Looking Backward: Remembering the last rural schoolhouse in Lysander

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.

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