Cabot Schools

Cabot has had 14 school districts over the years.  We have no record of a District 9, so although we list districts through number 15, there are actually only 14 accounted for.   Here we have numbered the districts as they were commonly known; but in addition to the numbers, which were apparently assigned on an "as needed" basis as the population of the town grew and shifted, the schools were also often known by the name of whatever family was taking care of the building at any given time.  Therefore, the names changed, but the districts remained over time.  Not all districts were in session at any given time.  A district with few children might have closed for a year or so and then, if needed, would reopen.  At the end of this section, we have included a map from  F. W. Beers Atlas of Washington County Vermont, 1873.

Schools were dependent also on available teachers and in the very early years, a place to hold the school.  Records show the schools were sometimes held in homes, but eventually there were buildings erected within the districts spaced so children would not need to walk more than two miles to and from school.   Parents were taxed in order to maintain the schools, paying money or providing fire wood, janitor service, wheat or school supplies.  Teachers usually "boarded around," living with nearby families while teaching at the schools. There were various arrangements made to pay teachers - sometimes board was included, sometimes not.  Female teachers were not allowed to marry; also, female teachers received about half as much pay than did their male counterparts.  Sometimes very young girls were hired as teachers, as young as 15 or 16, as long as they had some education themselves.  Teachers were expected to teach all grades in one-room schools.  They also often had to arrive early to build a fire in the pot-bellied stove to have the place somewhat warmed up by the time the children arrived.

There were times when schools were closed due to severe weather or mud season.  Children had to work on their parents' farms, so during haying season, sugaring, or fall harvest, schools would not be in session.  During epidemics of flu, measles, whooping cough or smallpox it was necessary to close the school and put the families under quarantine.

Cabot Plains School

Dist. 1, was originally on Sheperd's Hill.  John Gunn taught there in the summer of 1792.  Construction of the first school building, a log cabin, was begun opposite where the cemetery is today, and was moved to a pie-shaped piece of land at the intersection of the Bayley-Hazen Road and the road leading from Cabot Village, now known as Cabot Plains Road.  The school kept for only about three months each year due to the expense and weather.  At one time there were some 50 scholars attending this school.  Discipline was strict and unruly students were “regulated by the big ferule” or a birch switch that had been toughened in the fire.  Their lunch was usually barley cakes and potatoes roasted in the ashes of the big stone fireplace.   Sometime between 1796 and 1799, after the town’s business was moved from the Plain to the Center of Town, a school building further east was built.  The photo above is of that
second building, now part of an abandoned farm.

A new school building (photo at left) was constructed in 1929 at the corner of Cabot Plains Road and Bolton Road, a short distance from the old one shown above, on land donated to the town for that purpose by Aaron Bolton.  That school was closed in 1948 and and was sold in 1950 for $1,000 to Rev. Bedros Baharian, a retired minister who once served at the United Church of Cabot.   There have been several owners since that time.  It is presently a private seasonal residence.

Center of Town

Dist. 2.  In 1793, this district was formed at the Center of Town (geographic center) and a school building of logs was built there around 1796. It was later burned by the town and replaced with a new building.  Apparently this district had several schools over the short time it was Cabot’s center of activity, and the Vermont Historical Magazine, states there were as many as 90 students when the school was in session. That seems extreme, and perhaps there was more than one building to house students, or classes were held at the meeting house or someone's home.  By 1840, most families had moved to the valley where the village is now. 

Lower Cabot

Dist. 3, in Lower Cabot, had an early school that was replaced about 1880 by the building that is presently the residence of Marc and Jaclyn Bromley.  It was built by True Town, a local builder at the time.  The school was closed by the Cabot School Directors in 1948, even though the townspeople had voted to keep it open.  Charles and Barbara Carpenter bought the building in 1960 and held auctions there.  Later Bill Scoville lived there and had a gunsmith shop.

This school was one of the first to have individual desks (maple mounted on cast iron legs), window shades, and a steeple with a bell.  There were hard feelings over the outcome of the decision to build the new school, and having the steeple and bell added insult for some.  The bell was stolen.  It was found years later in a nearby mill pond and returned to the steeple.  There were often as many as 42 children at one time in this school, and eventually only grades one through six when a junior high school was initiated in the Upper Village.  There was an upstairs and a small hall and stage, but only one piano.  It had to be carried up and down the stairs by the biggest boys. 

