POLAND — Abby Hagler’s favorite school subject may be biology, but you can bank on the fact that history is also high on her list.
“The house really helped me understand what houses were like (around the turn of the century). It shows the interior and furniture, and there were small pieces of music,” Abby, 11, of Poland, observed.
The Poland Middle School sixth-grader was referring to a large replica of the former three-story Farmers Deposit and Savings Bank, which was on South Main Street and chartered in 1875.
The donation was among the numerous artifacts, paintings, photographs, documents and displays — including of President William McKinley — that were showcased during Sunday’s two-hour open house at the Little Red Schoolhouse, 4515 Center Road.
Hosting the gathering was the Poland Historical Society, which operates the former one-room schoolhouse.
Abby and her twin brother, Jake, also were intrigued by the many pieces of Poland Township history. Among them was information about U.S. Army Air Force Capt. Anthony B. Mitchell, a Purple Heart recipient who enlisted in September 1941 before receiving training as a bomber pilot. In June 1944, he was sent to serve in the European Theater with the 854th Bomb Squadron, 491st Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, according to www.emedals.com.
Before his military service, Mitchell grew up in Poland, where he was an accomplished high school athlete who set a record at a state championship track meet.
Abby also tried to imagine what it might have been like to be educated in a one-room schoolhouse, saying that it would have been interesting to be in a classroom with students of all grades.
In 1979, the newly formed historical society began leasing the red brick structure, which had fallen into disrepair, with the main goal of repairing and restoring it. The building was a school until it closed in 1915, after which it was used for local government meetings, church services and a variety of community functions and purposes. Eventually, the Poland Board of Education and the historical society entered into a 99-year lease agreement, and the society pays $1 per year, Laurie Fox, society president, noted.
The replica of the Farmers Deposit bank building also drew the attention of 8-year-old sisters, Addison Dudik and Bennett Hubbard, who came to the open house with their father, Ray Dudik of Poland.
“It’s definitely the military history. It’s one of my top interests,” Ray said when asked what artifacts he found most captivating.
Mixing a bit of fun with local history was Addison, who briefly wore a light-blue dunce cap with yellow lettering. The donation was a replica, the likes of which were occasionally used to discipline unruly students who attended the Little Red Schoolhouse.
Dave Smith, a Poland Historical Society trustee, noted that Turhand Kirtland, an agent with the Connecticut Land Co. that bought the Connecticut Western Reserve, came to the area in 1798 from Wallingford, Conn., and began work as a surveyor. Kirtland bought and sold certain parcels for a profit and lived on the John W. Powers property on South Main Street near Poland Presbyterian Church after having moved to the township in 1803, Smith explained.
The family of Jonathan Fowler, who married Kirtland’s sister, Lydia, became the first ones to live in Poland, having settled near Yellow Creek, Smith continued.
In addition, Kirtland built the Old Stone Tavern in 1804, which has undergone numerous iterations over the years, Smith said.
Housed in the Little Red Schoolhouse also are a series of boxed diaries Henry Kirtland, a relative of Turhand Kirtland, had written between 1843 and 1871. Many of the entries contain routine information such as weather conditions, crops that had been planted and harvested and horse-and-buggy rides around Poland, New Middletown and elsewhere. Some also describe life in the church as well as various community and social events, Smith explained.
The Poland Historical Society welcomes donations that include information of Poland residents’ ancestors, Fox said. The brick building has a collection of school yearbooks up to about 1970 and is seeking more recent ones, she added.
Fox’s wish quickly came true, because during Sunday’s open house, the historical society received a donation of four Poland Seminary High School yearbooks, a few of which were from the 1990s.