William Ward.

The early schools of Naugatuck; online

. (page 4 of 6)
Online LibraryWilliam WardThe early schools of Naugatuck; → online text (page 4 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

house 16x20 feet. This was probably the size of the old
one. But seven years later they voted to build a school-
house 18x30 feet. Many schoolhouses built after 1820
were of the size mentioned above. The schoolhouse
built in Lewistown District, about the year 1823, was
18x30 feet. The house erected at Pond Hill, about the
year 1823, which is now standing (1906) was 18x26 feet.
Another schoolhouse built in 1852, now standing, is
20x24 feet. The smaller schoolhouses had two windows
on the side, and probably two on the end opposite the
door. The larger schoolhouses had three windows on
the side. The one in which the writer attended school,
about 1830, was built about 1823; it had three windows
on the south side and four on the north. This school-
house was first a plain, oblong house, but after 1834 an
entry was added, having besides the door, one window.
The structure was generally (a one-story building)
roughly clapboarded, and more likely paint was lacking,
both outside and in. Sometimes the chimney was built
in the center, and often at the end. I have met some
old people that remember a schoolhouse with a chimney


in each end, each chimney having a large fireplace. The
school room was lathed and plastered. Against the
wall on three sides of the room was built a continuous
shelf about three feet from the floor; long backless
benches accompanied it, on which the oldest scholars
sat, facing the wall; when they wrote or ciphered they
rested their books and slates on it. While they were
studying they faced the center of the school room and
leaned their backs against the edge of the shelf, trying
to feel comfortable. The small children were seated
within the three-sided square formed by those of the
larger scholars, and on seats made from slabs, the
rounded part down. The slabs had each four supports,
consisting of straddling wooden legs set into auger holes.
The backless benches they occupied were generally
far too high for them, leaving their feet dangling in mid
air. It was hard for them; no wonder they spent most
of the time "busy" keeping still. Just inside, next the
entrance, was the master's desk or table, usually a table
in the early days, but later a desk, contrived by the car-
penter, set on a slight platform. Besides serving the
purpose of a desk, it was a repository for confiscated
tops, balls, pen-knives, marbles, jewsharps, whistles, etc.
It is believed that the schoolhouses built in what
is now Naugatuck before 1800 all had large fireplaces.
Those later, generally were heated by a Franklin, and
still later by a box stove.

I don't think that we, in Connecticut, ever had in our
schoolhouses a whipping post, as was the case in the
town of Sunderland, Mass. , they having a post set in
the floor, about five feet high.

School Books.

It is difficult to say what school books were used by
the scholars at Judd's Meadow in the year of 1730. It
would seem from the information now at hand that the
New England Primer, published by Benjamin Harris of
Boston, about 1690, must have been about the only
school book used in Waterbury at that time, 1730. Ev-
ery home possessed copies, and they were for sale at all
the town and village book shops. For a hundred years
this book, more than any other, was the school book of
the American dissenters. All of the old editions are now
very rare. A copy antedating 1800 would probably
bring from five to eight dollars. It is said that this
primer was used in the schools of Boston as late as 1806,
probably in some parts of New England several years
later. There were several editions of the primer. The
Evangelical Primer of 1810 was recommended by Noah
"Webster, Jedediah Morse and the president of Yale col-
lege as a valuable book for families and schools. The
law passed by the colony in the year 1700 required that:

"Every Town within this colony, having the num-
" ber of seventy Householders shall provide a sufficient
" School Master to teach Children and Youth to read
"and write," etc.

In Massachusetts only reading and writing were re-
quired in the elementary schools until the law of 1779,


which said there must also be arithmetic, the English
language, orthography and decent behavior. Probably
arithmetic was taught before 1731 in Judd's Meadow.

