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The Charlestown schools

From 1819-20 (continued).

Frank Mortimer Hawes
The trustees for the year 1817 were Rev. William Collier, Abram R. Thompson, M. D., Captain Nehemiah Wyman, David Stetson, Isaac Tufts, Peter Tufts, Jr., Elias Phinney.

1818, Rev. William Collier, A. R. Thompson, M. D., Isaac Tufts, Elias Phinney, James K. Frothingham, Joel Tufts, John Soley.

1819, Rev. Edward Turner, Samuel Payson, Isaac Tufts, Elias Phinney, James K. Frothingham, Joel Tufts, John Soley.

1820, the same.

1821, the same, except that Philemon R. Russell succeeds Joel Tufts.

1822, Rev. Edward Turner, Samuel Payson, Elias Phinney, Rev. James Walker, Joseph Phipps, Samuel P. Teel, Nathan Tufts, 2d.

1823, Rev. Edward Turner, Rev. James Walker, Joseph Phipps, Nathan Tufts, 2d, James Russell, Samuel Gardner, Leonard M. Parker.

1824, Rev. James Walker, Joseph Phipps, James Russell, Samuel Gardner, Leonard M. Parker, Chester Adams, Thomas Hooper.

1825, James Russell, L. M. Parker, Chester Adams, Rev. Henry Jackson, Lot Pool, Edward Cutter, Rev. Walter Balfour.

1826, Chester Adams, Hall J. Kelley, Nathaniel H. Henchman, Rev. James Walker, Benjamin Whipple, William S. Phipps, Rev. Henry Jackson.

1827, Rev. James Walker, Chester Adams, Lot Pool, Benjamin Whipple, H. J. Kelley, Josiah S. Hurd, Henry Jaques.

1828, Benjamin Whipple, Rev. James Walker, Chester Adams, Rev. Henry Jackson, Luke Wyman, J. S. Hurd, Robert G. Tenney.

1829, the same.

Our gleanings from the trustees' records and from their annual reports have been brought down to the spring of 1819. [91] May 8 of that year Samuel Payson, Elias Phinney, and Joel Tufts were appointed to select a location for the new house without the Neck, and a week later it was voted that the new Milk Row School be erected where the former one stood. Isaac Tufts and James K. Frothingham were the building committee, and it was decided to build of wood.

This house was completed in October. Its sides were filled in with brick, and it was ‘finished in a plain, neat style, with two coats of paint on the outside’; the cost was $675. October 22 the school, which was in charge of Miss Charlotte Remington, was visited by Messrs. Turner, Isaac Tufts, and Frothingham. They were highly gratified with the specimens of the children's improvement, particularly in reading. This was the first examination in the new building. The winter term (1819-20) was taught by Daniel Russell, and March 20 the school passed an examination ‘which was highly creditable to themselves and their instructor.’ There were present Messrs. Turner, Isaac and Joel Tufts, Frothingham, ‘and a large number of interested spectators.’ The whole number on the rolls was 92; present on this occasion, 35 girls and 26 boys.

October 13, the school at Winter Hill, under Miss Julia Remington, was closed. Owing to unfavorable weather, the examination which was to have been held was not attended by any of the board. Mr. Gates, of the Neck School, resigned, much to the regret of the committee, and was succeeded, June 11, by Charles Fiske, who taught only to December 11, when Rev. William Collier was engaged. In September the lower floor of this schoolhouse was finished suitably for a schoolroom, and it was occupied by a school of small children, with a female for instructress.

Schools for poor children were held from May to November. These were in different sections of the town, and were visited November 13. The trustees found 26 under Mrs. Rea, 40 under Miss Susan Wyman, and 30 under Miss Mary Frothingham, 96 in all. These teachers received $2.50 per week for 30 scholars.

The school for girls (over seven years of age) was kept six months, and also closed in November. In April (1820) it was [92] voted to pay Miss Carlisle, the assistant, one-half as much as to Mr. Prentiss, the principal.

October 20, J. M. Wilkins, of No. 1, resigned ‘suddenly,’ much to the regret of the board. He received their commendation. Edward Sawyer was appointed his successor, at a salary of $800, ‘if he continues two years; if less than that time, only $700 per annum.’ Later we learn that he received the larger sum. At the examination the school of Messrs. Sawyer and Gordon was highly praised. At the last visit of the trustees, there were 685 children in all the schools (not primary). Of these, 511 were present, as follows: At No. 1,200; at the female school, 101; at No. 2, kept by Rev. Mr. Collier, 90; at No. 3, under Daniel Russell, 61; at No. 4, under Simeon Booker, 33; and at No. 5, under Charles Wyman, 26.

