Conchie, according to alumni interviewed by the fair board members. “Mrs. Warren Simmons was a very caring, conscientious and strict teacher who always placed the welfare of her students first,” according to one interviewed.
Simmons lived in the same neighborhood as her students, so the children knew their families would find out the same evening if they misbehaved.
At least 12 of the original students still live in the original houses in the community that the one-room school served, according to Charlene Haynie, chairwoman of the McConchie Programming Subcommittee.
At the original McConchie location, the school earned the supplies for two outhouses, which were built by the students’ parents. The school had no electricity or indoor plumbing, had a wood-burning stove that heated the building during the winter months, and had benches and tables for desks. Each bench could squeeze three to four children on it to utilize space and Simmons would stand to ensure there was enough room for her students.
Most of the high school-aged students would drop out of school to help their parents do house work or toil in the tobacco fields.
The presentation of the oneroom school resulted in later discussion between St. Mary’s County’s Karen Stone, executive director of the museum program, and members of the McConchie School Project to collaborate on future programs. The St. Mary’s County Museum Association, in partnership with the Charles County Fair Inc., are looking at dual/combined programs to increase the knowledge of black one-room schools and other historic events.
“We’re trying to do as many programs as possible to inform the community on what they may not know about African-American history,” said Charlotte A. Weirich, facilitator of The Historic McConchie One-Room School Project at the fairgrounds.
About 40 miles away is the Drayden African-American Schoolhouse, another oneroom school that is open to the public in St. Mary’s County, a historic property Stone and her team work to preserve.
“Drayden is the best preserved African-American oneroom schoolhouse in the country because it has not moved locations,” Stone explained.
The Unified Committee for Afro-American Contributions contains several oral history archives of former students of one-room schools that can be found at ucaconline.org.
Charlene Haynie, chair of the McConchie Programming Subcommittee, informs the audience about the history of the McConchie One-Room School.