PART II, CHAPTER 17.
EDUCATIONAL HISTORY OF HARPSWELL.
The earliest reference that has been found to any provision for a school in Harpswell is the appropriation of £20 for that purpose by the town on May 9, 1759. Where a school was kept this year and by whom is nowhere stated.
In May, 1760, the town voted that each part of the Neck, and also the Island, should draw their proportionate part of the school money that was collected and should hire mistresses.1
At the annual meeting in 1761, the town appropriated £20 for the support of a school and instructed the selectmen to provide one.
In 1762 the town voted to raise £20, as usual, for a school.
At the May meeting in 1763, the town voted not to build a school-house near the meeting-house. The town also voted to pay James Booker £1 and 13s. for going to Falmouth, "the place being Presented for want of a school." By reference to the records of the Court of General Sessions for Cumberland County, October term, 1762, it appears that though the town had been presented, it was excused from a fine by reason of the selectmen testifying that they had employed a man as teacher who had been taken sick and had consequently been unable to attend to his duty.
In 1765 the town voted to pay William Sylvester, Esquire, £1 and 11s. "for the charges that he had paid on account of there being no school the last summer."
At the annual meeting in March, 1771, the town voted to build three school-houses. It is not known exactly where these buildings were located, but in all probability one of them was on Great Sebascodigan Island and the other two on the Neck.
In May, 1780, the town voted to raise £300 for the support of schools. The difference between this sum and £20 seems extreme. It is undoubtedly due to the depreciation of the currency.
1. No reference occurs in the records of Brunswick or Topsham to the employment of any mistresses in the last century.
In June, 1781, £15 was voted by the town for school money, "to be reckoned in silver dollars as six shillings each, or in other currency equal to silver."
From this time until May, 1791, the town took no action in regard to school matters, except to pass the usual appropriation of money. On this latter date it was voted that "Orr's Island and Baylie's Island are to have five pounds of the school money for them to keep a school with them the present year, and for no other use." The appropriation for schools was this year £25.
In 1797 the town voted that "the selectmen should class the town into school classes, and appoint a day for each class to meet and choose a head for their respective classes."
In May, 1798, the town voted to accept the school classes or districts on the Island, as the selectmen had divided them. Marlborough Sylvester was chosen to be the head of the first district on the Neck; Captain William Tarr to be head of the second district on the Neck; Clement Orr, of the district on Orr's Island and Bailey's Island; Samuel Snow, of the first district on Sebascodigan; Stephen Purinton, of the second district on the latter island; and Josiah Totman, of the third district on this island. From this it appears that the town was divided into six districts, of which two were on the Neck; one included Orr's and Bailey's Islands; and the remainder were on Great Sebascodigan Island.
The records of the town contain nothing further in regard to schools until 1810. This year the town voted that school committees should be chosen in each district.
On November 7, 1814, the town passed a vote unlike any that we have ever met with in the doings of any other town. It voted "that the school money raised on the first Monday of May last shall be appropriated towards paying the expenses the selectmen were at for their attendance and expenses for the militia." Inter arma leges silent !
In September, 1821, the town voted to choose a superintending school committee of three, and Reverend Samuel Eaton, Alcot Stover, Jr., and Captain Stephen Snow were elected. Agents were also chosen this year for the different school districts.
In 1822 a school committee of seven members was chosen.
At a meeting of the town in September, 1828, it was voted that the school committee should not be paid for their services. As there is no evidence of any dissatisfaction with the committee, the above vote probably indicates the impression that existed in the town that the
honor of holding such a weighty office ought to be considered a sufficient compensation.
In 1834 a new division. of the town into school districts was made.
In 1857 the town voted to dispense with a superintending school committee and to choose a supervisor. Thomas U. Eaton was elected to this office. From this time until 1862, inclusive, a supervisor of schools was chosen each year.
In 1863 the town abandoned the idea of electing a supervisor, and went back to the old plan of choosing a school committee of three.
SCHOOL-HOUSES AND TEACHERS.
The town in 1771 voted to build three school-houses, but it is not known whether they were erected that year nor where they stood. If they were all built at that time, it is probable that two of them, at least, were built upon the Neck. If the other was built upon Sebascodigan Island, it was probably destroyed by fire, as according to very trustworthy traditional testimony the first school-house now known to have been built upon that island was not erected until about 1785. This school-house was first located a few rods south of the burying-ground, but about 1845 it was removed to its present location, about two hundred rods north of where it formerly stood. This house has been often repaired and is still quite sound, and is annually used for schools.
