By Buffy Calvert
In the years between 1800, when the first log schoolhouse was built for Andes schoolchildren, and the School Consolidation Act of 1934, one-room schoolhouses with outhouses and woodstoves, and the daily pail of “running” water brought by two lucky boys from the nearest farm, were dotted all over the Township, each a separate district with its own Board of Trustees, budget and organization.
A surprising number of notable Andes residents still with us (Ken Conine, Marie Gladstone, Jean Butler, Millie Johns, Nora Cole, just for starters) tramped over rutted roads, up hill and down dale in all weathers, to one-room schoolhouses, their lunch pails swinging in one hand, a strap of books in the other. (We aren’t counting the Shavertown crowd. They had a two-room school.) They left home with brothers and sisters, joining friends on the way. Teachers were often recent graduates, sometimes with Normal School training, often pressed into service straight out of a neighboring school.
Teacher would call up a small group of scholars to recite on the front bench while the others worked at their desks. Millie Johns thinks they learned faster by overhearing the older students’ recitations. She walked cross lots from their farm on Cabin Hill to the school on Fall Clove Road. Coming home she walked with her teacher, Margaret Saxouer, a neighbor.
At noon, Miss Saxouer raked the glowing coals to the front of the big potbellied stove and handed out long forks so that the children could toast their sandwiches. She let them ski and sleigh downhill behind the school at noon or during recesses. Once, she gave Millie the privilege of raising the flag. Little Millie hooked the flag on the halyards and sent it aloft, only to find that the stars were on the bottom.
Every District one-room school looked forward to the School Fair, held once a year in Andes village at Hilton Memorial. Teachers hung their pupils’ best work in penmanship, math, spelling, and written essays up on the boards to be judged by the tall, formidable Superintendent, Miss Zena Travis: she of the Palmer Method and the pitch pipe to start off the singing.
Outdoors, they held jumping and running contests. Millie remembers her very first race. She and other girls her age lined up. “On your mark! Get set! Go!” Off she ran across the field but when she reached the middle she found she was alone, so she started back. Everyone on the sidelines shouted, “Run, Millie! Run! Keep going!” She was fast!
In the afternoon, each school put on a play. Fall Clove school won that contest, too.
The closing of the one-room district schools with consolidation in 1937 fomented strong feelings for and against. Some disputes ended up in court. One curious conflict centered on the District 23 school on Gladstone Hollow. The one-room school sat on a 16-acre tract deeded to the District in 1847 by the original owners. By 1937 Charles and Laura Drew owned the farm surrounding the parcel. After the school closed, they consulted a lawyer to see if they could do some renovation and rent it out. As it was, boys frolicked there after dark, throwing the remaining books and papers about.
Their lawyer said that the original owners had deeded the tract to District 23 “for as long as it was used as a school,” Since the children now went to Andes Central School and the building stood empty they could now use it. The Drews had a carpenter throw up partitions and rented it out.
Alarmed, the School District Trustees put the school up for auction, bid it in themselves at $100, and sued to eject the Drews and their tenants. Charles Drew lost at trial and appealed.
Contradictory testimony from various trustees, farmers, the carpenter, and boys, including Charles’ son, Howard, failed to establish whether or not the place was padlocked and maintained by the school district. The case hinged on whether the building would ever be used as a school again, a remote possibility. If not, the limitation in the deed provided that the acreage would revert, not to the Drews who bought the farm without that parcel, but to the original owners.
In fact, John Drew, grandson and heir of the farm, writes,” the property went back to the original owner.” John had eventually to clear the land and have the ruin buried. “All that remains of the One-Room Schoolhouse is the old school clock that the Drews have in their possession.” ~
Below – A young Millie Johns nee’ Joslyn as she looked in those early school days.