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the selectmen and many people, Dr. Green kept the grammar
school four months in the Pine Hill schoolhouse." In 1749
Chester, New Hampshire, paid Dr. Samuel Moores one
hundred eight pounds " for schooling." In Gilmanton Dr.
William Smith " also instructed as from time to time the
duties of his profession permitted." In the accounts of the
selectmen of Weare are these items: In 1772 they "paid
to Dr. Page for taking the charge of the grammar school
12 shillings," and in 1775 they "paid Dr. Phil Hoit for
keeping school, 3."

Boone, in his " Education in the United States," mentions
these duties of a schoolmaster of 1661 :

" i. To act as court messenger.

"2. To serve summons.

"3. To conduct certain ceremonial services of the church.

"4. To lead the Sunday choir.

" 5. To ring the bell for public worship.

"6. To dig graves.

"7. To take charge of the school.

"8. To perform other occasional duties."

While it is doubtful if any one schoolmaster performed all
these duties, it is very evident that many performed more than
one of them. One great duty, however, is missing in this list,
that of taking the place of the minister on Sunday. New
England records teem with this demand. Next to having a
minister who would teach, was having a teacher who could
preach. This custom extended over the whole colonial period.
John Fiske, Salem's first schoolmaster, assisted in the pulpit
for over two years. In 1757 Peter T. Smith "kept school
and preached " at Weymouth. John Wilson, Jr. was engaged
in 1685 to teach the school at Medfield, and " he was given
leave to preach sometimes and take as recompense what
should be given by free contributions. When he should be
desired to preach, he was to have liberty of two days from


the school in the week before." The records do not state
whether these two days were allowed for preparation of the
sermon or to acquire the proper spiritual mood after the trials
of the schoolroom.

Woburn, in 1700, sought a grammar schoolmaster with
ability " to assist occasionally the Rev. Mr. Fox in the minis-
try." Farmington, Connecticut, in 1683, wanted one of cer-
tain scholarly qualities and " also to step into the pulpit to
be helpful there in time of emergency." Ten years later
they were looking for a man " that is in a capacity to teach
both Latin and English, and in time of exigency to be help-
ful to Mr. Hooker in the ministry." Guilford early named
three conditions in hiring a schoolmaster : " He taking all
sorts, and that from their A, B, C's ; secondly, to continue so
doing for three years ; thirdly, to be helpful in preaching
when required." Falmouth, in 1701, voted "to look out for
a fit person to preach the word of God and to keep school."

John Branker, schoolmaster at Windsor, was also " ruling
elder in the church ; sometimes preached the weekly lecture."
Hadley, in 1665, voted "to give twenty pounds per annum
for three years towards the maintenance of a schoolmaster
to teach the children and to be as a help to Mr. Russell as
occasion may require." Newbury, in 1693, voted " that Mr.
John Clarke be called to assist Mr. Richardson in the work
of the ministry at the west end of the town, to preach to
them one year in order to farther settlement, and also to
keep a grammar school." At Guilford, in 1646, Mr. John
Higginson was the schoolmaster and the assistant pastor.
In 1718 Lynn instructed the selectmen to employ a school-
master and to make an agreement with him that should
" have relation to some help for Mr. Shepard in preaching."
At Rowley, according to a record dated 1721, the son of the
minister " for many years continued to teach the town school,
assisting his father a part of the time to carry on the work of
the ministry and occasionally supplying destitute pulpits in


neighboring towns." Later on another teacher seems to have
preached at times, for in 1726 he received of the town
treasurer " one pound for preaching one Sabbath day." At
Lexington, in 1728, the son of the minister was engaged to
teach the grammar school ; afterwards, " when he was settled
as a colleague with his father, it was with the understanding
that he should continue his school." Branford, Connecti-
cut, in 1729, voted "to hire as a schoolteacher one who
could also be helpful in the ministry as occasion required."
Portland, in 1732, had in a town warrant: "To see where
the school shall be opened and kept, and to agree upon some
method to pay the schoolmaster, to see if the town will agree
with the schoolmaster to preach the winter season to the
people on the Purpooduck side of the river." And so this
list might be continued.

