FAIRFAX IN THE 20TH CENTURY
by Henry A. Raymond
As we enter the Twenty First Century and share concerns about Y2K and its ramifications, let’s take a look back to our entrance into the Twentieth Century.
Photo of the interior of the one room school on School Street
(Photo courtesy of Albert Rich)
Shown in one of our photos with this article is the interior of the Village School, which was located on School Street. It remained in use as a school until 1903 when Bellows Free Academy opened its doors for classes. It was later known as the barge house, then later used as the Town Garage until the construction of the present Town Garage on the Fletcher Road. Since Bellows Free Academy housed grades one through twelve in 1903, all except the North Fairfax and Cherrierville schools were closed at that time. These two schools remained open until June, 1943. Edna S. O’Connor (North Fairfax) and Olive Sheets (Cherrierville) were the last two one room school teachers in Fairfax. Albert Rich, a lifelong resident of Fairfax, never attended a one room school, while other town residents who lived in Cherrierville and North Fairfax as late as 1943 did.
Photo of Cherrierville School in 1923-24 with Mary (King) Ratte as teacher and a number of the Barkyoumb kids)
(Photo courtesy of Rita (Howrigan) Magnan)
According to Florence (Barkyoumb Magnan, who attended the Cherrierville School, our one room school houses here in Fairfax were very similar to others in the surrounding area. They appeared to all be designed the same with a row of windows on one side and two windows in the back.
There was a cloak room for the girls and one for the boys. Students were seated facing the one entrance to the building. I remember being told that we should be sitting with the light coming over our left shoulder and from the back. The most popular stove was the so called box stove which was generally in the center of the room, however, the Cherrierville School had a large wood furnace in the back corner of the room. Usually one of the boys was hired in the winter to arrive at the school early and start the fire so it would be warm when the remainder of the students arrived. Bill Barkyoumb had this job at the Cherrierville School. Although it was still mighty cool some mornings when they arrived, Florence believes he was paid about ten cents a day to do this. In the 1923 Fairfax Town Report, the teacher, Mary King was paid a salary of $616.00. A separate building contained two outhouses and a woodshed. In her later years at school there, the outhouses were modernized with some sort of a crank that you turned. There was no electricity or running water. Water was carried with a pail from a nearby spring and when that dried up, they would fetch it from the farm where Jim and Rita Magnan now live. An earthen crock with a spigot was used to store the drinking water. There was the windup school clock from which she remembers learning to tell time. Tag and hide and seek seemed to be the favorite games in the summer, while in the winter they enjoyed using the nearby hills for sliding on a traverse sled and skiing with wooden skis. Each morning started with a prayer and exercise and every holiday was an occasion for another skit or play. Everyone looked forward to the annual end of the school year picnic which usually included a hike and picking wild flowers. Florence remembers this as being about the only time of the year they had fruit. During their lessons, students sat in the front of the room at a table while the remainder of the students sat at their desks and did their homework. At times, the class in progress got a little noisy, so some of the students would get permission to go into the cloak room to study. The cloak room was also used as a special tutoring room for students who had some difficulties with certain subjects. It wasn’t easy for the students in this part of town to go to high school, since the barge which was housed in a building just above the present Roger and Donna Meunier farm did not come any further north. One of Florence’s sisters stayed at her uncle Leo’s, who lived where Roger and Donna live when she attended BFA. Prior to 1903, Fairfax had more than fifteen of these one room schools plus the New Hampton Institute which had burned and been rebuilt in 1897. N.H.I., as it was known, was located in the vicinity of the Lemnah Residence on the Fireman’s Pond Road in the village. Thanks to a bequest from Hiram Bellows of St. Albans and formerly of Fairfax, as we entered the new century, residents were looking forward to the new school called Bellows Free Academy. This building was large and commodious, lighted throughout by electricity, supplied with a telephone system, with a master clock and synchronizing clocks and heated with steam with a modern and hygienic system of ventilation of the time. The second floor contained a large Assembly Hall where Chapel exercises occurred each morning and where music recitals, debates, public speaking, receptions, etc. were held. Fairfax was far ahead of its time with it educational facilities, thanks to Hiram Bellows.
Photo of the Fairfax Ladies Village Improvement Society
(Photo is courtesy of Albert Rich)
The Ladies Village Improvement Society was started in Fairfax on August 24, 1898 and its intent and purpose was just as its name stated. This group of women set out to raise money to make improvements in the village. They did this with sugar parties, chicken pie suppers, strawberry festivals, election dinners, ice cream socials, town meeting day dinners (plus even a town meeting day supper on several occasions) and food sales. They had plays that were not only in Fairfax, but in Westford and Fletcher as well. Several entries also indicated they sponsored moving pictures, a calico social and a masquerade prom in addition to some canvassing for donations. Each year the town voted them a small amount of money also. In 1911, their records indicated that they put on the BFA Alumni Banquet as another of their fund raisers. This appeared to be a yearly event through 1943.
