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Charlestown schools without the Peninsula Revolutionary period.

Frank Mortimer Hawes

In closing our account of this period, it remains to speak of the Alewife Brook and the Gardner Row schools, both at the upper end of Charlestown. After 1790, when the four schools were designated by numbers, these were known as No. 3 and No. 4.,

As we have before stated, the Alewife Brook district probably comprised that part of our city which lies west of College avenue. It extended well up into, Arlington, and took in that part of Menotomy which belonged to Charlestown. The Gardner Row district extended along by the Mystic ponds as far as old Woburn line.

Like the Milk Row school, the affairs of these districts were managed, for the most part, by a local committeeman, who was usually selected at the annual town meeting in May. The selectmen were supposed to, have control of all school affairs, and at times, when dissatisfaction arose, mostly from economical reasons, no, local officer would be appointed to, relieve them.

In 1754, when our account begins, Nathaniel Francis and Joseph Phipps were representing these two districts. The former had been elected as early as 1744, and served, with some interruptions, for seven years. The last mention we find of him is May 5, 1755, when it was agreed that his account for wood, etc., for the school without the Neck, amounting to £ 2 6s 4d, be allowed. This gentleman belonged to a family that gained more prominence on the Cambridge side of the line than in Charlestown; Paige and Wyman both speak of him. He died September 2, 1764, aged seventy-one, and was buried in West Cambridge

Mr. Phipps served continuously from 1751 to 1757. He was a descendant of Solomon Phipps, an early settler of Charlestown, and in previous chapters we have given the family due prominence. According to Wyman, he was the father of [15] Frances, who became the wife of Timothy Trumbull, master of the town school in 1680-2. Mr. Phipps died June 27, 1795, aged seventy-two.

May 12, 1755, Mr. Phipps received ‘an order for £ 5 4s 9d, 1. m., for Mr. Jabez Whittemore keeping the school [Gardner Row?] without the Neck the year past.’ Doubtless this is the Jabez Whittemore who, in 1756 ‘was approbated as inn-holder at his house without the Neck, where his father lived.’

Mr. Francis's place on the board was filled by Henry Putnam, who, according to Wyman, was a new-comer from Danvers, and of the Israel Putnam stock. He continued in office for the next ten years, being elected for the last time: in 1764. During this decade he distributed for his district £ 8 3s of the town's money yearly. Wyman is doubtless in error when he says Mr. Putnam was teaching without the Neck in 1760.

During these same ten years Mr. Phipps had been followed, in turn, by James Fosdick, Captain John Hancock, and Joseph Lamson, the first of whom served for the year 1757-8, the second from 1758 to 1760, and the third for the remaining five years, when, along with Mr. Putnam, he disappeared from the board.

Among many entries at this time, perhaps the most interesting is the following: April 3, 1758. ‘Agreed to allow James Fosdick as one of the committee without the Neck for schoolmaster, benches, firewood, and house rent amounting to £ 6 lawful money, being his proportion.’ In 1760 these two schools were receiving about the same amount of the town's money, a little more than £ 7 each. The Milk Row school was receiving, through Mr. Kent, £ 10 6s.

We have not thought it necessary to give an extended reference to these gentlemen. Wyman devotes several pages to the Fosdicks. James Fosdick (1716-1784) was prominent in town affairs, and left a good estate. In his inventory we read of a mansion house, two shops, three acres or more, near Prospect Hill, etc. We have had occasion in a previous article to speak of a Mr. Hancock who was teaching in 1724 in the Stoneham precinct. According to Wyman, that was the Rev. John Hancock, later of Braintree, and father of Governor Hancock. [16] This Captain Hancock (1699-1776) was of the same Lexington branch and a cousin of the governor's father.

May 14, 1765, Walter Russell and Isaac Mallet were elected to the board, the former for the Alewife Brook school, the latter for the one at Gardner Row. Mr. Mallet served three years, and was succeeded, May, 1768, by John Lamson, who continued in office for five years. In 1773 Mr. Fosdick was serving in his place, but that year it was decided to do away with a local committee, and it was voted ‘that the selectmen manage the school without the Neck, and proportion the money among the inhabitants as they shall judge equitable.’

