Wolcott (Google Maps location)
According to my accounting, Wolcott’s Old Stone Schoolhouse Museum is the 468th Connecticut museum I’ve visited. Give or take. As you can well imagine, I’ve been to several old museums, several stone museums, and several schoolhouse museums at this point. Heck, I’d already been to a old schoolhouse museum in Wolcott previously.
I’m not complaining. This is what I signed up for. This is the bed I made and all that euphemistic stuff. And as I always like to say, I do my best to find the unique and interesting things about each different place I visit. That little nugget that appears somewhere in the next dozen or so paragraphs that makes this page worth reading for the few of you that keep up with me on my museum quest.
Perhaps the most interesting thing here is that this is the oldest existing stone schoolhouse in Connecticut. For real. Right here in Wolcott. And it was in use for a long, long time… from 1825 up through 1930. I may have heard wrong, but I think the last person who attended it just recently passed away in 2020 or so.
Today, the building houses the collection of the Wolcott Historical Society; a collection that encompasses over 200 years of Wolcott and American history. It used to be the only museum of the Society, but that is no longer the case as they’ve commandeered the Center School for a second museum of Wolcott history.
The school was originally a wooden structure which was destroyed by fire and then replaced in 1825 with the present stone structure. The stone was quarried from the Wakelee Quarry located off of Woodtick Road near the Waterbury line. In 1898, the length of the building was extended for more room. (It was called the Southwest District school back in the day and after Waterbury’s Mattatuck Museum owned it for awhile, it was purchased in 1963 by the Wolcott Historical Society to be used as a museum of the town’s history.
The small room off the classroom is filled with… old stuff. Farming implements, household items, and antique dolls. All the typical things I’ve seen a million times at this point. This is necessary for the present-day Wolcott kids to come and see how things were for their great-great grandparents.
Then there’s the main room, set up like a classroom of 100 years ago. Old maps – you know I love the old maps – and old flags and old books and old desks. And really, that’s pretty much all you’re going to get here.
Unless you talk with the women who were gathered kibitzing with each other about Wolcott days of yore. These were proud and talkative long time Wolcotters and the talk of the day was on the pandemic.
The Flu Pandemic Of 1918 that is. It was fascinating. None of them were old enough to have memories of it of course, but they had stories from older siblings, parents, and friends who have (very likely) since passed away. Stories that matched up with what we just went through in 2020-2021 with COVID-19. The masks, social distancing, illness, death and heartache.
On my drive to the museum, I’d passed several “UNMASK THE CHILDREN” signs in Wolcott… Donald Trump’s top town in Connecticut by the way. He got 65.5% of the vote here. I mention this because, well, because it’s fascinating to me for one, but also because these women talked about the stories of babies dying from the flu pandemic a century ago.
They were sympathetic and empathetic regarding today’s kids and how they’d just had a year of their lives so adversely affected. How with all of today’s scientific advances, a virus can still kill millions and turn the world upside-down. I simply listened to them talking as I pretended to care about Wolcott’s educational history and one-room schoolhouses.
It was interesting because these Wolcott women were not sugarcoating the past. Things weren’t “better” a hundred years ago. There was an awareness that perhaps America wasn’t so great for a number of reasons then. (There are many reasons it was great then, of course, and still is, but not in the way many people like to pretend today.)
For instance, I’m glad teachers no longer beat children. I learned what “feruling” means. A ferule is a rod, cane, or flat piece of wood for punishing children by beating them with it. I’ve seen the punishment rules at other schoolhouses, but this one went all in with a picture and everything.
No, despite what your grandfather or minister thought or thinks, teachers beating children was not a great part of the formerly great America. Dying horrible deaths by viruses for which we have vaccines and measures to treat was not great. And while I’m at it, one-room schoolhouses probably weren’t all that great either. Teachers’ salaries weren’t too great.
Also not too great? The Brief History of Wolcott Coloring Book that the lovely women forced into my hands upon hearing I had children. Never mind that they’ve aged out of this activity years ago. I had to take one with me.
So I did.
That’s some good stuff. (Okay, yeah, I chose that page for comedic effect, as there are plenty of decently drawn things in the book. I want to thank the fine folks of Wolcott for giving me a coloring book.)
I’m sorry. I’m not even talking about the museum. This little place used to house all of the Wolcott Historical Society’s collection, but with the acquisition of the other school ten minutes away, they’ve been able to parcel out a lot of their stuff over there. I believe the idea is that this one will be the education/school history museum (which it is today) and the Center Street Museum will be more of the town’s history.
It’s a process – a process slowed by the pandemic – but they’ll get there. All these little towns with little volunteer historical societies move slowly. But they move forward, just as history does… despite the troglodytes that wish to keep us in the past.
No matter how not-so-great some of it was.