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Charlestown schools after 1825

By Frank Mortimer Hawes

It was voted in May, 1825, that Messrs. Edward Cutter, Chester Adams, and Rev. Henry Jackson of the trustees have charge of the Milk Row and Winter Hill schools; that Miss Charlotte Wayne be employed at the former, and Miss Eliza Wayne at the latter, to teach twenty weeks, at $4.00 per week; and that Miss Sarah Perry be engaged for school No. 4 for the same time, at $3.17 per week. Mr. (James) Russell was empowered to secure a teacher for ward 5, at $3.00 per week. Voted that schools without the Neck be no longer permitted to be closed on the afternoon of Wednesday, and that five and one-half days services each week be required of the instructors.

October 4, the president, L. M. Parker, reported that he and Captain Cutter had visited the school at Milk Row on Friday last. Fifty-two scholars were present out of a membership of seventy-five. The same date it was voted that schools in wards 3 and 6 be provided with a master the ensuing winter by Messrs. Cutter, Adams, and Jackson, and that Messrs Parker and Russell attend to that duty for wards 4 and 5. October 6 Miss Perry's school was examined, also Miss Cutter's (ward 5). October 14 the Winter Hill school was examined. Number enrolled, thirty-five boys and twenty-three girls; present, seventeen and eighteen respectively. There were present of the trustees Messrs. Adams, Jackson, Cutter, and Pool. Remarks were made by several of these gentlemen, and the exercises were closed by an address to the Throne of Grace by Rev. Mr. Jackson. Mr. Joshua O. Colburn was employed to teach the winter school at ward 3 five months, to begin the first Tuesday in November, at $30 per month; Mr. John Parker, of Chelmsford, was engaged for the ward 6 school, at $32, from November 15; Philemon R. Russell, Jr., received the appointment to ward 4, at $27; and Bowan A. Tufts for ward 5, at $26, both to begin [17] November 1 and to continue through the season. The number of pupils without the Neck in October was 199; in the whole town, 1,144. Of bills approved at this time, Charlotte Wayne; received $84; Eliza Wayne, $88; Cornelius Walker, $200; Sarah Perry, $63; Jane Hobbs, $16; Eliza Ann Cutter, $60; Samuel Bigelow, $150; and (in February) Samuel Barrett, $150.

Seven primary schools went into effect May 16, 1825. They were located according to the recommendation of last year. For the first time we are permitted to give the names of the primary teachers of Charlestown, for up to this date, except for a brief period about 1813, these schools were of a private character, and the mistresses depended upon their patrons for reimbursement. They were: Mrs. Polly Jaquith, Mrs. Mary Thompson, Mrs. Hannah Rea, Mrs. Mary Walker, Miss Lucy Wyman (succeeded by Miss Rebecca French), Miss Adeline Hyde, and Miss Roxanna Jones. The whole number in these schools was 445; present at the examinations, 385. ‘The trustees are free to declare their belief that the benefit of these institutions will fully meet the most sanguine anticipations of their friends. The children are put upon a regular course of instruction, alike in all these schools, and are kept in good order. The trustees are confident that a school of fifty children of ordinary capacity, from four to seven, who shall give their general attendance, will be far better prepared to enter the higher schools than the same number have heretofore been when promiscuously admitted from private schools.’ The estimated expense for the coming year is $6,000. Signed by Chester Adams, for the Secretary.


Voted that Mr. Hall J. Kelley have charge of wards 3 and 6, and Mr. Nathaniel H. Henchman of wards 4 and 5. These gentlemen were requested to draft a set of rules and regulations for the schools outside the Neck, and to report the same to the board. Later, on the death of Mr. Henchman, ‘whose appearance and deportment gave promise of a valuable and efficient [18] service,’ William S. Phipps, of the trustees, was assigned to Mr. Henchman's place on committees. Mr. Benjamin Whipple was made secretary of the board in place of Mr. Jackson, who was ill. Samuel Bigelow is still teacher of the school at the Neck. Voted that salaries for teachers of summer schools outside the Neck shall not exceed the sums allowed last year, and that the length of the term be the same, twenty weeks. Voted to pay the primary teachers a salary of $225 each. The trustees also considered the expediency of allowing the female scholars in the primary schools to practice needle work. Of bills approved in May, Cornelius Walker received $200, Samuel Barrett, $151.88 (teacher of the Female school), and Peter Conant, $200.

