Sunday, August 8, 2010
The Brass Bell
For those of you who don't know, this blog is in support of a book project: The Brass Bell. This is the story of a hen house that grew to be one of the highest-regarded schools in New York State, Cherry Road School. It's about the woman, Miss Marion Parsons, who founded the little school in her father's cherry orchard. The Brass Bell is a story of a small farming community that grew to be a thriving Central New York suburb.
Marion's grandparents, Edwin Clark Parsons and Julia Armstrong Parsons were one of the early settlers and farmers in the area that came to be known as Westvale. Their youngest son, Willis, was a very successful fruit farmer and operated two farms on the old Genesee Turnpike. He was the president of the New York State Fruit Growers Association for many years. Marion Parsons, the middle of Willis's three daughters, followed in the footsteps of many generations of Parsons before her with her respect for and dedication to education.
All the Parsons children, and their cousins, the Jeromes, Armstrongs, Schuylers, and more, attended the Geddes District One School, otherwise known as the Terry Road School. When the one room schoolhouse could no longer hold the children or keep them warm during the frigid winters, the people of this farming community were wise enough to look into the future. They saw the beginning of the industrial revolution. They understood the importance of an education befitting the times.
These same community members, Judge Farnham, the Parsons brothers (Willis, Frances, Charles), The Jeromes, and others, joined forces and formed a board of trustees. Willis donated nine acres of Cherry Orchard; Judge Farnham led the charge to raise money to build the school. Marion, who would later be known to her students as Miss Parsons, enlisted the help of the women picking fruit in the orchard to help her clean up the chicken coop where classes would be held that first year while the brick school was being built. The first floor, the first edition of many was finished later that year, circa 1926.
Miss Parsons was presented with the brass bell from the old Terry Road School. Tears must have sprung to her eyes as she held the bell, high above her head to ring for the first time, the bell whose resounding clang had once signaled her and her cousins and friends to the long wooden benches in the tiny one-room schoolhouse. As she rang the bell for the first time, she may not have imagined that nearly 100 years later, Cherry Road School would be the alma mater of thousands who remember Miss Parsons as their first and greatest hero.
The Brass Bell will tell the story of how that came to be.