Bob Murphy, November 13, 2019

Title

Bob Murphy, November 13, 2019

Subject

Architecture
Barneveld, NY
Community
Development
Holland Patent Central Schools
Holland Patent, NY
Oneida County
One-room schoolhouse
Preservation
Quarry
Stearns and Crawford
Wethersfield, CT
Wethersfield Historical Preservation Society
Wethersfield, NY
Wethersfield Stone Schoolhouse

Description

Robert (Bob) Murphy was born in 1948 in Potsdam, New York. He grew up in nearby Canton, New York, where he graduated from high school in 1966. Murphy attended LeMoyne College in Syracuse, receiving a Bachelor's of Science in 1970, followed by a Master's in Public Administration in 1979 from Russell Sage College. He went on to have a career in correctional services, which is how he found himself in Holland Patent, New York in 1983, following the opening of a new correctional facility.

Now fifteen years retired, Bob Murphy continues to live in Holland Patent, and leases rental properties in the area. Since the 1990s, he has been involved in the Wethersfield Stone Schoolhouse project, if only tangentially. His direct involvement began in the second half of the first decade of the 2000s, and he now serves as the president of the Wethersfield Historical Preservation Society, a position his wife, Cynthia Rye, also once held. The society was formed in response to the deterioration of the school, which is located on the corner of Pierce Road and Route 365 just outside of Holland Patent. Over the past twenty years the site has found much success, through support from its community, and folks such as Mr. Murphy, Chris Kelly, and many local craftsmen and volunteers.

Today, the restoration of the school is nearly complete, and the society is continuing to look towards the future. They now focus on providing the maintenance and upkeep necessary to preserve the historic structure. It is heated throughout the winter and contains modern amenities such as electricity and a composting toilet. There is no running water at the site, as well as limited parking, challenges the society is continuing to work with. They are actively looking for individuals and groups to use the space. Murphy believes that the space is ideal for meetings and other small gatherings, and he hopes that soon the local school will be able to incorporate it into their curriculum as they once did many years before the restoration. Bob Murphy holds a deep knowledge of the history of the area, the schoolhouse, and the restoration that has taken place, and covers each over the course of his interview.

Creator

Anna Minnebo

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2019-11-13

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
28.8mB
audio/mpeg
26.9mB
image/jpeg
3024 × 4032

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Image

Identifier

19-013

Coverage

Upstate New York
Holland Patent, NY
1948-2019

Interviewer

Anna Minnebo

Interviewee

Bob Murphy

Location

First Presbyterian Church of Holland Patent
7835 Church St
Holland Patent, NY 13354

Transcription

AM = Anna Minnebo
BM = Bob Murphy

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

AM:
This is the November 13, 2019 interview of Bob Murphy by Anna Minnebo, and we are in the Presbyterian Church in Holland Patent, New York. Alrighty Bob so I'm going to start it off with, could you please tell me a little bit about yourself, maybe where you were born? When you were born?

BM:
Well, I was born in 1948 in Potsdam, New York. Which is in the North Country not far from the Canadian border of New York state. I was raised in Canton, New York. I lived there until I became of college age and then I went to college in Syracuse. A college run by Jesuits, LeMoyne college. I graduated there with a bachelor's degree in 1970. I subsequently went to work with the State of New York in the division of alcohol and drug abuse. After I had worked for several years I went back to school and I earned a master's degree from Russell Sage College in Troy, New York in public administration with a concentration in health services. After receiving that degree in health services, which I was interested in because I was working for mental health at the time, I took a job with the Department of Correctional Services, for whom I worked for twenty-five years before retiring. I moved to this area in Holland Patent in 1983 when the state decided to open their first prison in this area. I subsequently became deputy superintendent at Mid-State Correctional Facility. At the time I had no intentions of living in this area. I was commuting to Albany, but subsequently things worked out in such a way that I did buy a home in Holland Patent, and I've lived there since. I've made a lasting commitment to Oneida County.

I've been retired for over fifteen years, but I've continued to work. I've purchased investment properties and rented them for fourteen going on fifteen years to Utica College students near the campus of Utica College. I've subsequently sold those properties and I now have rental properties right in the Holland Patent area. So much closer to home. So that keeps me fairly busy. I've just finished rehabbing one and we're about to begin work on another. I think that pretty well sums up my history. And I don't want to spend a lot of time on it.