Thursday, September 21, 1826, the ward 4 school under Miss Knight was examined by Messrs. Kelley and Phipps. ‘The school is in a condition to deserve their unqualified disapprobation.’ ‘They made an attempt to visit school No. 5, kept by Miss Frost, but owing to a want of punctuality on their part in regard to the hour assigned for it, they found the schoolhouse closed and consequently no, examination of that school took place.’ Friday, September 22, Messrs. Kelley, Phipps, and Whipple visited schools No. 3 and 6. ‘The former, kept by Miss Flanders, owing to the great number of very small children with which it was crowded, was found in rather a languishing condition. No. 6 at Winter hill, under Miss Whipple, was found in a state of improvement seldom surpassed by schools of that class, which evinced great industry and attention in the scholars, and some capacity and faithfulness on the part of the teacher. The very flattering condition of this school may also be justly attributed to another cause, and which ought not to be overlooked or disregarded; the scholars, forty-four in number, not one of whom were absent at the examination, exhibited an appearance of neatness in their persons and of attention and docility in their deportment which proved that they had not been neglected at home; that the parents had contributed their full share to the prosperity of this school.’

October 3, 1826, Ann E. Whipple and Miss Flanders each [19] received $75 for services. It was voted that Miss Whipple be permitted to continue the school at Winter Hill two weeks longer.

Voted that the winter schools outside the Neck be for five months in wards 3 and 6, four months in ward 4, and three months in ward 5; that Mr. Phipps be empowered to procure wood for the school at the Neck and at Winter Hill, and that Mr. Kelley perform a like duty for the other outside schools. It appears that Mr. Kelley, himself a teacher in Boston, but a resident on Somerville soil, was the author of a spelling book which the trustees voted not to introduce into the Charlestown schools.

November 7, of bills approved, Hersina Knight received $65; Martha Frost, $62.30.

April 3, 1827, ‘voted that teachers of the grammar schools (within the Neck) must be present at their schools ten minutes before the time appointed to open, which must be at 8 o'clock A. M., and two o'clock P. M., precisely. No scholar is to be admitted without written excuse from his parent, guardian, or master, and no scholar shall be admitted on any pretense after school shall have been opened fifteen minutes.’

The winter schools without the Neck were examined as follows: No. 6, by Messrs. Jackson and Whipple, the others by Messrs. Walker and Kelley. The number of scholars on the rolls was, eighty-two for Milk Row, forty for ward 4, thirty-eight for ward 5, and sixty-seven for ward 6 (Winter Hill). The teachers of these schools received for services as follows: Ezekiel D. Dyer, $150; Philemon R. Russell, Jr., $112; Charles Tidd, $102; Andrew Wallis, $160. In the report for ward 6 we read: ‘This school in point of order and discipline has deteriorated since our last visit. The teacher, although he has been uncommonly industrious and devoted, yet a want of that system and method so essential was very apparent. The writing was generally very ordinary, but the trustees do not mean to be understood to say that nothing useful has been taught or learned in this school. On the contrary much has been attempted and learned beyond the requirements of our public schools.’ [20]

Cornelius Walker ended his labors as teacher of the Latin Grammar school October 24, and went to the Eliot school in Boston. Charles Peirce was chosen his successor. The salary of male teachers within the peninsula was $600 at this time. Josiah Fairbanks was appointed to the female school in Austin street, as Mr. Barrett resigned in July. Miss Ann D. Sprague, assistant, resigned (March, 1827) and was succeeded by John Holroyd. ‘This school contains 250 females whose character and habits are rapidly forming, and who are soon to exert a silent but powerful influence upon the manners and morals of the community around them. The building is badly constructed and much crowded. The standard of public education is undoubtedly rising in consequence of the establishment of the primary schools.’ The number in the primary grades is 476, in the grammar and writing schools, 632. The estimated current expense is $6,500. Signed by Benjamin Whipple, Secretary.


