At one time, a total of 20 individual school districts existed in Conway, when “local control” really meant something. Five of those districts existed within the confines of Goshen, as South Conway was called well into the 20th century. The two largest, Districts 16 and 18, paralleled each other on either side of the old road from Conway Center to Goshen Corner.

These districts were organized in the 1830s around convenient walking distances, but they were both fairly long because of the sparse settlement. Each located its school near the longitudinal midpoint, along Conway’s pre-1800 southern boundary, so the one-room schoolhouse for District 16, at Goshen Corner, sat less than half a mile east of the District 16 school.

Before the Civil War, enough families lived in each district to fill its school, and sometimes to crowd it, but from 1865 onward, rising taxes and the difficulty of hillside agriculture began sending residents westward, or into the cities.

In 1877, the two districts joined forces and decided to build a new school. Three or four years previously, the town had laid out a new section of road connecting Goshen Corner with what is now known as Baird Hill Road, thus completing the Brownfield Road. The two old schools sat precisely at either end of that new section, so the combined supervisory boards built the new school right in the middle, finishing it in 1878.

Seven years later, the state abolished the old district system and forced each municipality to create a single, centralized school district with one governing board. The villages all got the bulk of the resources, as usual, and the old rural schools began withering away. By 1926, Conway had a new high school, three village schools and five surviving rural schools — the smallest of which was the last one in South Conway, with one teacher and 12 pupils.

Nellie Farnsworth arrived as teacher about then, but by 1929 there were only eight students left. In 1934, the school board finally closed the South Conway school down and required everyone to send their children to Pine Tree School in Conway Center. That was a long trek over roads that were horrible in winter.

Nellie went on to teach the upper grades at Pine Tree, where she served as principal. She immediately started buying up little pieces of land around the old schoolhouse, apparently on the promise that she would be allowed to buy the school itself, and in 1941 she did just that, turning the place into her home.

In 1947, she married Harry Potter, from an old Goshen family, and they built a new house on a hilltop right beside the old school, which they sold. Harry was quite a bit older, and lasted only 20 years, whereupon Nellie married Alvah Carver. It was as Nellie Carver that she finally published “Goshen,” using her decades of manuscript research and old-timer interviews about the hill district where she once taught.

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