It’s a humble little building that you might have passed many times without taking notice but its significance has not been lost on the keepers of Galt legacies. The Liberty Schoolhouse, affectionately called the Little Red Schoolhouse, was generously bequeathed to the Galt Area Historical Society, and the group has big plans for making that schoolhouse a place of learning once again.
Vice Mayor Shawn Farmer has been a part of the project since the beginning. His wife Heather’s father is part of the John and Jim Henke Jr. family trust that donated the building.
“The schoolhouse pre-dates Galt because it was originally built in 1855 in the town of Liberty,” Farmer said. “This was before the civil war and during the presidency of Franklin Pierce, two presidents before Abraham Lincoln. When Galt was founded, it was moved to Galt, which many buildings were, around the 1860s. It is one of only two buildings that still exist from Liberty. The Liberty Schoolhouse is the oldest structure in Galt.”
Plans for the schoolhouse are coming together, and Farmer said the structure is slated for an addition to the Rae House property. It will need a lot of renovating, including a new foundation. Once the building is structurally sound, it will be restored and used as a teaching exhibit.
Janis Barsetti Gray, president of the historical society, said she’s never been as excited about a project as she is about this one. She’s been immersing herself in episodes of “Little House” and other period movies and shows. The history of building the schoolhouse is a story in itself as well as its longest owner, Sally Baxter Sperry.
“The wood they built the structure from came all the way from the East Coast,” Barsetti Gray said. “That meant it came around the Horn. It was before the Panama Canal was built. Sally Baxter Sperry lived there on what was called Front Street, now Fourth Street. She was an eccentric lady, a socialite, who wrote books. She had her own printing press and spent a lot of time walking around Galt drawing the buildings.”
Samples of Baxter Sperry’s work can be seen at the Rae House, which is open to the public every first Sunday of the month. Two of her books, “The City of Galt; a Short History” and “Western engravers & artists of the 19th century” are still available on Amazon.
The town of Liberty was located near the intersection of Liberty and Lower Sacramento roads, according to Barsetti Gray. Her vision for the renovation include furnishing the schoolhouse with period desks to give a sense of what it was like to go to school in the mid-1800s. Donations of old books and other period pieces have begun to come in.
What is needed now is funding for the project. The building will have to be moved, which will cost thousands of dollars. Renovations will also be costly. Barsetti Gray hopes Galt’s area builders and merchants will want to be a part of the project. Any donations of labor or dollars will help make this project a reality.