GILEAD — The former one-room schoolhouse on Route 2 will be moved to its permanent home Thursday, Aug. 20.

Nearly five decades ago, the last of
six one-room schoolhouses in Gilead closed. Then it served as a
library and convenience store before becoming vacant a few years ago.

Now, thanks to the hardworking efforts
of the Gilead Historical Society and a highway project by the Maine
Department of Transportation, the wood-framed, one-story building
will be moved .3 mile east and set on a foundation
next to the town office. It now stands in the path of the
new highway.

The 25- by 33-foot schoolhouse is one of
just four or five historic buildings remaining in the town of 156 people on the New Hampshire border. The schoolhouse was
built in 1903, the town office in the late 1800s and the adjacent town
hall in 1883. All three will be lined up behind the railroad tracks
that run through town. A fourth
historic building, the former stage stop known as the Peabody Tavern,
c. 1800 and now an antique shop, is a few miles east. A few
19th-century farmhouses also dot the rural landscape.

Lin and Hugh Chapman, members of the
historical society that was formed during the town’s bicentennial in
2004, along with an active group of about 15 other members, have
worked to save the schoolhouse for more than a year.

“We knew the building was going to be
destroyed or moved,” said Hugh Chapman, who with fellow historical
society member Howard Reiche Jr., or Chapman’s wife, Lin, has
written four books of Gilead history.

The group worked with the Maine
Historic Preservation Commission to get it placed on the national
register, and with the MDOT, who have agreed to move the building.

The lot on which it will sit was where
Lin grew up. The farmhouse was razed last year, and the property
deeded to the society. The schoolhouse, which will become the new home
of the historical society and town artifacts, will likely
be dedicated to Lin’s mother, Mildred McLain. Lin was a student at the one-room
school from kindergarten through grade six.

“The thought of it not being saved
was unbearable,” she said. “We are doing this to preserve the
history of Gilead.”

She remembers that water froze during
the winter and that youngsters used outhouses. She also remembers
some of the good things, such as learning grade material ahead of her
age because six grades were taught in that one room.

Over the years, the town has lost its
churches, stores and other structures, making those that are left
even more important to preserve.

The historical society will assume
responsibility for the upkeep of the building. The group is currently
working on grants that, if successful, will help restore the
schoolhouse to its original appearance.

The schoolhouse move is the latest step
townspeople have taken to revitalize the small town. Last year, the
town office was moved out of a residential home and into a former
restored store building.

Hugh said the society and the town will
likely celebrate the schoolhouse during the annual Family and Friends
Day in June 2010.

[email protected]

Andy Freeman of K & K Excavators stands next to the new site for the Gilead schoolhouse on Route 2. The next building over is the town office, and the third building is the town hall.

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