Lamson is another good old Charlestown name. Joseph Lamson (1728-1789) and John Lamson (1732-1759), according to Wyman, were cousins. The same authority makes the erroneous statement that the former was schoolmaster outside the Neck in 1769 and 1772. All the gentlemen thus far named in this paper served with Samuel Kent during his long and faithful term of nineteen years in the Milk Row district.

Walter Russell's name occurs on the town books in connection with school matters, excepting the years 1771 and 1772, for thirteen years from the time of his first election. In 1778 he was succeeded by his brother, Philemon Russell.

Lieutenant Samuel Cutter was serving in 1771 and 1772, and again in 1781 and 1782. This gentleman (see Cutter Genealogy, p. 54), a man of prominence in the Menotomy district, was the grandfather of Edward and Fitch Cutter, whose names figure on the early records of Somerville. The name of Mallet is precious to Somerville for its associations with the old Mill, or Powder House.

Miss Carr, in her excellent monograph on the family (Historic Leaves, Vol. II., p. 10), has been led into an error concerning the above-mentioned Isaac Mallet by her authorities, Frothingham and Wyman. In saying that he taught school at the Neck in 1767, they make two, mistakes. In the first place, there was no school at the Neck in those days, and, secondly, the record distinctly says, under date of April 6, 1767, that Isaac Mallet received £ 8 10s 4d as his proportion of the school money [17] (for the district which he was representing as committeeman). If further proof of this and similar misstatements be necessary, we need but consider that Mr. Mallet was forty years of age at this time, a man of means and influence, and was holding various town offices of importance. The writer believes he is correct in affirming that, as a general thing, male teachers in these outlying districts at this time, as well as long afterwards, were young men, many of them graduates or students of the college near by, who were but ‘feeling their way’ before the real battle of life was to begin.

The above-named Walter Russell, son of Joseph, whom we have mentioned (Vol. III., p. 18) as teaching school in 1724, not only served on the committee, but was, a worthy follower of his father in wielding the ferule. The first date we are sure of is May 2, 1774, when he received an order for his amount for keeping part of the school without the Neck, £ 8, and his associate at the Gardner Row school, Daniel Reed, under same date, received £ 5 6s 8d as his amount ‘for keeping another part of the school.’ January 26, 1776, Edward Gardner is allowed the same sum for keeping this school, and Walter Russell £ 8 6s for keeping the one at Alewife Brook. These dates prove to us that these schools were not closed, at least for any length of time, during the excitement which prevailed after the battle of Bunker Hill, when old Charlestown lay in ashes. Daniel Reed was the representative of a family that for several generations lived at the upper end of Charlestown, near the ponds. He was, perhaps, the son or grandson of Daniel and Mary (Converse) Reed; the son was born February 19, 1732.

In February, 1778, Walter Russell was acting as town clerk, a position which he did not hold long, as, May 20, 1779, we read that Samuel Swan was serving in that capacity. The last time we find Mr. Russell's name associated with school affairs was in 1780 (already referred to as the year of greatly-inflated values), when the district under his management received £ 317 8s 6d of the £ 6,400 appropriated for schools!

Walter Russell, son of Joseph and Mary (Robbins) Russell, was born January 24, 1737, and died at the early age of fortyfive, [18] March 5, 1782. For his second wife, the mother of his children, he married Hannah Adams (Historic Leaves, Vol. III., p. 89). Dr. Paige, the historian of Cambridge, says that Joseph Russell, the father, lived on the north side of the main road in Menotomy, on the first estate west from the river (Alewife brook), but in 1730 exchanged estates with Captain Samuel Whittemore, and removed into the borders of Charlestown, now Somerville, where his home was on the road leading to Winter Hill. The ancient homestead of this branch of the Russell family was destroyed by fire not many years ago. Its site, on the easterly corner of North street and Broadway, is marked by a well and an old pump, which is still standing.

About the time Edward Gardner was teaching in his home district, others of his name renewed a family interest in the school by accepting positions on the school board. As early as 1738 (Vol. III., p. 16), Henry Gardner was a member of the local committee outside the Neck, and for five consecutive years previous to May, 1753, was serving his district. October 10, 1776, Samuel Gardner was serving in this capacity, and his name is found upon the records every year, I believe, up to 1782.

