Century-old school preserved to teach about early Central Florida settlers

Barberville Pioneer Settlement gives understanding of life in 1800s, 1900s

BARBERVILLE, Fla. – The Barberville Pioneer Settlement in Volusia County is giving students a better understanding of how the first Central Floridians lived during the late 1800s into the 1900s.

In 1976, a group of Volusia County teachers went on a mission to provide a unique learning experience for school-area students. Since then, the pioneer settlement has become a historical village museum where Barberville High School, which was built 100 years ago, is preserved today.

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"It was built here in 1919. (It) was a valuable resource for the area at that time," said Gudrun Benson, associate director of Barberville Pioneer Settlement. "This is the biggest building on the property."

Schools send student on field trips so they can learn more about the pioneers through six different programs. They learn about arts and trades. Inside one of the classrooms are wooden weavers that were used for the production of textiles.

The visit includes a tour around 18 historical buildings, including a chapel, a blacksmith workshop, a cabin and a traditional pioneer home. Several were brought on site after being abandoned and becoming at risk of being demolished. 

Barberville Pioneer Settlement is also home to the oldest brick house in Volusia County. It was built in 1876 by Joseph Underhill, who came from Georgia with his family. The Underhills were among the first pioneers to settle in Central Florida. 

"They were extremely important and there are still Underhills in the area who are descendants," said Debra West, executive director of Barberville Pioneer Settlement.

Their home was unique at the time because the bricks were made with clay from a nearby clay bed. 

"It is very unique to the area. They were typically not building with bricks during that time period," West said.

The settlement also has the original Pierson train station, where students get to listen to how an American Telegraph Morse Code machine was used. 

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"They're very much amazed how people lived, what people had to do for their living," Benson said. "It is important, I think, to show the younger generations where we all came from, how we are grounded in those experiences from generations past."

General admission for adults is $8 and $4 for children over 5. They also offer special events, some of which are free. Their next special event includes a chili cook off and ice cream churn off Sept. 14.  For more information, click here.

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