Looking back: Lysander goes to school

I promised you awhile back a series of stories about our early schools. So, I drove out past Plainville to see what I could dig up about the old Spragueville rural school.

Spragueville once boasted a blacksmith and several houses clustered together with the school on the corner of Sprague and Tater roads. There aren't so many houses now and they aren't so close together any more. But, most folks out here are still related somehow. Ralph and Maynard Bratt are kin of the Bitz family, founders of the former Plainville Turkey Farm. They're also related to the Gates of Gates Road. The spelling of Tater Road is still in question. Ralph claims that "My deed says 'Tator.' It was 'Tator' until they made the road signs and changed the spelling to 'Tater' Road."

I was introduced to Ralph, age 91, and Maynard Bratt, age 80, along with Maynard's wife, Olive Abbott Bratt, by their friends and neighbors, the Heyns. Dick and Harriet Heyn bought the former Spragueville Schoolhouse in old rural District no. 4, sometimes known as Cross Lake School. From this spot, it's only one mile to the Cayuga County line, which runs right down the middle of Cross Lake. I'd never met the Heyns before they answered my letter in November. They graciously agreed to find some folks who went to school in their house. Three weeks later we were all sitting around the Heyn's table drinking coffee and eating Christmas cookies. A fire burning in the stove gave the room a warm glow as Ralph Bratt rattled off the history of the district.

Ralph said that in the old days, the use of the land was given to the school district when it was formed, but the landowner retained ownership of the property. The Heyns still have the original deed to the place. On Jan. 28, 1861, David Osborn and his wife transferred a small parcel in Spragueville to the one trustee of School District no. 4. It states that, "this conveyance is made out with the understanding that if at any time hereafter the lands hereby conveyed shall be abandoned by said district and not used for a School House site, then and in that case the same shall revert back to the said David Osborn, his heirs or assigns, by his or their paying to the said District the amount of purchase money mentioned in this conveyance." This amount was $15.50.

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