Shirley School History

The following contains 143 years of Shirley school history.

Annual Report of the School Committee
And Superintendent of schools Of the
Town of Shirley For Year 1900-1901

Page 8

Between 7 and 14 years for the year ending Sept 1, 1900


Over 15 years for the year ending Sept 1, 1900


Aggregate number of weeks for the year ending Sept 1, 1900


Number of schools for the year ending Sept 1, 1900


Cost of Superintendent, Shirley’s share


As it is the closing year of the nineteenth century, it seems to me appropriate to present some extracts from the town’s records, showing the development of our public schools “from the beginning.” This I shall do with little comment leaving the reader to draw his own inferences from the statements made, or suggestions, which a single word will often give. All abbreviations are my own; sums of money and numbers in the records are usually expressed in words.

By an act of General Court, January, 1753, upon petition of John Whitney and thirty-two others, a tract of territory, west of the Nashua and Squannacook rivers, was set off from Groton, of which it was a part, and incorporated as s district; it received the name Shirley, in honor of William Shirley, who was then Governor of Massachusetts Colony.  In 1765, the south line of Shirley was extended to Lancaster by the annexation of that Shirley was extended to Lancaster by the annexation of that part of “Stowleg” west of the Nashua, a strip of land about 200 rods wide that extended from Stow, between the old towns of Groton and Lancaster, to Lunenburg. In 1798, three farms east of the Nashua, in “Mitchellville,” were annexed to Shirley, but went to help form Ayer in 1871.

The first town meeting was held March 1, 1752, at the house of John Whitney; the room, in which it is said to be held, still remains as a part of the house owned by Mr. Joseph P. Thompson.

Rev. Seth Chandler, in his history of the town, says that while Shirley remained an “angle” of Groton territory no school was established within its bounds, and it was not till 1757 that any word appears as to public instruction. “Hence, a large part of an entire generation never enjoyed the privilege of passing a day within a public school-room,” says Mr. Chandler.

1757, May 30, “voted to hire three months’ schooling in the…

Page 9

…district and to begin about the last of August, or the beginning of September next & Mr. Jonas Longley, Mr. William Simonds & Mr. John Keley was chosen a committee and empowered to agree with some person or persons to keep said School  and to assign places for the same.” Presumably it was a “moving school” to be kept one month in each of three parts of the town. The first school in Shirley “was convened in an apartment of the dwelling-house of Mr. Jonas Longley” (Chandler) on the farm now owned by Mr. Herbert Holden.

“And it was also voted to provide a pair of Stocks”

’58 “Voted to raise £13 6s 8d to defray the charges which hath or shall arise in the District.”’59. There was to be 3 months schooling; the Com. To provide it was “Mr. William Little, Ensign Longley, Ensign Walker, Ensign Bennet & Capt. Harris”; “voted that the two first months be a woman School (summer) and the last month a writing or man School.” “Voted to have the whole of said Schooling completed by the last of Dec. and to leave it with the Com. to appoint such places as they shall think proper.”

’60. 3 months, one-half to be kept by sch. master, and “one half by school dame,” Selectmen “to appoint places and provide schooling.”

’61. “Voted to have 12 weeks schooling, and to be writing school”; Sept. 8, “voted that 8 weeks of the Sch. that is already voted be reading or woman School.” Dex. 7, “voted to allow Mr. Amos Holden Sixteen Shillings for boarding Mr. Isaac Farnsworth whilst he was keeping School in this District”; –Shirley’s first known school teacher.

’63. “Voted to have 6 weeks schooling *** this Spring of Summer insuing (sic)”; July 5, “voted 3 months Sch’g the present year, to begin the middle of August, *** the first month shall be a writing Sch. and the other two months a reading Sch. Voted to have the writing Sch. in the Middle of the Dist. And the other two months, one month a t the South end and the other month at the North end of said Dist.” Dec. 8, the first use of the “dollars” appears in the records, but it was not generally used till many years later; no separate appropriation for schools was made, and the expense must have been included…

Page 10

…in the general grant “for town charges”; “voted (Dec. 9) to hire two months Sch’g (sic) the winter ensuing, one month a writing Sch. to be kept at ye Middle of said Dist.” There was always a committee appointed to carry these votes into effect this time it was “Mr. Nehemiah Holden, Mr. Richard Harrington & Obediah Sawtelle.”

