District 20 Schoolhouse

Local History by Ron Patch. Ron Patch is a Chester native, Chester Historical Society president, and a lifelong antiques dealer. He can be reached at 802-374-0119 or email knotz69@gmail.com

Below is a brief history of the stone schoolhouse at the end of School Street in Chester. It was built in the summer of 1848.

In my collection is a 20th School District Clerk’s ledger beginning Sept. 24, 1847. These minutes are a record of agenda items, the building of this school, teachers’ pay, firewood, and other relevant expenses. It ends with the date of June 5, 1862. Below are a few entries as written.

The first entry regarding building the schoolhouse:

“Oct 5th, 1847 To see if the District will Build a school house in Said District the coming year.”


  “This is to notify and warn all the inhabitants of the 20th School District in Chester qulified to vote in said District to meet at the School House in said District on Thursday the 14th day of October instant…”

District 20 stone schoolhouse on School Street. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society

Where was the schoolhouse they met at prior to the stone schoolhouse being built in 1848? Peter Farrar found at the 1794 Town Meeting it was voted to build a schoolhouse in District 6. Peter found evidence of this schoolhouse on the upper end of the green as late as 1805. Yes, on the green. This was likely the first school in District 20, or what had been District 6.

“Oct 14th Voted to choose a committee of three to ascertain the probable expense of Building a school house and procuring a situation for the same and also to see what arrangements can be made with the Trustees of the Academy for a part of that Building for a school house.”

The Academy referred to is Chester Academy (1814-1881). Chester Academy was a beautiful brick building out in front of the current Chester Historical Society building. In the early 1880s, District 20 did merge with the then declining Chester Academy.

  “Jan 5th, 1848 To see if the District will vote to raise money to Build a new School house in said district and to purchase land on which to Set the same.”

Now we are in 1848, the year the stone schoolhouse was built. I see some District 20 meetings were held at the old Chester Academy in 1848.

“Jan 14th, 1848 To see if the District will purchase land to place a school house on.”

In April there is much discussion as to where the school should be located and whose land to purchase.

  “Nov 4 1848 To see what per cent said District will raise upon the Grand List of 1847 to pay the expenses of building the new School house in said District and for the land and other expenses in fencing and finishing the yard about the house.”

  “Heard the report of the Auditors on Building Committee account. Voted to accept their report. Voted to adopt the report. Voted to raise 110 per cent on the Grand List of 1847 to pay expenses of building new School house & fixtures. Voted to purchase the Maps which are now in the School house & Globe.”

  “The building committee report the expenses of building the new School house paying for the land furnishing the house with stove, Globe, Maps & other fixtures to amt to $1328.37.”

Today this would be $39,000.

By 1910, the stone schoolhouse had become the village fire department. In the early 1950s, it was a school again. Later in the 1950s, it became the village fire department again. I remember the siren in the belfry could be heard all over town.

The photo with this article is one of 18 photos in Chester Historical Society’s 2020 calendar. They are available at The Framery of Vermont, Salon 2000, Erskine’s Feed Store, Blair Books & More, Lisai’s Market, Chester Hardware, and Stone House antiques.


Last week’s “Whatzit” was a butternut cracker. Butternuts have a very hard shell and have always been difficult to crack open. This 19th century invention was helpful. You need to be sitting down to use it.

Place the curved section of the cracker on your thigh just above your knee. This way the round stud is upright to your leg. Place the end of the butternut in the hollow on top of the stud and steady it with your fingers. With a hammer in your other hand, you would strike down on top of the butternut. It took some practice to learn how hard to strike the nut. Too hard and you shattered the meat.

  Instead of an old saying I have a question. What’s the difference between partly cloudy and partly sunny?

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