Postcard History: The Little Red School House

By Carla Charter

A little red school house sits on the property of the Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Ma.  This little school was not only part of the childhood of every person who attended it, but it is part of the legacy of every child in the United States.

This school house, known as the Redstone School, inspired a nursery rhyme that is well known to everyone across the country, Mary Had a Little Lamb.  The poem’s beginnings started in this building, which was built in 1798.

According to legend, a young girl, named Mary Sawyer, attended school there, when the school was located in Sterling. Apparently, Mary had a pet lamb and her brother encouraged her to take it to school one day, which of course caused a bit of a commotion.

Also attending the school that day was a man by the name of John Roulstone who was spending time with his uncle, Reverend Lemuel Capen, while preparing for college.  Roulstone, amused by what he had seen, is said to have written the first three stanzas of Mary Had a Little Lamb.

This is one story as to how the poem was written.  Other stories state that Roulstone only wrote the first four lines of the poem and the final twelve lines were written by Sarah Josepha Hale.  Still others believe the complete poem was written by Hale.

Whoever wrote the poem, it first appeared in publication by the Boston publishers Marsh, Capen & Lyon as a poem by Sarah Josepha Hale on May, 24,1830. Mary Sawyer’s house in Sterling, was destroyed by arson on August 12, 2007.  However, a statue representing Mary’s Little Lamb still stands in the town center.

The Redstone Schoolhouse, named after Redstone Hill, it’s original location, was eventually purchased by Henry Ford and relocated to a churchyard on Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Ma.  Ford purchased the building as part of his Longfellow’s Inn Historic District. The schoolhouse is still open for viewing from mid- May through mid- October, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11:30am to 5pm.

Carla Charter is a blogger and author of several books including: Across Lots available at