Grammar School Moved With Oxen
On Monday morning, August 8, 20 teams of oxen were hitched to the 30 X 40 foot two story building that served as the first secondary school in Orleans County, to help pull it back up the road 1/3 mile to the site where it was built in 1823. The oxen teamsters included 4-H Club members from Bradford, Braintree, Randolph and East Hardwick, Vermont and North Haverhill, New Hampshire as well as adults with working teams. Spectators were welcome to come watch this re-enactment of the way many buildings were moved in the past. In fact, moving buildings from place to place was such a common practice that there are very few pictures or accounts on how they did it. But in the early days, oxen provided the power. In modern times, with utility lines and mature trees lining the roads, moving a building is a lot more complicated. Messier House Moving from East Montpelier is managing this move, which will meld the new methods with the old. The building will be up on wheeled carriages, not rolling on logs, or slid on runners across icy roads or frozen lakes. There will be supplemental power to move the building into the road, and then off the road to its new foundation. However, 20 teams of oxen should be able to pull the building on its 1/3 mile journey up the Hinman Settler Rd. The oxen gathered on Sunday, August 7, at the Old Stone House Museum , where there were activities, an exhibit on oxen history, and practice hitching the teams together. The blacksmith shop forged yoke hardware, including “jingle-bobs”, which link the chains from the teams ahead and behind together. After the move, the jingle bobs used in this historic event were sold to benefit the continuing work of restoring and improving the building. Phase two of the project includes building a replica of the original bell tower, with stairs from the basement to the second floor, which will meet the fire code requirement of providing a second exit on the opposite side of the room. The porch will be replaced on the back side, a little wider to accommodate a handicapped ramp. The Orleans County Historical Society is continuing to raise money through donations and grants to bring the building home and restore it. Major funding has come
from the Freeman Foundation through the Preservation Trust of Vermont and from the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation, as well as Community National Bank, Passumpsic Savings Bank and North Country Federal Credit Union. With the return of the Grammar School, the neighborhood, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, will return to the way it was during the time of Alexander Twilight, the brilliant and charismatic head master, who in 1836 built the Old Stone House as a dormitory for the school. Alexander Twilight was racially mixed, and is now known to have been the first person of African American heritage to graduate from an American College and the first to be elected to public office. After Twilight’s death in 1857, the Orleans County Grammar School was moved from its original location to the middle of Brownington Village in 1869.