The colonial schoolmaster who adopted his work as his
regular occupation, and not as a stepping-stone to the min-
istry, was reasonably secure in his position. No " tenure of
office law " was needed. The permanency of the clergy
probably affected the schoolmaster; the limited supply of
good candidates and the recognition of the personal influ-
ence of long service also weighed in his favor. While the
newer settlements found it difficult to obtain masters for
short periods or had none at all, the older communities fre-
quently retained theirs for a generation or more. The first
master of the Cambridge grammar school was Elijah Corlett.
Just when he began is a matter of doubt, but it is known
that he was there more than forty years. In 1643 it is said
that " he had taught sufficiently long to have acquired a high
reputation for skill and faithfulness," and in 1684 the town
voted him twenty pounds annually " for so long as he con-
tinues to be schoolmaster in this place." In 1719 appears
this vote : " Whereas, by reason of the death of Mr. Nicholas
Fessenden, our late schoolmaster, the school, in our town
is in an unsettled condition ; and whereas, Mr. Samuel


Danforth, of Dorchester, has been pleased to manifest his
inclinations to be a schoolmaster amongst us, and to devote
himself to that service ; voted and agreed that the said
Mr. Samuel Danforth take the care and charge of said school
on the same terms that our said late schoolmaster kept it, and
that he forthwith provide some suitable person to manage
said school until such time as he can remove amongst us
himself, which Mr. Danforth promised to comply with."
He kept the school for eleven years.

Richard Norcross began to teach in Watertown in 1651,
and was the only teacher there for twenty years. In 1 700 he
was still teaching, at the age of seventy-nine. He had been
the schoolmaster for most of the forty-nine years since he
first began, being out of the position only at brief intervals.
It was seven years after Oxford voted to have a schoolmaster
before the selectmen found one. Then Mr. Richard Rogers
was secured, and he taught twenty-two successive years. " He
was the most accomplished teacher of his time, not only in
Latin and English, but noted for his unrivalled penmanship."
John Lovell was master of the Boston Latin School for forty-
two years. John Tileston was master of the North Writing
School from 1762 to 1819. At the age of eighty-five "feel-
ing the infirmities of age increasing with the decay of strength
natural to so long and laborious a life, he found it necessary
to resign and retire from active service." In all, he had
taught in Boston and elsewhere some seventy years.

In 1766 the Boston selectmen sent a messenger to Mr.
Peleg Wiswall, one of their aged masters, with the request
" not to expose his health by attending school this winter,
and that his salary shall be drawn for notwithstanding." The
next year the usher of the school declined to stay longer
under existing conditions, and a committee of the selectmen
waited on the master. " He said he was sensible of the
difficulties coming on before his last confinement and that
he had for some weeks past thought it his duty to let the


selectmen know his infirmities would prevent his further
attendance upon the business of said school, and after some
further discourse, resigned the place of master of said school ;
adding that he had spent his estate in the town's service
and hoped they would not let him suffer, to which it was
replied by them, that the disposition of the town was such
that we could not doubt he would be provided for during
the remainder of his days."

Ezekiel Cheever, however, is the well-known, conspicuous
example. His record in brief is as follows. At the age of
twenty-three he began teaching in New Haven, where he re-
mained twelve years. Because of church troubles he went to
Ipswich and taught eleven years, " making his school famous
in all the country." Then he taught in Charlestown nine
years, and was called to Boston in 1670. He was then fifty-
six years old, an age at which the modern master finds it
difficult to obtain a situation. There he remained thirty-eight
years. He died in harness at ninety-four, having taught over
seventy years.

Of Braintree's schoolmasters, Mr. Cleverly taught twenty-
four years and Samuel Savil twenty-three years. John Farrin
taught in Brunswick for many years, and during the stress of
1776 he remitted some sixteen pounds of his salary "in con-
sequence of the public distresses and the burdensome taxes."
Deacon Warfield taught in Mendon eleven years. Peter Selew
taught in Harwich from 1717 to 1741, how much longer the
records do not say. Sandwich had two men, John Rogers
and Silas Tupper, over twenty-five years each. Mr. Longfellow
taught in Portland over fifteen years. For twenty-two years
John Fowle was a noted master in Woburn. Josiah Pierce
kept the grammar school in Hadley for twelve years and then
returned again for another period of six years. At Billerica,
in 1679, " Ensign Thompson was chosen schoolmaster to
teach such to read and write as shall come to him to learn."
He was the schoolmaster for thirty years. Rowley, in 1656,