As the law required every county to maintain a Latin
school, of course those schools taught arithmetic, so the
graduates could teach arithmetic in the public schools.
Arithmetic must be taught. The schoolmaster had, of
the books imported from England, Hodder's, Dilworth's
and probably other English arithmetics. In the year
1788 one Nicholas Pike of Newburyport, Mass., pub-
lished a new arithmetic; it gained a wide acceptance.
Among the many items in the contents, I mention only
A Perpetual Almanac, and the proportions and tonnage
of Noah's Ark. Only a few of the boys and girls ci-
phered beyond division, with a short excursion into vul-
gar fractions. Those who penetrated into the Rule of
Three won distinction among their mates; and to cipher
through "Old Pike," was to be accounted a prodigy; or
to use an expression common in those early days, was
a "great arithmeticker. " Then came an Introduction to
Arithmetic, by Erastus Root of Norwich, Conn. , in 1 796.
Queerly enough it omitted fractions; not because "I
think useless, but because they are not absolutely nec-
essary." A book that rivaled "Old Pike" in populari-
ty was the arithmetic by Daniel Adams, published in
1801. Another arithmetic by Nathan Daboll, called
Daboll's Schoolmaster's Assistant, was very popular.
This arithmetic, revised and published in 1837, was the
only arithmetic that the writer ever had, and was, as I
remember, the only arithmetic in the Lewistown Dis-
trict school from about 1838 to 1843, and perhaps later.


When it was first introduced into the public schools in
what is now Naugatuck, I am unable to say. But it was
recommended by Noah Webster as early as 1799, and
probably found its way to the schools in this section soon
after that date. Warren Colburn published in 1821 an
arithmetic called Colburn's Intellectual Arithmetic. This
was a popular arithmetic, and in the next half century
more than two million copies were sold. I believe the
first arithmetic that used pictures as an aid to beginners
was Barnard's, published at Hartford in 1830. The
arithmetic by Roswell C. Smith in 1830; also Thomp-
son's Elementary, Emerson's, Underbill's, Greenleaf's
and others.


Probably the schoolmasters who taught in what is
now Naugatuck, as far back as 1731, made a copy for
the children, taken from the New England Primer. It
was customary to select a word or sentence, as ' ' Happi-
ness," "Contentment is a Virtue."

The paper ordinarily bought for school purposes
was rough and dark. Its cost and the scarcity of money
led the scholars to use it sparingly. It is said that the
children in some cases ciphered on birch bark. In prep-
aration for writing the children ruled the paper them-
selves with a lead plummet, for there were no lead pen-
cils; they did not come into use until after 1830. Even
slates were not common until about the year 1820.

It is said that the handwriting of the colonial chil-
dren, judging from those specimens preserved, was
equal, if not better, than the writing of a later date.


Directions to beginners ingwriting from an old book

says that:

"Necessary implements are a penknife, quills,
"paper, good and free ink, likewife a flat Ruler for
" sureneflf; and a round one for difpatch; with a leden
" Plummet or Pencil to rule Lines; Also Gum Sandrich
"Powder with a little Cotton dipped therein, which
"rub gently over the Paper to make it bear Ink the

Occasionally a master had narrow slips of engraved
copies that he could distribute among the writers. The
first of these copies put forth in this country was pub-
lished by the celebrated Boston schoolmaster, Caleb
Bingham, in 1796. Huntington's American Penman in
1824 gave directions for writing-pupils. Notwithstand-
ing the lack of books and opportunities for writing, the
young people of those days, especially the girls, man-
aged to write as good a hand, if not better, than the
young people of a later date. I have seen several let-
ters written about one hundred years ago, and I must
say that the writing shows that it was done with more
care than most of the writing of the present day. As
early as 1795 to 1844, perhaps later, most of the larger
girls made a sampler, which was expected to be a house-
hold treasure ever after. The samplers varied in size,
the smaller ones being about 7x9 inches, others 10x12
and some 15 inches square. The sampler was of coarse
linen, or possibly silk, on which it was the custom to
stitch the alphabet in capitals and small letters, the digits,
a verse of sentiment, and the worker's name, age, and
place of abode. There were also decorations, borders,


trees and flowers, animals and people — all resplendent
in many colored silks or worsteds.


Children have always been prone to scribbling. A
fair surface of paper, no matter where found, was a
temptation and the fingers, at times, must be employed,
either in writing or whittling. The first thing the youth-
ful owner of a book was likely to do. was to mark it with
his name. He might put his signature on the front fly
leaf, or write it on the last one, or almost anywhere else
in the book. In a geography of 1802 is written:

" If this book should chance to roam,
" Box its ears and send it home."

Or again:

" Steal not this book, for if you do,
" Tom Harris will be after you.
" Steal not this book for fear of strife,
" The owner carries a big jacknife."