In 1786, or a year or two later, the second school-house on this island was built on the land of Nathaniel Purinton. It was destroyed by fire in 1826, and the present building was erected soon after on the site of the former.
No information has been obtained in regard to the erection of school-houses in other portions of the town, and but little can be said concerning the early teachers here.
An Irishman by the name of Patch is said to have taught the first public school on Great Island. He kept a school in the old school-house for seven or eight winters. Some of the later teachers in that district have been Wentworth Dresser, a Mr. Hill, T. Coten, and Mr. Edgecomb, of Topsham, who is the present teacher there.
The first teacher in the second school-house was John Sullivan, also an Irishman. He is said to have been a good teacher, but addicted to habits of intemperance and accustomed to close his school for a week or more in order to go upon drinking "sprees." Among his successors in that school have been Samuel Williams, Nathaniel Purinton, W. Dresser, Doctor Seward Garcelon, Jeremiah Hacker, S. Purinton, G. C. Smith, and the present teacher, Alvah A. Plummer.
There are upon Great Island six school districts, and the schools average from sixteen to twenty-eight weeks each in length. From twenty to forty dollars per month and board are the wages to male teachers, and from two to six dollars per week and board to female teachers. Board is from two to four and a half dollars per week. The average number of scholars in each school is about twenty.
The only school of this character in town was the HARPSWELL ACADEMY. Some of the prominent citizens, desirous of having better advantages of education offered to the children of the town than were afforded by the common schools, formed a corporation for the promotion of that object in the year 1859.
The first meeting of the Harpswell Academy Corporation was held June 13, 1859, in Johnson's Hall. The Act of Incorporation was accepted, and a committee of three were chosen to prepare a code of by-laws. These
by-laws, which were accepted at the next meeting, provided, amongst other things, that the annual meeting should be held on the second Monday in June, that the officers should consist of a president, secretary, treasurer, and a visiting committee of three, together forming a Board of Trustees; that the visiting committee should visit the school twice each term, and should have entire control of the school and building; that the Board of Trustees should employ the teachers, fix the terms of admission to the school, and make all purchases; and that "there shall never be a majority of the trustees elected from any one sect or denomination of Christians."
At this meeting, Paul Randall was chosen president, Harmon Pennell, vice-president; Robert Pennell, secretary; Henry Barnes, treasurer; and Clement Skolfield, Isaiah Snow, Stephen Purinton, Thomas Pennell, and Lemuel H. Stover, a visiting committee. A committee of three was also chosen to raise money and select a place for an academy building. On July 2d of this year, the trustees voted to accept a lot of one fourth of an acre of land offered by David S. Dunning at the sum of twenty-five dollars, and very shortly after this a neat and substantial building was erected on that part of the Neck which is designated North Harpswell. The corporators, however, went in debt for the building, and accordingly, at a meeting held March 1, 1860, the academy was mortgaged in order to raise money to pay the indebted-ness. On April 18, 1865, the trustees voted to raise money by subscription to redeem this building.
How successful this attempt was, is not stated in the records.
The first term of school in this academy commenced Monday, September 5, 1859, under the instruction of H. C. White, M. D., with one or more assistants. The rates of tuition were as follows:-
|In Primary Department, per term||$2.00
| " Common English, " || 3.00
| " Higher Branches, " || 4.00
| " Drawing and Painting, " || 1.50 to 2.00
| " Music " || 6.00
For use of instrument, one dollar extra.
The school was kept up a few years, but finally failed from want of adequate support and encouragement. The building is still standing.
The first school-teacher upon Great Island was a man named Hobby. He taught in private houses. Private schools were held in many families prior to the building of the first school-house, but there have been but few held in the part of the island where the second school-house is located. Stephen Purinton, however, is known to have had schools for his children. The only private teachers besides Hobby, who are remembered to have taught here in early times, were Messrs. Patch and Sullivan.
The first teacher on Orr's Island is said to have been a man by the name of Kinnecum, and the first one upon Merriconeag Neck is said to have been a Mr. Walker. Both of these teachers taught private schools.
The only teacher of a private school on the Neck beside Mr. Walker, of whom we have been able to learn, was Parson Eaton, who taught a few day-scholars in some of the higher branches. Although we have no positive information upon the subject, it is probable that Mr. Eaton's scholars were only those who desired to secure a higher education than could at that time be obtained at the common schools, and they very likely were the children of the more wealthy citizens.