Cooleemee Elementary Students Experience Cooleemee in the Past

A chilly morning at RiverPark set the scene for students from Cooleemee Elementary School to learn about 17th-century Indians, 18th-century life and the grist mill, and kids working in the textile mill in the 19th century.

John Chandler presented the children with a warm welcome and a layout of the morning’s journey.  Joey Shore led each group to each station and stop along the way.

Johnny Brown demonstrates how to grind corn using a pestle and concave rock

The Indian’s learning center was set up right by the South Yadkin, with the dam spilling water over its rocky edge.  Students saw handmade drills, bows and arrows, a deer antler shortened into a knife, and a grinding rock for grain.

After climbing the hill from the dam to a clearing, Sandra Ferrell taught the kids about growing corn and taking it to the gristmill. They each received a tiny canvas bag filled with cornmeal. Later, each student got a paper bag with either two apples or a bag of peanuts. Bartering took place, and each student ended up with one apple and some peanuts.

Sandra Ferrell shows pictures of the gristmill

Shore pulled a sassafras twig from the ground, pulled the bark back, and told the children he used to chew on the stalk when he was little. The stalk could also be boiled in water for sassafras tea, which was good for allergies.

When the students arrived at the 19th-century stop, they learned that children worked in the mill. Girls earned 55 cents, and boys earned $2.75 a week. Mama was there with her field hat and apron, and she promptly came around and collected all the money earned by each boy and girl. They all got to keep just a quarter.

Sandra Ferrell gave each student a small bag of cornmeal

All went to the company store, where they bought a pickle, cheese, crackers, and a peppermint stick.  They had to pay their last 25 cents.

Bartering apples for  peanuts

I asked some of the students:  Out of all the information you learned, what stands out the most?

  • Air”yana Braswell – “What they used to make houses and all the equipment they used.”
  • Jaxon Herbiest – “ How they made the clothing, weapons, and tools to catch fish.”
  • Jayke Neighbors – “Why do kids work? Why is it happening in the past? They shouldn’t be able to.  Kids need to learn and go to school.”
  • Max Hall. – “How to make tea out of plants.”