Journey of former town office, schoolhouse draws crowd in Knox
Knox — Parked at the Ridge Top Restaurant, lifelong Knox resident Robert Welch awaited the passage of a building that holds a special place in the hearts of many who grew up in the Western Waldo County town.
"I'm sitting here because I used to go to that school," said Welch on the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 7. "That's where all the memories started, right there when I was just a little tyke."
Welch, who said he still resides in the home where he was born, remembered the two-room East Knox Schoolhouse fondly as he waited for the building — which was making its first portion of its journey with the help of Baxter Cook House and Building Movers out of Searsport — to crest Knox Ridge.
"It had an old pot-bellied stove," said Welch.
Welch was one of the many Knox residents who lined Route 137 and waited at the ridge to witness the move Wednesday morning.
When the moving truck reached the church after making the corner at Knox Ridge, the motorized vehicles made way for a pair of work horses, and the powerful animals completed the job from there.
Linwood Doughty, who was also present for the switch from the truck to the horses, attended the school in 1949.
"It looks a little different from when I went to school in it," he said with a smile.
Doughty said the East Knox Schoolhouse was one of two in town, with the second one located near where the new town office sits today.
"It's nice to get it redone, and to see it get fixed up as a museum," said Doughty.
In recent years, the circa-1898 schoolhouse was used as a town office until the town constructed the new municipal building at the intersection of Route 137 and Abbott Road. The town sold the old building and the property by sealed bid after opting for the new municipal building, and awarded the property and building to Ross Curry.
About two years ago, the Knox Historical Society asked Curry if he was willing to donate the building to the society so it could be used as a go-to place to store local artifacts, historical photos and other records detailing the town's past. Curry agreed, and the society began the two-year effort of raising the money to move the building off its original parcel. The new location neighbors the Mount View school complex and was donated by Knox resident Shirley Bessey.
The Horse and Ox Pulls, a weekend-long celebration of the town's agricultural roots, has been one of the major fundraisers and has since become an annual event.
Clayton Larrabee, a member of the historical society, said the event is a way to bring the community together while also celebrating the past and preserving local history for future generations.
Larrabee said using the old schoolhouse as a museum now, while there are still living residents who remember the various uses of the building, will help keep that history alive and more authentic.
Lots of locals have different memories, and Larrabee said he saw an example of how those memories help keep the history complete during one of his annual horse-drawn tours of the former farms. One rider noted a farm that was not on the tour map, one that Larrabee has since added to the program.
Tina Keller taught at the old schoolhouse during the 1950s, and said the school had been closed for years before she went to work as a K-2 teacher.
"There was no power, no telephone, no water," she said. "There were just desks, the teacher's desk, the kids and me."
Keller said it was wonderful to see the town using the building as a way to teach local history, but if the town wanted to use it as a school again, "I'd go back and teach there for nothing."
Larrabee said he knew of a Knox resident who started their education at the two-room schoolhouse who went on to be the valedictorian of his graduating class at Mount View High School, noting it is a testament to the value of an old fashioned education.
"You don't need to have a big fancy school to get a good education," said Larrabee.
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Tanya has been a general news reporter in Waldo County since 1997.
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