From the Sept. 23, 1920 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

Schools have opened; and their opening recalls the almost-forgotten times of other Island schools that shaped the growing minds of a generation now white-haired, and which have closed, never to open again.

One of them was the Old Wood School. It stood upon what is still known as the Old School House Road which cuts across Seven Gates Farm from Indian Hill to the North Road. There is nothing left now of the first school in the “breezy hill country” — nothing but a clearing in the woods that threatens soon to become part and parcel of the woods and to lose itself entirely.

The foundation stones of the schoolhouse are overgrown with brambles and poison ivy. Even the old road is reaching a quiet age under a growth of bushes and under the arching oak trees that cover its whole distance.

No one living can remember when the Old Wood School was built. George A. Rogers died a few years ago on the north shore, and with him the survivor of the earliest class probably passed away. Mr. Rogers attended the school in 1833 or 1834. There were 66 pupils in his class, all from the neighboring district.

The Woods School district ran east as far as the Davis Cottle house, west to the Deacon Chase place and north to the Daggett place on the north shore. Shadrach Tilton, who died at Sailor’s Snug Harbor not many years past, was a classmate of Mr. Rogers. Other contemporaries were Calvin R. Tilton, James Tilton, Fran and William Baxter, Mrs. Ann C. Kidder and her brother, Joseph Chase.

Many a north shore boy was graduated from the Woods School to the deck of a whaler. The pupils ranged from little boys and girls of kindergarten to big, husky, overgrown fellows. Things were different in those old times and a pleasant atmosphere clings to the memory of the Woods School.

Mr. Rogers was little more than four years old when he first went to the old school. He was 16 when he shut his desk for the last time and went to sea with Captain Hervey Luce of New Bedford, on the bark Morning Light. The whaler rounded Cape Horn and the voyage lasted 37 months. In his school days, Mr. Rogers recalls a number of teachers. Evidently they seldom stayed long at the North Tisbury school, but the list includes several that graduated to better schools down island and spent many years teaching.

“My teachers,” said Mr. Rogers, “were Charles Brown, Charles Alden, Alphonso Luce, Charlotte Corday, Caroline Norton, Thurston Tilton, and two brothers from down east, Charles and Joseph Dana Bullen. Thurston Tilton used to walk down from Chilmark every day. He lived up on the North Road near the present home of Captain George Fred Tilton, and some winter days he had a pretty long three miles ploughing through the snow. Charlotte Corday married Captain Jernegan of Edgartown, and I saw her afterwards on her husband’s ship around Cape Horn. I went on board their ship one day to see her while we were in the Pacific.”

Thurston Tilton spent a long life teaching school. He was a hard worker and in his school work at the Wood School he always heard the lessons of the whole 66 pupils himself. Some of the teachers were in the habit of sending one of the older pupils out into the entry to hear the little children recite. Mr. Tilton taught school in Vineyard Haven, and he finally went blind from overwork. He was undoubtedly a born teacher, but his fiery temper always inspired his pupils with awe. Mrs. George A. Rogers, who went to Thurston Tilton some years after her husband, relates how by the end of the week he usually had a desk full of gim cracks appropriated from the class. On the last day of the week, he called the pupils one by one, and had them identify their property much to his amusement.

“In the summer we sometimes had school in the open air under the trees. There were some giant oaks standing near the building then. They have been cut down a long time. On hot days we asked the teacher to hold class out there, and when it was very hot he usually consented.”

As years went by, the school came more and more to need repair, and finally the town decided to build a new structure. First, they put up a building in Middletown near the Dr. Fisher place, but this was far from the center of the district, and it was moved north to become the Locust Grove school. It was sometime in the ‘60s and Mr. Rogers was at sea when the Wood School was abandoned. Part of it was moved to Middletown where it still does service as a barn in the yard of the village blacksmith, Tristram Chase; another piece was carted to Menemsha and used as a pound house by Jason and James Frank Luce. The entry is a hen house on the old Ephraim Allen place next door to Mr. Rogers’ on the north shore. Dozens of initials carved by childish hands years ago can still be found in the weathered wood, a sort of memorial to the school children of the past.

Compiled by Hilary Wallcox