Saturday, July 18, 2015

Searching for the First District 10 Schoolhouse, Waterford, Vermont

The rain held off nicely for our "history hike" down Kidder Road from its east end, so Craig B. could show us where he'd located the probable site of an early schoolhouse. Craig began (as mentioned earlier this week) with two maps of the town: 1858 and 1875. Between the two dates, the schoolhouse for District 10 (centered at the Green farm on what is now Remick Road) changed -- and Craig found a record of expenditure for the school district in that gap, so his best guess was that the district decided to spend some money relocating and rebuilding its school.

His find of the site depended first on the distance shown on the map. Then he spotted a row of stones along what was probably the south edge of the little building lot. As he explored, and probed through the current soil cover among very young trees, he found what amounted to a "pad" of rocks, and measured the extent as 16 feet wide and 26 feet long. The structure would have been about 20 feet from today's (Kidder) roadbed. At a guess, the window wall of the building could have been at the south end, for maximum light and heat, and there is a suggestion of a door area with possible steps at the southeast corner of the "pad."
Southeast corner of stone "pad."

Surveying the site.

"Test pit" about 4 inches deep. Tool shows north-south direction.
Craig, who is experienced in archaeology's current steps of making careful investigations that can be restored without changing the site, made two small troweled "test pits" (about four inches deep) through the soil to the stone pad; one is shown here, with his tool lined up to north–south. This one simply showed the soil depth to the stone pad, but his other small space, toward the northern edge of the site, revealed scraps of building materials: handmade nails in two sizes (the smaller for clapboards, the larger for flooring; at a guess, the structure would have been timber-framed, held together with mortise and tenon joints), two different ages of window glass, some crumbles of brick (probably a layer between the rock pad and the wooden sill beams), and two chunks of old-fashioned plaster.

Nails, brick and plaster bits, and two colors/ages of window glass, from second part of site.
Much of the gathering after seeing the site was spent speculating on what might have happened to change the school location (demographics was our best guess: no kids at the central part of the Kidder Road, with the kids on the western part attending the "West Waterford" school, leaving the Green farm as the focus for the relocation); what happened to the old schoolhouse itself (moved? repurposed? collapsed?); and whether either the first or second schoolhouse survived in re-purposing of other nearby structures (no good evidence yet).

With the discussion came more visualizing the daily tasks of getting kids to school in the 1840s, including perhaps rolling the road, using horse and sleigh, and providing for heat during the day.

It was a great walk, short and easy but full of evidence and questions. Thanks, Craig, and thanks to all who attended or helped this to take place. More "history hikes" are sure to follow.

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