’64. Jonas Longley was paid “for the boarding of the Sch. Master, Mr. Isaac Farnsworth”;  “3 months schooling at each end of the Dist.” “Voted that the swine go at large under the restrictions of the law.” Nov. 26, “voted two months sch’g (sic) the winter ensuing.”

’65. They had a 3 months writing sch. for the winter, and Mar. 10, ’66, the town voted 2 months writing Sch. for the winter.

’67. “Voted 6 months wimmins Sch.’g (sic)”. Dec. 17, “voted to raise four pounds to be laid out in Sch’g (sic) in this Dist. The ensuing year at the discretion of the Com. (a common way of leaving votes for several years) hereafter named, viz.: Asa Holden, Elijah Wilds and Amos Doe, Com. for said purpose with Hugh (?) Smiley Capt Harris and Obediah Sawtell Com. to recon with Lieut Walker Treasurer.”

’68. Dec. 29, “4 pounds; Leiut Henry Haskell (who lived at one time near the “Brick Tavern”) Capt. Harris and William Little, the Com. “with discretionary power.” In ’69 there was a “10 weeks writing Sch.” ’70 the Selectmen were to provide “3 months reading Sch.” Dec. 31, “voted 6 pounds to be laid out in a writing Sch.” ’71. “voted not to have any Schooling ye present year.” ’72, “voted 4 months writing Schooling,” and Mr. William Little was chosen a Com. to provide it with the usual “discretionary power” as to when, where, and by whom the school shall be kept. ’73, voted six months schooling to be reading School in this District the summer ensuing.” In the winter they had “3 months writing Sch.” ’74, Mar. 7, “voted to have 3 mos. Women School” during the summer. (This gave 4 weeks in the North, Centre, and South parts of the town). Mar. 24, “voted to have 3 months writing Sch.” No boys of age to work went to summer schools, and no young…

Page 11

…children of either sex attended the short winter school. Probably as to other towns –the same “marster” taught in different parts of the town.

1775. “Voted that the District be Divided into four separate Districts or Quarters and that Each Dist. Or Quarter have ye Disposal of the money assessed on them for Schooling and then Chose a Com. of fivevizCapt Henry Haskell, Capt Asa Holden Capt Samuel Walker Capt Ira Harris and Mr. William Little to Divide the District as a fore said then voted to Rais (sic) Six Pounds to be Disposed of to the use of Schooling in this Dist. the Summer ensuing.”

’76. Jan 1, “Voted not to have any schooling in said Town the present winter.” Mar. 4, “Voted to Rais (sic) £6 for summer sch. to be disposed in the Same manner as the school money was the last year.” (Nobody knows how that was).

’77. £15 for summer sch.  Nov. 17, “Voted to have 3 months writing school the Winter ensuing. Voted to have the said sch. kept in Deferant (sic) places.” Capt Sam’ Walker John Peirce Benj Woodbury a Com. for the purpose; “Voted to Impower (sic) the above Com. to provide a Master or Masters for Said School.”

The following copies of “orders” show some interesting points: “May 8, 1777 Gave Mr. Ebenazer Gowen an order fore (sic) Jonas Langley for £1-10 as a part of the School money for the year 1776.” “Dec 1 1777 Gave Phileman Holdin an order for £4:5 for Mrs Nutting keeping School.” Mr. Chandler says that Dame Nutting taught for many seasons in the first sch h. of the town, which was at the center near the present residence (1900) of Mr. E. B Fairchild. “It was about 20 feet square, singly covered with rough boards, without inside ceiling, but was furnished with a cellar, to which access was gained by a trap-door in the centre of the room. In one corner stood a huge fireplace, built of rough stones with chimney of the same material. The room was furnished with a few seats of rough planks, and with writing benches constructed of boards over which a plane never passed. It was customary to rent the building to some pedagogue or school-marm as a tenement, in payment for service in “teaching the young…

Page 12

…idea how to shoot.’” “This famous school-dame” is said to have been so fleshy that she could not move about readily, and so kept a very long stick—some six feet in length – with which she reduced her urchin crew to a state of due subordination while seated.: She was truly a “Madame of the Chair.”

