by Jessyca Cardinell
The Osborneville Country School, that was in existence from 1876 to 1942 and today is lovingly known as “the little red schoolhouse” on Rock Island Road, came to life as the Gouverneur museum hosted an open house on Sunday, July 10.
A warm welcome was extended as interested people from all age groups who wanted to experience what it might have been like to attend school back in the early days in this one room schoolhouse.
There are antique desks that were used in that era as well as chalkboards, books and even a wood stove that had been used to keep the school warm during the chilly months of the school year.
Punch and cookies were laid out as parents and children recreated a lesson plan like what may have been learned so many years ago in the little schoolhouse.
As children took turns giving each other lessons, they found another friend who had been taking notes...a mouse!
Museum curator Joe Laurenza opened the desk where a little boy had been seated, out jumped the furry friend from his nest inside the desk to the floor! There was much excitement to be had as the little creature scurried about and into a new hiding spot!
Mrs. Zelema Venton Hall, daughter of Carl and Jenny Cunningham Venton, became a student at the schoolhouse in 1932 and was able to recall memories of the school, as she brought along her daughter, granddaughter and great grandchildren.
She recalled there being 18 children in the small one room school while she was attending. She had Sadie Ames of Depeyster for her first grade teacher and Florence Greenhill as her secondgrade teacher.
In those days she discussed with others present Sunday how you were not made to attend school until you were seven years old. She herself started at six years old.
You could attend sooner if your parents desired but it was not mandatory. When comparing school then to now she stated, “Children’s lives now are too restricted and they aren’t allowed to use their imaginations anymore.”
She was able to recall walking to school. “In the great depression, there were lots of hobos out on the roads, so my mother would watch me walk to Barbara Hosmer Scott’s house and then I walked to school the rest of the way from her house,” said Mrs. Hall.
Students in this time period would bring their lunches, Mrs. Hall specifically remembers peanut butter sandwiches as a part of her lunch that she carried in a pail that honey first came in.
She spoke of the troublesome times as well. This included when she was knocked unconscious twice in a short period of time. “It’s a good thing I didn’t go there any longer than I did” she joked. The first time was my fault”, Mrs. Hall said. “A girl named Kelly was swinging a baseball bat, when I ran out in front of her.”
“The second time, we would always get in trouble if we didn’t come in when the teacher rang the bell. We had been playing on the slide and the older kids taught us how to go backwards.”
Ginny Hosmer Chilton was supposed to catch me, but the bell rang and so she ran for the schoolhouse instead and away I went.
She also spoke of her own experience wearing the dunce cap. “I was in the second grade and I couldn’t read. We were reading the book Lambicans, when it came to be my turn. I kept telling the teacher I can’t say lambicans so she made me wear the dunce cap in the corner.”
Lucy Strate (formerly Denesha), who once lived on a farm on the corner of Stevens and Peabody Roads in North Gouverneur, made her way into the schoolhouse. Although she herself didn’t attend this particular school, it was on her bucket list of things to check out and see. She was elated that she finally made it to take a look around.
She attended the Cole Schoolhouse in Richville from first grade until fifth grade when the school combined into a district and then she had to go to West Side and then onto high school.
That schoolhouse had three separate rooms, one for grades one through three, another room for fourth and fifth grades and the upstairs for sixth grade students.
She recalls one of her teachers Mrs. Loop who taught at the school. Mrs. Strate said, “I loved learning, loved to read and to learn math. And even history. They used the old maps that the teachers pulled down.”
Mrs. Strate was a bus monitor for years and also owned the Brasie Corner Store for nine years.
Elizabeth McEathron Glachman came to the schoolhouse for a short tour as she said she doesn’t remember much of the schoolhouse but knows she did attend there for one year in the early 1940’s. She told of how she had to walk across a creek during the winter months and it being so frigid cold out. Her fondest memories were at a schoolhouse on Island Branch Road where she had a nice teacher named Miss Davis who she remembers as having long red fingernails.
Curator Joe Laurenza of the Gouverneur Museum, and our own Gouverneur Tribune Press reporter Sandy Wyman had their own recollections of what it was like learning in a schoolhouse, much like the one opened up to the public.
