Leeds Historical Society program explores one-room schools

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LEEDS — More than 70 people attended a recent program put on by the Leeds Historical Society.

The group presented an overview of the Leeds schools, starting in 1801 when the town voted $200 in support of schools and divided the town into nine school districts, with the intent that no scholar need travel more than two miles to get to school. Ultimately, there were 13 districts, including a shared one with Greene.

The program focused on the years between 1935 and 1953, the year the Leeds Central School opened and the last of the one-room schools closed. The group based the presentation primarily on interviews with more than 40 people who had gone to the one-room schools.

“We really loved interviewing people,” said historical society member Pam Bell. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get to interview everyone we’d hoped to, but we plan to do more of these programs in the future, and we’ll hope to connect with those people next time.”

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Stories from the former students ranged from hitching a ride to school in the back of a dump truck, to being hauled part way up the flagpole by exuberant schoolmates, to getting lost in the bog while searching for the perfect Christmas tree and an annual competition to see who could bring in and identify the most wild flowers. The audience enjoyed comparing the schools then to schools now. In some ways they were very different, in some very similar.

At the end of the program, member Louise Sanders presented Louise Grant with Leeds Boston Post Cane, given to the oldest citizen in town. The timing of the presentation seemed especially appropriate, as Grant is not only Leeds’ oldest citizen, but Leeds’ oldest teacher, having taught elementary students for four decades.

Later this month, the historical society will present a condensed version of the program to third graders at Leeds Central School. This is part of an ongoing collaboration between the school and the historical society. Earlier in the month, members joined the third graders on a field trip around Leeds where the students saw a one-room school, examined geologic features and visited a local dairy farm. Both the field trip and one-room school program are part of the “our community” class unit.

The historical society has plans for several activities in the coming months, including an antique appraisal day and the dedication of the new flag pole on Monument Hill.

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