Way Back When... 1868
Published 9:23 am, Friday, December 9, 2016
Opening its doors in 1868, this Carter Street treasure was Connecticut’s last operating one-room schoolhouse when it closed in 1957. Acquired by the New Canaan Historical Society in 2003, it was restored thanks to the generous support of society members, nonprofit groups, former students and friends.
Longtime schoolmistress Mary J. Kelley, who studied there in the 1890s and went on to earn a teaching certificate, was a “loving but strict” presence there for 47 years. The Kelley family home is just a stone’s throw from her classroom.
Like the Rock School, the small room centered around the pot-bellied stove, with rows of slanted desks screwed to the wood-plank floor. Some 30 children from first through fifth grades received instruction under the watchful eyes of Miss Kelley. Former students recall she encouraged independent study, offered remedial lessons and provided individual instruction.
Each day began with the flag-raising and Bible readings. In fact, Miss Kelley’s core values centered on prayer, patriotism and discipline. But fun was built into the day as well: Old-fashioned games, nature walks, and marching around the room with a book on your head to practice posture.
Numerous former students share their reminiscences on site as docents, by appointment.