made this agreement : " The town agreed with one William
Boynton to teach a town school for the term of seven years. . . .
The church agreed to loan said Boynton the sum of five
pounds to aid him in putting up an end to his house, on the
condition he keep the school for seven years as aforesaid,
then the demand against him for said five pounds is to be
void, but if he do not so keep the school, then he is to pay
the church one half the appraised value of said end of the
house." What other compensation he was to have is not
known. He kept the school twenty-four years.

Generally towns were cautious in their first elections,
making the terms short. For example, Dedham, in 1659,
invited a man to come and " to keep the school for a quarter
of a year." Later they elected another man "to try for one
quarter of a year how he may suit with the town." Such votes
are very common, but not unfrequently after trial and proof
reelection was for a definite number of years. Bristol, in 1724,
proposed " to settle a schoolmaster for the term of seven
years." At New London, in 1698, "Mr. Allan Mullins was
engaged as the principal for eight years." Plymouth, in 1706,
appointed a committee of four who "should agree with Mr.
Josiah Cotton to keep the school in the town as said town's
schoolmaster during the term of six years ensuing, he the said
Mr. Josiah Cotton managing the said school with that prudence
and industry that he hath done the last year."

While these and other towns were enjoying the peace and
prosperity of long service, still others were in the slough of
despondency, urged on the one hand by the inexorable court
to provide a schoolmaster according to law, and checked on
the other by the scarcity of material. This difficulty is clearly
set forth in the reply, already quoted [on page 38], of the
selectmen of Andover, in 1713, to an indictment for not
having a school.

As evidence of this shortage the following accounts through
a series of years are conclusive. At New Haven, in 1652,


Governor Eaton was very much interested in the school and
called a meeting of the court to consider the question of a
master : " The Governor informed the court that the cause
of calling this meeting is about a schoolmaster, to let them
know what he hath done in it. He hath written a letter to
one Mr. Brown who is schoolmaster at Plymouth and desires
to come to these parts to live, and another letter about one
Rev. Mr. Landson, a scholar, who he hears will take that
employment upon him ; how they will succeed he knows not,
but now Mr. Janes is come to the town and is willing to come
hither again if he may have encouragement. What course
had been taken to get one, he was acquainted with, and if
either of them came, he must be entertained, but he said if
another came, he should be willing to teach boys and girls to
read and write, if the town thought fit, and Mr. Janes being
now present, confirmed it."

Windsor, Connecticut, in 1676, had no schoolmaster, though
" the town voted they are willing there shall a schoolmaster
be got and the townsmen were to get one, and the children
to pay as to Mr. C. and the rest by the town."

Watertown had Harvard graduates during all the early
i/oo's, and yet they reached a year when the committee
reported to the selectmen " that they have been with the
president of the college and he informs them they cannot
have any there that will keep school."

At a meeting of the selectmen in Dorchester, in 1681,
" Ensign Hale was desired and appointed to enquire after a
schoolmaster who, some say, there may be one at Bridge-
water." At Norfolk, Connecticut, in 1701, it was "voted
and agreed by the town that they would have a schoolmaster
for the next year ensuing, in case he can be obtained."

Portsmouth, in 1701, "at a meeting of the selectmen and
committee appointed by the town to take care for the pro-
viding of an able schoolmaster, so qualified in learning and
good manners as to teach our youth in reading, writing and


cyphering, the tongues and other learning as may fit them
for the college, . . . then also agreed that we request the
Hon. the Lieut. Gov. Pattridge and Mr. George Jeffrey to
use their best endeavors in enquiring out and procuring such
fit person and send him forthwith amongst us, in order to his
further settlement." Later in the year, at a meeting of the
selectmen and committee for the settling of the schoolmaster,
it was voted, "whereas Mr. Daniel Greenleaf of Newbury
has been with us in order to a settlement as a schoolmaster,
and is at present at Newbury, that we do forthwith send to
him to have his answer in coming amongst us, in order to a
settlement, that we allow him 40 per annum while he abides
amongst us, in case he comes and duly performs his office to
the satisfaction of the town. . . . Mr. Greenleaf being come
and present with us, we have agreed with him to allow him
^40 per annum while he continues with and faithfully per-
forms the office of a schoolmaster, and he likewise doth
promise and engage to continue with us this year for the
above consideration and so teach all town children and serv-
ants as are able competently to read from their Psalters."
But they were soon in difficulty again and engaged another
man " diligently to attend the school for the present year."

