Traveling Back to the Days of the One-Room Schoolhouse in Easton NY

Tuesday, June 18, 2019
One of the things I've acquired the habit of doing on our road trips, especially on routes we frequent, is shooting subjects (i.e. barns, landscapes,) from the same angle at different times throughout the year.  I have several of these 'favorite subjects'....... subjects that I can't pass without shooting a photo ....many of them in the town of Easton and surrounding areas.   Regular Easton blog followers can probably name them....the Connor Farm, the Skiff family farm, our beloved fallen barn on Wells Road, just to name a few.  Today's subject has only been on our favorite list for just over a year but in that year we have become enamored with it, or should I say infatuated with it.  It is the Cooke Hollow One-Room Schoolhouse.


It only took a season or two of photographing the schoolhouse for me to know I'd be doing a blog post about it one day.  That idea was confirmed after I read an article by Gretta Hochsprung, writer for the Post Star, on April 1, 2019.  Gretta interviewed Vera Beecroft, a long-time resident of Easton and once a student at a one-room schoolhouse on Beadle Hill Road in Easton and Helen Brownell, the now retired Director of the Easton Library.  In their conversation, Vera and Helen talked in great detail about the one-room schoolhouses in Easton.  There were 18 of them at one time.  Twelve of those are still standing.  In 1997, Vera and Helen and people from the library initiated a grant-funded project to collect and preserve the history of the rural education in Easton.  The result of that massive undertaking is a collection of wire-bound books detailing the schoolhouses' history, stories from folks interviewed who attended these schools and a collection of framed photos in the library of each of the schoolhouses.  John and I visited the library this spring and researched the Cooke Hollow Schoolhouse, a task made easy thanks to Vera and Helen's project.


 The Cooke Hollow Schoolhouse, also known as District #4, was once known as the Kenyan and Brownell district and encompassed the northern end of Cooke Hollow Road.  This area was home to families who were mostly members of the Society of Friends or Quakers in the early 1700 and 1800's.  Their farms surrounded the area.  The farm their schoolhouse was part and parcel to was owned by different families over the years.  The original schoolhouse, thought to be built around 1837, was brick. The original school was later replaced by the current wooden structure.   The property was purchased by the Old Timers Easton Association with hopes of preserving the school but sadly that never came to fruition.



It was important to Vera and Helen to have their grandchildren know what school was like back 'in the day'....an image and tale that I'm sure would come as quite a surprise to most school-age kids today.  I know when I was talking to my 8 yr. old granddaughter about what education looked like in a one-room schoolhouse, where kids of all ages learned different curriculum in the same time and space, her eyes got big and the concept seemed more than a little hard to fathom.  The one-room schoolhouse concept is still in effect today....in the local Amish communities of Montgomery County.  I want to thank Vera, Helen and all those folks who spent so much time and research compiling this extensive and fascinating project.  I'd also like to thank Gretta Hocksprung for her wonderful interview and story in the Post Star that helped me tell more of the story.  You can read her complete article (and I encourage you to...it's so good) at Post Star Article: Project Compiles a History of One-Room Schoolhouses in Easton NY.

 Lucky for me, when this landmark no longer stands, I'll have my photos and these beautiful sketches by Paul McCue.





I'm not the only one obsessed with an old schoolhouse.  Local blogger Jill Tefft and her family have purchased and are restoring Gramp's Old School....the Center Falls Schoolhouse on Route 29 in Center Falls NY.  Jill's grandfather, Richard Tefft, attended the schoolhouse in the early 1940's and her great grandmother,  Martha Dewey Tefft, before that .  It's quite a project, one close to her family's heart and one she writes about on her blog and photographs for Instagram.  You can follow her here: https://grampsoldschool.com/ and at https://www.instagram.com/grampsoldschool/


Sometimes the past is as obscure as the old schoolhouse appears along Cooke Hollow Road, covered by the overgrowth of vines and vegetation.  Sometimes we get so busy with our day-to-day life, we forget about the past.  We fail to imagine that the events and traditions of our early life are in fact, history, and interesting to our kids and grandkids.  We take it for granted, even things like a wired, rotary wall phone, party lines, childhood games, etc...  I hope this post, along with Gretta's article, triggers some tales of your childhood, tales you'll feel inspired to share in print or stories told to your kids and grandkids.  Your history is who you are, what inspired the person you are today.  Tell that story!

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