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Lyme’s Last One-Room Schoolhouse Preserved

  • Children stand outside the Chelsey School, circa 1909, in Lyme. (Courtesy Lyme Historians)

  • Inside the Chesley School on Baker Hill Road in Lyme, N.H. The one-room schoolhouse has been donated to the Lyme Historians. (Photograph courtesy of the Lyme Historians)

  • Scarlett Chesley Dube, left, and Geri Burgess both attended Chesley School. They are cousins: their grandfather was Arthur Chesley, on whose former farm the schoolhouse stands. Both still live in the neighborhood. (Courtesy Lyme Historians)

  • The guest book inside the Chesley School on Baker Hill Road in Lyme, N.H., during November's open house. The one-room schoolhouse has been donated to the Lyme Historians. (Photograph courtesy of the Lyme Historians)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/9/2017 11:40:22 PM
Modified: 12/12/2017 12:29:55 PM

Lyme — At the peak in 1875, Lyme was home to 16 schoolhouses. More than 140 years later, the town’s last remaining schoolhouse, the Chesley School on Baker Hill Road, has been donated to the Lyme Historians to preserve an important piece of town history.

“We hope to have an event there each year,” Lyme Historians board member Jane Fant said. “We hope the Lyme School will bring classes up to use it.”

The one-room schoolhouse is on property owned by Jane Palmer, who moved to Lyme in 1996 with her late husband, George. The couple had been discussing donating the schoolhouse and the small piece of property on which it sits for years.

“We wanted to protect the history” Palmer said. They considered what would happen to the schoolhouse once they no longer lived there. “Who knows what our successors would do? They could do anything they want to the schoolhouse.”

According to a Lyme Historians publication, Historic Schoolhouses of Lyme, New Hampshire, the school was built in 1824 on Baker Hill Road, slightly north of “the southern junction of Isaac Perkins Road.” It was originally named the Perkins School. In 1876, as the population of the town shifted, it was moved south and its name changed to the Chesley School.

“The little schoolhouse was painted red with white trim until about 1915, then painted white until after 1972,” a description of the school reads. “Electric lights arrived in 1941.”

The school was the center of neighborhood activity, “scene of many events and performances,” a passage in the book reads. In 1948, the school did not have a teacher and was set to close, but a resident persuaded a teacher to return. In 1950, only five students remained at the school. “Nevertheless, neighbors successfully fought off attempts to close their school until the town finally voted to consolidate all schooling at Lyme Village in 1959.”

Palmer’s family has fond memories of the schoolhouse. “It served as a wonderful playhouse for my grandchildren,” Palmer said. “Very often, the first thing they said when they came out of the car was, ‘Can we go up to the schoolhouse?’ ” They would sit at the desks and pretend being teachers and students.

“It was a wonderful addition,” Palmer said. “I think it’s the most delightful thing on the property.”

Lyme resident Geri Burgess graduated from the Chesley School in 1955, in a class of five, and was taught by one teacher.

“We didn’t know how to read, write and do arithmetic before we went to school,” Burgess said. “That’s what school was for.”

The older children would help the younger children when the teacher was otherwise occupied. “We all helped each other and we all learned together,” Burgess said. “It’s a wonderful thing.”

Burgess’ parents also drove the school bus — or a tractor during mud season.

“We had mud a foot deep and the (bus) couldn’t get through,” she said. The tractor “had a little two-wheel cart with a covered wagon.” Saplings held up a canvas overhead and benches were on the sides for the students to sit on. “We had so much fun. We’d sit back there and sing.”

After graduating from Chesley School, Burgess went to Hanover High School with hundreds of students, which made her appreciate her time at Chesley School that much more. It even inspired her career path: Burgess went on to become a teacher herself.

And maybe, when schoolchildren visit the one-room schoolhouse, they’ll be inspired to do the same.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.


This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Geri Burgess’ last name and Jane Fant’s role with the Lyme Historians.

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