“Jan. 9 1778 Gave Capt Sam Hazen an Order for £4-3 for Rebekah Little keeping School.”

“March 8 1779 Gave Elizabeth Wason order for £5:6:8 for keeping School.”

“March ye 23: 1779 Gave an order to Mr Thomas Warren for keeping two months for £31-0-0; to Mr Wallis Little for keeping school for one month £16-0 0.”

’78. “Voted to Raise £20 for the purpos (sic) of Schooling the Summer Ensuing.” Oct. 8, “Voted to have three months Sch.’g (sic). Ensign John Hale Capt Samuel Hazen Mr Phinehas Page a Com. to provide and apportion said School.”

’79. Art. 5, “To see if the Town will buy or Hire the Sch. h. that is near the Meeting House,” was passed over. What does this mean? The meeting house (the second one, built in 1773,) stood on or very near the spot where the soldiers’ monument is; the first meeting house stood nearly opposite the present Centre Schoolhouse. It was built in 1753 and ’54; the schoolhouse always stood near the meeting house, and it seems probable that Shirley’s first schoolhouse, if built before 1774 stood near the first meeting house. It is known that two schoolhouses have stood in the present school yard, a little south of the present building. Isn’t it very likely that the schoolhouse which the town refused to buy or hire was the private property of Dame Nutting or someone else, or that if it had ever belonged to the town, it may have been sold?

Art. 8 (Mar. ’79), “To see if the town will have any Schooling the Summer Ensuing” was also “passed over.” Nov. 6, “Voted three months Sch. to be kept in three different places in ye Town and then made choyse (sic) of Mr. Nath Kezar Leut Joshua Longley and Leut Hezekia Patterson as a Com. to provide said Schooling in the Best manner they Can.”

“March ye 30 1780 Gave Mr. Amos Holdin an order for his…

Page 13

…wife keeping School eight weeks in Shirley £48-0-0” (This was in depreciated currency).

’80. Jan 13, “Voted to have 8 month Womens Schooling to be kept in four Partes (sic) of this Town ye Present Summer and fall.” Dec. 25, it was voted to have 3 months in 3 different parts of the town.

’81. Mar. 5, “Voted to Raise Twelve Hundred Silver Dollars of the value thereof in other money equil (sic) to the Same to be Imedately (sic) assessed for paying the Soldiers &c.” This is the real beginning of the word “dollars” which came into use with “specie” money. June 28, “Voted to have Sum Schooling ye present summer and that Said School be kept as above Said. Then made choyce (sic) of Capt Samuel Hazen Mr James Parker Mr. John Whiteear and Mr. Nath Kezar as a Com. to hire Saed (sic) Schooling.”

Nov. 20, 4th Art. “To see if the town will build a sch. House or Houses in this Town,” did not pass. This indicates that there was not yet a public school house in the town. The usual three months winter school, to be kept in 3 different places was voted.

’82. May 8, “Voted 6 months schooling to be kept by Women;” Com. Capt. Samuel Walker, Capt Asa Holdin, Capt Samuel Hazen, Lt. Thomas Burkner; Nov. 21, after voting not to have nay winter schooling, “Recnd’d and voted 4 months, and chose a Comitee (sic) to Provide Said School and Perpotion (sic) it in the Several Partes (sic) of said Town at there (sic)  Discresson (sic).”

’83 Had its 6 months reading school, and 3 months winter.

’84. Apr. 8, “Voted to chose (sic) a Com. to Divide the Town into Classes for Districts fit for Schooling. Lt. Wallice Little Capt Asa Holdin Capt Samuel Hazen Jeremiere Chapin Capt Samuel Walker and Capt John Egerton was Chusen (sic) for the Purpos (sic).” No record of this report exists. This year there was 6 months reading school “and eighteen weeks Righting (sic) School” kept in three parts of the town.

’85. July 7, Voted to have 12 months schooling in the summer…

Page 14

…or fall or winter, but “the descresson (sic)” of the Committee seems to have been not to have any, for “Art 8ly” (sic)  in the warrant of March 6.