The schools without the Neck were put under the charge of Messrs. Kelley and J. Stearns Hurd, and May 19, Miss Ann E. Whipple was assigned to the Milk Row school. ‘The committee to whom was referred the subject of alterations and repairs on the schoolhouses beyond the Neck, reported (May 25) that it appeared upon examination that the house at Milk Row had been cleared of its desks, benches, etc., by Mr. Kelley, and that a new arrangement of the same had been commenced by him, the exact plan of which they had not ascertained, and that the work was suspended by your committee until they should receive further order from the board. It is the opinion of your committee that the schoolhouse at Winter Hill may be made convenient and comfortable by merely placing the desks farther apart and altering the form of the seats, with the addition of crickets, without the removal of the partition or the addition of a porch.’ The committee was given full powers with reference to both houses. Miss Susan Ann Warren began the summer term at Winter Hill June 4; the next week Miss Gardner [21] at No. 5, and Miss Ann Brown at No. 4 opened their schools. The last mentioned, being transferred to one of the primary schools on the peninsula, was succeeded by Miss Elizabeth Gerrish, July 3. About this time Mr. Kelley resigned, and Chester Adams was assigned to his place on committees. At the same meeting it was voted to authorize the treasurer to purchase three maps of the world and three of the United States for the three grammar schools. The outside schools had their usual fall examinations in October. Dr. Hurd was authorized to secure teachers for the winter school in wards 4 and 5. Ira Stickney was engaged for the Milk Row school, and Joel Pierce for the Winter Hill road. The former was relieved February 5, 1828, on account of ill-health, and the latter probably did not serve that season, as the teachers, according to pay-roll, were Philemon R. Russell, Jr., $124, Bowen A. Tufts, $98, and A. G. Hoit, $137.60. Bills approved: Elizabeth D. Gardner, $63.40; Ann E. Whipple, $80; Susan R. Warren, $80; Elizabeth Gerrish, $52.31.

In the autumn of 1827 the people at Milk Row were allowed to use their schoolhouse during the recess for a private school. No 2 primary school was vacated by the death of Miss French, and Miss Ann Brown was given the position. ‘The trustees have considered it expedient to, continue the children in the primary schools until they are eight years old.’

In the eight primary departments there are 533 scholars, with from thirty-five to seventy-five in each. In the three grammar schools there are 691. ‘The trustees call attention to the poor state of the school on Town Hill. The interior was originally intended to meet the purposes of a schoolhouse, and to accommodate the town with a place of meeting to transact the public business, and so it has been used many years. The forms and desks were always inconvenient, and are now so much worn as to be entirely unfit for use. The floors and stairs are also in bad condition. The expense of refitting will be $500.’ The next year we learn that these repairs exceeded the appropriation by $180.

In consequence of the unsatisfactory conditions at the [22] female school on Austin street, as noticed at the end of the previous year's report, we find from the warrant for town meeting, to be held March 5, 1827, that measures were taken for a new school building. The site afterwards chosen was on the Training field, and the building committee, consisting of Thomas Hooper, Josiah Harris, and Lot Pool, made their final report in the following December. We learn that the building was fifty-six by thirty-two feet, and stood on a piece of land with ninety-one feet frontage (other dimensions given), and that in the yard was a good well of water with a pump. The entire cost was $5,859.92, which left a deficit of $1,359.92 above the $4,500 appropriated. In the school report for this year we find that $300 had also been appropriated for building a primary schoolhouse in the yard of the female school. The records state that on the completion of the Training field school the female school in Austin street removed thither, and Mr. Holroyd, having resigned, Lemuel Gulliver was chosen his successor.

Mr. Aaron Sargent, who lately addressed the alumni of the Bunker Hill school (January 30, 1906), and whose address was subsequently printed in the Somerville Journal, thinks the new building above referred to was probably the forerunner of the Bunker Hill school, and was located near the present one of that name. He was doubtless led to this opinion because he interpreted the wording of the original warrant, ‘within the Neck,’ to mean ‘at the Neck.’ I have shown in previous articles that other careful historians, even Frothingham and Wyman, were led astray in some of their references to a school at the Neck. If anyone will take the trouble to re-read the previous articles in this series, I think he will find, substantially, all that can be known about the Neck school up to the time which we are considering. In 1827 there was a brick schoolhouse there of several years' standing, and, as Mr. Sargent says, in May, 1830, the town voted to repair this building at an expense of $300. The records of the school board are so explicit that the new building of this year can be no other than the one at the Training field.

The Bunker Hill Aurora, Vol. 1, under date of December [23] 20, says: ‘A new brick schoolhouse on part of the Training field was erected and occupied early in the last month. The building is 56x32 feet and two stories in height. It has one room with 144 seats, and two small rooms in each story. The cost Was $5,500. There are now 200 to 250 pupils, or 90 to 100 in the first story, where writing and arithmetic are taught, and 120 to 140 in the second story, where they are instructed in reading, grammar, geography, etc. All the scholars are girls. The boys attend at the old brick schoolhouse near Rev. Mr. Fay's. Children are admitted between seven and fourteen years of age. Near by is a primary school, now having sixty to seventy pupils between four and seven years of age, and also kept open the year round.’

From this same newspaper we learn other interesting facts relating to schools.

