AYER — “Does your family or someone you know have a connection to the schoolhouse? We are tracing people who were students, teachers or parents in order to create a history between then and now. We will be opening the building so you can tour it and we would like to have a record of the people still in the area so we can get as much actual history as possible. We would also like to know of any memorabilia that exists,” announced the Sandy Pond School Association.
On Sunday, Sept. 26, from 1 -3 p.m., the Sandy Pond School House, on 150 Sandy Pond Road (corner of Sandy Pond Road and Westford Road) will host an open house to the public. Donations will be welcomed and refreshments will be served.
“It’s an opportunity for the public to share in a piece of history. We are working diligently to put it on the National Register to protect it forever,” said Jim Clish, president of the Sandy Pond Association.
“Our ultimate goal is to have enough funds to keep this ‘living history’ we can share with future generations. We are very committed to the time period and pieces and being true to the years. It would be wonderful for students of today to be able to see it,” said Kim Prehl, a member of the association.
Sandy Pond is the oldest school in Ayer. The school was originally called School District No. 11 and was started in 1792. The first building was made of wood and was not located where the school is today.
In 1810, a wooden one-room school house was built at 150 Sandy Pond Road. In 1840, there was a fire and the building burned down. The present building made of brick was built in 1869.
In 1807 there were 34 girls and 16 boys in the school. Before its closing in 1906 there was only 18 students. Grades 1 through 6 were taught in the one classroom by one teacher. There were 34 teachers that taught at Sandy Pond School from 1861-1906.
Randy Boutelle, a member of the Sandy Pond Association, loves the history of his family and the building.
“My great, great grandmother Mary Pierce Boutelle taught in the school when she was 16 years old and another relative, Oliver Kendall Pierce, taught for a year as well,” he said.
There is a picture of Mary Pierce Boutelle hanging on the wall in the school house along with many others and the dates they were teachers.
On a typical day at the one-room schoolhouse, the student who made the most improvement would ring the school bell to start the day. The bell is still there today. In the winter, wood would be brought in by the bigger boys to make sure the stove in back would heat the building. The students would start with the Pledge of Allegiance as has been done for 200 years. Roll call was done and each grade was taught to their level by one teacher.
There are copies of report cards on exhibit in the schoolhouse. The students wrote their schoolwork with chalk on slates that are displayed on the original school desks because paper was too hard to come by at that time. Music was also taught and there is a piano that students may have used in the schoolhouse.
There were no water coolers back in the 1800s. Water was taken from a well that was dug in the ground and pumped into a pail on display in the kitchen area of the school house. An outdoor bathroom was used. There was also no electricity at that time so the only light used was natural light that came through the windows or by an oil lamp on the piano.
The school house is remarkably well-preserved and the Sandy Pond Association is looking for people who are interested in maintaining the building and keeping it true to its years. You feel as though you’re stepping back into the 18th century.
The association is also looking to connect people with the school house and their past. The group is eager and excited to show the public a piece of history at the open house and for years to come.