Atlas Obscura

Where Mary and Her Little Lamb Went to School

The Redstone Schoolhouse.

Photo: Dudesleeper/Wikimedia Commons/Creative Commons

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“Mary Had a Little Lamb” is one of the most famous nursery rhymes of all time, and supposedly its frivolous lyrics can be traced back to this 18th-century schoolhouse, which was moved from its original location in order to preserve it.

Built sometime in the late 1700s, the tiny, one-room schoolhouse was in use from 1798 up until 1927, when it was finally closed (for the first time). The little schoolhouse takes its name from its original location, as opposed to its color, having been located on Redstone Hill in Sterling, Massachusetts.


After its initial stint as a school, the entire building was moved around 20 miles to nearby Sudbury where it remains to this day. Relocated by Henry Ford to be a part of his Wayside Inn historic district, the school reopened again in 1927, at its new location, teaching grades one through four to the local children. This second life lasted until 1951, when the school was closed a second time and converted into a solely historical site.


The school’s relation to the famous nursery rhyme began during its first life as a school, supposedly based on one Mary Elizabeth Sawyer, a Sterling resident, who is thought to have brought her lamb to school with her on the advice of her brother. The exact origins of the poem are disputed, but according to the plaque outside of the Redstone Schoolhouse, this is the one that is mentioned in the verse.

The Redstone Schoolhouse is preserved today and available for tours, which give a glimpse into what education was like in the days of yore. Unsurprisingly, still no lambs allowed.

Submitted by Atlas Obscura contributor stevebecker.

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