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William L. (William Ladd) Chaffin.

History of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) online

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diplomas. Latterly, however, this plan has not been continued.
The scholars now prefer, when wishing to complete the full
course, to attend the regular High School at North Easton.
C. M. Barrows taught this school two terms in 1870-1871, and
C. C. Sheldon taught the spring term in 187 1. In September
of that year Charles R. Ballard, a graduate of the University of
Vermont, accepted the position of master here, holding the po-
sition for six years, when he resigned on account of defective
hearing. He was succeeded in 1877 by Maitland C. Lamprey,
a Dartmouth College graduate, who still remains.

The High School of Easton is well equipped with apparatus
and means of instruction. Besides mechanical and chemical
apparatus it has an excellent skeleton and a costly manikin im-
ported from Paris. It has also a cabinet of increasing interest.



PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 389



This school has been of great service in the education of the
children of Easton. That its advantages are appreciated is evi-
dent from the fact that in few towns is there so large a propor-
tion of High School graduates as here.

SCHOOLHOUSES.

Tradition has located the first schoolhouse in Easton at
South Easton village ; but this tradition proves to be three
years too late. There is documentary evidence going to show
that the first schoolhouse in South Easton village was built in
1773. But a document written by Timothy Randall, long a
selectman of Easton, narrates some account of a school trouble
in the southeast part of the town, and contains this statement :
" The S. E. Quarter raised their schoolhouse near Mr. Seth
Lathrop's on ye 14th day of December, a.d. 1770." Other docu-
ments confirm this statement. This schoolhouse was located on
the north side of Purchase Street, a little east of where William
Henry Lothrop now lives, and just west of the site of Isaac Lo-
throp's house. Prior to this the school had been kept in the
house of Mark Lothrop part of the time, and at Nehemiah How-
ard's part of the time. As this district was a very large one,
another building was erected farther south, on the west side of
the turnpike, a little below where Robert Ripner now lives. This
appears to have been built somewhat before 1808, for at that
date it was called the " new schoolhouse." These were not re-
garded as two separate districts, nor were schools kept in these
two schoolhouses at the same time. The money for the whole
quarter was divided, and the terms of school were kept alter-
nately in the two schoolhouses. This arrangement better ac-
commodated those living in the extreme north and south parts
of the whole quarter ; but scholars who chose so to do were
allowed to attend school in both schoolhouses in turn. This
arrangement continued until 18 18. June i of that year, Asa
Howard sold land for a schoolhouse where the Branch Turn-
pike intersects the Taunton and South Turnpike, the site now
occupied by the present building. The schoolhouse first erected
there was superseded in 1869 by the present building.

The second schoolhouse in Easton was built in i773. ir* what
is now South Easton village. An assessment was made August



390



HISTORY OF EASTON.



14 of that year, when the building was nearly done ; and the
statement is made in the assessors' document that "The School
House cost Twenty pounds & three shillings lawful money."
It was not however finished at that date, and not until No-
vember 7, 1774, was it decided to complete it. The building
was very near or upon the spot now occupied by Copeland's
store. It was very small, with a hip roof, and very low in the
walls ; and if it was like the other schoolhouses that were soon
afterward built, it had high windows to prevent the children's
attention from being attracted by anything that occurred out-
side, and the seats were parallel to the sides of the building,
with the aisle running through the centre. After this house
was discontinued as a schoolhouse it was occupied as a dwell-
ing by " Old Bunn," or Benjamin Benoni, who is spoken of in
another chapter, and who seems to have lived in nearly all the
deserted and tumble-down buildings of this date. The second
schoolhouse built in South Easton was quite near the location
of the present No. i schoolhouse, but not so far from the road.
It was built in 1794 on land then owned by John Randall, and
was superseded about 1821 by a brick schoolhouse built on
about the same spot. Dr. Caleb Swan, September 13, 1821,
sold a piece of land to enlarge the school lot, and Nathaniel
Guild sold an additional piece for the same purpose in 1825.
The tax for this new brick building was levied on the district
in 1822. This schoolhouse stood until 1848, when the present
building was erected.

