Craig chapter of Daughters of American Revolution celebrates 10 years, progress on preserving historic schoolhouse
A piece of Moffat County history is slowly but surely clawing its way back from the effects of decades of neglect thanks to the Augusta Wallihan Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
DAR is a national service organization dedicated to the principles of education, preservation and patriotism. Currently 19 members strong, Craig’s own Augusta Wallihan Chapter marks its 10-year anniversary with a celebration this weekend.
Community members are invited to the event from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 8 at Boys & Girls Club of Craig, 1324 US Highway 40.
The chapter is also seeking both volunteers as well as funding to continue the Lay School renovation.
The historic Lay School, a one-room schoolhouse 20 miles west of Craig that dates to the early 1900s, has been under renovation since the local DAR chapter acquired it in 2010. And thanks to the careful, hands-on efforts of committed DAR members — and their husbands — the school is slowly beginning to reclaim some its humble glory of a century ago.
“We have made a lot of progress,” said founding DAR member and Vice Regent Arloa Gerber, who has been closely involved in the project since its inception.
The project was spearheaded by the chapter’s founding regent Shannon Koucherik after touring the schoolhouse and the nearby graves of A.G. and Augusta Wallihan, two influential homesteaders who built the school in 1910. It functioned as a schoolhouse until 1959. It was then acquired by the Lay Community Association in the early 1960s, but fell into disuse by the early 1980s, Gerber said.
Despite a crumbling, leaky roof, a stripped exterior and rotting floorboards, the late Koucherik refused to believe the building should be torn down.
“She walked in there and could see it all fixed back up again,” Gerber recounted. “She could see things like that.”
Now years later, the schoolhouse is on both the National and State Register of Historic Places, and has a fresh paint job of white with green trim, a new roof and repaired windows made of historic period glass. The interior has been gutted, including removing asbestos from the roof and walls and ripping up the flooring, and volunteers are in the process of installing new electrical wiring.
“The flooring under the vinyl was cardboard and newspaper and we were even able to read some of the newspaper headings,” noted Ann Dodd, current regent of the Augusta Wallihan chapter.
“We’re doing the construction ourselves, between the members, their husbands and volunteers,” Dodd explained. “It’s going a little slow because it’s just us.”
DAR members hope for the school to become a historic site where visitors can stop and learn about life in the early 20th century, as well as a destination for school field trips to show children what school was like for their peers 100 years ago.
“People aren’t going to know what things were like back then if we just tear everything down and say that’s the way it was, so we want to let it be known that this is how it was back then,” Gerber said. “You didn’t have all this fancy stuff. You had a little pot belly stove and a desk and a blackboard… History is history and you need to preserve it.”