It would seem that every small town in New England still maintains at least one of their original iconic one-room schoolhouses as a testimony to our forefathers’ dedication to properly educating their children. Many towns once had multiple schools that dotted the landscape that were within walking distance of almost every student who attended. In the mid-nineteenth century many folks were born, educated, employed and eventually buried in the same town. Their education was usually limited to several years attending the same small schoolhouse, with the same neighborhood children, and often taught by the same teacher throughout their formative years.
Easton had a grand total of thirteen separate school districts in the mid-nineteenth century. Eight of those districts had schoolhouses located within the confines of Easton, while the other five were part of combined districts with Weston, Fairfield, Trumbull and Redding. Amazingly, five of the eight Easton structures still survive: Adams, Everett (also known as the Yellow School), Rock House, Sport Hill, Center, and Wilson. With the exception of the Adams School that is presently owned and maintained by the Historical Society of Easton, the remainder have been converted into residences.
The Wilson Street School was located a few yards north of Silver Hill Road on the western side of what we now call the Black Rock Turnpike. During the early years of Easton’s history only a few roads had names that were considered official in the eyes of the town’s residents. This section of what many called the “Great Road” that ran from Fairfield to Danbury was referred to as Wilson Street in the mid-1800’s, the name recognizing the area for the multiple generations of the Wilson family that resided in the general vicinity of the school’s location. The Clark map of 1856 shows the school’s location, but it wasn’t until 1865 that William W. Thorpe recorded a deed that transferred the land on which it sat to School District Number Nine for the sum of $75.
It’s not until 1884 that records kept by the Board of Education break down the costs of each district individually. In that year, the Wilson Street School had a total expense to the town of $220. Anna Wells taught the winter session and Novella Thorpe the summer. There were a total of 16 pupils enrolled for the entire year.
By 1897 the enrollment at Wilson Street had declined to the point that the schoolhouse was shuttered, and the remaining students transferred to the Center School on Westport Road. By then the town was paying to have the students in the outlying areas transported by wagon to their respective schools. Wilson Street remained closed until 1904 when Marilla Rockwell was hired as a teacher and the school reopened and remained in operation until 1921 when the town consolidated most of its schools, then maintaining only the Yellow School on Everett Road, the Sport Hill School on Flat Rock Road, and the old Staples Academy on the corner of Center and Westport.
In November of 1928, the town sold the Wilson Street School to Herbert Mills and Ethel Votre. Eminent domain proceedings resulted in the taking of the old school by the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company in July of 1936, as the company took most of the remaining land west of the Black Rock Turnpike for its Saugatuck Reservoir project. The building had been converted into a small dwelling by Mills, and the BHC occasionally rented it out to workers of the company after they acquired it. When Arthur “Turb” Bush retired as Superintendent of the Easton Reservoir in the late 1960’s, the company refurbished the old school one last time and leased to Bush and his wife as a summer cottage for the next several years.
In 1974, the Historical Society of Easton accepted a “deed of gift” from the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company for the old school with the stipulation that it be removed from the site no later than June 30, 1984. Having no real use for two one-room-schoolhouses (the society by then also owned the old Adams School), it was eventually decided that it would be offered free of charge to anyone willing and able to move it to a new location in Easton. In May of 1984, Jerry and Susan Gabert took possession of the old school and agreed to move to its present location on Kachele Street, where it became part of their house. It survives today as a reminder that even buildings that have outlived their original intent can be successfully repurposed and saved from the wrecking ball, preserving a little piece of history that future generations can enjoy.