Greers’ Corner Schoolhouse — senseless vandalism, again!

By Isabel Morse Maresh | Jun 13, 2013

Over the years, I’ve written several articles about the goings’ on at the one-room Greers’ Corner Schoolhouse in Belmont. Sometimes the articles were good news, and sometimes to report senseless vandalism.

To give an update, Greene Plantation Historical Society was organized in our kitchen in Belmont, in April 1989, when a group of historically-minded people voted to organize as a Historical Society. I have personally collected Belmont history and genealogy since the fall of 1978, amassing a houseful of old pictures, stories, etc. My interest in Belmont comes not only from living here since 1966 — not counting a year lived on the other corner of Howard Road in 1954 — but because my father and grandfather were born in the Town of Belmont.

The Historical Society started out with high hopes. We met in members’ homes. Our first President Wilbur F. Buck suffered a major stroke the same year that we organized. The interim President Mr. Pattee died the next year. In 1990, we were privileged to obtain the one-room schoolhouse, in trust, to be kept as its original purpose, a schoolroom, from Marjorie and Yvonne Redman. We took down the boards covering the door and windows. We obtained donations from former members and their families, replacing every one with a new window.

My father and his siblings were among the first students in the schoolhouse. Daddy passed away the same year that we were organized. Greers’ Corner schoolhouse was built in 1908 by Edmund Brewster, whose carpentry was reported to be “second to none.” That was upheld when the Briggs brothers, assisted by Maresh brothers and others, pulled down the old plaster ceiling and lathes that were falling down, replacing it with a new ceiling. The building was only out about an inch from being square. The fact that the building sits on granite might have some bearing on the fact that she is still is square.

After some research and work, the little group was elated to be nominated to the National Register of Historic Places by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, but even more so when we were notified in October 1991, that we had been entered into the National Register, assuring that the old schoolhouse will remain as it was meant to be. Any work done on the building is to be done by the National Register standards.

We have plodded along with a few faithful members supporting the upkeep and work to keep the schoolhouse a "jewel" in the community, about the only jewel left in Belmont.

We held an open house in 1990, during the early years, at which time we had a former teacher Lydia Simmons attending, as well as 85-year-old Marjorie Redman and my 83-year-old mother, Mary Morse. Marjorie enthralled us with tales of her school years. We held a Victorian Christmas party, had afternoon teas, held fund-raisers with a handful of members doing the work. We had a work bee with the Belmont Fire Department burning our debris, and enjoying the goings-on in the schoolhouse. We’ve had several young grade-school students coming in a big yellow school bus, to visit and see how school was held in the olden days. One story that my father, Amon Morse, told me many years ago, was of seeing and hearing a Stanley Steamer car drive by. The teacher realized that it was "history in the making," as the students had never seen an automobile. She allowed the boys to go outside to watch it go by.

When the windows were installed by Mary J. and Leigh Smith, they put a wire mesh, called "hardware cloth" over them on the outside. In 1992, we had our first act of major vandalism. Someone had shot out many panes of the new windows. While we were contemplating who could have done such a cruel act, the panels on the door were kicked in. The vandals entered the building through the toilet windows. Since then, the front window was smashed so badly that all of the sashes were broken out. We have a large rock used in the deed.

In 1992, one day when I was walking down the Lincolnville road, I saw a tall young man with a raised arm on the sand pile, then I heard breaking glass. I ran down the road to the schoolhouse, screaming like a mad woman. A car with four young men came from behind the sand pile. The State Police were notified, and even though I knew who some of the boys were, nothing could be done.

In 1999, a group of inmates from the Waldo County jail did a tremendous job of scraping and painting the schoolhouse in about three days, with paint donated by Viking, Inc.

Greene Plantation Historical Society has participated in two bi-centennial parades. We had a float in the Lincolnville in parade in 2002. We made up posters, about our Society and schoolhouse, with children sitting at desks on a flat-bed trailer loaned by Bill Wallace and hauled by Peter Maresh. In 2007, we participated in the Montville parade, decorating Bob’s truck with bunting, flags, school desks and members riding in the body.

We have held remembrance days for former students, the last one in October 2012. We’ve not had record-breaking crowds, but the enthusiasm of those who attended, telling stories and tales about each other, and enjoying the reminiscing of their school days, was a joy to hear.

The vandalism continued. It seems as though one group of vandals may grow up or move on, leaving us serene for a time. Then perhaps another group rises up. All has been peaceful for about a year. In the fall of 2012, Ed Dodge replaced the back window, again, with a new window and casings, as the vandals had destroyed the window, again, with a battering ram. We held our bi-monthly meeting there on May 4. The building had survived the winter and looked fine.

On June 2, I received a phone call from Deputy Littlefield of the Sheriff’s Dept., that a back window was gone. We went down, and sure enough, the window had again been battered, shattering glass across the room. The grounds have been spun up, with mud spattered on the side of the building, leaving deep ruts made by wide truck tires. The vandals had entered the building through the window.

In late 2012, Jennie Clark had written a letter to the Editor of The Republican Journal, about obtaining a Veterans’ monument for Belmont, and made a inquiry about help for the upkeep of the schoolhouse. She received a letter from the Town that they had been advised by the Maine Municipal people that no help could be given as the Town does not own the building. The question has been asked, “If one of these vandals gets hurt on the sand pile, who is liable, the Town or Greene Plantation Historical Society?” I’ll make a wager that Maine Municipal was not told that the sand pile is on Historical Society property.

One of the mementos left on the stove by the recent vandals is a round Masonic emblem. Also left on the scene is a mysterious red plastic key chain. Once again I ask, as I asked in an article that I wrote in my Out of The Past column in the newspaper in 1992, “Does anyone know [or care] how much heartache and helplessness this causes?”

I am now an old woman, having been married sixty years at this writing. Who will pick up the torch, financially and physically, to keep Greers’ Corner Schoolhouse as a one-room school, for the public to see and learn from? There are still many former students and their posterity who live in the area. Who will carry on following National Register guide lines, and not want the building to be a "clubhouse," cow barn or garage? I am tired and discouraged!

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