’86. “To See if the Town will have Sum parte (sic) of the 12 months Schooling formerly voted in this Town to be a writing Sch. Keept (sic) by a man or men now to be kept by a woman or women ye Sumer (sic) ensuing Voted that one month of the 12 months Sch’g which was voted in July Last to be a writing Sch. to be kept by men in Each Quarter as a woman Sch. In the Town.” June 20, “Voted that this Town be Divided into three Classes; and also into foar (sic) Classes; Sutable (sic) for schools also voted that the assessors be a Com. to make Said Divisions and make Returns of their Doings at the next Meeting.” The article under which they were acting was, “To see if this Town Will pass a vote to be Devided (sic) Into Propper Destrets (sic) Convenient for Schooling and Build a Sch. H. in Each of said Destreets (sic).” Oct. 17, “Voted six months wrighting Sch’g (sic) the winter ensuing; voted to accept of the Devisions (sic) of three winter ensuing; voted to accept of the Devisions (sic) of three Classes for schools as devided (sic)by the Committee.”

This year by an act of Legislature, whereby all districts which had been incorporated previous to the year 1777 were made towns, Shirley became a town, although the word had already been used in “the records” instead of “district” for several years.

The school house in the South class stood on the lot now occupied by Mr. Wm. Cram; it was afterwards moved to the east part of the village and converted into a dwelling house, now owned by Mrs. Abel Farnsworth, and occupied by Mr. Joseph Provost. Dec. 3, after voting to have “Six months Wrighting (sic) Sch.,” voted “To maek (sic) an alteration Respecting the Division of the Towns for schools and building of sch. housen (sic) from what was formerly agreed on by the Town and Voted to accept of four Classes as the Town was Diveded (sic) and Voted to have fore sch. hn (sic). In Lew (sic) of Three and then Chose a comitee (sic) To build the forth sch. h. Lt. John Kelsey Ebenzer Pratt Capt. Samuell Walker was Chosen Committee for the above Purpose.” Two months schooling “was added to the above six months” –doubtless for the school in the fourth…

Page 15

…class. From subsequent votes it would seem that this district was the present East.

Evidently the school houses above mentioned were the first built and owned by the town; the schools up to this time had probably been kept in private houses.

’87. May 14, after voting to have “a woman sch.” for six months, “voted to build Three sch. hs. And to Raise Ninety Pounds for To Build said sch. hs. Capt Asa Holdin Capt John Egerton and Joshua Longley Chosen a Com. To se (sic) the building of Said School Housen (sic) and voted That Each Destrect (sic) agree on a plan for those house.;” “The schoolhouse in the Centre class was located as before stated. The schoolhouse of the North class occupied the site of the present one till 1844, when it was removed and used for the blacksmith’s shop; it is still standing, and is owned by Mr. Charles Holden.

’88. May 15, “Voted to have six months woman’s Sch’g. the sumer (sic) ensuing and to leave it discretionary with the Com. to hire sch. Dames.” Under Art. 6, “Voted that the East part be set of as a deestrict (sic) by themselves as many as choses(sic) To be set of and build a sch. h. for themselves and Draw thair propotanable (sic) part of the Sch’g as Sch. money and they are To pay thair (sic) part Tords (sic) the sch. h. in the middle of the Town.” Dec. 18, voted “not to have any moer Sch’g (sic) the present winter,” but Jan. 29 decided to have the usual “6 months writing sch.” (two months in each 3 parts of the town ?)

’89. The 6 months “woman’s sch’g was voted, with “John Ivory Esqar Joshua Longley and Ensign John Heald “to provide it.” There was a winter school of 6 months.

’90. Apr. 5, “voted to confine Each Destrict (sic) for Sch;’g to their own sch. as divided by the Town; to raise Twenty five Pounds for Sch’g;” (May 13) “to lay out one-third of it for a Womans (sic) sch. and the Remainder in a wrighting (sic) school next Winter; that the East part of the town have thair protinable (sic) part of the £25.”

’90. Lt. James Parker bought “at Vendue” the old Continental money “at 1-10-9 per thousand Dollars.”

’92. No recorded action was taken (Feb 15) “To See if the Town will cum (sic) into Sum Meathod (sic) for the futer (sic) To provide…

Page 16

…wood for the sch. in this Town,” but April 2 voted “that the Com. Let out the giting (sic) the wood for the yuse (sic) of said schools To them that would git (sic) it cheapest and it be taken out of the sch. money.” £50 for schools, 15 of which were for the summer.