A reduction of salaries having been agreed upon, the sum needed for the current year will be $3,100. No. 5 will need repairs amounting to about $75. Joel Tufts and Mr. Frothingham are authorized to attend to these repairs. May 1, 1820, Isaac and Joel Tufts are appointed to establish summer schools without the Neck.

March 1, 1820, the trustees by vote established the holidays and vacations for the school year as follows:—

1. Wednesday and Saturday afternoons of each week.

2. The afternoon of the annual training in May.

3. General Election week, four days.

4. Artillery Day.

5. Commencement Day at Harvard College and the day following.

6. Day of military review, when holden in Charlestown.

7. From Wednesday noon immediately preceding the annual Thanksgiving to Monday morning following.

8. Christmas Day.

Schools to, commence the first of May.


May 23, 1820, a communication was received from Mrs. Sarah Adams (of Winter Hill), and was placed on file. This was [93] probably a petition for a primary school in her section of the town, and we have been given to understand that one was established about this time. It was kept in the old Tufts house, the home of Miss Abigail and Edmund Tufts.

Salaries of all male instructors, except Mr. Sawyer's, were reduced to $600. ‘The established salary had been £ 200. and, in addition, a grant had been made which augmented the compensation to $800.’ Mr. Sawyer's salary was not changed, because he had been engaged for two years at that rate. After a highly commendatory paragraph concerning this gentleman, the report adds: ‘Nor are the services of Mr. Gordon less important.’ November 8 we read that Mr. Gordon is to receive his £ 200 per annum and a grant of $20 for the last quarter. Unforeseen expenses, to the amount of $385, had exceeded the appropriation; the roof of schoolhouse No. 1 had to be shingled at an expense of $111, and in January the same building was damaged by fire to the amount of $65.

The female school opened May 1, and continued six months, under Mr. Whitney and Miss Carlisle. In May, 1821, before the annual meeting, this school had opened with two new teachers, Henry Bartlett and Miss Ann D. Sprague.

At the Neck Mr. Collier's resignation took effect June 20. After a short vacation there, Mr. Gragg was engaged ($600), and began to teach July 7. ‘Miss Ann Brown left the occupation of the schoolroom at the Neck October 23, and Miss Sebrina Johnson engaged it on the same conditions which Miss Brown has improved it, to commence this day.’ Schools for poor children have been kept six months by Mrs. Rea, Mrs. Thompson, and Miss Jefferds; 68 children attended.

November 8, the money for schools without the Neck for winter schooling was apportioned as follows: $140 for No. 3; $125 for No. 4; $85 for No. 5. The whole number of school children, ‘outside of the women's schools’ (primary) was 779 at the time of their examination. Present at these examinations: at No. 1 (Messrs. Sawyer and Gordon's), 203; at the female school (Mr. Whitney and Miss Carlisle's), 122; at Mr. Gragg's, 65; at Mr. Parker's (Milk Row), 67; at Mr. Colburn's (No. 4), [94] 37; at Mr. Wyman's (No. 5), 26. Mr. Colburn's school was examined March 22. Out of the whole number of 54, there were present 22 girls and 15 boys. ‘The school was addressed by Rev. Mr. Turner, and closed with prayer.’ No 3 at Milk Row was examined March 31; whole number under Mr. Parker, 100, but only 67 were present. The school was addressed by Mr. Turner, and closed with prayer.

Of bills approved April 9, 1821, Miss Rebecca Cutter received $57.75. She was probably one of the summer teachers outside the Neck. The report says that schoolhouse No. 5 is a small, old building, considerably out of repair, and quite uncomfortable for the winter season. The committee is of the opinion that it is not worth repairing. ‘At solicitation, we recommend an appropriation.’ In consequence, the town voted $250 for the erection of a new building there, it being understood that the inhabitants will add to this sum. Joel Tufts resigns in May, and he is excused with the thanks of the town for his services. Philemon R. Russell is chosen to take his place. The annual report is signed by James K. Frothingham, secretary of the board of trustees.


