settlers. Nathan, Rebecca and their two children came to live with the Roberts family. The Roberts cabin was not big enough for another family, so the men in the area gathered and quickly erected a single room, windowless cabin in which the Hawkins family could live temporarily. When the war was over, the Hawkins’ moved north to their own land, thankfully leaving the tiny cabin behind.
Soon after, the cabin served as a school house, and some of the Roberts children attended. In the above photo, Jonathan Roberts, Thomas’s son and one of those students in 1813, stands next to the structure that by 1900 was still standing on his property near the northeast corner of South A and 13th. By 1900, however, the original farm was well within Richmond’s city limits, and much of it had been sold off for residential lots.
Soon after Jonathan’s death in 1902, the Richmond Item reported that the “Old Roberts School House” had been given to the city. Albert W. Reed agreed to pay for moving the cabin to a new location in Glen Miller Park in order to honor his father, Irvin Reed, and other early proponents of education. The park commissioners accepted the gift and the city paid only for a brass plaque to be attached to it.
On Friday, August 29, 1903 the reconstructed cabin was dedicated in a small ceremony at its new home inside Glen Miller Park.
In 1938, it moved again, this time to the grounds of the Wayne County Historical Museum where it remains as one of the main attractions outside the main building.