Justus Rathbone came to the Keweenaw when he was only 18 years old. He worked as a teacher at several different mine locations before ending up in this small one-room school at Eagle Harbor. Rathbone was fascinated with the Greek legend of Damon and Pythis as presented in a dramatic play written by irish playwright John Banim in 1821. Over the course of a typically harsh Keweenaw winter, Rathbone used the play as a guide in the creation of a secret society dedicated to friendship, benevolance and charity. Four years later his vision became the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization that at its peak boasted will over a million members and still exists yet today.
In 1861 Rathbone returned to his native New York, and a decade later the school in which he once taught was replaced by a larger two-story structure built nearby (Eagle Harbor School). Due to its historical importance to the Knights of Pythias the society bought the building in 1921 to preserve it, and placed a granite memorial next door in 1931. Because of this the old school has survived remarkably intact over the past century and a half, and still features its original school bell, blackboard, and a few desks.
NOTES: Today the schoolhouse is owned by the Keweenaw Historical Society, which opens the building to the public during the day for self-guided tours. Inside, the building has been furnished to match its school-house beginnings and includes informational displays on the Knights of Pythias. Outside are several historical markers included a marble memorial placed on the site in 1932 by the Knights in memory of their founder.
DIRECTIONS: The Rathbone School house is located on the corner of Center and 3rd Street in Eagle Harbor. From along M26 in Eagle Harbor follow the highway around the corner until you reach the beach. Continue for a block, turing right onto Center Street. Follow Center Street into town, the school will be on the right two blocks in.
FOR MORE INFO: More information about the Rathbone School can be found at the Keweenaw Historical Society website.