FARMINGTON — A donated cast-iron school bell, dedicated in 1975 at the Red Schoolhouse on the Wilton Road, was rededicated Tuesday at the schoolhouse museum on the grounds of Farmington Fair.

The bell has been in storage since the building was moved to the fairgrounds in 2006, Susan McCleery Small, volunteer director of the museum, said.

Small, along with Rupert Pratt, livestock superintendent for the fair, and bell donors Ray and Jennie Mae Martin of Bangor, gathered Tuesday to mark the occasion and ring the bell.

The event lured several small children visiting the fair from Sweatt-Winter Child Care Center to come check out the one-room schoolhouse.

There was other work to do once the building was moved, Small said. A new chimney, steps, railing and paint were projects already undertaken.

“It finally came time to think about the bell,” she said, although George Barker, grounds superintendent, had taken good care of it.

On Tuesday, Senior Citizens Day at the fair, Small invited the donors to come see the bell and share its story.

The bell has a long history.

Martin, a business teacher in local schools, worked weekends for a local contractor, Stub Fraser, he said.

Sometime between 1960 and 1965, the Farmington Falls Union School decided the bell and tower needed to come down. Fraser was the carpenter hired. He stored the bell in his garage, Martin said.

Martin offered to buy it but Fraser refused money from him so Martin bought him a couple bottles of vodka, he said. That ended the talk of money, he added.

His sister and brother-in-law owned a family camp in Sinclair, a town in Aroostook County. Martin gave the brother-in-law the bell for Christmas but it just sat at the camp, he said.

“I felt bad,” he said.

After the brother-in-law died, he talked with his sister about the bell.

“It always bothered me that I brought it up there,” he said.

The siblings agreed to donate it to the Farmington Historical Society in 1974. The society placed it in front of what was called the Little Red Schoolhouse in 1975 where it sat until the move.

The schoolhouse was built in 1852. It has served as a museum, a warehouse and an office for the chamber of commerce after being abandoned as an educational facility in the early 1900s.

This month, Pratt created a strong iron frame for the bell, Small said.

Martin used a cane to pull the wheel and ring the bell Tuesday. No rope is attached.

“We were worried about kids,” she said of attempts to ring it. “But it’s adult men” who can’t resist.

Several small schools developed around neighborhoods in Farmington, Small said.  The schools were close enough for children to walk to them.

In 1812, there were 16 district schools in Farmington. As the town’s first settlement, started in 1776, the Farmington Falls school was given the number one. It consolidated with the Gower School and the Chesterville School to become the Farmington Falls Union School and operated from 1880 to 1967.

The Red Schoolhouse Museum hosts a variety of photos and historical memorabilia. Small tries to post photos of every teacher and every student teacher who taught at the school, along with many children who attended. 

Martin’s wife, Jennie Mae, was a student teacher at the Red Schoolhouse in 1947, she said.

Volunteers will man the museum throughout the fair week.

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