The places we call home: Former Coal Run School

COAL RUN – The bell in the tower atop Jean Worstell’s home in Coal Run still rings – so she’s been told.

“The bell will work,” said Worstell, 72. “Everybody says, ‘Oh, you ought to ring it on New Year’s Eve.’

“They’ve never talked me into it,” she laughed. “I’m never out that late.”

Decades ago, the bell summoned students to class at the Coal Run School. Located off Tick Hill Road in the tiny village of Coal Run, the school closed in the late 1940s. More recently, Marietta residents Keith and Marilyn Brum renovated it into a residence.

“It was a shell and it had no windows, and it had been used as storage for years,” recalled Marilyn Brum, 80. “It was just two basic rooms.”

Devola resident Jack Rose, 90, spent plenty of time in both of those rooms, attending Coal Run School from first through sixth grade.

“It was a two-room school, and it had a dividing door,” he said. “The first three grades (were) on one side, and the upper three grades (were) on the other side.”

Each side had its own coal stove, and students would be sent to fetch additional coal from the maintenance shed that still stands behind the former school today. The boys’ and girls’ bathrooms were also outside.

Inside, the building had no heating or plumbing. That was installed during the renovation, Marilyn Brum said. She and her husband bought the school in 1986 along with a group of other buildings and over the years spent $48,141 on materials for that structure alone.

Worstell bought the house and moved in five years ago to be closer to her sons, all three of whom live in Coal Run. Except for the high ceilings in the dining room and kitchen, the bell tower on the roof and that dividing door Rose recalls, the building is “just a house to me,” she said.

Her grandchildren thought it was pretty neat that she lived in a former school though.

“I think they did when they (were) younger,” she said.

A construction date for the school could not be immediately located, but Phillip Crane, with the Lower Muskingum Historical Society, said there are references to it as early as 1875.

While he lived in Coal Run, Rose said, the school was a social focal point for the community. The monthly parent-teacher association meetings were a draw, usually featuring a performance by musicians and a sketch by students.

“Everyone in the town came ’cause that was probably the only entertainment the town had,” Rose said.

That’s not to say nothing ever happened in Coal Run. In addition to mining the coal seam that gave it its name, there was once a post office, auto mechanic, blacksmith and three stores, Rose said. The town also served as a hub from which locally grown produce was shipped.

Rose was a resident of Coal Run until he was 17, living close enough to the school that he could walk home for lunch. His father was a rural mail carrier, and his mother ran a general store there for two years. Rose said he’s pleased his old schoolhouse remains standing today.

“I’m glad somebody did something with it,” he said.

The Brums had no significant connection to Coal Run prior to purchasing a pair of buildings in the early 1980s that had been for sale there for a long time, as an investment, Marilyn Brum said.

As they restored the buildings, they worked with local historian Nancy Hoy to learn about them. That eventually led to Coal Run being designated an historic district on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

In 2004, the Muskingum Valley Chamber of Commerce recognized the couple with its Business of the Year award for all the work they’d done in Coal Run.