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Story of The Little Brick Schoolhouse
by Dell C. Sturges

The town of Redding was incorporated in the year 1767. Knowing the characteristic of our town fathers, (home, church, and school), it is safe to say the "Little Red School House" is well over two hundred years old. The second oldest deed in the town files is that of Aaron Barlow to Burr Meeker, dated 1789 and mentioning the school house as a boundary.

The records of its building were destroyed when the British marched through Fairfield, from which town Redding separated from in 1767. Umpawaug, the name of the district in which the school house is located, had the distinctive honor of being the only school in town made of brick. When people use brick, look for the reason. There was a brick kiln in Topstone and the sagacious promoters-Burrs, Sanfords, Starrs, Barlows, Meekers, Coleys, used the handy and enduring bricks.

Boundaries of Umpawaug on the seventh school district of Redding School Society as set up by the selectman of said Redding: Boundary commencing at heap of stones on the east side of Danbury and Norwalk Turnpike Road at the northwest corner of Samuel S. Gray's land adjoining to Peter S. Coley's land thence in an easterly direction to a heap of stones by a white wood tree standing on said Gray's land near Joel Barlow's land thence in an easterly direction to a heap of stones on the ledge east of Harry Meeker's Saw Mill thence from said heap of stones in a northeasterly direction to the bridge in the highway near the house of Henry Line's thence from said bridge including said Line's house in a westerly direction on following the highway to the southeast corner of Jesse Seeley's land thence in a northerly direction to the southeast corner of John Todd's land thence in a northerly direction to Hill's Lime Kiln thence northerly going west of the house near said Lime Kiln to Bethel town line to a heap of stones north of Mince Hill so-called thence by Bethel and Danbury town line to the northwest corner of Uriah Griffin's Barn Lot by the highway thence in a southerly direction to the northwest corner of Orson Merchant's land by Saugatuck River thence by said river southerly to the railroad bridge by John Cole's house thence from said bridge following the railroad southwesterly to the southwest corner of land formerly belonging to John F. Beard near the pond thence from said Beard's land to the Redding and Ridgefield town bound on the hill west of Umpawaug Pond thence from said town bound in a southeasterly direction to the southwest corner of Aaron Mallett's mountain land thence from said corner of said Mallett's land to the northwest corner of said Aaron Mallett Jackson' s land thence from said Mallett Jackson's land in an easterly direction in a straight line to Danbury-Norwalk Turnpike Road to the northeast corner of Asher S. Merchant's land across said turnpike road to the place of beginning including all the inhabitants and territory within said limits. This description of the boundaries is taken from the minutes of the school district meeting of the year 1856, written by Joel E. Carter(grandfather of the writer).

So the little school house was built mostly on the highway. The playground was the street; the neighbor's orchards and fields were the undisputed temporary property of the children. The games then, as now, were seasonal. The public road made an excellent base for ball and the whole hill furnished top and bottom goals. There was no teacher supervision and excursions under child guidance were marvelous.

Until 1880 the finances of the school were raised by district assessments. The district meetings, using the grand list as a basis, set the amount of assessments. The district collector naturally did the collecting. Often the committeeman and collector were the same person. Then, as now, only taxpayers paid. The district committeeman hired the teacher. Between the power of hypnotism and concentration of the would be teacher and the shrewdness and "spend as little as possible" attitude of the committeeman, was the salary fixed. We find in the minutes of 1856 that the value, educationally, of a scholar ranged from $1.62-2.00 or $1.20-3.05 per capita.

The school repair bills are short but adequate.
School District No. 7
98 Nails.........................$1.76
09 Nails.........................$0.16
Plaster & Hair................$1.57


According to Mrs. Pryor's report, in 1846 there were 1600 schools in the state. Only 437 of this number had out-buildings, i.e., privies, bathrooms. I am positive the Umpawaug was one of the chosen, for in the oldest minutes found, at least three successive meetings were called for this special purpose.

I am quoting in part. (1876)..."Voted to accept Burr Meeker's proposal to place the privy on his land with front of privy facing the street on a line with the fence---voted that James Ryder and Burr Meeker be a committee to prepare a suitable foundation for said privy."
There were not many excuses to enjoy the outside world but you could always raise one or two fingers or even a whole hand. In winter the necessities of nature seemed less pressing.

School was in session twelve months of the year. The teaching staff was varied and numerous. Until 1800 men teachers were employed for the winter terms and the fair sex for the summer terms. Some psychological significance should be discovered in this procedure. Men teachers received $15.42 per month; the ladies $6.86 for the same amount of time.

Partial list of teachers:
(This list is not in order)
David H. Carter                        
Catherine Carter
Charlotte Ryder                         
Mary Fields
A.Mr. Rowell (1869-1873)                          
Mary Tucker
Gertrude Carter                        
Mary Esther Carter
Ebenezer Hill
Gershom Hill
Charles Rowland
Bessie Blackman Sanford
Minnie Lou Carson
William Hazen
Mary Flood
Maggie Flood
Adele Barrett MacKenzie
Elizabeth Brownlee
Evelyn Pope Odell
Luemily Williams Ryder
Esther Knapp Barrett
Pauline Smith Sanford
J.W. Dodson
Bessie Hazen Taylor
Jennie Carroll
Helen Carson
Dr. Charles Ryder

Mrs. Pryor reports that the text books used in Redding schools outnumbered those in other towns of the state. Two spellers were in use; 16 reading books; three grammars; five geographies; five arithmetic books; nine histories; and some miscellaneous books.

In 1909 school districts were abolished. In 1929 consolidation of Redding Schools was effected. In an era of a vogue for private residences being made from discarded school houses, we are fortunate to have preserved the "Little Red Brick School House."

Personal Memories
Personal memories of the school from Mr. Robert H. Rider, described in June 1967, a few weeks after his 90th birthday---from the Official Program of the Redding Bicentennial.

"We went to the Umpawaug School. Even my father went to that school when he was young. There was a cart path up through the woods and it made a short cut. There were eight grades in one room. We had mathematics, reading, spelling, and very easy language lessons-English. Most generally there was around 20 students in the school."

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