Sand Hill School: District 5

Four miles from Fargo's, on Route 3, the road changes from its general northeastward course and turns directly east, shortly entering Natural Bridge.  As the wheels of your card roll swiftly across a straight, flat stretch of highway, this inclined curve looms ahead, with a sand bank on the right crowned with a single tree.  A second look reveals a schoolhouse behind the tree; a careful scrutiny discloses a sadly weather-beaten building, its entrance facing the road and containing  a door hanging askew, held in place by a chain and padlock. (CRT, March 12, 1959)

The Weaver Road leads off into the Fort Drum military reservation opposite the school.  A tributary of the Black creek rises behind the school and about three-quarters of a mile toward Natural Bridge is the Sand Hill cemetery.  The Sand Hill school received its name from the large sand bank, or knoll, upon which it sits.  It is said that the first schoolhouse of District No. 5 was located nearer Fargo's from the present site, on the other side of the road, close to the present John Phelps farm.  Accounts of when or why the present structure was erected are long since gone.  The schoolhouse is at least 150 years old.  Drinking water for the District 5 school came from a spring below the schoolhouse.  There were steps over the fence to enable one to reach the a spring, which in those days was surrounded by a cedar forest.

For many years, District 5 had no document of any kind to prove its right to the property.  On October 3, 1918, a lease was negotiated between Charles Smith and District 5.  For $30, Mr. Smith agreed to lease a parcel of land "for as long as there is a school building in use on that ground" and the district agreed to keep the lot fenced. 

In 1941, the expansion of Pine Camp clipped off the northern portion of District 5.  Route 3 forms the boundary of the military reservation through District 5.  The resulting loss of revenue forced the premature closure of the Sand Hill  school in 1943.  District 5 transported its pupils to Natural Bridge.  For the first year, 1943-44, transportation and tuition came to $700.  The Sand Hill school did serve some useful purposes during the period between closure in 1943 and centralization in 1954.  In addition to 4-H meetings being held there, permission was gained from the trustee, Mrs. Hazel LaVine, to use the schoolhouse as a ground observer post*, and a telephone was installed.  In 1957, voters of District 5 gave their consent to sell the Sand Hill school. 

Teachers before 1913 included Minnie Forbes, Bertha Hubbard, Tina Montondo, Clarence Mecker, Mollie Doyle, Rachel Salter, Elmer Vaughn, Joanna Austin, Emma Gaudin, Josephine Miller, Lalor Sarvay, Nora Swind, Carrie Lamb, Lucy Bemus, Nora VanDuzee, Clara Kelsey, a Mr. McCann, Eva Shoemaker, Grace Austin and Mrs. Sherman Balcom.  Beginning in 1913, the Sand Hill school had the following teachers:  1913-16, Mrs. Desta Bolger; 1916-17, Adah Finley; 1917-18, Mildred Wright; 1919-20, Eliza Blanchard; 1920-23, Lora R. Redmond; 1923-24, Lora R. Short;  1924-26, Mrs. Grace Lewis; 1926-27, Mrs. Grace Lewis, Mrs. Julia Driscoll; 1927-29, Margaret Crowner, Ruth Parker; 1929-30, Hazel Redmond; 1930-32, Isabel Rice; 1933-34, Hazel Tiss; 1934-36, Donald Myers; 1936-43, Lena Cross.

*during WWII, ground observer posts were used by volunteers to watch the sky for enemy aircraft.

CRT, March 12, 1959


Location of Sand Hill School February 2004