previous next

Charlestown schools after 1825 (Continued.)

By Frank M. Hawes


The teachers of the summer schools outside the Neck were: Miss Mary E. Brown, of the Winter Hill; Elizabeth P. Whittredge, of Prospect Hill; Miss Mary Dodge, of Milk Row; Miss Clara D. Whittemore, of the Russell; and Miss Hannah S. Austin, of the Gardner. These schools were assigned to the care of Messrs. Allen and Underwood, of the trustees. The report of Charles Adams and others, reported at the last town meeting, was referred to Messrs. Forster, Underwood, and Sanborn, who are to ascertain the number of children at Winter Hill. This committee reported in favor of a school on the top of this hill, ‘on certain conditions,’ and a few days later it was voted to open this school Monday, June 10, for six months. Miss Caroline M. Sylvester was secured as teacher. The two schools in this district were designated henceforth as the Lower and the Upper Winter Hill schools.

Estimates were received from various persons on the cost of altering the school buildings in Winter Hill, Prospect Hill, and Milk Row districts, according to the last annual report. The contract was awarded to James Twombly, as the lowest bidder, for $690.45. At the end of the year we find his bill of $788.37 approved by the auditing committee. The report says: ‘The former schoolroom at Prospect Hill has been fitted up in such a manner as to make it one of the most desirable in town, having seats with backs, and raised as they recede from the desk of the master; and an addition has been made for the accommodation of the primary school.’ ‘The cumbrous desks have been removed from the Milk Row and Winter Hill schoolhouses, and these have been fitted up for the better accommodation of the primaries.’ August 12, voted to let the teachers dismiss their [93] schools Wednesday next, to attend the examination of schools in Boston on that day.

September 30 we have the first mention of the Prospect Hill grammar school, which is to be opened Monday, November 4, also the primary school there the same day; the salary of the master to be $600, payable quarterly. October 14 Cornelius M. Vinson was elected the teacher of this school, and December 30 a clock was voted for his schoolroom. The spring examination occurred April 9, 1840, at 1 p. m. The report adds: ‘Thus far this school has succeeded beyond the expectations of the board. During the winter the attendance was so regular and full that additional seats were necessary. The discipline was good.’ There has not been a blow struck at this school since its establishment. The number of scholars enrolled was sixty-two; average attendance, fifty-eight.

As the teacher at Milk Row had not given satisfaction, Miss Sarah M. Burnham was unanimously chosen to her place November 30. For the winter the teachers in the Russell and Gardner districts were Philemon R. Russell, Jr., and Stephen A. Swan, respectively. Mr. Russell received $120 for his services, and out of a total of thirty-nine pupils held an average of thirty. December 30 ‘John C. Hooper was chosen to the place made vacant by the death of Stephen A. Swan, who was drowned while skating on Medford pond the 25th instant.’

December 16 we read that a violent gale injured the new schoolhouse building within the peninsula. March 5, 1840, this new structure, which was of brick, was named the Warren school, to be used for both sexes. At this time the following districts were formed:—

The Bunker Hill, from Canal bridge to Walker street, and from Charles river to Medford river.

The Warren, from Walker street to Austin, Warren, and Cordis streets, and Everett street to Medford river.

The Harvard (girls) and Winthrop (boys), all south of this line.

The Warren school was dedicated Tuesday, April 21, 1840. The programme was as follows:— [94]


Rev. G. E. Ellis, of the Harvard church.


A delegation of scholars from the Bunker Hill, Winthrop, and Harvard schools. Hymn for the occasion by Paul H. Sweetser, teacher of the Harvard school.


Richard Frothingham, Jr., president of the trustees.


Dr. A. R. Thompson.

Singing—Juvenile hymns, Let music swell the breeze and ‘My Native Country, Thee.’


Samuel L. Felton, Esq.


W. W. Wheldon, Esq.

Singing—Juvenile hymns, ‘Our Father's God, to Thee,’ and ‘My Country, 'Tis of Thee.’


George W. Warren, Esq.


Rev. George E. Ellis.


Written by Mr. Sweetser.


Rev. N. T. Bent, of St. John's church.

Singing—Juvenile hymn, ‘My Country, 'Tis of Thee.’

March 4 the death of James Underwood, member of the board four years, is recorded. The trustees vote to attend the funeral the next day, March 5, at 3 p. m. The teachers of all the grammar schools are allowed to, close their schools, and are invited to attend, with the board. Mr. Warren is selected to draw up suitable resolutions. [95]

There being sixteen primary schools within the peninsula, those outside were numbered as follows:—

No. 17—Lower Winter Hill primary.