May 14, 1821. Voted that Messrs. Tufts and Russell establish summer schools without the Neck, as in former years; that Messrs. Turner, Russell, and Tufts be a committee to attend to the erection of the new schoolhouse in Gardner's Row (No. 5), ‘agreeable to the vote of the town’; June 15, that Messrs. Turner and Russell examine No. 4 schoolhouse, ‘to see if it is necessary to have new paint.’ August 17, Samuel Gardner proposed to convey a lot of land a few rods south of the present schoolhouse lot (No. 5), he to have the old lot in exchange. A deed was taken from him for the new lot, with the dimensions of thirty feet on the road, and thirty-six feet, twenty-five feet, and forty feet, respectively, on the other three sides. We are favored with a complete expense account for building this new house, dated January 21, 182:;— [95]

Gardner and Fay's bill for labor$145.76
Sarah Cutter, for brick4.00
John Fisk, for labor3.00
David Devens, lumber60.41
Ephraim Stevens, lumber80.37
Devens and Thompson, for hardware and glass39.50
William Flagg, for labor10.50
Jonathan Gibbs, lumber4.44
Samuel Gardner, labor25.00
Elijah Vose, Jr., stove and funnel19.16

This amount exceeded the appropriation, $142.14, ‘and this sum has been drawn from the treasury.’

As Mr. Gragg resigned at the Neck school in June, Mr. Samuel Moody took charge July 7. Up to that time, ‘the school was in a state of bad discipline,’ but now the conditions are excellent.

The schools for poor children were kept the past season by Mrs. Rea, Mrs. Thompson, and Miss Jefferds, to the full satisfaction of the board. One hundred children have attended, ‘and the improvement has been as good as could be expected from children in their station. For it is with regret we are under the necessity of saying that there is a great want of attention in the parents of these children, in not seeing that their children, who are entitled to this privilege, regularly attend the schools established for their advantage.’

The schools for females, under Mr. Bartlett and Miss Sprague, were closed the last of October. ‘We are pleased to announce that Miss Sprague is again engaged for the ensuing season.’ Mr. Sawyer (No. 1) is highly praised, and his salary raised $100. It is recommended that Mr. Gordon's salary be increased a similar amount. ‘He has been in the school for six years past, teaching writing and arithmetic.’

The schools without the Neck were examined April 9, 1822, but no return was made, except of school No. 3, under Mr. [96] Parker, at which some handsome specimens of writing were particularly noticed. The number present, out of a total of 119, was 32 boys and 40 girls. The whole number of school children —outside the primary departments—was about 750, or 66 more than attended last year; $3,400 will be necessary for the coming year.


At town meeting May 6, 1822, John Soley, Philemon R. Russell, Isaac Tufts, and J. K. Frothingham declined to serve on the board of trustees. They received the thanks of the town for their services, and Rev. James Walker, Nathan Tufts, 2d, Joseph Phipps, and Samuel P. Teel were elected to their places. Mr. Phipps was chosen secretary. The town also voted to buy the land, with the building thereon, now occupied by the female school, but Mr. Collier declined to sell for the present.

May 11, 1822. Voted that Nathan Tufts attend to the care of the female school at Winter Hill and the school at Milk Row; that Samuel Teel have charge of the upper schools. October 22, these two gentlemen were empowered to, dispose of the old schoolhouse at No. 5.

The school for females opened May 1, under Josiah Moody and Miss Sprague. In July Mr. Moody was succeeded by Melzer Flagg. The school closed the last of October. It was opened again May 5, 1823, with Luther S. Cushing and Miss Sprague as teachers. In July, No. 2, at the Neck, was vacated by Samuel Moody, and Joseph Reynolds was appointed to succeed him. Schools for poor children were kept six months in different parts of the town, under the care of Mrs. Rea, Mrs. Thompson, and Miss Jefferds. ‘About 100 children had this privilege.’

The school at Milk Row (No. 3), under the charge of Mr. Blanchard, was examined in April, and was found in a good state of improvement. Forty-four were present out of a total of about 100. Present: Messrs. Turner, Walker, and Tufts. No. 4 and No. 5, at the upper part of the town, as far as returns have been made, have been satisfactorily kept. The whole number of children, about 760, Present at the last examination: at No. 1, [97] 191; at the female school, 197; at No. 2, 66; at No. 3, 44; at 4 and 5, about 83. Three thousand five hundred dollars will be needed for the coming year.