The following sends the reader on a wild goose chase :

" If my name you wish to see,
*' Look on page 103."

Turn to that page and you find:

•' If my name you cannot find,
"Turn to page 109."

Again you turn to pages bidden:
" If my name you cannot find,
" Shut up the book and never mind."


I copy one more:

"If there should be another flood,

" Then to this book I'd fly.
" If all the earth should be submerged,

"This book would still be dry."

Besides the scroll work — The Diminished Scroll, A
Spanish S, etc.


As far back as 1730, when Judd's Meadow School Dis-
trict was first established, there probably was no special
spelling book. It was expected that what the children
read out of such books as the Psalter, Testament, or The
New England Primer would meet this want. The schol-
ars, as they read in the different classes, were expected
to spell the words. For a long time spelling books were
lacking, and did not become common much before 1750.
Dilworth's Speller was used before the Revolution, also
Fenning's Speller, which appeared in 1755. Besides
"Tables of Words," there was a chronology of remark-
able events. I copy in part:

" Eleven days of successive snow, A. D. 1674.

"A very great comet, 1680.

"A terrible high wind Nov. 26th, 1703.

" The surprising Meteor and signs in the air,1719."

I suppose the above occurred in England. But I
doubt if the children at Judd's Meadow had many spell-
ing books besides the Psalter, Primer, Testament and
the Bible, before Noah Webster published his first spell-
ing book in the year of 1783. One of the first effects of


the publication of Webster's spelling book was to make
spelling a craze. Spelling had been but little taught,
but now it created much interest, and the scholar who
could "spell down the whole school " ranked second only
to him who surpassed the rest in arithmetic. Many of
us well remember the quarter and nine-pence. Each
prize coin was drilled and hung on a string, and the
winners in the afternoon spelling lessons marched
proudly with the coins suspended from their necks, often
to be surrendered the next day to a successful rival. A
record was kept and at the end of the term the child
who had carried the coin home the greatest number of
times was given full possession. The spelling matches
were also a common recreation of the winter evenings,
and from time to time neighboring districts sent their
best spellers to contend for honors in friendly combat.
To these evening contests came not only the scholars,
but the older brothers and sisters and the rest of the
community. Later there was published a spelling book
by Caleb Bingham; but in the territory of Naugatuck
the writer believes that Noah Webster held the field
until about 1850. One of the fables in Webster's book,
that impressed the children, and no child ever forgot it,
was the story of "The Boy that Stole Apples." Caleb
Alexander's spelling book in 1799; Perry's edition in 1803
and 1818; The Columbian Primer in 1802 and 1827; Jones'
in 1823; Parsons' in 1836, and others. But the best ev-
idence that Noah Webster's Spelling Book was the pop-
ular book, is to mention the fact that over 24 millions
of copies were published. I should not omit Watts'
Complete Spelling Book, used in colonial days.



I doubt if the children in Judd's Meadow District
ever had a gegoraphy, for those books were rare before
1784, and before that time the Judd's Meadow District
was merged into other districts. Jedediah Morse first
published a geography in the year 1784. There is now no
means of ascertaining whether geography was used in
the public schools in Naugatuck before about 1800.
Peter Parley writes that he attended school in Ridge-
field, Conn., in the year 1799, and that there was not at
that time a geography, a grammar, or a history of any
kind in the school. The old notion was that the teach-
ing of geography was taking the scholars' attention
away from ciphering. But geography was afterwards
recognized and Morse's Geography was introduced into
the public schools soon after 1800. The earliest rival
of Morse's was a small volume by Nathaniel Dwight,
published in Hartford in 1795; The Monitor's Instructor,
published in 1804; another by Benjamin Davis, pub-
lished in 1813; Cummings' Geography in 1814; Adams'
in 1818; then there was Worcester's, published in 1829;
Peter Parley's in 1829, and another edition in 1839; geog-
raphy by Olney in 1831; then came Woodbridge's in 1833;
Goodrich was in the field in 1845; then Mitchell's fol-
lowed in 1850, and several others. In Dwight's Geogra-
phy the principal cities were located by giving their
distance from London, thus:

" Petersburg, the capital of Russia, is 1140 miles
" Northeaft from London. Pekin, the capital of China,
"ftands eight thoufand and fixty-two miles foutheaft-
" erly of London," etc.


