Erected in the late 1860s, the Papermill School was named for the McDowell Paper Mill, which was situated on the south bank of the river and just west of the school. The building measures 21' x 30' and was constructed of locally made bricks on 1.12 acres of land at a cost of $116 for the contractor and materials, and $60 for the carpenter.
Papermill School Monroe County, Michigan, Fractional District #7 for Raisinville and Frenchtown Townships opened in 1870 to serve grades K-8. The space also functioned as an active community center. Parents served as school board members and worked diligently for the welfare of their children, sometimes helping to clean school and the grounds, assisting with programs, or boarding the underpaid teachers.
The building was heated with a wood burning stove which overheated nearby pupils but cast little warmth on those in the distant corners. Children vied for the opportunity to pump water from the well and then carry the pail from desk to desk to serve cool drinks from a single communal dipper. Like most one room schools, ours has large windows on the east and west faces to take advantage of natural light, but on overcast days, or for the occasional evening school or community events, illumination was supplied by kerosene lanterns. Latrines were available outside the building.
A wooden bridge that spanned the river at this location was destroyed by a flooded River Raisin in 1887. From that time until 1967, there was no bridge to allow people to cross the river at this location. Students residing on the south bank of the river often came to school by boat, while others walked to school through thick spring mud and deep winter snows, or took advantage of a frozen river to skate to school.
In 1955, Papermill became a part of the Monroe Public Schools and classes were limited to just third grade students. By 1962 the nearby Raisinville Elementary School had been built and Papermill School was closed.
From 1969-2018 the school building found new life as the Martha Barker Country Store Exhibit, which was named in honor of the woman whose committee worked for five years to create this new museum.
The early 1900s mercantile display housed in the old school educated and delighted of children and adult visitors alike during many school field trips and summer family outings. With a collection of general store items preserved from four local family-owned businesses and a vintage candy counter stocked with sweet penny candy treats, many Monroe County residents have fond memories of visits to the Country Store.
In 2019 the Papermill School began undergoing repairs and renovations to prepare for its next incarnation as a Visitors' Center for the Territorial Park on the River Raisin.