The following vote, passed April 25, 1823, is interesting: ‘Voted that there shall be but one public examination of each school in a year, to take place some time between the fifteenth and the end of October, and that the several masters be instructed to make this examination rather an exhibition of the schools in the higher classes than a regular recitation of the whole school, and that means be used to induce the parents and others interested to attend the examination, care being taken that the exercises be generally interesting from their excellence and not wearisome from their number or length.’


School No. 2, at the Neck, was vacated in July by Joseph Reynolds, and Thomas Thompson was engaged for the month of August. September 1, Henry Adams was engaged, and began his labors there, at a salary of $600. In October the school in district No. 1, under Messrs. Sawyer and Gordon, was examined and gave satisfaction. October 20, Cornelius Walker succeeded Mr. Sawyer as teacher. The female school, under Luther S. Cushing and Miss Sprague, was kept six months. The examination was highly gratifying, especially Miss Sprague's work. May 3, 1824, this school opened again, under Samuel Bartlett and Miss Sprague. The schools for poor children were also kept six months; they were examined and approved by the trustees. The school in Milk Row at its examination was found under good government and improvement.

October 31, Messrs. Turner and Nathan Tufts examined the school at Winter Hill, taught by Miss Hobbs. The number present was 41 out of a total of 50. ‘The scholars were examined in reading, spelling, writing, English grammar, geography, and rhetoric. In all which they have made such attainments as prove their studious habits and unremitted attention. The school was particularly distinguished for reading in a clear, distinct, and audible manner. The order and discipline were excellent.’ [98]

‘October 24, a remonstrance came from John Tufts and others in Ward 3 against the employment of Mr. Nathan Blanchard another winter. It was voted that, though they regret the existence of such an opposition, the trustees do not consider the case so clearly made out as to justify their rescinding the engagement which the trustees in that ward have already made. Voted that the secretary (Mr. Phipps) furnish Mr. Blanchard with a copy of this vote and the remonstrance, with the signatures thereto.’

The petition of John Tufts and others, praying for the erection of a schoolhouse at some convenient place on or near the road leading from the neck of land to the Powder House, was referred to a committee consisting of Mr. Turner and Mr. Parker. Their investigations give us some interesting information:—

‘The whole number of scholars at Milk Row is about 130. The distance of travel for those living on Winter Hill road, when following the Cambridge road, is over one and one-half miles; when going across lots, one mile. The distance is so great either way, and the traveling so bad across lots, especially during the winter, that a large portion of those living on that road cannot attend school. The number of scholars living on the Winter Hill road who will be accommodated by the erection of a new schoolhouse is about 55, which twill leave for the present Milk Row School about 75. Again, the school at the Neck is now large and constantly growing, and it would be very advantageous to lessen the number by taking therefrom all those living beyond the Canal bridge, amounting to about 20. By annexing these to the contemplated school, the number there would be about 75. In addition, the trustees would also state that for several years past it has been necessary to employ a schoolmistress for the accommodation of those living on the Winter Hill road, and the rent of a room for this purpose has been about $25 per year, which is not far from the interest of such a sum as would be requisite to build. The recent establishment of factories at Milk Row will much tend to increase the scholars of that school, which, together with the ordinary growth [99] of the town, will render the formation of a new district and the erection of a new schoolhouse, if not at this moment, surely within a short period, absolutely necessary.’

February 16, 1824, it was voted to refer to the selectmen at town meeting this petition of the ‘inhabitants living from Mr. Joseph Adams', Senior, on Winter Hill down to Richard's tavern at the Neck.’ April 14, Messrs. Parker, Tufts, and Phipps were a committee appointed for contracting with some suitable person for erecting a schoolhouse on Winter Hill road. Jeremy Wilson was engaged to build a house on the Pound lot, thirty feet by twenty-four feet, at a cost of $500. At town meeting, May 3, 1824, the committee on new school building report that it will be completed in about twenty days.

April 9, Milk Row School was examined by Messrs. Parker, Tufts, and Phipps, and a number of visitors. The government appeared very good. The scholars were examined in reading, spelling, grammar, writing, geography, and ciphering, ‘and some of their branches was very well.’ The number of children present was 56, out of a total of 107 belonging. They were addressed by Mr. Parker.


