Monday, March 5, 2012

Waterford's District Schools

1928 Waterford School, courtesy of James Cross.
In pre-automobile days, schoolhouses had to be within walking distance. They weren't always just one room in Waterford -- it depended on how large a student group attended the school. The town had 14 of these "district schools" for many years, but by 1952, when memories of today's residents are strong, there were only four left: Lower Waterford, Graves, West Waterford, and Hastings. In 1957 the town opened its "new school," the building on Duck Pond Road. It was only half as big then as it is now, but it was enough for that year, and became the center of community life, with the kids all together at last.

The "Waterford Historical Group" (meeting at the Davies Memorial Library each month) is focusing this year on the schools. Historian David Carpenter described three schools before 1800: Districts 1, 2, and 3. By 1801, he wrote, there were 181 "scholars" and seven school districts. In 1812, the town boasted 554 school-aged children, with the older ones more likely to attend in winter (when there was less work for them) and the younger ones in summer (long walks in cold weather and sitting in a barely heated schoolhouse were hard for them). Here's a description of the districts in 1830, taken from David Carpenter's write-up in the 1987 Town Report:

District #1 (information about this district is proving to be elusive).
District #2 the original school house site is where the Gilbert Wright residence is now located on Town Highway (TH) 19.
District #3 the "Lower Waterford School," now the Flocks residence in Lower Waterford village.
District #4 the "Woods School" at the intersection near the David Morrison place (physically moved there from its original location on TH 13below the Mervyn Morrison place).
District #5 believed to have been known as the "Calvin Brown School" at the top of Cushman Hill near the Thompson place.
District #6 the "Graves School" about where Vermont Highway 18 crosses Interstate 93.
District #7 the "Hastings School" on TH 35, now the Howe residence.
District #8 near the Belknap place at the intersection of TH's 7 and 9.
District #9 the "Hill School" at the intersection of TH's 38 and 39 near the Reginald Willson place.
District #10 the "Green School" at the intersection of TH's 28 and 29 adjacent to the Gagne place.
District #11 the "Gaskell School" on TH 12 across from the Kelley (formerly Morrill) place.
District #12 between the Billig and Austin places on TH4.
District #13 the "Upper Waterford School" whose site is now underwater in the Moore Reservoir several hundred feet out from the New England Power Company boat launching ramp.
District #14 the "West Waterford School" on TH3, now the Root residence.

Did you attend one of these schools? Have memories to share? The Waterford Historical Group would like to hear from you.

For example, as Dave Morrison recollects the schools (he started in 1952), Lower Waterford School has no running water, and their were two outhouses, one for boys, one for girls. Graves was the "most luxurious," with running water, two toilets downstairs, a kitchette, a stage, even a full basement. And the first "bus" he ever rode in was a station wagon driven by Wayne Lewis's aunt Mrs. Pelletier.

Through 1953, the four final schools served eight grades each; in 1954-1956, each one had four grades instead, and "busing" or other forms of transportation were needed. Students gathered all together only once each year, in June, at the church in Lower Waterford, for the Grade 8 graduation.

What do you remember? Most important, WHO do you remember? Classmates, teachers, visitors?

1 comment:

  1. Great work cataloguing all of Waterford's school houses, Beth! I'm definitely going to have to get me a town map with all the highways listed!

    A couple of amendments:

    The Hastings Schoolhouse (sometimes referred to as the Simpson Brook Schoolhouse because of its location) was once owned by the Howe family; no more.

    Quite a while back they sold it to buy the Lower Waterford School house.

    The Howes subsequently sold to that schoolhouse to Tom Flock.

    Then in the late 1990s Tom sold it to Bonnie Henry who currently owns it.

    The correct spelling of the farm bisected by I-93 is Gingue; realtor Ernie Begin once lived in the schoolhouse there that the state claimed by eminent domain to build the interstate connector.

    The 1928 "Waterford School" photo supplied by Jamie Cross is pretty neat, but begs the question: which Waterford school? Is it possible to add either by district or by neighborhood its location? Is it still standing?