One Room Schoolhouse

Rheta Jenks, Owner, B/R Travel Service

Constructed in 1879, the school building that hosts the Museum at the Shacksboro Schoolhouse was originally located on Canton Street Road in the Town of Van Buren. The area around the school was known as “Shacksboro” because of the plethora of rustic structures occupied by local tenant farmers. Elementary students from Van Buren District No. 8 attended the Shacksboro School until it was closed in 1952 for lack of running water.

The school structure served as a storage unit until 1976, when preservationists Sarah Baker and Ann Kohler secured the building as Baldwinsville’s bicentennial project. With the notion that it could become a local history museum, the school was loaded onto a flatbed truck and moved four miles north on Canton Street to its current location. The site, owned by the Village of Baldwinsville, previously contained the South Side Intermediate and Primary School, a large, brick Victorian schoolhouse that was demolished in 1960. The property is now known as McHarrie Park.

McHarrie’s Legacy, Baldwinsville’s historic preservation organization, placed the building on a new foundation, installed a furnace and running water, and replaced the lean-to in the back with a functional handicapped accessible bathroom. In October 1986, the schoolhouse was officially dedicated to the purpose for which it was intended – a museum that preserves and presents the history of greater Baldwinsville. The museum’s first exhibit appropriately featured the history of the Shacksboro Schoolhouse. Sue Ellen McManus, the museum’s director, curates three to four changing exhibitions each year. The Museum is open year round from Wednesday through Sunday, and offers rotating exhibitions, public educational programs, a museum shop and book sales. Its Heritage Peony Project draws master gardeners from around the region.

Rheta Jenks, Owner, B/R Travel

Rheta grew up on Canton Street and attended first and second grade at the Shacksboro School during its last two years of operation. Her mother, a teacher, attended the Oswego Normal School, and taught in one of the area’s other one-room schools. After receiving both a B.S. and M.S. in Music Education from Ithaca College, Rheta returned to Baldwinsville, where she taught music for nine years. “The first eights years were at Van Buren Elementary, where I used to be a student,” she recalls. “And believe it or not, when I went back as a teacher, I was working with instructors who I had known there when I was a student!” A career change led her to the travel industry, and she now owns her own travel business, B/R Travel, which serves the Baldwinsville and Radisson areas.

Rheta’s love for music runs in her blood. Her grandmother was in the Methodist Church’s choir, and her mother, who sang with the choir college at Oswego, especially appreciated music, even though she wasn’t really a musician. “She was always singing songs, and she taught me some of the songs from the 20s,” Rheta recalls. “Right up until her 80s she could really do a mean Charleston, if you asked her, she could show you how to do the dance steps.” Her father, a dairy farmer, always played music in the barn when he and Rheta milked the cows. He sang along and hummed to the radio, which he kept turned on to keep the cows contented.

Rheta loves mixed choirs, and has served as Choir Director at the Presbyterian Church for 20 years. She acknowledges that she is not alone in her affinity for music—the greater Baldwinsville community is committed to making, sharing and enjoying song. “It’s because of the rhythm of the river,” she says. Rheta also loves to travel, of course. In 2013 she took a particularly notable riverboat tour of Belgium (in European, not Central New York) and the Netherlands. The foreign waterways resonated with her childhood impressions of the Seneca River. “The water is so peaceful, and it leads you to the world! Just like it does over here.”