The third schoolhouse built in town appears to have been
erected in 1783, in North Easton. A paper still preserved
begins as follows : —

" We the subscribers, Inhabitence of the Town of Easton, do each
of us Volentarily agree to build a School House in our Rick, which
was formerly called Samuel Randall's School Rick, and to build said
house about fifteen feet squar, and to set said house near the corner
where one Road leads to Mr. Ferguson's and the other Road to the
Widow Stacey's," etc.

They agreed " to go about building said house forthwith."
This was February 8, 1783. The agreement was signed by
William Manley, Isaac Stokes, John Mears, Solomon Randall,



PUBLIC SCHOOLS.



391



and nine others. The place named was not far from the present
site of Unity Church. The Widow Stacey lived where Simeon
Randall now lives ; and the old road to George Ferguson's left
the other road alluded to, now Main Street, south of where Can-
ton Street intersects it, so that the corner alluded to could not
have been far from Unity Church. This little schoolhouse,
"fifteen feet squar," was perhaps too small in 1795, because,
February 16 of that year, fourteen persons " belonging to the
Middle School Rick in the north part of said Easton" agree to
build a schoolhouse, and " to go on with the Building said house
fourth with." Ephraim Randall, Capt. Elisha Harvey, Caleb
Carr, Sr., and other familiar names are appended to this agree-
ment. The house was to stand on its old site. It was not built
at once, however, for two years afterward only the frame had
been erected. Perhaps the old house was still in use. Some
difference of opinion had developed as to the best place for the
new house to stand, and in a meeting of the district, held Feb-
ruary 17, 1797, it was "voted to move the school-house frame.
Voted to have the frame at the corner by the button-wood tree."
This was just in front of the house where Ziba Randall now
lives. The "button-wood tree" has left successors on the same
spot to testify of its former presence. Caleb Carr, now living
(1886), remembers attending school in this little schoolhouse. In
1808 the northwest district was divided ; and that part of it that
was on the Bay road and on the west end of Lincoln Street was
" set to the Randall district (so called)," now No. 7. This change
excited much hard feeling. The Bay-road people and those near
that road counted it a hardship to have their children go so far
as the old schoolhouse at the north end of the village. After
much discussion it was voted to move this building to the centre
of the district. It was accordingly taken to Lincoln Street, and
at first was carried to the middle of the plain on the south side of
the road opposite Lincoln Spring ; but after considerable alter-
cation it was moved to the side of the road near where Mr.
Mahony now lives. Its location is still observable, and there
are several persons now living who remember attending school
there. It was finally purchased by Oliver Ames, was hauled
by oxen to the hill-side where Lewis Smith lives, was let down
the hill, the oxen holding it with ropes from above to prevent



392



HISTORY OF EASTON.



its sliding clown too fast, was then moved to the corner opposite
the old Lockup on Pond Street, an addition made to it, when
it was occupied as a tenement house by a Mr. Barlow, ■ — a very
pious man, who charged Mr. Ames for handling more shovels
in a given time than Mr. Ames had in that time manufactured.
The third schoolhouse built in North Easton village stood at
the lower part of the open space in front of the Cairn. It was
built in 1 8 19, was subsequently moved to the place where it
now stands, next east of Ripley's store, and has since been oc-
cupied as a dwelling-house. A little above the old location of
this schoolhouse a new building was erected in 1844, ^^ ^ cost
of twelve hundred dollars, which is referred to in the elaborate
school-report of the next year as "an honor to the district, and
well worth the imitation and rivalship of other districts in town
and out of town." How strange it would seem to-day to hear a
small one-story schoolhouse thus spoken of! Some years after-
ward the increasing population of the district made it necessary
to provide more room, and it was voted to raise up this building,
turn it around, and add a new story to it. The matter was
left to the discretion of a committee, who added a furnace and
" Boston desks," and who created much excitement by spending
double the amount appropriated. Some of the tax-payers for
a time refused to pay their assessments, one of them on the
ground that they had voted to turn the schoolhouse around, and
the committee turned it only half aronnd ! But all of them were
soon grateful to the committee, who saw so much better than
they what was needed, and were not afraid to take the responsi-
bility of providing it. This two-story building was in use until
1869. It was then moved next north of the shoe-factory close
by, and became a tenement house.