AM:
Sure, sure.

BM:
[laughs]

AM:
Is there any history of the area you would like to share? Or you think would be interesting for folks to know?

BM:
Well the area goes back a couple of centuries. It's the Town of Trenton with the principal villages being Holland Patent and Barneveld. Barneveld was settled in approximately 1797. During that same time, people moved here from Wethersfield, Connecticut and began building farms in an area halfway between Holland Patent and Barneveld that is known as Wethersfield. I currently own a property that is in the Wethersfield area.

This church where we're holding the interview is also a very historic structure, it's very old, it's on the National Register of Historic Places. There are a number of homes that were constructed in the early 1800s that are still in reasonably good condition and are being lived in. It's an old area, it's sparsely populated, but close to the areas of Utica and Rome. So, people do not have a long-distance commute to get the benefits of those metropolitan areas. I mentioned Wethersfield and my interests there in recent years has been an old schoolhouse.

AM:
[Laughs]

BM:
I don't know if you would like me to get into that in some detail?

AM:
Sure, sure. Do you want to start with the history of the schoolhouse?

BM:
I mentioned that a number of people immigrated from Wethersfield, Connecticut at the end of the 1700s. Nobody really knows the reasons why they decided to leave Wethersfield, Connecticut. The records are few and far between. The records that were generated, a lot of them were not preserved. They were subsequently discarded or destroyed. But it appears that one of the slogans of the time was "go west young man," and a number of these people decided to do that. They loaded up ox carts with as many possessions as they could place in the cart. Most of them brought a cow along for milk during the journey. They had no idea where their destination eventually was going to be, but they headed west, and they thought that when they found an area that met all of their requirements that they would settle there. Now at that time, other than cities like Philadelphia and New York along the East Coast, most of the country was wilderness. So, as they started out toward New York from Connecticut they had a very long and arduous journey, they had to clear trees in a lot of places just to get through. When they got to this area they noted that there were several things that they were looking for, fertile land, a lot of timber, stone, wild animals that could be utilized, ample water supply, a lot of springs, and streams. So, they decided that they would settle here. The winter was coming on, they quickly built log structures close to streams, and springs so that they would have a water supply for that winter. Subsequently, after they had been established for some time, they did build the actual houses and set up farmsteads.

There was a continual stream of people coming from the Wethersfield area into the early 1800s. There were also people who came from other states, such as Massachusetts, but primarily from Wethersfield, Connecticut. They concentrated in that one area. As I said they established a lot of farms at that time, most of them had a lot of children who were able to help with the duties that go along with a homestead in that period of time. Plus, they were all very good at helping each other. They had community projects where they were helped to build their homes by neighbors, and they would return the favor. They shared hunting results, wild animals which they kept for meat and the hides they made boots and shoes out of. From the butchered carcasses they made soap and candles the tallow. They were self-sufficient. The women did a lot of weaving and spinning to generate clothing. There were not a lot of stores readily available at that period of time where they could purchase any of this, so they had to.

[TRACK 1, 9:34]

By the end of the first decade in the 1800s there were a couple dozen homesteads, and quite a considerable number of children. In 1813 they decided that because of the need for educating these children, they should establish a district school house. An appropriation was made in 1813 to do that. One of the early settlers donated the land. A wooden structure was built where now it is the intersection of Route 365 and Pierce Road, between Holland Patent and Barneveld. This wooden structure served its purpose for several years until they decided they needed something more permanent. And in 1825 they built a stone schoolhouse. They moved the wooden structure across the road, how they did that I'm not sure, there are no records, but they were able to accomplish it. They were able to use a quarry that was only a couple hundred yards from the site of the schoolhouse. They were able to use the stone from that quarry to build the structure. As many district schoolhouses were, it was just the one-room facility. It was numbered district school number six. Eventually there were over twenty district schools in the area. But district school number six was one of the early ones.