In August, 1779, Philemon Russell received £ 18, and June, 1780, Edward Gardner, £ 14 19s 6d (probably for teaching in their respective districts, as Samuel Gardner and Amos Warren were on the school board at the time). Edward Gardner in 1782, and as late as 1786, served on the committee, and Mr. Russell's name occurs in the same connection, year by year, to the end of the period which we are considering. Another teacher, in one or the other of these districts, was James Gardner, who received, through Collector Hawkins, pay for his services, August, 1786.

We have mentioned the name of Amos Warren. He was serving in 1779, and again in 1784. August 2, 1784, Amos Warren and Samuel Gardner are allowed to keep tavern.

We are justified in concluding that, previous to 1786, there was no public school building in these two districts. Several references to private quarters that were hired for school purposes are found upon the town records. [19]

December 6, 1784. ‘Voted that the school at the upper end of the town be placed at Mr. Samuel Swan's, he to board the master at six shillings per week, and find a room for the school.’

Voted to give Samuel Gardner five shillings a week to board Ruth Jones to December, 1785 (see Historic Leaves, Vol. III., p. 68).

December 14, 1785. ‘The school kept at Phebe Russell's received £ 8 8s.’

May 4, 1785. ‘Voted to give Coll. N. Hawkins for school kept at John Swan's £ 10 16s.’

In the warrant (February 28, 1785) for the coming town meeting, we find the following: ‘To know the minds of the town, what they will do with regard to two petitions presented by the people at the upper end of the town requesting that one or two schoolhouses may be built there.’ March 7 it was voted that two schools be built agreeably to, this petition. The committee appointed for this purpose were ‘Mr. Samuel Gardiner, Mr. William Whittemore, Coll. Nathaniel Hawkins, Lieut. Samuel Cutter, and Mr. Seth Wyman.’ These gentlemen seem to have attended promptly to their duty, for May 1, 1786, it was voted to allow Captain Cordis's account for building the schoolhouses without the Neck, £ 80. The following November Messrs. Whittemore and Philemon Russell were empowered to lay a floor, make seats, and lay a hearth at the Russell's school. We believe this was the first time in the history of Charlestown that a school building was designated, although unofficially, by the name of a person or family. A few references to these schools, though trifling, may not be out of place.

June 3, 1788, Mr. Russell receives an order for work at the school, £ 2 9s 10d, and Seth Wyman for wood, £ 1 12s. In October Mr. Whittemore's bill for work at the school amounted to £ 3 5s 6d. April 4, 1791, Mr. Russell's bill for cutting and carting wood to the school No.. 3 and repairs amounts to £ 2 19s. The next April, for furnishing three and one-half cords of wood to their respective schools, Mr. Russell receives £ 3 9s, and Mr. Wyman £ 4 4s. This makes the price of wood (delivered), in the time of our first president, from five to six dollarsper cord. [20]

January 5, 1789: ‘Voted that the school money for the past year be divided according to the taxes, and that Nathaniel Hawkins, Samuel Swan, Esq., and Philemon Russell be a committee to make division accordingly. Benjamin Hurd, Jr., & Seth Wyman were added to this committee.’

October 19, 1789. ‘Voted that Coll. Hawkins, Philemon Russell, and Seth Wyman provide masters for the schools outside the Neck.’

Philemon Russell, youngest son of Joseph, and brother of Walter Russell, was born August 1, 1740, and married June 28, 1764, Elizabeth Wyman, who survived her husband many years, and died in 1825. The many references we have made to his name show that he was active in town affairs, and particularly interested in the schools. We shall have occasion to refer to him and his son, Philemon R. Russell, in our next period. He was licensed as a victualler, was employed by the town as a surveyor, and lived in the house which stood on the spot where his grandson, Levi Russell, erected a more modern structure, which is now owned by the city of Somerville. Mr. Russell died in 1797. His will, dated May 27, was probated June 7 of that year.