’94. £60, one-third for woman’s and two-thirds for “Righting” (sic) Schooling.

’95. “Voted to chus (sic) a Com. Respecting Classing the Town a Nau for schools.” No report of the Com. appointed exists.

’96. $200 appropriated for schools, 1-3 for summer, 2-3 for winter.

’98. $200 for the use of “scools,” divided as before and the Committee “to provide the woman’s school was Samuel Hazen, Jr. Josh. Longley Esqar, Jesse Farnsworth & Oliver Page,” one each from the four districts respectively—South, Centre, North, and East. “Voted that the Committee man in Each Class shall Notify the Class to meet togeather (sic) before the Righting (sic) sch. is provided.”

’98, Apr. 1, after voting $20 to the East Class towards finishing their sch. h., rescinded and dismissed the article. “Voted that Each Class shall lay out thair (sic) money as thay (sic) shall agree among themselves and for that last years (sic) committee man in Each Class to call a Meeting of their Class before thair (sic) is any of the schooling provided.” This was the starting of school districts with their “prudential” committees.

               1800, March 3. Population 713 Town officers elected:

Moderator, Capt Thomas Whitney

Town Clerk, Capt. Thomas Whitney

Selectmen, Joshua Longley, Capt John Egerton, Nathaniel C Holdin; the latter declining to serve chose Daniel Livermore
Treasurer, Dea. Joseph Brown

Collector of Taxes, Samuel Davis, “who would do it cheapest and furnish bonds, etc.”  1 penny 1 farthing on the pound, and he was chosen constable.

Surveyors of Highways, Israel Longley, Stephen Longley, Capt. Thomas Whitney, Samuel Davis, William Going, Reuben Kendall.

Page 17

Fence Viewers, John Egerton, Reuben Hartwell.

Tythingmen, Soloman Russel, Scripture Frost.

Surveyors of Lumber, Wm. Connant, Calvin Longley.

Field Drivers, Leonard Egerton, James Parker.

Sealer of Leather, Capt. Asa Holdin

Packer of Beef, John Phelps.

Sealer of Waits (sic) and Measures, Dea. Joseph Brown.

Fish Reevs, Simon Holden, Amasa Hartwell, Hezekiah Patterson and Scripture Frost.

Hog Reevs, Levi Farnsworth, & John Robbins

Apr. 7, $150 for schools; each class to lay their share out as they think proper. $500 for all town charges.

1801. $200 1807. $300

1802. Chose The Rev. Mr. Whitney (Phinehas), Wallis Little, Esq., Mr. Abel Moore, Mr. Daniel Livermore, Capt Samuel Hazen, Jr., Capt John Egerton, Mr. Nath’l Holdin, a committee to examine the school in each district. First committee of the kind in Shirley. Nov. 14, “Voted to Raise $30 to hire a Singing Master one month.”

1801. The examining committee was made three—Rev. Phineas Whitney, Dea. Brown, Mr. Joel Willard.

’10, “Voted that the people Called Shakers Should Draw their proportion of the Sch. Money in proportion to the number of Scolars (sic) they have to teach in futer (sic).”

’12. A Com appointed Nov. 2, “to see if there can be any alterations made in any of the Sch. hs. And Sch. Dists. Reported May 4, “that it Is our opinion that it is necessary that one sch. h. be built near the widow McLeods(?) barn another *** near the Guide board near Capt. Staples Bridge (Mitchellville) ** another near the Bridge by the widow Pratts** another near the old Pound place (so called) ** another near where the Turnpike crosses the road that leads from the M.H. to Stephens Barretts ** and the middle Sch. h., the South sch. h. and the East sch. h. be sold or removed and your Com. Recommend ** to Raise money for that purpose.”

This report was accepted Mar. 1, ’13, but voted “not to raise any money to Build Sch. Houses.”

Page 18

Apr. 6 (1812), “Voted that it be the duty of the Com. man or men in each district to Notefy (sic) the Com. Chosen to examine the Schools when they wish them to examine the schools.”

’13. An Article “To see if the Town will vote to raise and assess $200 and give it to the East part of the Town if they will Build themselves two Sch. Hs. without any further expense to the Town,” has no record as to its disposition, but from subsequent action we infer, “passed in the negative.”

