Charlestown Historical Society
Charlestown Historical Society

1838 District No. 2 Schoolhouse History

The following history is from Reflections of Charlestown 1876 - 1976, The Charlestown Bicentennial Book Committee, 1976


Built in 1838, the District Number 2 Schoolhouse was used continuously for the children of the Quonochontaug area until 1918.


The schoolhouse is a one room building with two separate entrances - the boys' door on the left side and the girls' door on the opposite side of the front section. Adjoining each entrance there are small coat rooms and a second set of doors which open into the main schoolroom.


Formerly, the schoolhouse was located about one hundred feet north of the Old Post Road in Quonochontaug, just north of the general store.


In 1918, following the relocation of pupils to the Pawcatuck Valley School in Carolina, now the Charlestown Elementary School, the schoolhouse was abandoned and subsequently acquired by the Swanson family of Shelter Harbor. For several years a family lived in the building in spite of its lack of running water. The Schoolhouse had been equipped with a single sink placed in the girls' coat room.


At a later time, the 4-H Club enjoyed the use of the building as it clubhouse. However, in enusing years, the building was badly vandalized.


In 1973, Mrs. Ernestine Swanson graciously donated the schoolhouse to the Charlestown Historical Society with the provision that it be moved from her property. After a search of several months, the Historical Society determined that the most suitable site for the location of the building was the historical Cross Mills area. The Cross Mills Public Library offered to lease a corner of their land as the new location of the District Number 2 Schoolhouse.


Although the schoolhouse was approximately one hundred and forty years old, the Reverend Harold Mars, a local contractor and pastor of the Narragansett Indian Church, determined that it was essentially in good condition. The only work done before the move was the installation of new sills across the front and back.


To ready the new location, surveying was done by Alan Easterbrooks and site preparation by George W. Green, Jr.  Batter boards were installed by Charles W. Link, Jr., the granite stones were moved by Irving Crandall, and these same stones were installed by Russell Spears in their exact positions.


On June 13, 1973, the schoolhouse made its five-mile journey to the new site on a flatbed trailer towed by Irving Crandall's truck. The parade was led by several utility trucks - sent ahead to raise the utility wires - and two antique cars belonging to the Thurston Browns. Riding in these cars were some of the school's former pupils: Clifford Pendleton, Helen P. Bliven (his sister), Evelyn Hoxie, Mrs. John Dawley and Charles Eldridge.


Following the move to its permanent location, the schoolhouse restoration was undertaken by members of the Historical Society under the direction of Thomas Arnold as Chairman and Mrs. Paul W. Fletcher as consultant. The restoration of the entire building was accomplished in little more than a year.


After scraping the outside, it was discovered that the original paint had been white, so the clapboards were similarly repainted. The shutters were repaired and painted bottle green, a near duplicate of the original color. The roof had once been shingled with asphalt shingles and these were replaced with ones made of cedar. Since the hardware on one door and several windows was very old, it was matched with similar, new material on the other doors and windows.


While scraping the inside walls and floors, the original location of the desks and benches was revealed, as was the color of the original dado.  The floors, walls, ceiling and windows were restored to their 1918 appearance.


By making wall borings, it was discovered that the original wall had been covered with three layers of paper.  It was estimated that about 1870 a second wall was installed on all four sides.  A cut-out on the east wall shows this construction.


Many friends of the Historical Society donated old desks a table, chair, dunce stool, lamps, bell, stove, an 1885 map and many old books. An old schoolhouse clock completed the picture.


One of the most difficult items to find was a privy which was similar to the original. This was finally obtained from Omer Duhame, moved to its present location and set up by Russell Spears on granite blocks supplied by Helen Church.


When the finishing touches were completed, the 1838 flag, donated by Mrs. Paul W. Fletcher, was raised on June 29, 1974 in an imposing ceremony attended by town officials, former students, and a large audience of townspeople and visitors. The schoolhouse was then opened to the public for inspection. Visiting hours are posted at the entrance and members of the Historical Society act as docents.  The schoolhouse is a fitting architectural and historical complement to the Cross Mills Public Library and the Cross Mills Baptist Church.




1838 Schoolhouse & Archive


Closed for Winter Season


Open by Appointment





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