Oxen to move Brownington School House

in Brownington/News by

BROWNINGTON — On Monday morning, August 8, 20 teams of oxen will be hitched to the 30 by 40 foot two-story building that served as the first secondary school in Orleans County, to help pull it back up the road 1/3 mile to the site where it was built in 1823.

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Spectators are welcome to come watch this reenactment of the way many buildings were moved in the past.

Moving buildings from place to place was such a common practice that there are very few pictures or accounts on how they did it, however, in the early days, oxen provided the power.

Messier House Moving from East Montpelier will be managing the move, which will meld new methods with the old. The building will be up on wheeled carriages, not rolling on logs, and there will be supplemental power to move the building into the road, and then off the road to its new foundation.

The 20 teams of oxen should be able to pull the building on its 1/3 mile journey up the Hinman Settler Road.

The oxen will gather on Sunday, August 7, at the Old Stone House Museum, where there will be activities, an exhibit on oxen history, and practice hitching the teams together.

Visitors are welcome to come from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn about oxen and watch them work. The blacksmith shop will be forging yoke hardware, including “jingle-bobs,” which link the chains from the teams ahead and behind together.

After the move, the jingle bobs used in this historic event will be sold to benefit the continuing work of restoring and improving the building.

Phase two of the project includes building a replica of the original bell tower, with stairs from the basement to the second floor, which will meet the fire code requirement of providing a second exit on the opposite side of the room. The porch will be replaced on the back side to accommodate a handicapped ramp.

The Orleans County Historical Society is continuing to raise money through donations and grants to bring the building home and restore it.

With the return of the Grammar School, the neighborhood, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, will return to the way it was during the time of Alexander Twilight, the brilliant and charismatic head master, who in 1836 built the Old Stone House as a dormitory for the school.

Alexander Twilight was racially mixed, and is now known to have been the first person of African American heritage to graduate from an American College and the first to be elected to public office. After Twilight’s death in 1857, the Orleans County Grammar School was moved from its original location to the middle of Brownington Village in 1869.

People who would like to watch this historic move on Monday morning are advised to arrive by 9 a.m., to park and walk to viewing areas. The electricity will be turned off at 8 a.m., and then final communication lines will go down.

After the line crews have finished their work, the oxen will be led down to the building and hitched up. The move will start at about 10 a.m., and could take from 20 minutes to an hour.

Handicapped drop-off and parking will be from Brownington Center up Old Stone House Road to Prospect Hill.

On Monday, the day of the move, the Old Stone House Museum and antique equipment barns, with the special oxen exhibit, will be open. There will be kettle coffee and doughnuts, pie, and lunch available.