No. 18—Upper Winter Hill primary.

No. 19—Prospect Hill primary.

No. 20—Milk Row primary.

The number of scholars enrolled at these schools was 26, 26, 40, 56; the average attendance, 21, 23, 38, and 38, respectively. Throughout the grammar schools on the peninsula ‘backs have been put to all the seats, as they have hitherto been the subject of much complaint on the part of parents and scholars. For six hours daily have pupils been obliged to sit on a round piece of plank, fashioned to a standard, and without any backs.’ Mr. Frothingham, for his excellent report, received the congratulations of the board.

The accompanying table, appended to this year's report, will, I am sure, awaken feelings of interest in the minds of all who have thus far followed our history of the public schools of Charlestown:—

Cost of schools in various towns, 1838

Wager Per Month
PopulationAnnual AppropriationNumber of SchoolsMalesFemales



The teachers in all the schools outside the Neck for this summer were the same as last year: No. 17, Mary E. Brown; No. 18, Caroline M. Sylvester; No. 19, Elizabeth P. Whittredge; No. 20, Sarah. M. Burnham; at the Russell district, Clara D. Whittemore; and at Gardner school, Hannah S. Austin.

In the last report the trustees had expressed the belief that accomplished female teachers would keep the two district schools in a steady state of progress, and recommended that these two schools be made annual schools. This was so voted, and November 21 Miss Charlotte Reynolds was selected for the Gardner district, at a salary of $225. Levi Russell was elected for the winter term in his home district.

Messrs. Forster and Sanborn, a committee for estimating the cost of a new building on Winter Hill, reported May 11 that Mr. Charles Adams will give to the town a piece of land 30x40 feet, on condition that a school be built forthwith. This report was accepted, and it was voted to build a house in all respects like one recently built on Elm street, the cost, with fences and outhouses, not to exceed the amount appropriated by the town’ ($500).

‘Vacation this year is to be the same as last year the first week in June and from the 17th to the 29 August, inclusive,— and the following days, 17 June, 4 July, Thanksgiving Day, with the Friday and Saturday following, Christmas Day; and no other days to be allowed except by special vote of the town.’

The number of children in town June 29, 1840, between four and sixteen years is 2,619, the census being taken by the assessors, James K. Frothingham, William H. Bacon, Fitch Cutter.

Voted September 29, that teachers must be residents of the town during their term of service. Charles Kimball, of the Harvard (female) school, resigned the last of November, and a flattering letter with the thanks of the board was extended to him for his services.

January 30, 1841 the trustees examined into the complaint of a parent against Mr. Vinson, of the Prospect Hill school, for excluding his son from school. The committee [97] approve entirely of the teacher's course. ‘The boy's case of being allowed to return, if of good character, is referred to Messrs. Forster, Mackintire, and Frothingham, who are to confer with Mr. Vinson and report.’ Voted that Mr. Vinson deserves and hereby receives the thanks of the board for the judicious manner in which he has sustained the government of the school since its establishment, without a single recourse to corporal punishment. February 6 it is found that the boy in question is more than sixteen years of age, ‘and his expulsion should be adhered to.’ Soon after this, when it was feared that Mr. Vinson's services could not be retained, his salary was raised to $800.

April 16. ‘It was voted that the male teachers of each grammar school join the procession in solemnization of the death of President Harrison next Monday; also that they make arrangements for the boys to join in the procession.’

The number of scholars in the outside schools:—

Prospect Hill grammar, 63; average, 43; at the examination, 42.

No. 17—Total number, 27: average, 23; at the examination, 22.

No. 18—Total number, 37; average, 25; at the examination, 28.

No. 19—Total number, 50; average, 42; at the examination, 47.

No. 20—Total number, 60; average, 43; at the examination, 46.

Russell school, 40; average, 29.

Gardner school, not given. Miss Abby Tufts received $20 for rent of schoolroom (Winter Hill).

The annual report for this year makes mention of the new schoolhouse on top of Winter Hill, on land given to the town by Charles Adams and others. It is well and neatly fitted up with good ventilators, and seats which allow the children to sit separately. New seats, with backs, have been put in the Russell [98] schoolroom; blinds have been put on the Prospect Hill and Russell houses.

School Regulations.

Bells must be rung and instructors must be in their schools ten minutes before the time of opening. The winter fires must be made one-half hour before school.

No scholar, after schools are opened, shall be admitted without written excuse from parent or guardian.

Indigent pupils may be supplied with books, which must be considered as belonging to the school.

A record must be kept of the pupils' names, their residences, date of admission, ages, absences, etc.