We have very few records from what transpired, and what were the rules and regulations. We do have a town clerk's book dating to 1819, before the stone schoolhouse was built. The wooden structure was serving as the school, and there was a notation that said the number of pupils at number six at that time was eighty-five. Those between five and fifteen years totaled seventy-six. The books in use were Webster's and Hall's spelling books, English Reader, American Preceptor, Columbia Orator, Murray's Grammar, Will's Geography, Pike's Arithmetic, and the New Testament. So, they had quite a few books from which to learn. The town clerk's entry was dated September 8, 1819. There were at the time commissioners appointed and they signed the record, there were three of them.

The oldest district record that was found was dated October 3, 1826. That was approximately one year after the first day of school in the stone structure. That was the record of the annual meeting of the freeholders inhabitants of school district number six. They had a moderator, clerk, and the commissioners present. They made determinations for what was to apply for the coming year. One requirement of the students would be that each family of the student would to have to furnish one quarter of a cord of two-foot wood to be delivered to the schoolhouse on the first of November. In the case they were unable to do that, they were to pay in arrears the rate of seventy-five cents per cord. The determination was made to repair the upper end of the stove pipe, and individuals hired for that for fifty cents. Any student who would be unfortunate enough to break a window during the course of the year, parents were required to replace it within one week, or pay the trustees of the school a shilling per light. Apparently, shillings were still utilized at that time. A tax was to be raised to defray the expense of repairing windows, stove pipe. Amount of the tax, two dollars and sixty-seven cents. I don't know if that was total or per family. The record didn't indicate that. One fourth of the public money was to be reserved for the benefit of a summer school ensuing. Ashes were sold to the highest bidder; they went to a fellow for twenty-five cents, who was repaying in brooms for the use in the school.

So that gives you some idea of how things transpired in establishing a regimen for the course of the school year. I had looked in the archives but there really is no additional record or minutes from any such meetings after that. I believe probably they were in existence and just were not preserved or were destroyed. We don't really know how things evolved in any detail from that point forward. The population in the area for that particular district school stayed pretty stable for a number of years, so we presume the number of students was pretty much the same, as was indicated in this record. Eventually in the early 1900s, discussion arose to centralize the school system within the area. In [1934], the Wethersfield schoolhouse had its last class. It was closed, and everybody began to attend the central school in the village.

Since the closing of the school in 1834, I'm sorry, 1934, it has been purchased by a number of private concerns. Primarily people utilizing it as a residence. Although at one point there was a real estate office being operated out of that building. Because of the fact that it was privately owned, it underwent some significant changes structurally on the interior. It went from being a one-room schoolhouse to the construction of interior walls to form bedrooms, a kitchen area, somewhat of a living room area, in addition a wooden structure was built onto the outside of it on the Pierce Road side. It appeared from our early restoration efforts that a hole had simply been knocked through the stone wall at that side of the school. A wooden structure big enough to accommodate a mechanical room, a bathroom, and it appeared just some type of mudroom, was added to the stone schoolhouse. Over the years this building, I'm talking about the stone schoolhouse as well as the addition, was not properly maintained. I don't know whether the people living there were able to do that financially, or what the reasons were for the fact that it deteriorated considerably.

In the early 1990s, concern was raised after half of a large maple tree next to the building fell on the roof and collapsed one whole side. At this point nearby neighbors to the schoolhouse, former pupils, of which there were still a number of who were still alive, and descendants of people who had been students at the schoolhouse, expressed concern that if something wasn't done quickly that the building would have no alternative other than probably to be demolished. A number of these people in those groups that I just mentioned decided to form a preservation society in 1996. They did come together and do that; they appointed officers, president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer and began to hold meetings to address what needed to be done to preserve it and restore it. There was concern that due to the deterioration of it that it might not be worth saving, or capable of being saved, so it was determined that they needed to raise funds in order to hire an architectural firm who specialized in historic preservation to do conditions assessments of old historic buildings. They were successful in receiving considerable money from the New York [State] Council on the Arts, which enabled them to hire very reputable firm out of Syracuse, which was Stearns and Crawford. One of the partners of that firm came to the schoolhouse for a number of visits and conducted a conditions assessment. First and foremost, it was very difficult for them to do because there was so much trash, things had fallen apart, deteriorated, you had to crawl over mounds of things just to try to make some type of determination on part of the structure. However, he was persistent and generated a report which enabled the, and I should have mentioned the name of the society that formed, Wethersfield Historical Preservation Society. He was able to tell the members of the society that he believed it could be saved, but that it would be at considerable expense and considerable restoration work. He prepared I believe it was close to a twenty-page report on exactly what he felt had to be done. There was a number of items that had to be corrected, rebuilt, it was lengthy. The society knew that they were going to need considerable funding to accomplish this. They began a fundraising campaign; they put out flyers explaining exactly what they wished to accomplish, giving some history of the schoolhouse, and of what they considered to be its importance to the area and the community. They also applied for a grant from the Community Foundation of Oneida and Herkimer Counties, which had a history releasing funds for purposes such as these. People in the community were very generous, enabling them to get started, which initially consisted of just cleaning out the building.

