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Looking Backward: Lysander Union School, District No. 17

This week's story is about the Lysander Union School, District No. 17, 11th in a series regarding our early schools. Among all 18 rural schools in the town of Lysander, this one is unique for two reasons. First, like the Belgium School in the town of Clay, it was the only building in the town consisting of two stories. Second, it was the last rural school in the town to close. But, like so many other rural schools, the teachers are the ones who made it special.

The last two teachers to grace its halls were Mildred Ward Beebe, who will celebrate her 100th birthday this month, and Bernice Reeves Foster, my grandmother. An article in the Messenger dated June 1966 stated that, "Located in the hamlet of Lysander, about eight miles northwest of Baldwinsville, the school was built by the former Lysander Union Free School District. According to Mrs. Bernice Foster, teacher there, a friend of hers recollects that the school was built about 1890." But, the hamlet's roots run much deeper. It will turn 200 years old next year.

According to Professor W.W. Clayton's "History of Onondaga County," the hamlet was "first settled about the year 1810, and went by the name of Vickery's Settlement, a family or two by that name having located here. About the year 1817, Chauncey Betts, and his brother-in-law, Mr. Skinner, located here . . . At this time it began to be called Betts Corners, and went by that name until a post-office was established; they then gave it the name of Lysander, which name it retains to the present day."

As of 1860, Betts Corners contained 35 houses and three churches. By 1878, when the good professor wrote his book, Lysander had doubled in size. It now included "about seventy dwelling houses, two churches, Methodist and Congregational, two stores, general merchandise a hardware store and tin shop combined a blacksmith shop, two wagon shops, a hotel a shoe shop, harness shop, two millinery shops, two physicians a foundry and a churn factory." Probably due to this rapid increase in population, the Lysander Union School was built in 1890. The hamlet continued to grow. So, in 1913 a partition was built on the ground floor of the school building to separate the intermediate grades from the primary grades.

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