Close this search box.


Counting The Days: A Schoolmaster’s Record Book

This little notebook opens another window into the life at the Peter Parley/West Lane Schoolhouse.

In the collection of the Ridgefield Historical Society, a small notebook (2015.301.5000) contains the account of a term at the West Lane District School in 1821 as recorded by its young teacher, David Whitney Olmsted. Pages of carefully recorded forward-slash marks, lined up against names that would have been very familiar in southwestern Ridgefield, are evidence of the days of attendance by Mr. Olmsted’s pupils. They include Northrop, Benedict, St. John, Smith, Nash, Keeler, Stebbins, and more. However, it’s not the pupils’ names that are listed, but rather their fathers’ – with a wide variation in the number of days represented based on how many children from a family might have been at the school and how often they could attend.

Mr. Olmsted calculated the school tax owed based on these records and also the credits earned by the families for supplying firewood and cutting it to a usable length.

His salary for the fall term was $10 per month and Mr. Olmsted probably had a short commute: he is believed to have grown up in the house at 75 Olmstead Lane and later in life, having taken up shoemaking, he lived at 91 Olmstead Lane with his wife Emily Grumman. He died in 1877 and Emily remained at 91 Olmstead Lane until her death in 1899. Their son, David, born in 1838, died in 1855; he may well have attended the school where his father had taught. A fragment of his copybook was found in the attic of 91 Olmstead and is occasionally on display at the West Lane (Peter Parley) Schoolhouse during open houses.

This little notebook opens another window into life at the one-room school where Samuel G. Goodrich/Peter Parley was educated at the turn of the 19th Century along with his siblings Abigail and Charles. Nearly 20 years after Mr. Olmsted’s tenure, it was the first school of Cyrus Northrop, who went on to graduate from Yale University and later became the president of the University of Minnesota.

Now known as the Peter Parley/West Lane School, the building at the intersection of West Lane, Silver Spring Road and South Salem Road, is a small museum, furnished as it would have been when its last pupils left in 1915. It’s maintained by the Ridgefield Historical Society, and is open the last Sunday of the month from 1 to 4, May through October. School groups visit for special programs. For more information, see


More Posts

Send Us A Message

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list and receive updates, news, and invitations.

Visit Us

Ridgefield Historical Society
4 Sunset Lane
Ridgefield, CT 06877
Tel. (203) 438-5821

Follow Us


 © 2024 Ridgefield Historical Society, All Rights Reserved | Privacy Policy