At Framingham, in 1718, a committee reported " that they
have used their utmost diligence but can find no master to be
had as yet." At Woburn a committee spent six weeks go-
ing to both Boston and Cambridge twice before finding a
master ; then they found one who would come for six months
for " 12 and his board found him free by the town."

Northampton had the same difficulty, and their schools
were not kept every year. Finally, in 1761, they voted :
" The town, considering of the great want of a schoolmaster
for the instructing of children and youth, have for that end
appointed Mr. Solomon Stoddard and Elder Strong to treat
with Mr. Watson to see whether he may be attained to come
and settle among us for to carry on a school, and if there be


likelihood of attaining him, then to make report to the town
on what terms he may be procured." But the mission was
unsuccessful, and later in the year the town again voted <( to
give a schoolmaster ^30 a year provided that one can be pro-
cured fit for such an employment, that is to say, that shall be
able and fit to teach and instruct children and youths to read
English, and to write and cast accounts at least."

Because of this scarcity towns frequently resorted to what
might be called emergency schoolmasters ; it was a case of
taking what could be had. In 1663 Dedham made this
record : "In consideration of the present want of a school-
master and of the weakly estate of our brother Joseph Ellice,
he being willing and we being hopeful he may do some good
in teaching some children to read English for the present,
and until one more able can be attained, do agree and order
that forthwith notice be given that he shall begin to teach
at the schoolhouse the next second day, and that he shall
have six shillings per week so long as he shall so teach."

Maiden, in 1697, chose one John Moulton as school-
master. He was sixty-six years old, had spent all his life
at sea, and had never taught a day. "His recommenda-
tion as a teacher may have been the acquirements which a
mariner had gained in trade and navigation, or the avail-
ability of an old man with little or nothing to do." A few
years later they employed a weaver, and still later a shoe-
maker of natural ability but limited education, who had to
take lessons of the minister before he could assume the
duties of his office. It is said of him : " Had a kind Provi-
dence given him health, a shoemaker he might have re-
mained to the end. But he appears to have possessed a
feeble constitution and to have been troubled by many ills ;
and the selectmen, vexed and perplexed as they seem to have
been by their annual duty of providing a schoolmaster, and
thinking, perhaps, that a sick shoemaker might make a pass-
able teacher, prevailed upon him to leave the lapstone and


the awl, and enter upon a course of study with Mr. Emerson.
Graduating from the parsonage after a few months, with a
slight knowledge of the languages, it is said, and a sufficient
mastery of the mysteries of the three R's to enable him to
obtain the approbation of several neighboring clergymen, he
took up the rod, which he wielded with a zeal that tradition
asserts was not always tempered by discretion. He is said
to have been a worthy teacher ; but his worth seems to have
been gauged by his piety rather than his ability to teach."
Yet this man taught twenty-five years and gave permanency
and spirit to the school.

New Haven, after losing Mr. Cheever, maintained her
school intermittently. At one time a George Pardee was
engaged "to teach English and writing, and to carry the
scholars in Latin as far as he could," and Mr. Pardee re-
marked that this would be " a very short distance indeed."

Northampton was obliged to hire one James Cornish, a
man of good attainments, probably, but of one bad habit
profanity. He was fined twice, and the court on the second
offense " highly resented that such an aged man and of his
quality and profession should so dishonor God and give such
evil example to youth and others."

