A one-room schoolhouse reunion was held Sunday afternoon, Nov. 13, at the Chesterville Center Union Meeting House. Before the program, Susan Schell-Cooper at left, Ellie Hopkins and Michael Cooper look over some of the pictures and other memorabilia from some Chesterville schools. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

CHESTERVILLE — Stories were shared Sunday afternoon, Nov. 13 — often to the accompaniment of laughter — about experiences remembered from the time of one-room schoolhouses.

Cynthia Stancioff welcomed everyone and referenced a book written for the town’s Bicentennial and published in 2005. “In 1854 there were 15 school districts in Chesterville, all but two had schoolhouses,” she noted. In 1893 one district was abolished leaving 14 districts with 14 teachers for 217 students, then in 1957 the Sinclair Act passed and in 1958 the town was talking about merging with other towns in SAD 9, she added.

No matter where the school was, the memories were similar.

“It didn’t make any difference where one went to school,” Greg Soule, a member of the Chesterville Heritage Society said. “The memories of the people coincide. The same textbooks were used, they played the same games at recess, brought their lunch in peanut butter or lard pails, ate the same things at lunch. There was the same behavior – the older boys were hard to handle and the younger ones were overemotional.”

Soule attended the South Chesterville School starting in the fall of 1955 after his family moved from Massachusetts. “I was in the first grade, it was where the town hall is now – went until 1959 or 1960,” he said. He graduated eighth grade from the Ingalls school in Farmington.

According to information in the back of annual town reports, schools had two sessions – one in the summer and one in fall/winter, Soule said. The former usually was taught by a young girl who had graduated high school and was for children too young to work on the farm, he noted. The latter quite often had to have a male teacher, a good disciplinarian for the older boys, he stated. “I learned to respect my elders,” he added.


Part of a teacher’s pay was board with a nearby family, Soule said. If there was no building, classes met in a home, he noted.

Michael Cooper at right shares memories from when his family boarded a teacher Sunday afternoon, Nov. 13, at Chesterville Center Union Meeting House. Seen at left is Susan Schell-Cooper and in the background is Greg Soule. The one-room schoolhouse reunion was held in conjunction with the Chesterville Heritage Society. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Resident Michael Cooper said his mother was able to move ahead two years in her schooling because she helped the younger kids in her schoolroom. “She lost her mother when she was 13, the school was a great solace for her,” he noted. “[My mother] always said ‘there was not competition in school, it was cooperation.’ The system now is based on competition. The camaraderie, working together, learning from other students [in one-room schools] was a real plus.”

Cooper said he was too young to attend school but delivered water to the teacher Mrs. Davis – who lived with his family. He said he fell in love with the school building and wanted a blackboard like the one inside. His father, veterinarian Everard Cooper made him one for a Christmas present.

Michael got free lessons from [Mrs. Davis], remembers being able to count from one to 120 but had a stumbling block at 112 or 121. “I knew how to read, do math because of her,” he noted. “Eventually I was allowed to attend even though I was only four years old. I remember getting to sit next to an older girl who would teach you. There was nothing better.”

Younger students sat closer to the front, older students at the back, Soule said. “When you got your work done, by osmosis you heard the older students go through their work,” he noted. “We were learning some of their lessons. One-room schools were wonderful for kids in kindergarten through third or fourth grade. It was a wonderful way to learn for the younger kids.”

At that time, high school wasn’t compulsory, Soule said. “We still had eighth grade graduations, they wanted you to have enough schooling then, you had to meet certain requirements to graduate.”


Alison Haines spoke of the two-room school in Farmington Falls. There were two teachers, they were strict, students had boundaries, she said. “If you didn’t pay attention, do what you were supposed to, you were in trouble. When the next class was talking you didn’t say a word. If you did the teacher would grab your ear or embarrass you.

“I still dream about that school, wish it was still there,” Haines stated. “It was good, I liked it.” It is too bad so many kids today don’t get that kind of schooling – you paid attention, she stressed.

“One of the things we have lost is respect for our elders,” Soule said.

Gary Hedstrom of Farmington said at six years old he started first grade in a school in Westmanland in Aroostook County. His teacher had him read with the second graders and by the end of the year was promoted to the third grade. “All three of my older siblings skipped a grade,” he said. “We lived close enough to the school that we went home for lunch, half of recess was gone when we got back. The older students were the janitors. As a sixth grader our job was to get the fire going in the basement before school started, we swept the floors daily, washed them once a week, did the blackboard and erasers. I got a check for $3 every two weeks.”

Hedstrom said going from a one-room school to Caribou High School with almost 200 kids was quite a change.

Soule said his sisters went to a big school before the family moved to Chesterville. “The culture shock was amazing, Chesterville had no high school, any student who wanted to go on was tuitioned, wherever was closest,” he said. “My sisters boarded in Farmington, were taken Sunday afternoon, picked up Friday afternoon.” There was no school bus until his sister was a junior, he noted. “One of the reasons students stopped going to school after eighth grade was because it was difficult to find transportation, a place to board,” he added.


Peggy Stires of Livermore spoke of teaching in a one-room school in Vermont in the late 1960s. “I was the only adult in the whole building,” she said. “I was responsible for recess, lunch duty. I did have a phone, my only connection to the rest of the world. I had 25-27 third and fourth grade students. I was forever solving fights – mostly among the girls. The boys usually resolved their own issues.”

Peggy Stires of Livermore speaks about teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in Vermont Sunday afternoon, Nov. 13, at the Chesterville Center Union Meeting House. Several people from the area who attended similar schools shared their memories during a one-room schoolhouse reunion. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

There were only a few families attending a school, you had to learn to get along or become alienated and be alone, Soule said. The older girls – who were expected to get married – helped with the younger kids as part of their training to go into motherhood, while the older boys had to fill a crock with water at a neighbor’s, he noted. At first a common dipper was used by everyone, but when it was decided that wasn’t sanitary, paper cups shaped like ice cream cones were used, he added.

The reunion was held at Chesterville Center Union Meeting House in collaboration with the Chesterville Heritage Society. Several attendees spent time beforehand looking over framed pictures, scrapbooks and other materials kept from some of the numerous schools once operating in Chesterville.

Rural Maine schoolhouses were typically of the one-room variety until the 1957 Sinclair Act created school administrative districts statewide. While Chesterville in 1841 had 15 school districts, in the mid-1960s the town’s last small schools were closed. Since then, Chesterville’s students have been bussed to Farmington or New Sharon – both part of the former SAD 9, now Regional School District 9.

“My mother was one of those advocating to join SAD 9,” Soule said.

The Town of Weld was able to keep its two-room schoolhouse – for children in Kindergarten through grade five – open until 2008. Declining enrollment and rising expenses led to those students attending schools in Wilton, also part of RSU 9.

The schools were the gathering place for the community, Soule said. “If you wanted to talk about the conditions of the roads, you met in the school. We have lost some of that sense of community, we don’t have the focal point the school used to be.

“School was harder in some ways,” he said. “It was a slower, friendlier type of life than what we have now. I am glad I went through it, wished my kids and grandkids had that experience.”


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