History Of North Adams, Massachusetts
Reminiscences Of Early Settlers.
-Extracts From Old Town Records.-
Its Public Institutions, Industries And Prominent Citizens,
Together With A Roster Of Commissioned Officers In The War Of The Rebellion.
By W. P. Spear.
North Adams, Mass.: Hoosac Valley News Printing House. 1885.
CHAPTER VII - SCHOOL HOUSES AND CHURCHES.
[Transcribed by Dave Swerdfeger]
THE first schoolhouse opened in this village, according to recollections of our oldest inhabitant, was kept in the porch of the old meeting house on Church hill, about the year 1800. Miss Rebecca Morse was the teacher. As the building was not then underpinned, the tinkling of sheep bells was often heard underneath, and could not have tended to promote the studious habits of the pupils.
A school was afterwards kept, in summer, in a small building on Main street, where Burlingame & Darby's store now stands. The few inhabitants probably felt unable at first to build a schoolhouse in addition to the heavy burdens they were obliged to bear, but they manifested the characteristic New England love of education and desire to give their children advantages for instruction.
This was made apparent by the erection of a very comfortable, good-sized frame schoolhouse in 1802, on the brink of the hill west of the Baptist church. The entire village, and much adjacent territory, was comprised in one school district for nearly forty years afterwards.
Many facts in regard to the school appropriations appeared on the old town records.
A committee of three was appointed to investigate- Israel Jones, Elijah Sprague and Ephraim Whipple. They reported nearly £1000 due of interest and principal. May 13, 1793, Elijah Sprague, Humfrey Tiffany and Phillip Mason were appointed a committee "to prosecute and obtain the town's property in lands granted to the original proprietors for school and ministerial purposes." This committee was discharged August 22, 1794, and another appointed October 3, 1794. It seems that a considerable sum was realized from these lands, for in 1829 the school fund amounted to $4547, vested in lands which yielded an annual rent of about $270, which was distributed among the districts according to their number of persons under 21 years of age. The school fund, for convenience of management, has now become merged into the general funds of the town, and the school money is raised by direct tax, like the money for roads, bridges and other necessary objects. The amount raised in 1859, was upwards of $3300, of which $800 was for the High School.
The school books of olden times were few in number, and not adapted to the youthful understanding. Much of the matter contained in them was "Greek" to the pupils. The leading book in use was Webster's spelling book, which, with the Third Part and, the New Testament were the principal reading books. So scarce and high were these books that the pupils loaned to each other, while to purchase them it was necessary to send to Williamstown or Pittsfield. The Young Man's Companion was the first arithmetic in which federal currency was used. In the town records the earliest mention of federal currency was in 1798—the Collector was to be paid three cents on the dollar. Previously, in Pike's and other arithmetics, the old British denominations of £, s. d. were followed, and all accounts were so kept and notes so drawn.
The school books in use even so late as 1814 were limited in number and complex in character. There were some excellent reading books for high schools, but wholly inappropriate for the common schools—such as the Columbian Orator and American Preceptor. Many of the highflown words in these books could scarcely be pronounced, much less understood by the pupils. The other school books were Morse's Geography, Federal Currency, Pike's Arithmetic and Murray's Grammar, the last two of which would puzzle the brain and try the patience of a Doctor of Laws to fully comprehend them. And, indeed, these were but little used, for the reason that few teachers were competent to elucidate them, and but few parents considered these branches of much practical value. The study of grammar was generally considered a waste of time, and so was that of arithmetic by the misses. Women it was thought needed only to understand housework. The love of learning was a genteel name for laziness.
Most of the scholars of that day graduated at from the ages of 11 to 14 years, —those who could work were taken from the schools young and made to do so. The schools were kept by men about three months in the winter and by women about three or four months in the summer.
The wages of the male teachers was from $8 to $12 per month and board around; of females, $1 to $2 per week and board around. For such pay as this there can be no doubt but what some ill-educated and ill-mannered pedagoges were necessarilly engaged. It was often the case that teachers lacked either the mental qualifications for imparting knowledge, the powers of good government, or the genialty which won the love and respect of the pupils. There were many noble exceptions, but it is nevertheless a fact that school graduates retained a more lively idea of the imprints upon the palm of their hands with a beech "ruler" than of any lesson they received. Corporal punishment was the main reliance of the teachers, even of the gentler sex, and instead of blackboards, "black and blue" spots abounded.
Owing to the lack of system in instruction and the lack of knowledge and skill in many instructors, as well as the scanty time devoted to schooling our grand parents are wholly excusable for any deficiencies in culture. They could not ]earn more than was taught them, nor progress faster than the way was opened. The rising generation have ample facilities, not only provided, but urged upon them, and neglect or inattention on their part will be followed by lasting sorrow and inferiority. While their grand parents were allowed but a few mouthfulls, as it were, of education, the youth of the present day can enjoy a full and hearty meal.
As has been stated the village remained one district until 1841. A second school house was built on Center street in 1826, another at the Union in 1831. The school house on State street, now occupied by the Hoosac Valley News, was built in 1841, and the brick school house on Chestnut street in 1849. Following is a copy of the schedule of property in this village, made out in 1841, for the purpose of assessment. It contrasts strikingly with one of the present day.
Real Estate. Personal. Total.