All the interior structure, particularly that that was added after the school closed, had to be removed. Most of it was in ruins. The floor had caved in, for example. I had already mentioned that the roof had collapsed at one point, which had allowed a lot of rain and snow to enter the building and that had added to the deterioration of the roof rafters, and the flooring. With volunteers this project was started. I should mention there was even a woodchuck living in the middle of the floor [laughs], he had to move out. With wheelbarrows and shovels and rakes, hammers, crow bars, we began to just completely gut the inside of it. We brought in fill materials to bring the floor back up to level. Pretty much, after some period of time, had it restored to a one-room space but in very sad condition. We needed to restore the walls, rebuild the floor. The ceiling which had been a cove shaped ceiling or vault shaped ceiling, some of that had collapsed, particularly after the tree had damaged the roof. That had to be restored by somebody who was capable of doing it in an authentic, historical way with plaster and lathe. So, the work was cut out for us. The outside stone, the mortar that had been utilized between the stones, much of it had deteriorated and cracked and fallen out. The four walls had to be totally repointed. Again, thanks to many volunteers we were able to make some inroads on all of this. For example, the repointing was done by a retired Holland Patent Central School teacher, who was also a mason on the side, and a very capable one. And for a nominal fee he repointed all the outside walls of the schoolhouse. We also had a local Boy Scout troop that preceded him and removed a lot of the mortar needed to be removed before he started his work. It gives you some idea of the cooperation that we got. The Town of Trenton also provided some assistance.

Eventually, we knew we had to button it up because winter was coming on. We hired a roofer who replaced a number of the roof rafters that we could not preserve. There are some rafters in there that are the original hand-hewn beams, that were used to hold up the roof. We had to replace several of them, unfortunately couldn't save them all. We subsequently did get the roof done, and we had to cover it with a tarp. We found in tearing off the roof that it appeared the original covering had been wooden shingles. We were able to get those for a discounted fee from a local lumber yard. Six retired gentlemen who did volunteer work of that nature came and in one day completely roofed it with these wooden shingles. Once we had it buttoned up, at least up on top, we addressed the need for some window repair. We were able to save some of the original windows, but we had another restoration specialist who was able to construct windows that it was very hard to tell the difference between them and the originals. We had all the windows repaired.

The stone walls were approximately nineteen inches thick, and for many years after it was first opened, that was the only protection from the outside elements. At some point, we don't know exactly when, they did plaster these walls. For whatever additional help that gave them in keeping out the weather. Again, a number of years after that they put lathe and then plastered over the lathe to increase the thickness of the walls. A lot of that had deteriorated; in many cases we had to practically get down to the original stone wall. We at that time found a contractor who had a done a lot of historical restoration work. We had him also assess the building. With his help we found traces, or evidence, of some of the original components. He discovered that there had been wainscoting around all of the walls, within the room. There were apparently benches that were constructed along the walls throughout the room. In removing the roof, we found where the flue of the one stove that was utilized to heat the room had gone through the roof. By actually demolishing the interior and by hiring this contractor, we were able to come up with what we needed to do to make it much more…