Brookline, in 17 n, agreed "with John Winchester, Jr.,
for his man Ed Ruggles, to keep school at the new school-
house two months." In 1763 Chester, New Hampshire,
had a Mr. Herring as schoolmaster ; two years later it is
recorded : " Henry Herring, the former master, has become
a pauper and warned out of town." In 1732 the selectmen
of Ipswich appointed Henry Spiller "to keep a school for
teaching in reading, writing and cyphering ; the town having
allowed him the use of the room at the southeasterly end of
the almshouse for that service." The next year he was " on
the town," but " at a meeting of the selectmen April 8, 1734,
Henry Spiller is allowed and approbated to set up a school
in the town of Ipswich for teaching and instructing children


or youth in reading or writing, he being a person of sober
and good conversation. The selectmen do not promise him
any encouragement for his services herein, other than that
the parents or masters of the children he shall instruct are
willing to give him themselves."

About 1782 Esquire Stiles of Temple, New Hampshire,
speaking of the first school he attended, said it was kept i
" by a Mr. Hibbs, who was old and slow. It was then the
custom to employ those for teachers who were in the most
need of support ; if they could read a chapter in the Testa-
ment, teach the Shorter Catechism, and whip the boys, they
were sufficiently qualified."

Braintree, in 1725, engaged a master for the year, reserv-
ing the privilege of " hiring Jonathan Neal in his stead for
six months of the time."

The first teacher at Francestown, New Hampshire, was a
man by the name of Burke, whom " tradition credits with a
rather free use of cider and rum." In Antrim, there is this
account of the first schoolmaster and Deacon Aiken : Early
in 1700, at the time of a great freshet, "a stranger knocked
at the deacon's door one evening, and offered to work in his
service for his board. He gave his name as George Beman,
was a foreigner, born on the seas, of middle age, a deserter
from the British at Boston ; had followed marked trees and
swam the streams in search of a place of concealment. Next
morning he took up a Bible, remarking that he had scarce
seen a good book for forty years, and would try himself at
reading. He proved to be a good reader, resided in the family
some years, and made himself useful by laboring on the farm
and teaching the children."

In Warren, Maine, from 1700 to 1775, there were neigh-
borhood schools and teachers seemingly. " Dr. Fales was a
competent instructor for those in his neighborhood, and
others of more slender acquirements were occasionally em-
ployed in other places. Some invalid unable to labor, some


widow or single woman not otherwise employed, were all the
settlers had the means to compensate. Among these was
Bartholomew Killeran of the lower town, who was altogether
helpless from a paralytic affection of his lower limbs. He
taught school in various places and amongst others at the
house of Moses Copelands, for the children of that neighbor-
hood. He was highly esteemed for his amiable disposition,
and not the less so, that in place of the birch and ferule,
he was obliged to make use of loaf sugar to stimulate and
encourage his pupils." After the Revolution their teacher
was John O'Brien, a ship's steward captured off Marblehead
and taken to Boston. " Thence on an exchange of prisoners,
he was sent to Castine and allowed by the captain to escape
to Fox Islands, whence after teaching there two months, he
came to this town. He was an elegant penman and a good
accountant, but somewhat severe in the management of his
scholars. He was employed in different parts of the town
for many succeeding years."

Other Maine towns had to resort to similar masters.
Thomaston, in 1778, has a history very like Warren:
" What schools there were, now as before the incorpora-
tion, were got up by private individuals at their own expense.
Dr. Fales, from his first arrival, had taught more or less in
the old fort or his own house. Other persons, mostly tran-
sient, taught in different neighborhoods for short periods.
Among these was one who for many years continued to
exercise in this and neighboring regions a considerable in-
fluence in education and literature. This was John Sullivan,
a native of Dublin, Ireland, who after an indefinite period
spent in teaching and shoemaking between here and Penn-
sylvania, found his way to this place in a somewhat dilapi-
dated condition, to which one of his habitual intervals of
intemperance had reduced him. Landing from a coaster at
Wessaweskeag, in company with one other passenger of more
respectable appearance, and calling at the house of Mr. Snow


as the principal one in the place and usually resorted to by
strangers, he saw his companion invited to a seat at dinner,
whilst he, from his shabby costume together with his queer and
ambiguous countenance, was left behind to wait for the second
table. After they had dined he enquired of Mr. Snow if
he knew any one wishing to employ a shoemaker, but was

Online LibraryWalter Herbert SmallEarly New England schools → online text (page 9 of 33)