North Country at Work: Memories of teaching school


Schoolchildren of the Tyler 7 Schoolhouse circa 1910, twenty years before Harriet Watson began teaching. Photo courtesy of The Hammond Museum.

During our Hammond Photo Scanning event back in August, Hammond resident Dick Watson came in and told us a little about his mother, who taught school in the area from 1929 until the mid 1950s. Here are some of her memories in her own words from her work over the years, from a written document now held by The Hammond Museum. 


In the fall of 1929 I was hired by John Williamson, veterinarian, to teach school in the Tyler District. I went back to the Tyler district to teach in 1939 and taught there until it closed and centralized with the Hammond district. I shall try to relate a few of the experiences and good times we all had there.

During this time a chubby little boy, Douglas McDougal started school. He lived where the Edgar Amyst family live today. It was during the winter and Douglas hadn’t missed any school. We had a very heavy fall of snow. Douglas being of small stature was unable to walk to school. His father put him on the horse’s back and led the horse through the snow covered road. Douglas had a perfect attendance that year.

2a Map of Schools

A map of Hammond school districts and schoolhouses in 1865. Tyler #12, where Harriet Watson taught, can be found in the bottom left corner, below Chippewa Bay.

We had money-raising events every fall to buy canned goods to supplement our cold lunches. These events included carpet rag, box, shadow or toe socials. Mike Legacy, Jack Legacy’s father, was the auctioneer. The ladies packed a lunch for two. If the social was a carpet rag the lady’s name was written on a slip of paper and many yards of strips of cloths was wound around until it formed a ball. If it were a box social the box was attractively decorated with the lady’s name enclosed. The ball of carpet rags or the box was bid on by the men and boys. The parents would also send in homemade soups, escalloped potatoes, and sometimes we would just have boiled potatoes with milk gravy. One snowy day Hammond High School was closed for the day but the bus with Leslie Dunn driving had already picked up the high school children. On the way home they all stopped for lunch at Tyler. Our supply diminished rapidly.

Before the well was drilled the boys took turns carrying two pails of water each morning from the Williamson farm. The girls washed the dishes. I had taken a hot plate which was used for heating the soups, etc. Once in a while we would bake potatoes. There was quite a space in the furnace between the door and the firebox where the potatoes were placed. The children often toasted their sandwiches over the coals.

We always had a Thanksgiving dinner to which the parents were invited. There were large families such as the Amysts, Catlens, and Rogers. You could easily cut the pie brought by them into eight or ten pieces. Of course there was always a Christmas entertainment put on by the pupils. The parents were always willing to help by making costumes, etc. Santa Claus always made an appearance.

In the winter where there was good skating across from the school on the hollow of the Williamson farm we would combine our two fifteen-minute sessions with our one-hour noon hour. I remember one time a girl sustained quite a cut above the eye. I sent one of the girls to get Mrs. Williamson. I had a first aid kit but no disinfectant. Mrs. Williamson brought alcohol. We washed around the cut and drew it together with tape. We thought the child should go home but she didn’t want to. That night they took her to Dr. Lewis. He passed it as O.K. and left it as it was.

We always observed Arbor Day. The girls cleaned bookcases, washed windows, etc. The boys cleaned the yard and the woodshed. At noon we had hot dogs and marshmallows cooked over a fire on a flat rock at the top of the Donnell Hill. We always planted a tree. After the hole was dug all our names were put in the bottom of the hole. I don’t think many trees survived.

Our school was not only learning the three Rs, but one day it was a bicycle repair shop. Papers had been put on the floor and bicycle parts strewn around. Who should come for his yearly physical examination of the children but Dr. Lewis!

These are some of my fondest memories of teaching in Tyler District 7.

Written by Harriet Watson,

Hammond NY 13646

2- connected to scanned document

The Tyler schoolhouse which Harriet Watson taught in 1988. Photo courtesy of Janet Nicol.


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