" Q. What curiofities are there in France?

" A. A fountain near Grenoble emits a flame which
"will burn paper, straw, etc., but will not burn gun-
" powder. Within about eight leagues of the fame
" place is an inacceftable mountain in the form of apyr-
"amid reverfed.

"Q. Give a concife defcription of the Giages and
" Annians.

" A. The firft inhabit a part of the Congo coaft;
"the latter live in the Macaco. They are cannibals.
" They kill and eat their first born children, and their
" friends who die are eaten by their relations. In
" Macaco there is a market in which human flefh is
"fold, although other meat exifts in plenty. They
" efteem it a luxury, and it is said one hundred prif-
" oners or f laves are daily killed for the king's table."

Cummings' geography, printed in 1814, says:

"The Alleghany mountains are in some places im-
" mense masses of rock piled one above another till
" they reach the height of more than 10,000 feet above
"a level with the ocean."

Lewis and Clark had already crossed the continent,
and we find mention of the " Stoney Mountains." It
was a number of years before the name "Rocky" was
substituted for "Stoney." In Adams', published in
1818, we find:

' The White Mountains are the highest, not only
"in New Hampshire, but in the United States."

The following from Adams' geography says:

"The people of Norway retain their strength so
" long that a Norwegian is not supposed incapable of


" labour till he is upwards of 100 years old. The in-
" habitants in some of the interior parts, it is said,
*' live till weary of life."

Peter Parley's geography, a thin, square little
book, with its pictures and stories, had an immense cir-
culation, and no boy of its time will ever forget it.


I have not seen a list of English grammars used in
colonial days. The American Grammar, by Robert
Boss, published in 1782, I have seen in an old advertise-
ment. It may have been used in the public schools be-
fore Caleb Bingham issued his Short and Easy Intro-
duction to English Grammar, published in 1799, its
only predecessor of importance being Part II. of
Webster's Grammatical Institute. But Lindley Mur-
ray published in 1795 his grammar, which took and held
the field for many years, almost to the exclusion of ev-
ery other work dealing with the subject. I have at hand
an advertisement of school books in 1802, and I find
mentioned only one grammar, Murray's, with several of
his other books: English Reader, Grammar Abridged,
etc., Dilworth's and Webster's Spelling Books. In the
lists are School Testaments, Watts' Hymns, Young's
Night Thoughts, Pike's Arrithmetic, Sewell's History,
Morse's Geography, ^sop Fables, Paradise Lost, Blos-
soms of Morality, and many other books.

There is a tradition that a friend of Murray's once
said to him:

" Of all the contrivances invented for puzzling the
" brain of the young, your grammar is the worst."


And this is quite believable. The study of gram-
mar had been introduced into many of the public schools
by 1810, yet few teachers explained its intricacies. It
is said that about 1795, in a Pennsylvania school, that
some scholars, after a short experience with the new
study, organized for relief, and each scholar appeared
to the master with a report that:

'* Daddy seys I needn't larn grammar. It's no use."

The most attractive edition of Murray's grammar
was one adapted to the present mode of instruction, by
Enoch Pond, Worcester, 1835, a thin little volume, with
many small engravings illustrating parts of speech.
Then came The Little Grammarian. It was of English
origin, but was republished in New York in 1829. This
book made the leading rules of syntax more clear by a
series of instructive and amusing tales.

Another book allied to grammar was Frost's Easy
Exercises in Composition in 1839, and Roswell Smith's
Grammar, and other grammars.

The writer does not intend to state exactly what
grammars were used in the Naugatuck schools, but to
give the names of some of the books in print in those


History was not taken up in the schools until the
nineteenth century was well begun. The writer does
not know what histories were first used in the public
schools in Naugatuck. There were in 1802, Sewell's,
Gordon's, and other histories. Probably some of the
American histories were first used. Rev. C. A. Good-


rich published his history in 1822. This surpassed all
rivals in popularity. Within a dozen years 150 thousand
copies had been sold. Several universal histories were
published. Butler's, one of the first to be brought out,
included, according to the title page, "History, Sacred
and Profane, from the Creation of the World to the Year
1818." Of the other histories there were Taylor's,
Olney's and Peter Parley's, the last running up into
hundreds of editions.


