Old Stone School History

Stone School Exterior

WHEN THE TOWN OF FAIRHAVEN was incorporated in 1812, it was divided into 19 school districts, each of which was responsible for building its own schoolhouse and hiring a teacher. The first district to build a school was Oxford Village, where this stone schoolhouse was constructed in 1828 upon land owned by John Taber. It measures 20½ by 36 feet and cost $520.01 to build.

Children from 4 to 16 attended class at the Oxford Village School for 10¼ months a year, with breaks in the spring and fall during planting and harvesting time. The school day was long, usually from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 or 5:00 p.m., with an hour off for lunch at midday.

Teacher & Students copy

The school desks were originally long planks set on empty flour barrels and the seats were boards on crates or wood blocks. A school report from the early 1840s says, “scholars are arranged on the outside of the room. . . on roosts (for such seats deserve no better name) from 20 to 22 inches high—five inches higher than a common chair made for adults. There was no such thing as sitting on the seat and touching the floor with the feet at the same time.” The seating was arranged in a horseshoe shape around a smoky wood stove set in the center of the room. Existing photographs from about 1895 show the later use of wide “double form” desks on cast iron legs, each desk having seats for two children side by side. These were arranged facing the front of the room.

Schools of the time were poorly outfitted and badly maintained; the general philosophy was to spend as little as possible on education. The school buildings were either too hot or too cold, depending on the season. On dark, cloudy days only an oil lamp on the teacher’s desk provided some additional light. Four of the early district schools in Fairhaven did not even have outhouses, though the Oxford Village school did. Many schools had no maps or globes and few books. The educational situation in Massachusetts was not rectified until 1883 when the district school system was abolished and replaced with townwide school boards.

Schoolhouse interior

By the 1890s, the population in North Fairhaven outgrew the Oxford Village schoolhouse. Some students were sent to classes in a room in a local shoe factory while others were transported by horse drawn bus to Rogers School. In 1896, a new Oxford School (1896-2007) was built on Main Street, bringing the classes in the small one-room schoolhouse to an end.

In later years, the schoolhouse was used as a meeting place for various societies and religious organizations, including the Episcopalians who held regular services here beginning in 1906, before the Church of the Good Shepherd was built in 1922. Later the building fell into disrepair. In the late 1960s, the building was carefully restored.

The Old Stone Schoolhouse is property of the Town of Fairhaven, maintained by the Fairhaven Historical Commission.

Click on the following links to learn more:
Schoolhouse Home
1828 Building Contract

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