In 1868 work was begun on the three-story schoolhouse that
now crowns the hill in the centre of the village, a conspicuous
object for miles around. The Ames Company agreed to erect a
large and well appointed building, provided the district would
purchase the land and build the cellar, the Company paying
their proportion of the same. This proposition was accepted
by the district. The expense of the cellar was heavy, owing to
the amount of blasting necessary to be done. The building
was only partially completed, when by the close vote of one



PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 393



hundred and one to ninety-nine the district system was abol-
ished, and it was no longer possible to make what had been
District No. 7 the owner of the property.

Here an interesting complication occurred. The law pro-
vided that when the district system was discontinued in any
town, that town should take possession of all the school property
of the several districts which the districts might lawfully sell
and convey. The property so taken was to be appraised, and
a tax levied upon the whole town equal to the amount of said
appraisal, and from the tax of each district was to be deducted
the appraised value of its own school property. Two simple
statements will show how the matter was arranged, so far as the
gift of the new schoolhouse was concerned.

1. It was no longer possible to fulfil the original purpose
of presenting the schoolhouse to District No. 7, since there
no longer was any such district. But the intent of that agree-
ment was fully carried out by the Ames Company paying such
a proportion of the assessment of the tax-payers of No. 7 as
would cover their part of the cost of the new building above
the underpinning.

2. When the town assessment was made to pay the districts
for the school property which the town had taken, it was found
that the appraised value of the school property of No. 7 exceeded
the tax due from No. 7 by $7,304. This amount would therefore
have to be paid to No. 7 by the tax-payers in other parts of the
town, unless some other arrangement was made. It was natural
that those living in other parts of the town should feel it a burden
to help pay for an expensive building at North Easton. Fore-
seeing this, the Ames Company, August 21, 1869, volunteered
to pay this amount, so that no one outside of No. 7 should pay
anything towards the expense of the school property in North
Easton village. The following is the text of the Ames Com-
pany's proposition : —

North Easton, August 21, 1869.
To the Selectmen of the town of Easton :

Gentlemen, — It being our desire that no portion of the cost of
the new schoolhouse in District No. 7 should fall on any other part of
the town, we hereby authorize you to remit the sum of seventy-three
hundred and four dollars ($7,304) on the tax assessed on all persons



394 HISTORY OF EASTON.

residing in Easton outside of School District No. 7, said sum being the
surplus which would otherwise come to District No. 7 over and above
the tax assessed on said district, on account of the appropriations
made by the town for schoolhouse purposes.

Yours respectfully,

Oliver Ames & Sons.

For some reason, accountable only on the supposition that
it was wholly misunderstood, this proposition was rejected at
the town-meeting where it was first proposed. A subsequent
meeting was held, when the Hon. Oliver Ames, in clear and
forcible language, showed the town that they were simply refus-
ing a gift of $7,304. When thus explained, the town decided
by unanimous vote to accept the proposition. The double
effect of the whole transaction was that no one outside of
No. 7 was taxed to pay for the school property of this district,
and no one in No. 7 was taxed to pay for school property out
of this district.

The fourth schoolhouse built in Easton was probably the one
southwest of the Furnace Village, on the site afterward occupied
by the "old brick schoolhouse," now destroyed. September 21,
1790, James Perry deeded to the southwest "school rick" a
quarter of an acre of land as a site for a schoolhouse. A small
wooden building was put up and served for a schoolhouse until
about 1820, when it was removed to the brook west of the old
Nathaniel Perry place, where it served as a tack-mill and paint-
shop, and then being moved again, became a shed or carriage-
house, as elsewhere described. About 1820 four brick school-
houses were erected in town, and one of them was on the site
of the old one just described. This served as the schoolhouse
for most of the children in the Furnace Village, then a part of
District No. 5, which reached to the Norton and Mansfield line.
School was discontinued in this building in 1869, and after re-
maining unused for some years, this "old brick schoolhouse,"
as it was called, was torn down.