This school produced more than the usual number of well-known individuals:  Burnham Coburn, who became a wealthy New York businessman; Walter Smith, who graduated from Dartmouth and became a successful lawyer in Minnesota; his brother, Seldon who also graduated from Dartmouth and became a prominent citizen of Oakland and San Francisco, California (a partner of Ginn & Co. Publishing); a sister, M. Pansy, worked in that firm; Prof. George McDaniel who graduated from Harvard with highest honors; Prof. Wilfred E. Davison, Dean of English at Middlebury College; Prof. Archie W. Stone, principal of Derby Academy, and superintendent of schools in Essex Co., VT and published poet and artist; Dr. Carl Fisher, veterinarian and professor at the University of California at Berkley; his brother Dean who became an officer and director of General Ice Cream Co.; Dr. Carl Harvey, eminent surgeon in Middletown, Connecticut; Prof. Abbie Smith Babitt, graduated from BU and earned a PhD from Columbia; Royce Pitkin who became Pres. of Goddard College; Carleton and Gerald Haines, who both became surgeons; Rev. and later Prof. Wesley Atkins; and Rev. Fred Blodgett.

West Hill School, or

 Kimball School, Dist. 4, also known at one time as Hopkins School, was one of the oldest in town.  In 1870 it was referred to on a town map as "the old school house in District 4", and there was no mention of it in town reports after 1886. It was no doubt taken down or burned by the town.

The new school, built in 1854 about a mile away near the four corners at West Hill Pond, was called West Hill School, and the children who had attended Kimball School went there after the population shifted.   West Hill School closed in 1918 and the building was used by the town for storage, then leased to Chris Barberi, head of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.  In 1976 Charles and Barbara Carpenter convinced Mr. Barberi to give up his lease so it could be transferred to the Cabot Historical Society by the Town of Cabot for $1.00.  

A group of enthusiastic and dedicated members of the Historical Society repaired the structure, including work on the foundation, flooring and replacing windows and replicating as best they could, how the school had looked before it was closed.  David Book and his Heritage Class at Cabot School continued restoration in about 1999, turning it into a learning resource center, maintained by the Cabot Historical Society.   See:  Labor of Love, by David Book. At right, the West Hill School as it looks today.  Photo by Will Walters. West Hill Schoolhouse (summer)

Merritt School, or South Walden (or Rogers’, later Smith’s)

Dist. 5.  Located about three miles from the village, on the S. Walden Road.  Some of the Amadon family lived in the old school after it was replaced by a new building which was across the road  near Payson Churchill's home.  Electricity was installed in this school in 1940, it was closed in 1943, and the building was sold in 1947 for $500.

Read School (also known as Boyle's), Dist. 6.

This district had an early school building that fell into disrepair resulting in a new building being constructed around 1885.  In 1918, the new school building burned and was not rebuilt.  After the fire, classes were held at the Smith's home, near by.  There were only a few youngsters going there then, from two families - the Smiths and the Gamblins - and the following year they went to school in the village. Read School pictured at right, was located on land now owned by Velma Urban Smith, who erected a sign (above) at the site.  The school was on the left, a few rods from Danville Hill Road, on what is now known as Urban Road. 

 East Cabot

Dist. 7 - The East Cabot School was built around 1886 and it is similar in design to the other early schools built in mid-1800's.  Walter Abbott was school director at age 17, and oversaw the construction of this school.  It closed in 1948 and was sold in 1949 at auction to Frank O’Conner for $1,025.  It now is a private residence, presently owned by Herbert and Annette Little. 

Village School

Dist. 8.  The first school in the village was held in the building which is now the Cabot Historical Society museum on Main Street. In 1978, the Cabot Historical Society bought the building, which had also housed the IOGT hall, was later a tenement and eventually a plumbing shop, from the town before the new, two story school was built in 1863.  (See picture at right.)  This building was torn down to make room for the present school’s main building in 1938, pictured below .

Cabot began a two-year high school in 1909.  The first four-year high school class graduated from the Village School in 1920.  Previous to that, students who wished to have further education were tuitioned to other schools such as Montpelier Seminary, Goddard Seminary in Barre, or to St. Johnsbury or Peacham Academy.  A Junior High School was begun in the school year ending in 1916; however, graduation wasn't celebrated with the traditional banquet until about 1941.    