Instructors shall practice mild, but firm, discipline, and avoid corporal punishment, except in cases absolutely necessary, and keep a record of the same.

Instructors must care for the ventilation of their rooms. They shall not award medals or other prizes; shall not allow subscriptions or contributions for any purpose.

Each school is to be divided into five classes, sub-divisions to be left to the teacher.

The books prescribed for the primary schools: My First School Book, Worcester's Second and Third Books of Reading, the Young Reader, the New Testament, the New National Spelling Book, Introduction to the National Spelling Book, Emerson's First Part in Arithmetic, Alphabetical Cards, the Mt. Vernon Reader.

In the grammar schools: American First Class Book, Young Ladies' Class Book, National Reader, Worcester's Third Book, National Spelling Book, Murray's Grammar, Parker and Fox's Grammar, Frost's Grammar, Bailey's Algebra, Emerson's Second and Third Parts in Arithmetic, Robinson's Bookkeeping, Blake's Philosophy, Comstock's Chemistty, Wilkins' Astronomy, Worcester's Geography, Mitchell's Geography, Worcester's History, Boston School Atlas, Sullivan's Political Class Book, Gould's Latin Grammar and Latin Reader, Smellie's Natural Philosophy.



The teachers in the outside schools for this year were: Miss Mary E. Brown, at No. 17; Miss Leonora Skilton, at No. 18,— appointed March 13, to succeed Miss Sylvester, who was transferred to the Warren school; Miss Elizabeth P. Whittredge, at No. 19; Miss Sarah M. Burnham, at No. 20; Miss Elizabeth A. Caverno, at the Russell district. According to the annual report, she was succeeded for the winter term by Levi Russell, but by Philemon R. Russell, Jr., according to the records. Miss Charlotte Reynolds taught in the Gardner district. She was succeeded by a male teacher, to begin the first Monday in December, and continue four months. A. O. Lindsey, a pupil teacher of the Harvard school, was asked to take the position, at $30 per month. Only a few references to teachers within the peninsula are noted. Lewis B. Munro and John A. Sanborn are made pupil teachers at the Winthrop school, with a salary of $50 each. Lydia W. Locke, of primary school No. 16 is succeeded August 30 by Hannah S. Austin. Previous to this date, Jane M. Burckes, a primary teacher, is mentioned, and later in the year Charlotte Bracket is appointed to primary school No. 21.

The number of children in town from four to sixteen on May 1, 1841, was 2,719. The summer vacation was from August 16 to August 30. Teachers of primary schools hereafter are to be allowed $2 per year for building fires, but nothing is to be allowed for sweeping.

The trustees assigned to outside schools (beyond the Neck) were: Messrs. Magoun and Francis Bowman to the Russell and Gardner districts, and Messrs. Allen and Bowman to the Prospect Hill grammar. No. 17 was under Mr. Bowman's supervision, No. 18 under Mr. Magoun, and Nos. 19 and 20 under Mr. Allen.

February 28, 1842, an invitation to the board of trustees and teachers was received from the mayor of Salem to attend a celebration on the occasion of the opening of several new schoolhouses in that city March 1, 1842. It was accepted.

There is no reference on the records of the trustees to the important fact that the schools ‘without the Neck,’ after this [100] year, were lost to Charlestown forever. From the annual report, signed April 19, 1842, we read: ‘The recent division of the town by act of the Legislature, dated February 25, 1842, annexed a part of the town to West Cambridge, and an act dated March 3, 1842, incorporated the town of Somerville. This diminishes the number of schools one grammar, two district, and four primary. According to the last report, the salary paid the seven teachers of these schools was $2,090, and the number of pupils was 294.’

This series of articles on the history of the schools of Charlestown, from their earliest establishment to the incorporation of Somerville, must now come to a close. The writer cannot expect a work of this kind to be free from errors, or without many important omissions. The work has been a labor of love. By consulting the town records of Charlestown, which at the present time are carefully preserved in the archives at the City Hall of Boston, the records and reports of the trustees, to be found at the school committee's rooms on Mason street, Boston, the early history by Bartlett (1813), the later one of Frothingham, and the invaluable work of Wyman on old Charlestown families, by looking up newspaper files, and by numerous personal interviews, he has endeavored to rescue many important facts from oblivion, and to give to those interested in the schools of to-day a faithful picture of what has been. The picture is one not to be ashamed of, and ought to appeal to our local pride.

(For an impress of the seal of the Charlestown Free Schools, see report of the School Committee of the city of Charlestown for 1873, to which reports of the Trustees are added. Printed by Caleb Rand.)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: