Belden Hill School: Bare walls and a friendly stove

Back in the 19th Century, teachers and students did more than work on lessons. If they wanted to be warm in the winter, they carried coal into the schoolhouse.

In 1878, a 357-square-foot schoolhouse, known as Belden Hill School, was built on a 0.02-acre lot on the east side of Belden Hill Road.

The fifth district one-room school served first through eighth graders of the Belden Hill neighborhood for more than 50 years.

As conservator of Frances L. Keeler, Gould L. Jelliff conveyed the 0.3 acres of land on which the schoolhouse stood to the Belden Hill School District in October 1878.

According to Wilton Library History Room documents, Angeline M. Post, who taught at Belden Hill School in the early 1900s, said the schoolhouse had “double desks, an old fashioned teacher’s desk, a friendly old stove, and nothing but four bare walls with blackboards of the poorest type.”

The schoolhouse also had “four small windows” that “brought in the welcomed sunshine on beautiful clear days,” according to Post, and the entryway had two windows and a wardrobe for “hats, coats and other apperal.”

A coal bin was built at the back of the schoolhouse, which Post described as an “ungainly box” containing coal that was “carried in a heavy coal scuttle into the school room by the teacher and some of the larger boys.”

Post said the desks were “rough and uneven, marred by ink and initials” and “quite uncomfortable for children of all sizes and ages.”

A rubber bucket pump was situated in the front of the schoolhouse, according to Post, who said it was “better than carrying a bucket from a neighbor’s well.”

In the 1910s, the 21-by-17-foot schoolhouse had a 10-foot ceiling, six five-by-three-foot windows, the stove, and six blackboards, according to a hand-drawn layout of the school found in the Wilton Library History Room. Walking into the schoolhouse, the teacher stood at the front right of the classroom and students sat at 13 desks in the rear.

In 1922, applications for “more suitable desks” were not granted due to lack of funds, according to an old news article.

A map from 1930 shows the schoolhouse was bordered by a wire fence on two sides, a stone wall on another, and the fourth side faced Belden Hill Road.

Student life

According to old newspapers, students were involved in a number of activities, both in and outside the schoolhouse.

In the fall of 1927, Belden Hill School’s Busy Bees student club began writing a column for The Bridgeport Telegram called The Belden Hill School News.

According to an account from Oct. 27, 1927, elected club officers included Julius Vasale as president, Marion Segers as vice president, Carin Johnson as secretary, and numerous committee chairs.

The school had a Halloween party that year, where students and guests played “pinning the eye in the pumpkin, chewing string, and scrambling for corn and beans,” and enjoyed “cake and orange-ade.”

On Oct. 27, 1927, students from each Wilton schoolhouse presented Halloween plays at town hall. Belden Hill students performed Halloween at the Back of the Woods, which was “judged the best,” and the students performed it again for members of Wilton’s Parent-Teacher Association, who were having a meeting in a chapel across the street.

The following month, the Busy Bees decided there would be “punishments for swearing,” and early the next year the school column reported “hooks have been put in the entry so that pupils’ coats may be hung in the corner.”


In the late-19th Century, most Belden Hill School teachers were male. The earliest teacher on record was Augustus Buckley in 1878. Others, according to Annual Town of Wilton Reports, included John F. Knapp, James E. Miller, James Farrell, Josiah Gilbert, Justus K. Raymond, A.N. Benedict, and Francis Jelliff.

After leaving Belden Hill School around 1906, the aforementioned Post was succeeded as school teacher by Mrs. Frank C. Benedict.

From 1911 to 1929, Belden Hill teachers included: Mary M. Dunham, Josephine W. Lynch, Anita E. Corey, J. Carolyn Pierce, Margaret E. Rockwell, Orel Hazel Messick, Dorothy Weir, and Margaret A. Beardsley.

Wilton Library History Room documents show that students in Beardsley’s 1916 class ranged in age from 5 to 15. One of her students that year was 12-year-old Eleanor Jenks, who became Belden Hill’s school teacher six years later.

In 1929, Wilton opened a new four-room school, the Center School, and began consolidating its school districts. In 1932, Belden Hill School students — except those in fourth grade — were moved to the Center School.

Three years later, Belden Hill School officially closed its doors. Edith Parmelee was the last to teach at the schoolhouse.


In March 1936, the town conveyed 0.02 acres of the land, containing the schoolhouse, to the state of Connecticut. In September 1937, the town conveyed the remaining 0.28 acres of land to its neighbor, Violet Denman Carson.

Carson later acquired the other 0.02 acres and sold both parcels to Richard and Marjorie Baker in September 1943. The Bakers then sold 0.3 acres to Alice L. Brower in June 1946.

The property continued to change hands and sometime before 1984 the one-room schoolhouse was converted into a home, which today stands at 424 Belden Hill Road.

In 2011, David Heissenbutel and Kimberly MacDonald bought the two-bedroom, two-bathroom house, out of which Heissenbutel runs his roofing business, DMH Roofing.

Click here to learn about Wilton’s other district schoolhouses.