Our notes on the name of Gardner are exceedingly meagre for a family of so much prominence. It seems to have started in Woburn. Richard Gardner, of that town, and his son Henry were the grandfather and father, respectively, of Henry (1698-1763), who lived at the upper end of Charlestown. His brother was the Rev. John Gardner, of Stowe. By his wife Lucy, daughter of John Fowle, he had five sons, Edward, Samuel, John, Henry, and James.

Edward Gardner, born in Charlestown March, 1739, married Mehitable Blodgett, of Lexington, and died January 23, 1806. It was he whose name figures in these pages. His brother Samuel, born 1741, died at the age of fifty. He, also, as we have attempted to show, rendered valuable service to his section of the town. James, the youngest son of Henry Gardner, according to the family genealogist, graduated from Harvard College, and was long located at Lynn as a physician, where he died in 1831. [21]

By way of recapitulation, we add the following table, which is a continuation of the one on page 16, Vol. III. The larger sum was the whole amount appropriated for schools; the less sum the amount devoted to schools beyond the Neck. Committee of management for the schools outside the Neck:—

May 13, 1754, Nathaniel Francis, Samuel Kent, Joseph Phipps; £ 180; £ 24.

May, 1755, and May, 1756, Samuel Kent, Joseph Phipps, Henry Putnam (same amounts).

May 10, 1757, Samuel Kent, Henry Putnam, James Fosdick (same amounts).

May, 1758, and May, 1759, Samuel Kent, Henry Putnam, Captain John Hancock (same amounts).

May, 1760, ‘61, ‘62, ‘63, ‘64, Samuel Kent, Henry Putnam, Joseph Lamson; £ 180; £ 25 6s 8d.

May, 1765, ‘66, ‘67, Isaac Mallet, Samuel Kent, Walter Russell; £ 180; £ 34 10s.

May, 1768, ‘69, ‘70, Samuel Kent, John Lamson, Walter Russell (same amounts).

May, 1771, and May, 1772, Peter Tufts, Jr., John Lamson, Lieutenant Samuel Cutter (same amounts).

May, 1773, ‘74, ‘75. The selectmen, a committee for the schools within and without the Neck.

1776, ‘77, John Hay, Timothy Tufts, Walter Russell, Samuel Gardner; £ 60 (for all the schools).

May 11, 1778, Caleb Call, Samuel Tufts, Samuel Gardner, Philemon Russell; £ 140 (for all the schools).

May 20, 1779, Samuel Tufts, Samuel Gardner, Amos Warren; £ 500 (for all the schools).

[Committee within the Neck, Nathaniel Gorham, Eben Breed, David Wood.]

May 8, 1780. ‘The selectmen, with Samuel Gardner, a committee to regulate the schools’; £ 6,400 (£ 400, 1. m.).

1781. The selectmen and Lieutenant Samuel Cutter a committee for the schools.

‘Voted that Hon. Nathaniel Gorham be a committee to raise £ 100 for the support of the schools.’ [22]

May 6, 1782. The selectmen and Edward Gardner; £ 120 (for all the schools).

May 12, 1783 (outside), Timothy Tufts, Philemon Russell, Amos Warren; £ 125 (for all schools).

May 10, 1784, the selectmen (same amount).

May 4, 1785, the selectmen; £ 180 (for all schools).

May 15, 1786, the selectmen and Seth Wyman; £ 185 (for all schools).

May, 1787, the selectmen, Seth Wyman, William Whittemore (same amount).

May 26, 1788, the selectmen, Philemon Russell, Seth Wyman; £ 150 (for all schools).

May 14, 1789, the selectmen, Philemon Russell (same amount); Milk Row, £ 31 2s 8d; Alewife Brook, £ 14 17s 2d; Gardner Row, £ 14 18s 10d.

May, 1790, ‘91, same committee; £ 150, ‘exclusive of the income of the school fund.’

May 14, 1792, the selectmen, Richard Devens, Samuel Dexter, Philemon Russell, Seth Wyman; £ 225, ‘including the school fund.’

Apportioned February, 1793, for the year preceding, Milk Row, £ 41; Alewife Brook, £ 20; Gardner Row, £ 20.

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