Readers of any sort for beginners were very few
previous to 1825. The Franklin Primer, published in
1802 was intended as a substitute for the primer. It
contained a variety of tables, moral lessons, etc., with a
history of the world. The next book of this class was
The Child's Instructor, published in Philadelphia in
1808. Then comes the Child's Instructor and Moral
Primer in 1822; Leavett's Easy Lessons in Reading, pub-
lished in 1823, followed by his supplement in 1830.

Then the Clinton Primer, published in Boston the
same year, followed by The Child's Guide in 1833.
Then we have Pierpont's, The Young Reader, and Lov-
ell's Young People's Second Book, in 1836, following the
plan of The Child's Guide in the use of italics, but the
book was noted for its superior pictures. There were
other readers, but I think Lovell's Reader was used in
the Naugatuck schools later than 1850.



The first reader produced on this side of the Atlantic
was by Noah Webster, soon after the Revolution, as the
Third Part of his Grammatical Institute. Previously the
spelling book and New England Primer were the only
text books containing exercises in reading. About 1790
Webster published another reader, called The Little
Reader's Assistant. One of the most popular of the
early readers was Caleb Bingham's, The American Pre-
ceptor, Boston, 1794. Another book of Bingham's, pub-
lished about 1806, called the Columbian Orator. Noth-
ing in this book was of tener heard from the school plat-
form than, "You'd scarce expect one of my age," etc.
But the most thoroughly illustrated of any of the earlier
readers was a book published in Philadelphia in 1799,
called The Columbian Reading Book, or Historical Pre-
ceptor, " Collection of Authentic Histories, Anecdotes,
etc." From over 160 short lessons I have only space for


"A white man meeting an Indian asked him,
" whose Indian are you? To which the copper-faced
"genius replied: I am God Almighty's Indian, whose
" Indian are you?"

Scott's and Lindley Murray's were the only ones by
English compilers to be widely circulated in this coun-
try. The information imparted was sometimes pecu-
liar and would hardly pass at the present day. For in-
stance :

•' What is said about the Cataract of Niagara?"


After describing the amazing fall of water of 150
feet perpendicular, etc., says:

"It will be readily supposed that such a cataract
"entirely destroys the navigation of the stream; and
"yet some Indians in their canoes, it is said, have
"ventured down it in safety."

Then we have the Common Reader, by T. Strong
of Greenfield, Mass., in 1818; The National Reader, by
Pierpont, in 1827; The General Class Book, published
in 1828; National Preceptor, by J. Olney, in 1831. I
have the sixth edition, published in 1839. This shows
that this reading book had considerable popularity.
There were plenty of readers to choose from. The last
one that I will mention is Adams', The Monitorial Read-
er, published in 1839. I cannot resist the temptation to
copy at least one of the four verses found in Adams'
Reader, entitled:


" The pot of baked beans! with what pleasure I saw it,
"Well season'd, well pork'd by some rosy fac'd dame,

" And when from the glowing hot oven she'd draw it,
"Well crisp'd and well brown'd to the table it came;
" O, give me my country, the land of my teens,
"Of the dark Indian pudding, and pot of bak'd beans."

Union Center School District.

It is not the intention of the writer to give a histo-
ry of the Union Center School District, though it is
earnestly desired that some one in the future should
write out a complete history of this district.

As the lost records of the Union Center School Dis-
trict have not yet been found, and as it seems desirable
that the able article contributed by the Hon. Stephen
W. Kellogg, concerning the early formation of the
school in the Union Center District should not be lost,
the writer, with the kind permission of Mrs. John B.
Yale (who perhaps has the only copy), has thought it
best to preserve the information therein contained for
future use:





To the Editor of the American:

The recent death of the Hon. Henry Barnard, at Hartford, ha«
recalled a former intimacy I had with him in common school work
50 years ag-o. I was a young lawyer in Naugatuck, having opened
my first olfice there. The first year of my residence, I was put on


the board of school visitors and made an acting school visitor.
Business was not very pressing in my office, so I had plenty of time

1 2 4 6

Online LibraryWilliam WardThe early schools of Naugatuck; → online text (page 4 of 6)