’14. Wallis Little, Esq., Lt. Thomas Hazen, Mr. Silvanus Holden, Majr. Longley, Mr. Nath’l Holden, Lt. Phinehas Fairbanks and Capt. Staples were chosen a committee to class the Town and to appoint places where sch. hs. May be set. The following is the report as recorded:

“A record of the District of the Town into Sch. Dists., which passed the Town meeting on Monday, May 2, 1814.

North District

John Dwight

Mary Smith

Francis Dwight

James Cartr

Amos Day

Jonathan Nutting

John Williams

Aaron Woodbury

David Atherton

Samuel Woodbury

Eleazor C Andrews

Hezekiah Spaulding

Reuben Hartwell

John Heald

Peter Tarbell

Jesse Farnsworth

Wm. Alexamder

Nathaniel Holdin

Nathaniel Bachelor

Thomas Hassard

East North District (East).

Oliver Laton

Widow Pratt

Simon Page Jr.

William Williams

Amasa Hartwell

Jonas Baker

Isaac Hall

Nathaniel Day

Simon Holdin

Jeremiah Stewart

Oliver Page

Widow Hartwell

Phinehas Fairbank

Joel Page

John Fairbank

South District (Village)

Seth Davis

Abijah Learnard

David Parker

Rices (?) Family

Widow Hazen

Benjamin Rugg

Thomas Hazen

Widow Longley

Benj* Hastings

Thomas T Hunt

John Henry

Israel Longley

Nath’l Farnsworth

Phineas Ames

Widow Vinting

Samuel Serjant

Luther Longley

Aaron Lyon

Joseph Egerton

John Egerton

Lemuel Willard

Matthew Clark

Peter Washburn

Thomas Orr

The Middle North School (Centre)

Moses Tucker

Rev. Phinehas Whitney

Joseph Tucker

Capt Harrad

Ezra Clapp

David Livermore

Stephen Barrett

Thomas Whitney

Nathan Smith

James Parker

David Sawtell

Elisha Dodge

Jonas Page

Esqr. Longley

David Jenkins

Wm McIntosh

Moses Kezar

Roderick McKenzey

Moses Jinnerson

Deacon Brown

Daniel Dodge

Mr. Johnson

Wallis Little

Stephen Longley

Moses Chaplin

Amos Day

Thomas Jinnerson

Edward Bolton

Jesse Chaplin

Jonas Livermore

East South District (Mitchelville)

Moody Chase

Widow Joseph Longley

March Chase

Jeremiah Richardson

Aaron Davis

Israel Willard

John Crouch

Daniel Livermore

Ira Washbourn

William Gleason

Phinehas Holdin

Thomas Peabody

Capt. Staples

James Dickinson

Nathaniel Parker

Francis Balch

Hezekiah Patterson

John Walker

Middle South District (Pound Hill)

Doctr. Hartwell

John Kelsey

John Davis

Daniel Kelsey

Silvanus Holdin

Nath’l Livermore

Joel Richardson

Capt. Hazen

Levi Farnwsworth

Artemas Longley

Dennis Page

William Conant

Capt. Parker

Abel Longley

John Kelsey Jr.

Page 20

               We a Com. *** have attended to this service and report a schedule hereunto annexed as the result of our labors; and give it as our opinion upon that if any wishes a shift to any other Dist. That if he done in Town meeting by their desire, all which is submitted by your Committee, Shirley, April 7, 1814.

               This division did not include the Shakers. All the above named Com. signed the report, only “Thomas Hammond for Capt. Staples” appears.

Sept. 22, “Voted that the Two middle districts Should have Middle Sch. H. (at the Centre) and that the South district have the South Sch. H. and the North district, the North Sch. H. to dispose of as they please and that the Two East Dists. Receive $25 each from the Town Treasurer Towards Building each of them a Sch. H.”

               ’15. $13 Shaker proportion of School money last year.”

