Vermont October 11, 2017
The Story Behind Vermont’s Round School House Will Give You Chills
In today’s digital age, it’s pretty easy to find out about someone with a Google search and a few clicks of the mouse. But this certainly wasn’t how things worked back in the 1800s, and it wasn’t until after Dr. John Wilson’s death in 1847 that the townsfolk discovered who he really was. The trusted school teacher was actually the infamous highway robber “Captain Thunderbolt!” Let’s take a look at the round school house in VT where Wilson’s true identity went unknown until after his death.
The historic Round Schoolhouse in Brookline was built in 1822 and is the oldest brick schoolhouse in Windham County. It's also the only known round schoolhouse in the United States!
The schoolhouse was designed by Dr. John Wilson, who only agreed to teach there if his own round building design was used.
It is said that he gave a "well rounded education" to 60 students at the Round Schoolhouse for at least the first year of its schooling. After that, Wilson went on to practice medicine in Newfane.
There are 5 windows in the one room schoolhouse so when a person is standing they have a 360 degree view of their surroundings.
Wilson said that this design was so he could keep a lookout for "Captain Thunderbolt," the highwayman and robber whose existence had the townsfolk in fear.
The town trusted this well educated man who wore a fancy ascot every day.
In addition to teaching, Dr. John Wilson also passed himself off as a doctor and a lawyer during his time in Vermont. The people in the town felt lucky to have such a well educated man living in their community.
However, upon his death everyone discovered the truth which shocked everyone. Dr. John Wilson was actually Captain Thunderbolt!
You see, Thunderbolt’s accomplice, Captain Lightfoot, had given a vivid description of Thunderbolt to a writer of before he was hung in 1821.
When Wilson died in 1847 he left instructions to keep him fully covered and clothed. Perhaps the coroner didn’t know this, because upon examination he found all the indications claimed in Lightfoot’s description of Thunderbolt.
There was a large scar on his neck (normally covered by his ascot) which was consistent with the scar that Thunderbolt had received in jail back in England from his neck shackles, according to Lightfoot. They also discovered his cork heel as Thunderbolt also lost part of his heel when he was shot as well as a bullet wound in his calf.
They also discovered a stiletto hidden in his trusted cane. The cane, heel, Wilson's photograph, his medical instruments as well as his sword/cane can be seen today in the Vermont room at the Brooks Library in Brattleboro.
So Wilson wasn't looking to protect his students by being able to see in all directions... He was worried about saving himself!
OK, the schoolhouse story in VT is real (and scary!) but we’re moving on… Check out the
100 mile view that everyone can see!