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Memories of Volusia schools; more on its church

May 12, 2016
By Marybelle Beigh - Westfield Historian , Westfield Republican

Thanks to the Breads and Saxton families for providing some photos and memories of school days in Volusia. In the December 1967 and January 1968 Westfield Republican, a three-part series of articles "Memories of a Childhood in Volusia Over Sixty Years Ago" by Laura Breads Saxton described easily-visualized scenes of over a 100 years ago today (May 2016).

Laura Breads Saxton begins her reminiscences: "We walked a mile to school and Volusia winters were very severe in my childhood. There was no way to open the roads except by dragging a large iron kettle behind a bob sleigh. I started going to school in 1914 when I was seven years old. There were weeks at a time when we were snowbound and we children pushed our way through snow banks to and from school. Drifts would be up to the eaves of the houses."

She continues with her family history, her great grandfather William Breads being one of the first pioneer settlers in Volusia in 1824. Family names, homes, locations and businesses, including some of the early sawmills, blacksmiths, wagon shops and even a watch and clock repair shop, fill several columns. Recalling a recent BeeLines about the Volusia Church, it was interesting to read what Laura Breads Saxton writes: "My great grandfather Francis Fox donated land from his farm on which to build the church and the parsonage which were built right at the Four Corners. The second parsonage for this church still stands [1967]. The church was sold and torn down only about five years ago [circa 1962]. The first parsonage for the church burned and the second parsonage is now [1967] a private residence."

Article Photos

Submitted photo
Here is a class from the Volusia school, circa 1935-36. Front row, left to right: Chuck Oakes, Bud Saxton, Pearl Farnham, Harold Nichols, Don Oakes, Alice Nichols. Back row, left to right: Jerry Oakes, Zeita Oakes, Frances Farnham, Betty Oakes, Stanley Farnham, Elinor Saxton and teacher Edna Reed.

In part two of "Memories by Laura Breads Saxton" we read, "I well remember the two school houses where I went. The first was set back on the lot on Culver Road and was built by my grandfather Isaac Breads. The new, more modern one, built more to the front of the lot, was built by Mr. Geisler. He put in chemical toilets. Although they weren't heated it was better than going outside the school building, and we even had toilet paper! (Not catalogues.)

"We had a very nice library, with maps and a globe of the world, some very good story books the school house was sold in about 1837. In this school we had a five-gallon water jug spigot and even our own drinking cups. In the old school we went outside to the pump, winter and summer, and pumped our drink into the cup that hung on a wire on the pump, all using the same cup."

"My first teacher was Alice Willing McMillan. Me being small and having a long walk each morning, I always fell asleep right after lunch, while the teacher read a chapter from a book to the rest of the school. She had a pile rug made and a cover and I slept on top of her desk. Some of the books were "B're Rabbit," "Uncle Reamus" and "Anne of Green Gables." The district was not able to hire a teacher in my eighth grade so I rode horseback to and from home to Westfield and back, keeping my horse in the sheds at the rear of the Baptist Church."

One of the papers from the Lombard Grange History of Volusia meeting of April 1912 that was led by Lizzie Breads describes "The History of School District 12, Town of Westfield, NY," which was the Volusia Schools. "The first school house built in District No. 12 was built in the year of 1833 or '34 as near as I can get it. It was constructed of logs with a door and some say one window. It had a stone chimney in one end with fireplace. The desks were made of slabs and placed around the room next to the wall. The seats for the scholars were made of slabs also, so when facing the desk you would face the wall. This house was used for about 10 years; its location was on the old Westfield & Sherman Highway just south of the beaver meadow creek on the west side of said road or nearly in front or east of the orchard now owned [1912] by Jack Fosdic. In the year of '42 or '44 the frame schoolhouse was built by Joseph Culver. This was a decided improvement on the log house but the desks were placed next to the wall same as in the log house and benches in front. A door in one end; and opposite of door in back end was the teachers desk. Heat by stove about the middle of room. This house was located on the east side of said road nearly opposite the log house. After the Westfield to Clymer Plank Road was built this house was moved out in line with plank road & opposite the Jones road. I think this was done about the year 1854 or '55. It was used for school purposes until the year 1872 when it was torn down and the present house was built." This history names many school trustees, teachers and school children.

Robert Breads has been writing a history of Volusia and his family history for several years. In his story, he mentions living with his Aunt Laura and Uncle Clarence Saxton Sr. about 1942. (Aunt Laura Saxton would be the same as Laura Breads Saxton who wrote the 1967-68 article.)

Two photos of "School Days" in the Volusia Schools - 1935-'36 and 1937-'38 - were loaned to the Westfield Historian. All the students and the teacher are named on the backs of the photos, including Bud or Clarence Saxton (Jr.) ages 7 and 9. The 1935-36 photo is published with this BeeLines, listing all the names.



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