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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
school repair bills are short but adequate.
School District No. 7
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.
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
A.Mr. Rowell (1869-1873)
Mary Esther Carter
Bessie Blackman Sanford
Minnie Lou Carson
Adele Barrett MacKenzie
Evelyn Pope Odell
Luemily Williams Ryder
Esther Knapp Barrett
Pauline Smith Sanford
Bessie Hazen Taylor
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
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
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.
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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