The first schoolhouse in District No. 8 stood close to the pres-
ent site of Augustus Bird's house, on the east side of Washington
Street. It was probably built about 1793. This was the date of
the erection of several of the schoolhouses in town, and their



PUBLIC SCHOOLS. 395



being built about the same time seems to be explained by the
following vote in town-meeting, passed April i, 1793: —

" Voted to appropriate eighty pounds of this Town's unappropri-
ated property for the use of an English school in this Town the
present year, and that each School Rick shall have the liberty to
appropriate a part or the whole of their proportion of the said eighty
pounds for building Schoolhouses as they shall agree."

Several of the districts availed themselves of this privilege, and
spent the money raised for keeping the school to help pay for their
school buildings. This first little schoolhouse in District No. 8
was used until 1822, when the brick schoolhouse was built a few
rods north of Abijah Buck's house on the east side of Washing-
ton Street. The yard in which it stood may yet be seen, as the
stone wall that surrounded it is still standing. This school was
open to scholars from that part of Stoughton near the town line
in this section, and was supported in part by both towns. This
arrangement, however, no longer exists. The present school-
house at No. 8 was built in i860.

June 6, 1793, Job Randall, "yeoman, for the consideration of
six shillings paid by the inhabitants of the Westerly English
School District in the Southeast Quarter of the town of Eas-
ton," sold " a lot for a Schoolhouse lot," containing five rods of
land. This was in what was afterward known as District No. 3.
June 17 of the same year, fourteen residents of that district had
begun a subscription paper and had raised about twenty-five
pounds, or in the then value of money about eighty dollars, for
the purpose of building a schoolhouse, " said House to be set on
the land of Jobe Randall on the westerly side of the Rode, Near
the North corner of the old Sixty-acre lot formerly belonging to
Israel and Ephraim Randall." This location was a few rods
south of the present schoolhouse and on the opposite side of
the road. The schoolhouse was therefore built here in I793»
about the same date as others in different parts of the town.
The second and present schoolhouse of this district was built
in 1845 on the site where it now stands, at a cost of five hundred
dollars above the underpinning.

About 1793 it was decided to build a schoolhouse in Poquan-
ticut, a few rods north of the house of Thomas E. Williams.



396 HISTORY OF EASTON.



Work was begun, and the schoolhouse frame was hewed out,
when a division arose. It was thought more convenient for the
whole district to have the building located farther to the west.
Accordingly the site just named was exchanged for one about
a quarter of a mile westward. The timbers were carried there
and the house built. But after thirty years the centre of popu-
lation had somewhat changed, and it was determined to locate
the house farther northwest. Land was bought October 6,
1827, of Archippus Buck, and not long afterward the old school-
house was moved across the fields to the new school lot. An
addition of about ten feet was made to the building, and though
in its last days it was in a dilapidated condition, it continued in
use until 1871, when a new one was erected better suited to the
needs and comfort of the scholars. The old one was purchased
by Solomon Foster, and moved to the so-called Solomon Foster
road, where it now serves as the dwellin:r-house of Cornelius
Harvey.

The Centre district, now No. 9, was different at first from
what it is now. It extended farther west and not so far east,
having its centre at Benjamin Pettingill's, now L. K. Wilbur's.
It was however afterward changed so as to make the meeting-
house the central location. The first schoolhouse in this district
stood about two rods northeast of the present site of Charles
Reed's barn. It was a small wooden building, and was probably
erected about 1793. It stood until 18 18, when a brick school-
house was built upon the same spot. The new building was
thought to be a grand affair, as were probably the other brick
schoolhouses built about the same time. It had a central aisle
running lengthwise from the door to the teacher's desk ; on
either side of this were several rows of desks, each row being a
step higher than the one in front. The boys sat on one side, and
the girls on the other, directly opposite each other, thus facili-
tating the interchange of such facial expressions as school boys
and girls from time immemorial have been happy to indulge in.
The fireplace of olden times had given way to a stove, which
occupied the centre, before whose red-hot sides the scholars
roasted their cheeks, scorched their clothes, and burned the toes
of their boots and shoes. The older scholars sat in the " back
row " of desks, which were high enough to enable their occu-



PUBLIC SCHOOLS.