[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

…authentic. Something that was close to approaching the appearance of it in the mid 1800s to 1900. This gentleman was expert with the plaster and lathe. He restored the walls, he insulated to certainly improve things in terms of heating during the winter. He insulated the ceiling. He reconstructed the cove base ceiling, so that it looks very much as we believed it looked in the 1800s. He built benches around the entire outside of the interior space, and hid things like receptacles, light switches, outlets. We hid the heating system by putting radiant heat in the floor. The floor was reconstructed using wide pine or spruce planks. The lighting of course we couldn't totally copy it; they had utilized candles mainly, in the early 1800s. We found on the internet a company that produced electrical lighting that very much looked like candles and looked very old. We purchased a number of those and they were mounted on the interior walls. Because we didn't want to show signs of modern technology we built a small ancillary building behind the school, in which we placed the entrance panel for the electric, the boiler for the radiant heat under the floor, and also we received a donation of five thousand dollars from a local group that wanted to channel us in the direction of doing something environmentally. With that we purchased a composting toilet system for that ancillary building. So that enabled us to preserve the layout of the interior of the school house. Today it is virtually completed, the work that we needed to do. It looks very much like, at least in our estimation, very much like it probably did in the mid 1800s. We have put another old stove from that period, a workable wood burning stove, in the interior. We have put up a number of postings on the walls that enable a visitor to see how we had begun the process of preserving the building and establishing our society. And how chronologically we restored the schoolhouse stage by stage. Also, there's a history of Wethersfield, and a history of the construction of the components in the schoolhouse. And we left one corner uncovered to show the original stone wall by itself, stone wall with plaster on it, and stone wall with plaster and lathe. So that people can get some idea, there is also a posting there explaining it.

It's ready for visitors, our major objective at this point is to find uses for it. We're currently developing another flyer to try and generate some interest. We'd like community groups to utilize it if they could. The building is approximately thirty feet by twenty-six feet, so there's not a large amount of space. There is no water supply to it, which should not be a problem for meetings of limited time. There's also a parking issue. There's no real area to park, other than alongside the road. We're trying to make people aware of those limitations and to be successful in finding uses for it. Most recently a lady wanted to reserve it for the winter for a yoga class that she teaches. For a purpose such as that we believe that the interior would be ideal. The town of Trenton has agreed to place us in their budget for the coming year, to cover much of our heating and insurance costs, which are the primary ones now. Also, we have opened it up for storage of records if the Town of Trenton, which is having some difficulty right now with space allotments, wishes to store records in one part of it. Probably mainly in the ancillary building. Right now, it's a matter of visibility and in fact we've got to make people aware of the availability of it. So that's pretty much where we are at this point.

The society still has many of the same members, unfortunately many of elderly people who were once students are now deceased, so we've lost that resource. We have quite a few descendants of people who were once students at the school. They're still volunteering, one nearby neighbor whose father was a student there, he has volunteered to take care of the grounds during the summer and winter, and is faithful doing that. With the help of people like that, and with donations that still are coming in, we're trying to increase them at this point in time, we have high hopes that it will be a valuable asset to the community.

[TRACK 2, 7:19]

The other thing I haven't mentioned is as at one point in time the school district, the Holland Patent school district, would bring students from the fourth and fifth grades by bus to the schoolhouse, with their teachers, and the teachers would give them somewhat of history on Wethersfield and on the schoolhouse. What it was like to have district schoolhouses, and how they operated, what was taught, what was utilized to do the teaching. They would often walk the road and point things that brought the original Wethersfield settlers to that area. The timber, the water supply, and things like that. Teachers always reported that the interest and enthusiasm of the students was significant; however, we had to discontinue that because of the deteriorating condition of the building. We're hopeful of starting that up again. The superintendent of schools thinks that's a great idea. During the months of the year when the weather cooperates, we're hopeful that they will again be bringing fourth and fifth grades classes. The teachers who did it in the past have since retired, but there are teachers very interested in getting involved in it now. So that's one other use we hope to put the building to. That won't occupy a lot of the time that the building is in use, but at least it will be serving the purposes of education. As I said, the students nowadays seem to have a lot of interest in how things were done at that point in time. That is pretty much my knowledge of what transpired in the past.

AM:
Alright. Would you like to share anything interesting or surprising you discovered while along the way sort of preserving the house, or researching it in the archives?

BM:
Well as I said, the archives really didn't provide much in the way of documentation. Some descendants of people who originally settled the Wethersfield area had written very short histories, and most of that they were able to construct from accounts of older people who were sons and daughters of people who originally settled the area. One student who attended Wethersfield in the 1920s did leave a history that was quite interesting about the area, but not a lot on the schoolhouse. I don't think we expected when we began demolishing the interior that we were going to find much in the way of any records or evidence of what they utilized. We were hopeful of finding desks, blackboards, and things like that. With all of the uses that private interests had put the building to over the years, most of that had been discarded.

