Dan Cole, Charlotte Historical Society
William Wallace Higbee’s essays, collected in Around the Mountains, are often cited as a definitive source of town history. Soon to become another definitive source of Charlotte history will be the work of Don and Betty Ann Lockhart, who collaborated on interviews for Charlotte’s 250th anniversary, entitled That’s How the Story Goes.
Of specific interest is the July 9, 2012, interview with Susan Whalley Horsford called “Schools in Charlotte and Memories of Charlotte.”
Horsford is a daughter of the late Donald P. Whalley and longtime Charlotte teacher Ruth (Spear) Whalley. Significant in her recollections are how teachers moved from school to school within a town, usually in search of better salary and working conditions, or even perhaps to be closer to relatives.
Early on, the schools were generally referred to by district number; but by the last century were often referred to by the name of the nearest landowner. Ruth taught in almost all of our early schools, beginning her career about 1942 in school No. 7, now known as the Quinlan School, and continued her teaching at the Charlotte Central School after the consolidation of districts.
In order to become a teacher, a person had to attend an academy (later called a high school), then a normal school. A normal school was a teachers’ college.
In Vermont, Johnson State Teachers College was well known. Following the two-year course, the prospective teacher could search for a position. The issues facing education in past times read like today’s headlines: cost of education, teacher shortages and fluctuating enrollments.
Well into the 20th century, teachers were expected to be “respectable,” single and not use alcohol, smoke or swear. It is unusual that Whalley was married with children. In a time with few options open for a career woman with children, she was forced to bring her young daughter to the classroom with her.
The Quinlan School, District No. 7, was named for John Quinlan, an Irish immigrant fleeing the great famine. He began working for pennies a day, and through his work ethic and frugality became one of our wealthier farmers, as well as a philanthropist who caused the school to be built on his property while also being a benefactor to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church.
According to a history of the school at the Charlotte Library by Jerrie Vane, Quinlan’s daughter Mary was one of the first teachers. The school, a post-and-beam structure, was originally on the north side of the road on Spear Street, overlooking the covered bridge to Monkton Road and Lewis Creek Road. After being moved across the road and used as a farm laborer’s dwelling and then as a farm shed, residents of the town rescued it to place on our town green where it sits today.
The Charlotte Library is a good source for Quinlan School material such as the books referenced, as well as a video of reminiscences of former students (also by Don and Betty Ann Lockhart) recorded in 2005. In the library’s collection are historic photos of students of bygone days. For the best primary resource for the rescue of the school, check out The Charlotte News digital archives online.