By Beth David, Editor
The Old Stone Schoolhouse, with its single room, woodstove heating, and lack of plumbing, stopped being a school in 1896, but its mission of educating people continues.
Every Saturday afternoon, in the warmer months, Fairhaven Tourism Director Christopher Richard explains to anyone who enters what it was like to be a student or a teacher in the first school built by the town under the district school system in 1828. The school served the neighborhood of Oxford Village and stayed open as a public school until 1896 when the Oxford School was built.
Mr. Richard has also started holding “Lectures on the Lawn” on the first and third Saturdays of June, July and August. The next one is this weekend, 6/17, and will tell the tale of Captain William Whitfield and Manjiro Nakahama, the first Japanese person to live in America. Manjiro attended the Old Stone Schoolhouse in 1843.
On Saturday, 6/10, a small but steady stream of visitors flowed into the building to learn about slate boards, chalk boards, and how people managed without any running water when the building was run as a school. All ages were in the one room, Mr. Richard explained, and the teacher had to be flexible to teach at different levels.
At the teacher’s desk, Mr. Richard sat just under the name “Miss Allen (Jane),” on the blackboard behind him. Miss Allen taught Manjiro in 1843; just a sample of kind of detail that Mr. Richard revels in.
Zoey Ventura wandered in with her great uncle Charles Alphonse and learned about writing lessons and how the students would all drink from the same water bucket.
“My school is bigger,” noted Ms. Ventura, who attends East Fairhaven School, as her first observation.
“I would want to be here,” she said, explaining that it would be “more fun” than her regular school.
Mr. Richard also explained that there was no recess, but children went home for lunch. When they returned, they would often play in the school yard until the teacher called them back in.
“But once school started, it was all work,” said Mr. Richard.
He also demonstrated several games of the time period, and noted that the same paddles used for playing games were used for whacking backsides of naughty children.*
“They did not have special paddles for each thing,” said Mr. Richard. “The children would pick up whatever was available.”
For more information on the Old Stone Schoolhouse, visit http:// fairhaventours.com/old-stone-school-house/
Lectures on the Lawn
The Old Stone Schoolhouse is located at 40 North Street, Fairhaven. The lectures will begin at 2:00 p.m. on the selected dates, but the schoolhouse itself is open from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. on all Saturdays during June, July and August (except August 12, 2017). Admission is free. Each lecture is about 40 minutes long.
Bring a lawn chair or blanket and settle under the tree next to the one-room schoolhouse for a talk by Tourism Director Chris Richard. The subject matter of each presentation will have a connection to the schoolhouse and/or its surrounding neighborhood. The talks are intended for adults, but are suitable for older children and teens as well.
In the event of rain, there is very limited adult-sized seating inside. Please note: the Old Stone Schoolhouse has no running water or restroom facilities. For more information, call 508-979-4085 or email FairhavenTours@fairhaven-ma.gov.
To learn more about the Lectures on the Lawn series, visit http://fairhaventours.com/lectures-on-thne-schoolhouse/
All lectures start at 2 p.m.
• Manjiro & Whitfield, Sat., 6/17: The lecture will focus on the story of the first Japanese person to live in America, Manjiro Nakahama, who was brought to Fairhaven in 1843 by Capt. William Whitfield. Manjiro first attended school at the Old Stone Schoolhouse.
• Oxford Chapel & Church of the Good Shepherd: Sat., 7/1: The lecture will include the history of the Oxford Chapel, which once stood across the street from the schoolhouse, and the Church of the Good Shepherd, which met at the schoolhouse for about 15 years before its own church was built, as well as other religious groups that used these buildings.
• The Taber Family, Sat., 7/15: The lecture will focus on several generations of the Taber family, which first owned the land making up Oxford Village starting with Thomas Taber, son-in-law of the Pilgrim John Cooke in the 1660s. Also included will be George H. Taber, for whom the masonic lodge was named.
• Schools of North Fairhaven, Sat., 8/5: The lecture will relate the stories of Oxford, Sacred Hearts, and Anthony schools, which followed after the closing of the Old Stone Schoolhouse in 1896.
• Rogers School, Sat., 8/19: The lecture will focus on the history of Rogers School, built in 1885 by Henry H. Rogers, which began the shift away from the small one-room districts schools in Fairhaven.
Click here to download the entire 6/15/17 issue: 06-15-17 OldStoneSchoolhouse
*Fixes typos from previous versions.