As I had mentioned before, we were able to ascertain how the interior was constructed, with the benches, and the wainscoting, and the plaster walls, and the cove ceiling. I think we consider ourselves fortunate to find out that much. The building was in such terrible shape and had been changed so much from its original structure and use. I guess I found it very interesting that we were able to get our hands on a couple of old district minutes of a couple of meetings, that took place in the Town of Trenton and the district school. Just to see how the school supported itself at that period of time, and what was expected of the parents of the scholars.

[TRACK 2, 11:52]

I also was amazed by the number of children that were attending it initially. They said after the stone schoolhouse was built, for some period of time there were only three months of school during the year, and there were roughly eighty-five students at one point early on. Seventy-six of them were between the ages of five and fifteen. Most of them were related. A lot of the people who came from Wethersfield were related. Apparently, the teacher would take a particular age group and teach them what was appropriate for that age group at the time, while the others retired to the benches around the side. The students that were being taught would sit around a wood burning stove, in the middle, they got the benefit of most of the direct heat. The other students, they would study, much like study hall I guess. And then they would rotate, and another group would come. How much they were able to accomplish in three months I don't know, at least there was some educational activity going on. The area itself I've found it interesting that one of the things that also appealed to those early settlers, there was a huge limestone formation that extended for about a mile, on each side of the schoolhouse. One of those limestone quarries was utilized to build the schoolhouse. We also found evidence that that same quarry, stone was removed for a number of structures in the cities of Rome and Utica, including the initial old main building at the Utica Psychiatric Center, which is still being preserved to this day. There are often tours conducted during the year. There are a number of stone houses in the immediate area; one right on Pierce Road, and another across the main road, Route 365, were also built from that quarry. A lot of the stone was used to build the roads in the area, that we didn't know until we got into the history.

It was interesting how they used to have to transport goods to market, it was only by horseback for a long time because there were no wagon roads. With the wagon roads, they were able to take more of their grist, or whatever, to the mills to be processed. Most of the farms were dairy farms, and eventually they built milk plants not too far from Wethersfield, so they didn't have to go all the way into Utica and Rome to take their milk to market. That was something else we learned from getting into it.

It was a very active and cooperative relationship these people in Wethersfield had, it's obvious. What's mine is yours. They would share a lot. It's certainly not that way anymore. Modernization changed it drastically from what it used to be. It must have been a rewarding way of life. They often got together at houses, a number of families would get together, play cards. They'd celebrate holidays together. In the winter they would hitch up the horses to the sleighs and travel along the local roads together. I'm glad to be a resident of the area, and I appreciate the history.

AM:
Would you be willing to talk a little bit more about the historical society that was formed for the project?

[TRACK 2, 16:28]

BM:
Well, as I said before, it was formed from people who had been students at one time at the school, just before it closed, primarily the 1930s, and descendants of former pupils, and also people who lived in neighboring homes and everything, and had to drive by the schoolhouse on a regular basis, and see how it was deteriorating. In 1996, they actually formed the Wethersfield Historical Preservation Society. My wife, Cynthia, was actually the first president, at that time. One of the teachers who used to bring students to the schoolhouse in the summer was [secretary]. Another gentleman whose father had been a student previously was treasurer, so there was all some relation there to the schoolhouse whether by ancestry or otherwise. The society, as I said, first wanted to establish whether the building was even capable of being preserved. Once that was established, through the grant that allowed the architectural firm to give an assessment report, then they had to decide upon a fundraising process and to get visibility in the community, and beyond. Making sure that people were aware of what we intended to accomplish, and the value of it. That's when they prepared flyers, distributed them throughout the community, had an open house at the schoolhouse, although it wasn't physically in a condition where people could actually go in the schoolhouse. But they were showed the inside and the exterior, and all the problems with it, given some idea what had to be done. So, these people in the society spent quite a bit of their free time getting this all organized. Unfortunately, even though they were able to get the assessment report from the architectural firm, and to get a number of donations from the community, they weren't able to really get off the ground in terms of demolition and restoration. It sort of laid dormant for a few years, until a person who is now the vice president of the society, and his wife, who was at one time the local historian, they indicated that they thought a resurgence of interest was in order, or it was going to be too late for the building.

