By Doris Johnson (1970)
In 1969, several historically-minded citizens attempted to arouse interest in the purchasing and restoring of the old Hornbine School. Efforts of this small group met with defeat - most people seemed to feel that the building was not worth restoration and that the purchase price was too high.
The building had ceased to be used as a schoolhouse in 1937. It had been sold, by the town, at a public auction for $325. Over the years, the building had been used for storage, as a summer residence, and then had remained empty for many years.
Mrs. Ester A Hopkins, who passed away in 1978, taught the school for the last ten years that classes were held there.
The earliest records we have found indicate that the schoolhouse was built in the “new” District No 10 during the year 1845-46. Calvin Carpenter was the teacher for the winter term in 1847.
The idea of restoring the old school as a project during the 325th Anniversary celebration of the Town of Rehoboth was suggested. A group of interested citizens became the Hornbine School Association with Edmond Tessier, president; Gardner Borden, treasurer; and Miss Jeanette Vincent, secretary. As this group was not incorporated it could not buy property. The Rehoboth Lions Club offered to be the temporary trustee.
A group of pupils from the Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School, under the direction of James Marcotte, produced a “show” on two nights - proceeds to be used for the Hornbine School. These ambitious teen-agers earned $1,100 for the fund.
A few voluntary contributions were received. But the price of the school was $2,500 and the committee still didn’t have that much money.
Joseph DeRoche of the Lions Club and Robert Trim of the Anawan Historical Society had started work on the building but got very little help. Some Boy Scouts had started cleaning the yard.
In the meantime other things were happening. Some of the high school students who were to present the benefit performance visited the various schools in town giving excerpts from their entertainment to help their ticket sales. This started the fourth graders at North Rehoboth School asking questions about what the school was really like in the “old days” - the beginning of a fine social studies project. One hundred years ago was the time decided on for the study. The children and teacher researched the period directly following the Civil War. They studied the clothing, food, home life, the important people of the time, the music, poetry - even the games that were played. Miss Dorothy L. Beckwith, Elementary Supervisor, suggested that the children and their teacher spend a typical old-time school day at the old schoolhouse. This idea was greeted with enthusiasm, and mothers started making costumes for their children. The North Rehoboth P.T.A. helped with this. The date was set for May 28th.
The committee planning a tour of old churches and houses in town decided to have the tour on the day the children would be in class in the Hornbine School. It was felt that this would add interest to the tour.
Then the committees were told that the work on the school had progressed very slowly and the school would not be ready. Furthermore, the association didn’t have enough money to buy the building.
A small group of citizens interested in the work of the school children and the tour offered to conduct a financial drive under the direction of D. Lee Johnson. People, in oldtime costumes, riding in antique cars canvassed the town. The drive was successful. Now, the Hornbine School Association had the necessary funds to buy the land and buildings.
North Rehoboth Day was held - many people from that section of the town came to work at the school. Individuals furnished money, materials, and equipment for other projects. The yard was cleared of brush and twelve huge loads of rubbish. The old beyond-repair out buildings were knocked down and removed. The school building was completely cleaned and repainted. Mrs. Myron Reese and a group of teen-agers painted the inside of the building. Poison ivy was sprayed by the tree warden. The yard was raked and reraked, mowed and remowed. Countless people gave their time and talents.
The outside of the schoolhouse had new clapboards put on where needed - and many were needed. Then gleaming white paint was applied. A number of window panes were replaced. Inside, a new sand-finish ceiling was put up. This was one of the few jobs that had to be paid for. Again, many teen-agers spent many hours working with the carpenters and other skilled persons who gave so much of their time. Furnishings and books have been donated. Some twenty desks and chairs were given by two Vermont towns in the Plainfield-Marshfield region. Lee Johnson and William Francis went to Montpelier with Richard Chase’s truck and brought back the desks. It has indeed been a community project!
The workers received personal commendation from Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson for their fine cooperation in helping to beautify the Town of Rehoboth while restoring a building of historical significance. President and Mrs. Johnson have presented the town with a flag for the school.
We should add that the school was ready for the fourth graders on May 28th. They enjoyed the culmination of the best social studies project that they had ever taken part in, and the school was a favorite stop on the tour.
The Hornbine School now belongs to the Town of Rehoboth - under the jurisdiction of the Rehoboth Historical Commission - and is cared for by the Hornbine School Association, Inc.