Sunday, April 18, 2010
Miss Parsons' great, great grandfather, Maurice Parsons, wrote in a letter from Worthington, Mass, in January 1865: "My first nine children have all except one been teachers of primary schools, and I believe very successful in their occupation." Marion Parsons would one day uphold the Parsons' tradition, turning a hen house in her father's cherry orchard into one of New York State's premier public schools.
At the time Maurice Parsons wrote that letter, his eldest son, Edwin, had left Worthington for Syracuse many years earlier. When he first arrived in Central NY, he taught school. Later on, having saved his money, he was able to purchase property and pursue farming, another Parsons' tradition. Edwin married Julia Armstrong in September, 1846. They had six children, and as these children came of age, the farm grew in size. Their sons had inherited the father's love for making a living off the land. Their eldest daughter, Mary Amelia, married James Schuyler Jerome. The Jerome Dairy would provide milk for its Westvale customers for three generations.
Their youngest son, Willis (Miss Parons' father), purchased a sixty-some acre farm in the spring of 1890--just up the road from the family farm where he had grown up. The road back then was a dirt turnpike connecting New York State from east to west, the Genesee Turnpike. Over time, Willis added another 138 acres to his holding along the Turnpike and became one of the most respected fruit growers in the state. All along the Turnpike were the farms of aunts and uncles, siblings and cousins, creating a widespread community of Parsons relations. Though Willis dedicated his life to farming, he had not failed to notice the Parsons' love for and dedication to education.
When Willis's three daughters were children, they attended the Terry Road School, donated to the community by Cousin Guy Parsons. When the Terry Road School became too small for the growing community, many people opened their parlors for classrooms. By the time his daughter Marion had graduated from college and had taught school in a small frontier town in the wild west, Willis had committed his mind and his property to the idea of building a new school for the children of Westvale. Miss Marion Parsons would be the founding teacher and principal and would serve in that role for 25 years.
By the time she retired in 1953, the school had been built of brick and several additions had been made. A community institution had been established and by the turn of the century, many people had forgotten, or probably never knew, the history of Cherry Road School. That's why we are proceeding with the book project to tell the story of the history of a little school that grew and has come to mean more to its alumni than just a place where they went to school. For many who graduated many years ago from Cherry Road School, and still meet regularly to share those fond memories, Cherry Road represents a model of what it means to be part of a community.