After little more than a year of struggle in a setting where “school work, tempers,teachers and pupils suffered,” all agreed that the Starr Commonwealth urgently needed a schoolhouse. As Starr himself described the situation in No Such Thing, “A schoolhouse? Having no funds, we decided that it would be more in keeping with our budget to compromise on a school room. But, after obtaining costs, the vision of even that one room dwindled to what a builder might call a’shack’. Then a shack it would be!”
With the help of Grandpa Starr, the one-time carpenter, plans were drawn up and an inventory of materials submitted to a local lumberyard. As Starr recalledhalf a century later, “The lumber for such a shack cost $49.95. Forty-nine dollarsand ninety-five cents that we did not have!” There was no alternative by to borrow the money. “A neighboring banker… looked over our scrubby farm, our one boy-bulging cottage, and ventured a 90-day loan of the $49.95.
Over the summer of 1915 everyone pitched in to erect the schoolhouse. “It wasn’t much of a building,” Starr admitted later. According to his memory, “it was 16 feet wide by 32 feet long. It had one door and four windows. It stood two feet off the ground on posts.It was ventilated well, by cracks. Tar paper covered the roof. But dignified by the title of ‘schoolhouse’, it gave us a place to carry on our work.” How it escaped condemnation byboth the county fire marshal and the state licensing agent remains a mystery.
Each day of labor on “the shack,” however, brought the due date of their note just that much closer. Eventually, only one week remained before the crucial day – September 1, 1915. “Stint and save as we had tried to do,” Starr recounted often, “we found we had no money with which to meet it.”
For Starr and his boys, that opening was prayer. with neither chapel nor creed, the ritual was simple. In the words of Uncle Floyd, “Gathering my boys around me in the half-finished shack, I told them of our predicament. I asked them to pray with me for an answer. And pray we did, each in his own way, all that week.”
An anxious household watched Starr open the morning mail on the ninetieth day. At the very last his face broke out in a broad smile – before him lay two letters, one containing a money order for $20.00 and the other a check for $30.00. “A blessed total of $50.00,” as Starr said later. As a group they had prayed; as a group they set forth. “It took no time at all for us to hitch up our farm wagon, pile into it, every boy of us, and drive into town to the bank. And, in a body, we paid the $49.95!”
Source: Keith Fennimore. Faith Made Visible: The History of Floyd Starr and His School. Albion, Michigan: Starr Commonwealth. 1988.