In 2009, it was some years after the first efforts, I got involved. I wasn't able to in 1996, but I got involved with Mr. Kelly, who started this resurgence. Fortunately, he was also part owner of a lumber building supply company [laughs] so that resulted in us getting some pretty good deals on building materials we needed down the line. He also had a lot of connections in the community, one of them being with the Community Foundation of Oneida and Herkimer County. One of our other members of the society had quite a bit of experience in grant writing. She wrote a grant and that's when we got nearly thirty thousand dollars from the community foundation. At the same time, we felt we should get some notoriety for the building if we could. Actually, we started before 2009, because prior to 2009 we applied to have it placed on the National Register of Historic Places, both on the federal level, and state level. We received approval from both of those, so it is currently on the National Register of Historic Places, we have a plaque on the building that indicates that. We also have a New York state historical marker between Route 365 and the schoolhouse, which gives a brief description of the history of the area, and the fact that it's on the New York state historical register. So that certainly helped, we also applied for a 501(c)(3), a non-profit designation, which was also approved. The people donating to us could write the donation off as a charitable donation to a nonprofit, and that increased donations; of course you would expect it probably would.

The society pretty is much still intact with the same officers. We have added people who had the reputation of being go-getters in the community, and they have really helped us again getting more visibility. It has been some time since we really reached out to the community the way we initially did. We held an open house at the facility in October and had quite a few people attend. As I said before, we're now approaching groups within the community, examples being the Rotary, the Lions, who might have an interest in utilizing it, even things like parties of some nature, receptions, whatever. We initially thought that we would try to make it somewhat of a museum piece, try to have articles in the interior that looked very much like what the interior looked like in the 1860s. We felt that probably was not the best and most efficient use of the building, we may do that in one corner, just to show a couple of desks from that period, a blackboard. It certainly would generate interest of people visiting. We would like to get visitors there. We have had a number of people stop after they have seen the New York state historical register sign in the front, from out of state, who are on vacation. If we happened to be there, we gave them a little presentation on it, we think if that can continue. We need the visibility. That's pretty much what the society is involved in at this point, our physical restoration work is pretty much accomplished.

AM:
Alright, well we are coming up on an hour here, are there any final thoughts you'd like to say? Anything you'd like to leave us with?

BM:
Well, one of our concerns is that a majority of the people that are currently in the society and involved in the schoolhouse are like me, up there in years considerably. We would like to get some younger people involved, and recently we were successful in doing that. We have a couple teachers who are also members of the school board in the Holland Patent school system, who have joined our group. Of course, being a member of the school board, they are very helpful in getting contributions, not necessarily financial but otherwise from the school system and the superintendent of schools. So that is one of our concerns. We don't want the schoolhouse again to just sit there and not be utilized, or we are going to have a repeat of what happened in past years. We want to keep that society active and growing, as people leave the society we would like to have people equally as interested to replace them. The community, I think as a whole, from conversations I've had with people, are somewhat excited about what we're able to accomplish, impressed for sure, especially those who saw it in the before condition. I think that we'll continue to get volunteers, donations, when we need them, if we need them. As I said right now our main bills are for heating during the winter. We cannot allow it to sit unheated during the winter, that kind of building would go downhill quickly. So, a minimum amount of heat is provided to keep it from deteriorating. The insurance is somewhat costly, but we've gotten offers of assistance financially from the Town of Trenton. Donations, and there are some people who make a point every year of donating to the schoolhouse and to the society. That's where we are at this point, most of us are still very optimistic, and think that soon we'll be finding people who can put it to good use.

AM:
Alright, well thank you Bob for chatting with me today.

Duration

30:00 - Track 1
28:00 - Track 2

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps
128 kbps

Time Summary

Track 1, 09:34- Establishment of School
Track 2, 07:19- Student Visits to School
Track 2, 11:52- What Attending Was Like
Track 2, 16:28- Wethersfield Historical Preservation Society

Files

Bob Murphy.jpg

Citation

Anna Minnebo, “Bob Murphy, November 13, 2019,” CGP Community Stories, accessed December 3, 2020, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/408.