‘The highest salary paid to male teachers (in Charlestown) is $800, which does not include the profits of some of them in the book and stationery trade.’

The Rev. James Walker, of the board of trustees, and later the president of Harvard College, delivered the Phi Beta Kappa oration at the commencement exercises August 29, 1827. The next year, June 14, 1828, he delivered the Election sermon.

A number of advertisements relating to private schools in Charlestown appear in this volume:—

Female school

‘The winter term of Miss Mary A. Clark's school for the instruction of young ladies in the solid branches of education will commence on Monday next. Application for admission to this school may be made to Benjamin Swift, Chester Adams, Henry Jaques, committee. Charlestown, November 15, 1827.’

June 7, 1828, the private school kept by Nathaniel Magoun opens.

Under date of August 9, 1828, appears the notice of a select school to be kept by Moses A. Curtis. Latin and Greek will be taught. [24]

But most interesting of these advertisements is the following, under date of February 9, 1828:—

The Ursuline Community, Mt. Benedict, Charlestown,
Admits-ladies from six to fourteen years of age. The garden has two acres, the whole farm twelve acres. Each pupil is to bring with her her bed and bedding, six towels, six napkins, and her table furniture, consisting of table and tea spoon, knife, fork, and tumbler, all which will be returned at her departure. The uniform of the young ladies consists, on week days of a gray Bombazette dress, and white on Sundays. Three months notice of a removal is requested. No boarder is allowed to sleep out, except in case of illness. Permission to drive out is given once a month. No visitors are allowed on Sundays. The religious opinions of the children are not interfered with. Terms: Board and tuition per annum payable quarterly in advance, $125. Ink, quills, and paper, $4.00. Books at the store price. Extra charges: For each of the languages, except English, per quarter, in advance $6.00; piano, $6, harp $10, guitar and vocal music, $6. Use of instruments, $1. Flower, landscape, and figure drawing, $6. Painting on velvet, satin, and wood, $6; ditto in oil colors, $6. Dancing at the master's charge.

The first care is to instruct pupils in the great and sublime truths of religion, etc. The other objects of instruction are: English, French, Latin, and if required, Spanish and Italian (grammatically), history, ancient and modern, chronology, mythology, geography, use of the globe, astronomy, composition, poetry, rhetoric, logic, metaphysics, moral philosophy, writing, arithmetic, geometry, every kind of useful needlework, etc.

We will close our account of this year with Rules and Regulations of Charlestown Free Schools for the Government of Schools without the Neck.

The children shall be at least four years old.

Children shall commence their course with a spelling book, such as may be agreed upon by the Trustees, and shall use no [25] other in school until they can read and spell promiscuously and with readiness all the reading and spelling lessons, and shall have learned perfectly all the stops and marks, and their use, the abbreviations and the use of numbers—and letters used for numbers—in reading.

The teachers shall divide this part of their schools into such classes as they may think proper. The scholars in each school who shall have attained the knowledge of the spelling book required above, shall be divided into four classes for the purpose of reading, spelling, geography, and English grammar, and the following are the books to be used until further order of the trustees:—

Fourth Class.—Spelling book and Testament. This class shall be exercised daily in spelling from the Testament as well as from the spelling book.

Third Class.—Murray's Introduction to his English Reader and Cummings' First Lessons in Geography and Astronomy. This class shall be exercised in spelling from the ‘Introduction.’

Second Class.—Dictionary (Walker's), Murray's English Reader, and Murray's English Grammar, abridged by Alger.

First Class.—Dictionary and the Grammar (continued), American First Class Book, Morse's Geography and Atlas. The teachers will be careful that none be advanced to a higher class until they shall have made such progress as fitly to entitle them to preferment.

In the study of arithmetic the scholars shall first attend to Robinson's Elements. They may also be examined in Colburn's Mental Arithmetic, after which the American Arithmetic by Robinson is recommended.

The teachers will see that the children have constant and full employment, and give close application to their studies. Whispering and talking should not be tolerated for a moment. A school should be a place of order and industry, each scholar attending to his own lessons without noise or disturbance of any kind.

The teachers are required to maintain good order by a prudent [26] and vigilant course of discipline, and a failure in this respect will be considered good cause for removal.

The hours of school shall be from 9 to 12, and from 1.30 to 4.30, except through the three summer months, when they shall be from 8 to 11 and from 2 to 5. Teachers shall be punctual and require like punctuality of their scholars.

The following shall be the holidays: Fast Day, the Day of the General Election, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day, and the rest of the week thereafter. The afternoons of Saturdays.

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