Aug 12, 2010 Steve McMahon Uncategorized
Marilyn Koonmen Ridall
Lysander Union Free School, as the new building appeared circa 1882. William H. ‘Willie’ Brown is the young boy in the upstairs center window with his leg hanging out. He was the great grandfather of Marilyn Koonmen Ridall of Lysander.
When the Lysander Union Free Schoolhouse, District No. 17, closed back in 1966, it was the last rural school in the Town of Lysander still in operation. The firehouse of the Lysander Volunteer Fire Department now sits in the same spot where the school once was.
The memory of the schoolhouse was honored on Sunday, July 18, by the very same folks who were asked to destroy the two-story brick building during a practice burn-down back in 1973. At its annual community picnic, the fire department dedicated one of the schoolhouse cornerstones, which was discovered during an excavation project this past spring.
Nearly 300 people enjoyed a free barbecue and picnic under the pavilion named for one of the fire company’s strongest supporters, Warren Darby, Undersheriff for the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department. At 2 p.m., he was joined by Fire Commissioner Jack Kline and Local Historian John Horner in the cornerstone dedication ceremony. Darby remarked that the day was reserved for remembering the schoolhouse, its students and its teachers.
Kline, who led the team that planned and executed the event, thanked the cornerstone dedication committee for their efforts, including resident Russ Wilson. It was Wilson who first raised the idea with Kline after the stone was discovered last spring.
Among the 40 alumni present was John Horner.
“The most important part of our life was the Lysander Union School,” Horner said. “This is where we learned to read, write, cipher, history and many other subjects.”
School District No. 17 of the Town of Lysander was established circa 1825 in Betts’ Corners, as Lysander was once known. An old schoolhouse sat on the north side of West Street where the old grange hall sits today. In 1860, Betts’ Corners contained 35 houses and 3 churches, but by 1878, the hamlet of Lysander had doubled in size.
According to Professor Clayton’s “History of Onondaga County,” 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.”
Due to this increase in population, a new school was planned for the hamlet. On March 10, 1881, the Baldwinsville Gazette and Farmers’ Journal reported, “Several teams were busy at work Saturday, hauling lumber for the new school house.”
Three months later, the paper reported, “The stone work on the new school house is nearly completed, and the masons will soon be ready for the brick.”
On October 19, 1882, the Gazette reported, “Puffs are common and are often bestowed on the unworthy, and they should be accepted only as the author is known, but facts speak for themselves. Prior to 1881, the schools of Lysander (hamlet) consisted of a district and a select school. During the summer of 1881 a new brick school house was erected at a cost of nearly $4,000. November 7, 1881, the history of our school commences .”
The Gazette continued: “During the past year there has been in attendance, besides the pupils residing in the district, 56 non-residents coming from three different counties and six different towns. There have also been in attendance nine who have, sometime during the year, taught school, and all of whom were successful teachers. At present there are 82 scholars in the school; of this number 30 are from out of the district. All branches ordinarily taught in the average academy are taught in our school .Where is there another school, one year old, that can show a better record?”
Horner fondly recalled the Lysander of so many years ago.
“The hamlet of Lysander was a wonderful place to grow up .Lysander as a kid was the center of my universe,” he said. “We had two stores, Belden & Rogers and Grandma Bakers, which would become Jakway’s. We had an undertaker, Joe Glanville; an accountant, Cecil Group; a lawyer, William George; and a doctor, Dr. Muller .We had our own telephone company, our own bar and hotel, two churches, grange hall, post office, and after the war, a Fire Department .We were a self-sufficient community and only went to Fulton or Baldwinsville to do our banking, buy clothing and shoes or go to the drug store . When I first went to school in September of 1941, the adventure in knowledge started and has never ended.”
When the school closed in 1966, it ended an era of rural schoolhouses in the area. The last two teachers to grace its halls were Bernice Reeves Foster and Mildred Ward Beebe, who celebrated her 101st birthday earlier this year.
A Baldwinsville Messenger article from June 1966 lamented that “The Lysander School, the last of the Baldwinsville central district’s ‘rural’ schoolhouses, no longer echoes the voices of school children. It has been abandoned for instructional purposes with the end of the current term.”
The building was destroyed during a practice burn-down in October 1973 by the Lysander Volunteer Fire Department, assisted by fire companies from Plainville, Cody, Granby, Phoenix and Baldwinsville.
John Horner asked the crowd, “Where did the Lysander kids end up? They became airline pilots, secretaries, risk managers, accountants, mechanics, ministers, college professors, post masters, bankers, insurance specialists, factory workers, teachers and many other .It all started here in Lysander Union Free School, with dedicated teachers and a bunch of sometimes unruly children that had loving families, who would discipline you if you were disciplined at school. The teachers knew that they could depend on the parents.”
People who grew up in the hamlet of Lysander will tell you that these teachers, parents and students are the ones who made the community so unique and special. Though the school is gone, the people remain.
Looking Backward will appear in the Messenger every other week or so, as long as there are stories to tell. If you have questions about this story or suggestions for future ones, including any local historical images or information, please contact Steve McMahon at BvilleHistory@earthlink.net.
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