397



pants to look out of the high windows, where the glances they
stole at the outside world excited the envy of the small scholars,
who considered it a rare treat to be occasionally allowed to visit
"a big scholar" in a back seat. About 1845 this house was
sadly out of repair, the floor being so decayed that there was
danger of its falling through. The building was thoroughly
repaired, and new desks provided, all facing the same way ; and
with its new coat of paint inside, the house outshone its ancient
glory. It continued in use for a score of years afterward. In
1856, after several exciting district meetings, and some dissatis-
faction with the town, the district built the schoolhouse now
standing opposite the Evangelical church.

It has already been stated that the arrangement and number-
ing of the districts was different at different times. So late as
1825 the north half of what is now District No. 10 was a sepa-
rate district by itself, being known as No. ii. In 1803 $65.64
was raised by taxation, and this with the lumber and labor fur-
nished by the district was sufficient to build a small schoolhouse.
It was situated at the junction of Lincoln Street and the Bay
road, on the northeast corner, the small cleared space where it
stood being still visible. In the summer the school was taught
there for some time by a daughter of Ebenezer Kinsley, who
lived a little north of this corner. In 1808, as previously stated,
the Bay-road section of this district was united with No. 8 (now
No. 7), and this school discontinued, though not without exciting
much hard feeling.

The limits of District No. 10 have varied at different times.
At the time of the building of its first schoolhouse it extended
south to the Furnace Village, and did not take in the north part
of the Bay road. Its first schoolhouse was built in 1806, and
was located on the east side of the road between the present
houses of Charles E. and Thomas Keith. Like others built
about that date, it was of wood, and very small. It remained
at the above mentioned location until 1840, when the district
bounds were made to extend farther north ; at which time it
was moved to where the present schoolhouse now stands, and
an addition made to it. There it remained for thirty years. In
1869 an attempt was made to unite districts No. 6 and 10, and
to have a schoolhouse near James Britton's house. But the plan



398 HISTORY OF EASTON.

was not carried out ; and in 1870, after the abolishing of the dis-
trict system, the town voted to move the old schoolhouse from
the Furnace Village to the school lot in No. 10. The old No. 10
house was moved to Day Street in North Easton, where it is
now used as a dwelling-house. The Furnace Village schoolhouse
was moved to take its place, and still does service for the Bay-
road scholars.

The old District No. 4 was in the Williams neighborhood. It
had no schoolhouse until 1828 ; previous to that time school
had been usually kept in private houses when kept at all. In
1827 there stood west of Daniel Wheaton's, and on the west
side of the stream, a small house probably built by Joshua
Williams. Daniel Wheaton then owned it, and he volunteered
to present it to the district if the district would move it and fit
it up for use as a schoolhouse without taxing him therefor. This
they agreed to do. In the winter of 1827-28, this house was
moved over the snow and set upon the east side of the Bay road,
south of where Edward D. Williams's saw-mill now stands, but
for nearly a year was not made into a schoolhouse. The first
school was kept in it in 1829. This building was enlarged in
1850, and continued in use twenty years longer, at which time
school was discontinued there, as it was at No. 5, and the schol-
ars sent to the school in Furnace Village. This old building
was then purchased, moved to North Easton village, and located
on Day Street, where it degenerated from a school of knowledge
to a school of vice, having been used for years as an unlicensed
groghouse.

The district lately known as No. 11 was set off from No. 5, of
which it had long formed a part, in 1846. Previous to this time
most of the Furnace Village scholars had tramped out to the
Four Corners to the brick schoolhouse, or in earlier days to
its predecessor. After considerable contention the division was
made, and a school for the village was held in Harmony Hall
for a time. In 1869 a schoolhouse, then the largest in town,
was erected, standing north of Lincoln Drake's house. March
I, 1869, districts No. 4, 5, and ii were consolidated under the
name of the Union District ; and during that year the two-story
building now in use was built, and the scholars were graded into
two schools, answering to primary and grammar grades, though



PUBLIC SCHOOLS.



399



for some years High School studies were taught by competent
teachers, and several scholars regularly graduated from it after
completing substantially the same course of study as that pur-



Online LibraryWilliam L. (William Ladd) ChaffinHistory of the town of Easton, Massachusetts (Volume 3) → online text (page 37 of 78)