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Our story begins, as far as the records are concerned, June 3, 1636, when ‘Mr. William Witherell was agreed with to keepe a schoole for a twelve month, to begin the 8 of the VI. month, & to have £ 40 for this yeare.’

Frothingham, in his History (page 65), makes this comment: ‘This simple record is evidence of one of the most honorable facts of the time, namely, that a public school, and, judging from the salary, a free school, at least for this twelve-month, was thus early established here, and on the principle of voluntary taxation. It may be worth while to remember that this date is eleven years prior to the so often quoted law of Massachusetts, compelling towns to maintain schools.’

A brief word on this first-named school teacher of Charlestown will not be amiss. Rev. William Witherell (the name admits of various spellings) came from Maidstone, Kent, Eng., in 1635, under certificate from the mayor of that place, where he had been schoolmaster. He was bred at Corpus Christi, Cambridge, took his degree of A. B. in 1623, and his master's degree in 1626. In the ship Hercules, which sailed from Sandwich, there came with Mr. Witherell his wife, three children, and a servant. Savage adds that, after preaching in Duxbury, he became the minister of the second parish of Scituate in 1645, that several children were born to him in this country, and that he died April 9, 1684. A recent genealogical note in the Boston Evening Transcript gives his age as twenty-five in 1627, when he married in Canterbury, Eng., Mary Fisher. That he was for several years the schoolmaster of Charlestown appears from the following:—

‘11: 12 mo. 1636. Mr. Wetherell was granted a House plott with his cellar, selling his other house and part of his ground.’

‘12: 12 mo. 1637. About Mr. Wetherell it was referred to Mr. Greene and Mr. Lerned to settle his wages for the Yeare past in pt and pt to come & they chose Mr. Ralph Sprague for a third.’

‘28: X mo. 1638. John Stratton was admitted a townsman & has liberty to buy Mr. Wetherell's house.’

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