Between 1898 and 1906, the main emphasis was on sidewalks, however, in 1906 they took on a project that we all benefit from today anytime we are in the village at night. This group of very hard working women are responsible for the street lights in the village of Fairfax. They not only raised the money to install them, they identified where they wanted them and paid for all maintenance and electricity until they dissolved the association on April 17, 1944. They were reimbursed by the town each year for the cost of the lights that were in the bridges, otherwise, the street lights were free to the townspeople between 1906 and 1944.
While researching information on The Ladies Village Improvement Society, I ran across the first report of the Fairfax Chapter of the American Red Cross which I found quite interesting. It shows quite vividly the type of individuals that made up our town in the time of the disastrous flood of 1927.
It read as follows:
“Following the flood of November 1927, a drive for Red Cross members was given and 206 were secured and $100 in donations was given. The last of November a meeting was called and a chapter formed with the usual officers. During the winter we helped needy families with clothing and bedding and bought meat, groceries and milk for one family for about two months. Some of the clothing and tops of quilts were donated. The rest was bought and material made up. One complete layette was donated. A list of articles given during the winter of 1927/28 follows: 4 sheets - 2 pairs of pillowcases - 3 outing blankets - 6 garments, including dresses, underwear, two nightgowns, overshoes and rubbers.
We also made one complete layette and four sheets and two pair of pillow cases to be loaned when needed. During the same winter we paid for hot lunches at school for scholars who came in on barges and who otherwise couldn’t have had them. Last summer we paid for all or partly paid for three tonsil operations. If the parents felt able, they paid $5 and we paid the rest. It was done at the St. Albans Hospital and I feel that they gave us a very good price. $12.50 for each one, and I hope this summer we can finance eight more. We voted $50 for disaster relief. We have given an oyster supper from which we realized $44 and our bridge celebration netted us nearly $100. Our membership this year is only 98. This last winter we gave 40 articles of clothing, some being donated, three sheets, three pair of pillow cases and seven quilts.
One woman furnished material for three infants nightgowns, two for a girl and two for a lady and we made them for her, for with her large family and poor health she couldn’t find the time to do it. We also paid for hot lunches again at school. At present we are giving some bedding, night gowns and underwear to a family where the woman is a cripple and has to sit in a wheel chair.” The final entry in the Treasurer’s Record of the Ladies Village Improvement Society showed that they gave their balance on hand of $9.21 to the Red Cross.
I am very grateful to Albert Rich and Florence (Barkyoumb) Magnan for the time they spent with me in the preparation of this article. As Albert thumbed through an old photograph album, it triggered many memories of the old days for him. In one photo, a group of young children were sitting on a log. Albert, who was among them and about six years old at the time, told me that the picture was taken on Mill Hill on the Fletcher Road. At that time there was a saw mill at the foot of the hill and the whole hill was piled high with logs on both sides of the road, all of them being drawn in by teams of horses.
Photo of Albert Rich's 1922 Model T Ford stuck in the mud on Route 128 in Westford in 1924
(Photo is courtesy of Albert Rich)
He then ran across a picture of his old 1922 Model T Ford Touring car stuck on a muddy road. The photo was taken in March of 1924 on Route 128 in Westford. Albert and several of his friends had spent the winter in Florida working on a construction project.
When asked how the roads were at that time, he stated that they were all dirt roads and bumps, ruts and the likes caused many flat tires. In those days they didn’t just put the spare on and drive to the nearest gas station. The wheel, tire and tube was removed and repairs made on the spot and of course the air was pumped back into the tire with the trusty hand pump. Albert was unsure of how many flat tires they had, but did remember that eight new tires were purchased during their trip to Florida.
Photo of Lyman & Hattie Leach's Stanley Steamer in the early 1920's
(Photo is courtesy of Albert Rich)
In the early 20’s there were three Stanley Steamers in town. Two of the proud owners were Lyman Leach and Martin Hicks.
As we enter the twenty-first century, our main highways are all paved as well as a number of our back roads, however, the ever popular mud season still takes its toll on our remaining dirt roads. Bellows Free Academy still stands, even though there have been many renovations. The annual Alumni Banquet is still held with sometimes three generations of former graduates attending the banquet. We still have many dedicated volunteers in our Fire Department, Rescue Squad and Church Groups to assist people in time of need. The small family farm no longer exists, however, we have a number of beautiful large farms still in operation. The majority of our townspeople are employed in other towns and commute daily, while those of us who are retired (and there are many) keep busy doing what we most enjoy.
Author: Henry A. Raymond
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