School House #4

Sullivan School # 4
A photograph of School House #4 probably taken by Carleton Nims in the 1920s. It looks much the same today except that the field is now forested.

Geographically District #4 was the south end of Sullivan. The official border was the Masonian Patent Line to the east, the boundaries with Gilsum and Keene to the west and south. The northern border was a line that ran due west from the Patent Line intersecting South Road at about 88 South Road and then on to the Gilsum border. There was a slight jog in the line so that the Osgood Farm (now 131 Price Road) was included in District #6 and later #2. 

 The first school in District #4 was conducted in the barn of Deacon Zadok Nims. His farm was located on the site of what is now 358 South Road. In 1792, the first school house was constructed near the Nims barn. In 1807, Nims leased a piece of land to the district for a new school. The plot was located at the corner of South Road and Ferry Brook Road. Josiah Seward was uncertain about the circumstances, but the district appropriated money to build a replacement building on the same site in 1815. Since there was no record of taking the old building down, Seward believed that it had probably burned. In any event, the new building was opened on 3 September 1815 and still stands today. There were several major renovations in 1830, 1856, 1875 and 1887-88. 

 Because of the number of farms with large families in the district, attendance was healthy throughout the 19th Century. The number of students was usually between 9 and 12 with a peak of 15 to 18 during the 1890s. A number of Sullivan women—Nellie Burpee, Lila Mason, Ethel Barrett, Grace Barker, Minnie Goodnow and others—served as teachers at the school. Another teacher was Susan Brooks who was the daughter of Charles and Olivia Brooks and a descendent of Zadok Nims. Susie, as she was known, taught for a number of years at #4 and other schools in the district. Like most women teachers of the era, her career ended with her marriage to Clarence Moore on 15 October 1902. 

In the 1880’s, the Town of Sullivan began to be concerned about its smaller schools. In 1881 a committee concluded that consolidating the schools into a central school was a good idea, but that Sullivan’s population was too scattered to make such unification possible. When the state caused the individual school districts to be consolidated into one town-wide district, another committee was appointed to study closing some of the schools. In the end, school #4’s steady enrollment kept it from being closed through out the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

The education reforms of 1919 finally doomed the school. The act created such things as the 180-day school year, the supervisory union system, and teacher’s certification. What created problems for School #4 were the physical space requirements for school buildings. The building could not meet such things as having windows equal to 1/5 of the floor space or jacketed heaters. Thus, in spite of healthy attendance figures, the building was not used after the 1919-20 school year. The student population was consolidated with District #2. 

Zadok Nims’ lease of the land to the school district was for as long as it was needed for a school. The record is not clear as to when the town gave up the lease, but ownership of the land and building reverted to Zadok Nims’ successors—the family of Charles A. and Octavia (Nims) Brooks. On 11 November 1925, Charles deeded portions of his land to his children. Susie and Clarence Moore received a portion which included the old school house. On 8 October 1959, Susie Moore deeded the land and the school to her son Everett Moore, thus creating the lot upon which the building stands today. The school house remained in the Moore family until 2006 when another descendent of Zadoc Nims—Henry “Butch” Brooks—acquired ownership. 

Sullivan School # 5

A group of students and their teacher stand in front of School House #4 in the fall of 1914. The photograph is from the Clark collection, Sullivan Public Library Archives, however the photographer is unknown.

Like all of our elementary schools, #4 was a neighborhood school. Over the years, it served families that are a who’s who of Sullivan history—Nims, Glazier, Woodbury, Connor, Smith, Yardley, Mark, and Brooks. The children walked or rode along South Road, Ferry Brook Road and Tyler Lane to learn lessons from teachers who also married and raised families in town. Today it stands like a monument representing part of our town’s story.