The First School District in Granby Center Part 5 – The 1859 First District School

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The First District School was located on the northwest corner of the Rt. 20 and Rt. 10-202 intersection (WWI Monument corner).

The residents of the First District were very proud of their brand new school, which cost $828.44 to build. They voted to insure the new school against fire, to fix up the grounds and outbuildings, to buy all new furniture and to invite Professor Camp to speak at the opening day ceremony. 

The district also appointed a committee to “devise the best method for protecting the new house against depredations committed by the scholars and children.” The committee produced the following rules: 

“That if any wilful mutilation shall be committed by any person on any part of this house by scratch or cut of the length of 2 inches or under, shall pay a fine not exceeding 25 cents nor less than 6 cents. Of a cut or Scratch of three inches or under shall pay a fine not exceeding 37 cents nor less than 12 ½ cents. Of a cut or Scratch of three inches and over, a fine of not more than $1 nor less than 25 cents. The amount of damage to be left to the discretion of the committee. That if any person shall wilfully break out any light (pane) of Glass from this house shall pay a fine of 12 ½ cents.” In other words, you paid for your vandalism by the inch. 

The Salmon Brook School Library, one of the earliest in the state, was also set up in the new school. Dr. Jairus Case drafted a strict code of regulations for the library, which included preferential treatment to the best scholars, and various fines and penalties for abusing the books or breaking the rules. 

A new bell was to be purchased in 1860 “not less than 150 pounds in weight” to be paid for by subscription. Evidently the money was not raised, because in 1861 the district voted to exchange the old bell for a new one “without cost to the district.” The record book does not explain how this was to be accomplished or if it was actually done. 

Also in 1861, a five-foot fence was built around the outhouse, “after it is moved” with another fence separating the path to the boy’s and girl’s sides. 

At that same meeting, Milo A. Holcomb asked the committee to hire Miss Ellen H. Holcomb “notwithstanding she was not considered qualified by the Board of Examiners.” The vote on this bit of nepotism was “no” and Miss Clara Pratt was hired. However, at the next meeting, the vote to hire Clara was rescinded. It does not require much imagination to fill in the blanks. 

Three years after the new school was constructed, the district was still trying to collect tax money to pay for it, and the financial condition was in “deplorable uncertainty.” To add to the fiscal uncertainty, the state in 1868, decreed that schools must be free and supported by taxes and public money only—no more fees or tuition could be collected. 

Problems continued to plague the First District School. There was never enough money to pay the teachers and keep the school in good repair. By 1870, the state required 30 weeks of school. Citizens refused to serve on the District Committee and East Granby tried to annex part of the First District. This was a completely logical request since the area in question was actually located in the town of East Granby. However, the proposal was declared illegal and denied. 

School Visitor Willard Griffin of West Granby had his comments published in the 1870 Annual Report of the State Board of Education which had been organized five years earlier. Griffin complained of problems in filling out the reports required by the state due to “the appointment of illiterate men as district committee and the neglect of teachers to keep their Registers in good order.” He also criticized the school’s “carelessness in regard to the preservation of libraries and apparatus.” 

Between 1870 and the turn of the century, Granby experienced a moderately declining school population and fairly stable school costs. Three school terms a year were offered. 

In 1877, the district considered adding a second floor in order to have a separate room for the primary school. This was rejected in favor of enlarging the school. However, the usual difficulty in raising money was encountered, and it is not clear whether the school was actually enlarged or just partitioned. 

The primary room received a new stove in 1882. Despite the continued indebtedness, the school was repaired and painted (two coats) in 1890. The late Louise Cooley Rausch wrote a description of the school at that time. 

“The school was not the well known ‘Little Red Schoolhouse’ but was an indeterminate light color, probably decided by cost and availability of paint. It was a one-story building. There was a crude belfry on the roof containing a bell with a cracked voice used to summon the pupils. 

“The school had two rooms; the little room, which was large in area, but so called from the size of its occupants, and the big room, which was a goal to be attained when you could do fractions. Each room had a long blackboard, a coat room with hooks for coats, and a wide shelf which held a large wooden pail for water and a common drinking cup.” 

Financial troubles seemed to be resolved by 1900, when the First School District was only $2.64 in debt. A $5 tuition fee for students from East Granby was instituted in 1905. 

Another big change in administrative responsibility came in 1909, when the state returned the schools to town management. Each town was to be a single School District. In Granby, Judge Theodore G. Case introduced a resolution that the teacher in the primary room was underpaid. Evidently, the person teaching the higher grades received more money, an interesting philosophy of education. 

The development of the tobacco plantation in Floydville brought a large increase in the Center School population. By 1912, there were 70 children crammed into the school. The primary room had two to a seat and added so many extra seats that there was no room to stand and recite in front of the class. 

This situation created controversy in Granby. Some people considered the school “light, airy and splendidly located” where the children could play on the Town Green or in the cemetery. This faction felt the only problem was overcrowding, caused by the 15 children from the plantation. 

Supervisor of Schools in Granby, F. L. Tapley, agreed that the school was overcrowded, but he felt that District One School had poor light and ventilation with “seats unfit for children.” A decision was postponed with the construction of another District School at Floydville, built by the tobacco corporation. 

In 1917, the South Congregational Church burned. The people of Granby Center took this opportunity to build a real Community Center when the Church was rebuilt. The Granby Public Library (now the VNA building) and the Community House (now the Church Hall) were constructed at the same time. The Church Association offered a lot to the town to build a new Center School behind the library. The timing was right, since a state report had recently criticized the “run down condition” of the old school. 

Next month: Conclusion, The 1919 Granby Center School