               This second set of sch. h. were of wood, and stood, in the North, East North, South, Middle North, on the same lots, as are now occupied; the East South stood north of the F.R.R. (about 15 feet from it) and west of the highway, nearly opposite the Harris barn; the Middle South (Pound Hill, so named because the town’s first “pound” was there), stood about one-third of it in the highway opposite the present brick sch. h., now around by Mr. John Holden; when the latter was built, Dr. Parker bought the old one and putting it upon “snow shoes”, with two long string of oxen (“16 pairs on a side” one man says) drew it across the fields to the rear of his house (now owned an occupied by Chas. K. Bolton) where it stood until very recently. In its day it was a veritable “Little Red Schoolhouse;” it faced the south; in one end was the entry and wood room; the teacher’s desk stood by the dividing partition; the great fireplace was in the middle of the north side, and across the south side were four (perhaps only three) tiers of seats in two rows made “plump against the walls,” with a narrow aisle up the centre; the boys sat on one side and the girls on the other; the seats were 8 feet or more long designed to accommodate 5, 6, or 7 pupils, and were placed upon platforms rising by one step each from the front; the seat of the back tier was made against the wall of the house and extended the length of the room. Pictures of this house – “A ragged beggar sunning,” and part of one of the old seats can be seen in A.E. Brown’s Beside Old Hearth-Stones; this book, which is very readable and contains an account of Shirley’s part in Revolution, and his other historical book “Beneath Old Shade-Trees,” are in our library.

               Our local historian, Mr. John E. L. Hazen, has the remains of one of these seats in his “collection”. The second Sch. h. at the village is remembered as being square, with “hip roof” and seats on three sides placed on inclined floors. When the present brick house was built, the old one was sold to Mr. Samuel Hazen, who moved it to the south of the present residence of Mr. Thomas L. Hazen, where it stood for m any years. Only the door stone now remains.

               ’16. Examining Com. “was Maj. Joseph Egerton, Mr. Artemas Longley, Capt. Staples, David Livermore, Mr. Oliver Loughton, Mr. Peter Tarbell, and Mr. Asa Brattlebank. The first census of school children was taken May 1st and probably as in other towns took all between the ages of 4 and 21.

Voted that after deducting $17 for the Shakers the rest of the Sch. money be divided equally among the 6 schools.

               ’18. No Examining Committee chosen.

               ’19. $400. “Voted that the Selectmen be a Com. to examine the Schools the year ensuing.” May 3, “Voted to Divide the Sch. money the present year according to the number of scholars.” “Voted to excuse Nath’l Holdin Esqr, from serving as a Com, man for Numbering the Scholars. Chose Mr. Amos Day in his Std.”

               ’21. Examinging (sic) Com. Capt. Wm McIntosh, Capt. James Parker, Capt. Stephen Shepley, Mr. Oliver Houghton, Thomas Whitney, Mr. Peter Tarbell and Dea. Nathan Willard – one from each district including the Shakers. May 7, “Voted to divide Sch money according to the number of scholars under 21 years of age.”

               ’25. Com. to Inspect Schools contains same new names – Maj. Edgerton, MR. Summer Hopkins, Mr. Levi Dodge.

               ’27. $450, $400 to be divided according to number of scholars; of the $50, the North East, South East, South Middle had $12 each, the North $10, and Shaker Dist. $4.  Conforming “to the late law of the Commonwealth” “chose a Com. of 5 to have the Superintendence and Management of all the public schools in this Town the year ensuing.  Majr. Joseph Edgerton, Doct. Augustus G. Parker, Mr. David Livermore, Mr. James P. Whitney, Mr. Summer Hopkins.

               ’28. “Voted that a Prudential Com. be chosen in each of the Sch. Dists, in such a manner as said Dists. May decide.

               ’30. $600, $550 divided as to number of scholars; $16 to N. E.; $13 to N.; $14 to South Middle; $7 to Shaker.

               ’31. “Com. of superintendence and management, Rev. Russell Streeter, Rev. Hope Brown, Doc. A.G. Parker, Col. Thomas Whitney, Jr., Capt. Henry Fowle, Jr.”

               ’35. $800 for schools; Dr. Parker and 6 others made a Com. “to say how it shall be divided.” The Examining Com. was Rev. Hope Brown, Rev. Seth Chandler (his first of many years service), Col. Thomas Whitney, Maj. Isaac Longley, and Mr. Jonas Nutting.