Mrs. Wyman who attended Brasie Corner School in 1954 as a second grade student with teacher Doris Sigourney, said she just loved the small school setting and although she was not there very long as her family moved to Waddington where her dad became employed on the Seaway.
There were two rooms, housing first through 8th grades until the school system centralized in 1954.
Mrs. Wyman said there were lots of children, as the town had a wonderful country store and farms. In good weather, she walked to school with many others from the now Route 58 locations and she brought lunches to school.
As for the early spring season, Sandy said, “there was nothing better than wax on snow!”
It was a time like no other as she said, “everyone was happy to go to school and really enjoyed it. I remember being happy. Life was so much simpler, maybe not as far as technology or medically but, all in all, simple.
Other people in attendance that day said they had the same experience in that living such simple lives encouraged happiness.
One childhood memory that really sticks out for Sandy is Halloween. “Halloween was the best! Ruth Hutton made the best-raised donuts you ever ate, ever! We made our own costumes. One year my dad gave me his old green wool coat and dressed me up as old hobos. I had a stick with a bandana and a felt hat.”
Mrs. Wyman gives her dad credit fora big interest of her life. “My love of history came from my dad, love of what was, not what is.”
Also a wonderful memory for Mrs. Wyman was the station cans of milk that were loaded from the neighborhood farms and were drawn to the then Ogdensburg Creamery.
Friday’s at school brought drawing contests and spelling tests that quizzed the children on 20 words.
Sandy’s husband, Don, also attended a two-room county school in New Salem, Massachusetts. He stated that first through third grades were on one side and across the hall were fourth through sixth.
Don stated that he started school at five in the first grade, as there was no kindergarten there at that time.
Joe Laurenza spoke of his school days in a schoolhouse in Andover, Massachusetts. “She was a beautiful redhead,” Mr. Laurenza said of his third and fourth grade teacher Miss Sanders.
He also remembered the first through second grade teacher Miss Tory. This schoolhouse was also a bigger one as it had four rooms split up into first and second grades, third grade with fourth, fifth with sixth grade and 7th and 8th grades together.
It truly was a wonderful educational day for all those who came out to receive this historical experience. Terrific job Sandy Wyman and Joe Laurenza for taking time out of your schedules to give people a splendid afternoon.
The Gouverneur Museum extends appreciation to Tammy Finley for her dedication of keeping the pristine little red schoolhouse grounds to perfection.
The Osborneville Country School was established in the 1800s. The first schoolhouse was a log structure.
The current schoolhouse was built in 1876. Classes for those in grades one through eighth were held there until the school closed in 1942. A 1942 calendar still hangs in the schoolhouse to this day.
Wallace Hurlburt, son of Erwin Burr Hurlburt, attended the school. Clinton Thompson started in 1928, and had Mrs. E. Bigelow as teacher. The school year started with only two students, but by the end of the year there were 13 pupils.
In 1976, the Gouverneur Morris Yorker and the Marble City Yorker Clubs purchased the Osborneville Country Schoolhouse to be used as an extension of the Gouverneur Museum.
The restoration of the Osborneville Country School was the bicentennial project of the two clubs. This undertaking involved both students and faculty advisors from the Gouverneur Central Schools.
It was completed in 2004 and a plaque was put up in schoolhouse to commemorate this achievement. The Gouverneur Historical Association oversees the maintenance of the school and many other benefactors contribute to its ongoing preservation.
The schoolhouse is located in District #16, known variously as the Tyler or Osborneville district. It was organized in 1844 from part of DeKalb District #11 and a former joint district with Depeyster. The district originally included all of Rock Island Road and Maple Ridge Road from the intersection with Gore Road.
The district was later reduced in area to only include Rock Island Road and the lands northwest of it on Chandlerville Road.
The Osborneville Country School also opened on Friday, June 5 to the fourth grade class from St. James School who held class at the schoolhouse for the afternoon.
For more information on the Osborneville Country School or the Gouverneur Museum, people may call 287-0570. The Gouverneur Museum is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1p.m. to 3p.m. Admission is always free. Those interested can also visit them online at gouverneurmuseum.com.
by Jessyca Cardinell