The former Methodist Church was turned into a gymnasium for the school in the 1940’s and was extensively remodeled in 1953 to include classrooms.  The new school building was remodeled in 1950 to include unexcavated space in the basement, then in 1971 there was more expansion when four “satellite buildings” were built in back of the school to accommodate elementary students, and a separate industrial arts building and new gymnasium were built.  In 2008-9, a new Performing Arts Building was constructed on campus.

A history of the Old Village School was written by Leonard Spencer in 1978.

We have not located a District 9 school.

Southwest Hill

Dist. 10.  Sometimes referred to as “Burnap” School on Southwest Hill, was also an early school in Cabot.  This school usually had only about a dozen students in any given year.  Children who attended  were from the families of the Wheelers, Lyndes, Tebbetts, Carpenters, Lyfords, Hopkins, Powers and Dwinells.   The school closed in 1914 and was sold to Charles Carpenter, who took it down.  There may be remnants of the foundation where it stood at the corner of Tebbetts Rd. and Ducharme Rd.  This picture was probably taken about the time it closed, in 1914.

Walbridge School

Dist. 11.  This school was located on what is now Rt. 215, also known as the Walden Road.  It was one of the early schools, shown on an 1870 map, and was in use for at least 50 years, closing in 1916.  The children were then transported to the Village School, and the building was then used for storage.

 The town in 1926 voted to sell the building, but it wasn't until 1972 that it was sold for $50 to Richard Spaulding, a descendent of the Walbridge family who had a large farm in that district.  Mr. Spaulding renovated the building and moved it to his property on Cabot Plain, directly across the road from where the first school in town was located, on the Bayley Hazen Road.  He and his family used it for a seasonal cottage for a number of years.  It is now often open for visitors during Fall Foliage or other tours. 

No District 13 - probably for superstitious reasons.

South Cabot Schools

Dist. 12, South Cabot, or “Hookerville” has two school buildings still in existence.  The older school, pictured below, was not used after 1929-30 when the new building was completed a short distance away, but the town still owned the old building and in the 1940’s, dances were held there by the local Parent Teacher Association (PTA) to help support the new school.  This building sits very close to busy Rt. 2, just past Last Road and is now a seasonal camp, sold by the town in 1959 for $260,

The new school  (below) was built a short distance down the road by Bud Bruce in 1930, and was in operation until 1954. There were 33 students enrolled there in 1933.  It was the last of the one-room schools in Cabot to close.  Soon after completion, this school was judged “exemplary” after a nation-wide survey.  It had a library, stage, and kitchen.  The PTA installed a Delco generator at the school; in 1940 it was “electrified” by REA (Rural Electrification Authority). This building was sold in 1958 for $1,300 to Helen Keene and turned into a residence.  It is located across the brook on the "old Rt. 2," which has now been bypassed by new highway.  After the school in East Cabot closed in 1948, children from that district were transported to South Cabot by a high school student in his car. Only a few of the children who attended this school went on to high school, probably because they were somewhat isolated from the Village.

Whittier Hill

Dist. 14.  An early school, built before 1895 and closed around 1908.  The building was used for storage by the town and then either burned or was torn down.  There is no evidence of it now, and we have no photographs.  It was located on Whittier Hill Road, on the west side of the road, not far from Wheeler Road (between Wheeler Road and McKinstry Rd.).  The town was still repairing the building in 1930, and spent $67.43 for roofing; and in 1948 it was listed in the town inventory at a value of $50.



District 15, was formed in 1858.  Peter Lyford was a selectman at the time and was sent to organize the district (thus the name “Petersville”) for the community which at the time consisted of four dwellings, a sawmill, and the school house.  This school operated until 1910.  Children from that district went then to So. Cabot and by that time "district" was no longer a useful term as the town's one-room schools were considered part of the overall school system of the town.  The school was set on land that the power company negotiated for around 1923-25.  We aren't sure if the school building was removed, burned, or relocated, but the area was flooded and is now the Molly's Falls Reservoir.

Note:  There are further details and personal recollections of these schools recorded in the 1999 publication by the Cabot Oral History Committee, Cabot, Vermont, A Collection of Memories From The Century Past, $20, available at the Cabot Historical Society, Harry's Hardware Store or Cabot Creamery Gift Shop in Cabot, or Hastings Store in West Danville.

For quotes from the above book and other sources, visit Bonnie Dannenberg's web site.


 Map from F. W. Beers Atlas of Washington County Vermont, 1873.   Click to enlarge.