               Looking over the old “Order book” of the town’s treasurer, I selected the following as showing the names of some teachers at this time, their wages, etc.  “Sept. 3, 1827 gave Capt. James Parker an order for $11 for expenses for sumer (sic) school for South Middle Dist.”  “Feb. 16, 1822 gave Capt. Wm McIntosh and order for $4410 being his due for paing (sic) the same to Jonathan C. Whitcomb for teaching school and to others for Boarding and wood in the South District the preasant (sic) winter.”  “Thomas Harknes taught in the south Middle School” the same winter, and Aaron Mason in the North Middle. The Shakers’ proportion given to Dea. Nathan Willard was $31.60.  1824, Mr. Jas Estabrook in the North East Dist. Was paid $1.84 per cord for wood. In ’38 it was worth $3.25 per cord. This year Relief Tarbell received $22.50 for teaching and board at the North for summer school, and Harriett Dodge received $15 for teaching and board in the South East. Chas. P. Salsbury, Wm. G. Tuttle, Cyrus Kilburn, and J.A. Stephens were some of the male teachers in the winter of ’38-9.  About 1831, Miss Mary F. Gibson of Lunenburg was engaged to teach the South School. She taught 19 weeks for $19 and her board, but meantime seems to have yeielded (sic) “her heart and hand” to Mr. Stephen M. Longley, whom she married Aug. 11, 1832; the youngest son of their eight children is Mr. Melvin W. Longley, our esteemed representative to the General Court, and member of the present School Board.

               Shirley’s most distinguished school teacher – a man who had achieved even more than a national reputation, is Hon. George S. Boutwell of Groton, an ex-governor of the State, and an ex-Secretary of the Treasury of the United States. “The young man from Lunenburg” was hired by Joseph Hazen for the “Pound Hill” School; he taught from December 1834 to February 1835 – 10 weeks (?) at $16 per month and his board; he was boarded at Dr. J.C. Parker’s; during the term Mr. Boutwell passed his seventeenth birthday. This was his first and only experience in teaching. Mrs. Cynthia A. (Longley) Edgarton, Mr. Seth Holden and Mr. John Holden, still living in town, were pupils of the school that winter.

               ’37. $700, $650 to be divided according to the number of scholars, “$50 to be given to the smaller district as the Selectmen shall think best and proper.”

               ’39. The general Sch. Com. made 3 instead of 5, and “voted that the Prudential Com. in the several Districts be authorized to procure the teachers the subsequent year.” This was agreed to intown meeting every year till 1875. $800 to be divided equally among the districts after $63 had been allowed to the Shakers. It took the following committee (one from each class) to make the division: Jonas Nutting, Sherman Willard, Edmund Longley, Thomas H. Clark, Jabez Harlow, David Livermore, and Nath’l Holden, Jr. This committee was directed “to designate the several Sch. Dists. by numbers – an act required by State law. Their report made and accepted April 1, says: “The North Middle District to be No. 1; South Middle, No. 2; South, No. 3; South East, No. 4; North East, No. 5; North, No. 6; Shakers, No. 7”

               ’40. $600. “Voted not to let Peter Tarbell draw his proportion of the Sch. money to expend in the Town of Groton.”

               The first school report of the town filed at the State House for the year ending March 1, 1840, gives some interesting items. Population 967; valuation $220,772; number public schools 7; scholars of all ages in the summer schools 247, Av. Att. 187; in winter 283, Av. Att. 211; children in town between 4 and 16, 297; under 4 attending school 30, over 16, 23; aggregate length of summer schools 20 months, 14 days; winter 20 months 9 days; female teachers in summer 7, in winter 1 female and 6 males; wages per month, including board ($8.13) $26.84 for males; for females $10.73 (board at $5.15). Cost of schools $781.56.

               Books used: – Speller, Emerson’s; Readers, Pierpont’s Series, Popular Lessons and New Testament; Grammar, Smith’s Inductive; Geography, Smith’s Olney’s, Peter Parley’s (for beginners); Arithmetic, Emerson’s, Colburn’s (mental, and still in use), Adams; History, Goodrich, U. States and Parley’s; Comstock’s Chemistry; Blake’s Philosofly (sic).

               The Com. (A. Brown, S. Chandler, J.O. Parker) note the poor attendance, and advise that the schools be supplied with reference and class books “to prevent borrowing”. “The Reading books have had their day, though the best in their time;” they design adopting the New National Spelling Book, and say that the “Failures (of schools) are due to inattention and improvidence of parents as well as to incompetency of teachers.”

Scroll to top