This week's story is about the very old school districts in Lysander, the 17th and final in a series regarding the rural schools of the town of Lysander. These three school districts were known as John Halsted (No. 6), Hog Back (No. 12), and Baird's Corners (No. 18). All were located in northwestern Lysander, where Onondaga County borders the town of Ira in Cayuga County on the west, and the town of Granby in Oswego County on the north. All three are private residences now, preserved for posterity as a testament to a time when schools were smaller and closer to home. Because they closed between 70 and 110 years ago, I know of no former students to interview.
The school with the most unusual story is John Halsted's Brick Schoolhouse, District No. 6. Halsted lived a humble hermit's life alone in a log cabin next to the old Presbyterian Burying Ground, opposite where Church Road dead-ends into the Plainville-Lysander Road. When he died unmarried and childless on June 25, 1880, Halsted willed his entire estate, including the 1866 brick house that replaced his log cabin, to the town of Lysander to fund free public schools here in perpetuity. Through extraordinary economy and thrift, Halsted left an estate worth $90,000 in 1880, which equates to a purchasing power of $2 million today. If this sum had been invested conservatively to yield just 5 percent annually, it would be worth over $50 million today. This represents more than half of the annual $93 million budget for the Baldwinsville Central School District. So, just who was this man and where did his money go?
According to the 1896 book, "Onondaga's Centennial," by Dwight Bruce, "a family named Starr, who settled near the site of Lysander village about the year 1804 .were possessed of peculiar characteristics, were guarded in their communications with neighbors, secretive in their affairs, and lived entirely to themselves. The head of this family was grandfather of John Halsted .(He) died at the age of eighty, when Halsted purchased a farm on lot 53, built a log house, and there lived a lonely self-centered bachelor's life, his whole energies given to making and saving money. As far as success is determined by the gaining of wealth, Mr. Halsted was successful "