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A history mystery revisited — Fairbanks School in Westfield

BeeLines

December 12, 2012
By Marybelle Beigh - Westfield Historian (westfieldhistorian@fairpoint.net) , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

A BeeLines article in May 2009 asked the question, "What is 'Fairbanks' doing in the Westfield Republican in 1899?" The answer is Fairbanks was a mini-community on Parker Road near the junctions of Kent Road and Jones Road, on the west side of the Town of Westfield about two-thirds of the way between Lake Erie on the north and the south boundary of the township near Nettle Hill and the junction of Westfield-Sherman Road and Highway 76 to Sherman. Fairbanks was the location of Common School District No. 8 - Fairbanks School - as well as the Fairbanks Milk Factory destroyed by fire in August 1905.

The 2009 article also showed a picture of the former Fairbanks schoolhouse, which is now a small house, and was photographed by the Westfield Historian. At the end of the story was a request for a photo depicting the schoolhouse from about a hundred years ago, should anyone have such a picture. During the summer of 2009, Hayden Hanks, who has spent much of his life collecting local history and writing about Barcelona and Westfield, donated a number of files of his research, writings and photos to the Westfield Historian. In addition to the Thomas Walker 1867 diary described in a recent BeeLines article, some scans of early 1900 photos of the Fairbanks School and several other rural schools were included, with notes and identifications.

Since the story of the brickyards and brick-masonry of Thomas Walker has just been told, it seems a good time to share some of the photos and information that connect the Walker family to former Fairbanks School. A 1915 photo-scan of Westfield District No. 8, Fairbanks School shows the building on a nearly barren plot of land with the flagpole in the front and one of the attached toilet buildings in the rear. At that time, the rural schools had separate boys' and girls' outhouses, usually just "one-holers" each.

Article Photos

Submitted photo
A photo from 1915 shows a group of students and teacher Frances (Walker) Shepard in front of the school building.

Another closer photo from 1915 shows a group of students and Frances Walker, teacher, at the front of the school building. Notes on the back of some of the photocopies explain Frances (Walker) Shepard was the teacher in this picture, and that her father's farm was north from Fairbanks School on Parker Road. Shepard attended District School No. 7 - Lombard School - at the corner of Pigeon and Parker Roads, which was called Lombard Corners. Lombard was a couple miles north of Fairbanks. There is a photocopy of Westfield District No. 7 with the notation that this was the first school attended by Shepard, but she did not teach there.

Shepard also attended and graduated from Fredonia Normal State School, becoming a teacher. In the previous BeeLines about Thomas Walker, it was mentioned he contracted and built the Fredonia Normal School in 1867.

Included in Hanks' files is a genealogy of the Walker family, constructed "from notes by Frances Walker Shepard, granddaughter of Thomas Walker and Charlotte Garett, written 1937-39." They were from Rugby, England and came to America in 1842, a while after Grandfather Walker graduated from Rugby as a master builder.

Fact Box

The office of the Westfield Historian is located at 117 Union Street, in the small green building on the north side of driveway. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 to 11 a.m., or by appointment. The Westfield Historian phone number is 326-2457, and the email mail address is westfieldhistorian@fairpoint.net.

According to the notes with the genealogy, Edward Walker, the 10th child of Thomas and Charlotte Walker, was Frances Walker Shepard's father. "He [Edward] was an expert brick and stone mason, having learned the trade from his father. Many public buildings in Westfield, Sherman, and Ripley NY and Corry PA, bear his handiwork. Grandfather Thomas Walker was builder of most of the old brick blocks in Westfield, also the Methodist, Presbyterian and [a portion of] Episcopal Churches, the Allen residence at the corner of Bliss and Portage Sts., the Hall residence at Washington and Franklin Sts., Dr. Spencer's Home on East Main St., remembered for the two iron dogs on the front lawn (later to become Westfield Memorial Hospital), the Hungerford House on North Portage, which, with the Walker Inn at Barcelona were two of the last stops of the Underground Railroad, helping slaves to freedom in Canada. My father worked on two new blocks on Portage St. and the Thomas block on Main St. He reconstructed the towers of the Methodist into Gothic style, and built the milk plant at Sherman NY. He was sought after because of his accuracy. Carpenters enjoyed working after his were constructed as that timber fit perfectly."

Additional notes on the genealogy stories, handwritten by Hanks, explain that Thomas Walker also built the Brewer Block and Apartment House, E Bar and Clarks, Fredonia Normal School and a church in Brocton. E Bar may refer to the European Bar on North Portage. Hanks also added that Shepards' father, Edward Walker, "also built N.Y. Central R.R. depot." That would be the last depot, which was built around 1900.

There is another exciting Walker family story yet to be shared in a future BeeLines article, so stay tuned.

 
 

 

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