As Nathan Tufts, 2d, and Rev. Edward Turner resigned, Chester Adams and Thomas Hooper ‘were chosen in their room.’ This was at the town meeting held May 3, 1824, when it was also voted to district the town for the purpose of establishing primary schools for children between the ages of four and seven, the trustees to report on the same at the next March meeting. School No. 4, near Alewife (‘elewive’) bridge, was to be superintended by James Russell; No. 5 by Samuel Gardner; No. 3 by Messrs. Hooper and Phipps. They were also to have charge of the new school on the Pound lot.

November 2, 1824, Robert Gordon, of the grammar school, is spoken of as lately deceased, and the vacancy is supplied by engaging Peter Conant.

It was voted at the May meeting that the female school on Austin street be kept through the year, instead of six months. Mr. Barrett (?) and Miss Sprague have continued here and given [100] general and great satisfaction. As the lease for this building will soon expire, it is advisable to purchase the site, or one more eligible, on which to build.

Henry Adams resigned at school No. 2 in June, when Samuel Bigelow was engaged to fill the vacancy. He has done much to raise the character of the school.

The new school on Winter Hill road was opened June 14, 1824, under the care of Miss Hobbs. This school and the one at Milk Row, under Miss Eliza Wayne, were closed in October (examined Wednesday, October 13). At the former 32 boys and 28 girls, or 60 out of a total of 73, were present, mostly young scholars. ‘Their performances were respectable.’ Present: Rev. James Walker, the president of the board, Messrs. Adams, Hooper, Phipps, and some visitors. The same gentlemen attended to the Milk Row School, where 46 out of a total of 80 pupils were present. ‘Their appearance and performance was well; in writing, geography, and grammar very well. Some samples of needle work, with baskets, etc., was exhibited, all neatly executed.’ Michael Coombs was engaged to teach the winter school at No. 3, and as it was decided to have a male teacher at the new school for four months, Messrs. Walker and Parker engaged H. F. Leonard to teach there, at $30 per month, to begin November 15. Mr. Coombs' school was visited March 25. ‘Their reading, spelling, and other branches were respectable.’ Messrs. Adams, Hooper, Phipps, Rev. Mr. Fay, and a number of visitors were present. The school was closed with remarks by Mr. Adams and prayer by Mr. Fay. The schools in Wards 4 and 5 have been kept the usual time and with acceptance.

In considering the subject of districting the town for the establishment of primary schools, the trustees recommend that they be placed, (1) at the junction of Wapping street and Salem turnpike; (2) on Town Hill; (3) on Union street; (4) on Cordis street; (5) on Salem street; (6) at the Neck; (7) at Chelsea point. ‘Six schools may be sufficient, but it must depend on the number that may still be taught in private schools. It is estimated that 50 children in each school may be taught to advantage, [101] and perhaps 60 may be permitted to attend. The salary of the instructors, with room rent and fuel, would be about $225.’

February 25, 1825, the following rules for the schools within the peninsula were adopted: The hours for school shall be from 8 to 11 and 2 to 5; but from October to April, 9 to 12 and 2 to 5, except that during the shortest days the schools may be closed at sunset.

There shall be two visitations made,—from the middle to the end of April, and from the middle to the end of October.

Books recommended: Fourth class, the spelling book and ‘Beauties of the Bible’; third class, the same, and Murray's Introduction to his English Reader, Cummings' First Lessons in Geography and Astronomy; second class, Murray's English Reader, Murray's English Grammar and Exercises, abridged by Alger, Walker's Dictionary (abridged); first class, American First Class Book, Walker's Dictionary (abridged), Murray's English Grammar and Exercises, or the abridgment by Alger, Morse's School Geography and Atlas. The following arrangement is made for the boys at No. 1: Arithmetic—Robinson's Elements, Robinson's American Arithmetic (or Daboll's may be used), also Colburn's Mental Arithmetic. Holidays: Wednesday and Saturday afternoons; Election week; Thanksgiving Day and the remainder of the week; Commencement Day and the remainder of the week; Christmas Day; Fast Day; first Monday in June; Seventeenth of June; Fourth of July; and the day next after the semi-annual examinations.

(To be continued.)

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James F. Whitney (2)
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Samuel P. Teel (2)
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Hall J. Kelley (2)
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David Devens (2)
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