East District. $32,035 $10,370 $42,405
Center District $41,360 $9,995 $51,355
West District $20,900 $13,213 $34,123
Totals $94,295 $33,578 $127,883
About the year 1840 the want of better school facilities was beginning to be severely felt, and parties interested began looking around for a man who would donate enough to erect a suitable building. Dr. E. S. Hawkes took a deep interest in the project and suggested the matter to a Mr. Gore of Monroe, who was one of the wealthiest men in this section in those days, being estimated at about $50,000.Mr. Gore said he would consider the matter provided he should at all times have the power to dictate the character of teachers to be engaged. He subsequently offered $3000, but the offer was refused because of the conditions imposed.
About this time Mr. Nathan Drury of Florida, was taken quite sick, and Dr. Isaac Hodges, a partner of Dr. Hawkes, was called to attend him. In talking the case over with Dr. Hawkes after his visit to the sick man, it was decided to suggest the matter of a school building to Mr. Drury. This was done and the matter favorably considered, whereupon Drs. Hodges and Hawkes both went without delay to Florida and had writings made out and executed immediately. Dr. Hodges was made the receiver and dispenser of all Mr. Drury's property, under the direction and assent of his wife, who soon vested all power in the doctor without restriction or limitation. Dr. Hawkes procured and prepared the grounds, while Dr. Hodges superintended the construction of the building. The matter of location was a subject of considerable discussion and controversy, opinion being about evenly divided between the present site on the hill and the lower lands of Main street.
The present location was finally decided on, however, because of high ground and commanding position. The hill was lowered about seventeen feet in order to to get a level surface of one hundred and twenty feet. This work occupied about six weeks, at an expense of about $400. In doing this work one important fact was demonstrated. Thirteen feet below the surface, on the summit, a tree about fifteen inches in diameter was found imbedded in the gravel, the body entire, apparently hard wood, lying north and south, showing that the hill was formed by a mighty rush of water from the north, bringing all kinds of rocks and trees with it.
The presumption would be that the town of Stamford was once a lake, that the bar was at the Beaver or Glen mill, and that the breaking away of the body of water prepared a location for our academy. Work was pushed rapidly on the building, and it was completed in 1843, the first school being held there in the fall of that year. The first board of trustees were Isaac Hodges, Josiah Q. Robinson, Thomas Tower, Amasa Bixby, E. S. Hawkes, Thomas Robinson, William E. Brayton, Alpheus Smith, Edmond B. Penniman, Sanford Blackinton, Harvey Arnold, Stephen B. Brown and Benjamin Hathaway. Dr. Hodges was made first president of the board.
The will of Mr. Drury gave in trust $3000 to erect an academy in the village of North Adams, in the county of Berkshire, to be called Drury Academy. The building was to be of brick or marble and said academy and premises should belong to the association or corporation of Drury Academy, so long as it was used for the instruction of youth in the different branches of literature; but when it ceases to be used for that purpose for one year it shall become the property of his heirs.
The first principal of the school was Lyman Thompson, who continued in charge for eight years. At one time the school had a membership of about 100. That the school finally fell into decline under his charge would appear from a record of a meeting of the trustees under date of April 10, 1849. Dr. Isaac Hodges said "he wished it distinctly understood that it was his opinion that the school could never recover from its low and declining condition without a change of principals."
In 1851 a free high school was first established, William Pitt Porter succeeding Mr. Thompson and remaining in charge until the fall of 1854. This school was kept but six months a year, the principal conducting a private school during the balance of the time. Jarvis Rockwell succeeded Mr. Porter in the fall of 1854, and taught two terms. Then Thomas Gorman taught two terms. In 1856 Frank Shepard assumed the charge and taught with fair success for three years. Other teachers who taught one or two terms were Mr. Robinson, Mr. Williams, Hoxey Hall and F. P. Brown. In 1865 Mr. A. D. Miner was placed in charge of the school, and he has continued to the present, a period of twenty years.
In 1866 the want of more room was so severely felt that the old building was torn down, the hill lowered twenty-one feet and the main part of the present structure commenced. The building was finished in the summer of 1867, and the first school held there in the fall of that year. The cost of the building and furnishing was about $80,000. The building contained thirteen school rooms, two recitation rooms and the hall. In 1879 the annex was added, and occupied in the spring term of 1880. This contains five school rooms and two recitation rooms. The cost of the annex all furnished was about $15,000.
The Veazie street schoolhouse was built in 1873, and opened in the fall of that year with three schools.
In 1883 the Union street school was opened with eight school and eight recitation rooms. The property was purchased on the 1st of June, 1882, of Messrs. Gallup & Houghton, who became possessors of it on the 20th of April of that year.
In 1884 the town voted to raise $12,000 to build a new House, but the building committee appointed for the purpose failed to find a suitable site, and so, with the consent of the Selectmen, the School Committee fitted up four additional rooms in this Union street building at an expense of $3928.
THE FIRST CHURCHES.
The early settlers of Adams being mostly Connecticut born and bred, adhered to their religious sentiments and habits. They formed a Congregational church and society and fulfilled the conditions on which the township was granted to them by building a meeting house and settling a minister. The first meeting house was built of logs, probably as early as 1766, on a spot afterward occupied by an orchard, near the bridge on the "2 1/2 mile cross roads" between the north and south villages. Rev. Samuel Todd was installed pastor of the church. Its records are lost, and the dates and other particulars of its history can not be learned. Not long after the settlement of Mr. Todd the poverty caused by the Revolution, and the frequent changes of population, cut down his support.
A vote of the inhabitants taken January 3, 1778, before the incorporation of the town, appears on the clerk's books proposing to Rev. Mr. Todd to relinquish his claims on the ministerial lands (to which he was entitled because of being the first settled minister) and take his dismission. He was dismissed, but held on to the real estate, and for several years there was an uncertainty about the title of these lands. The town, in 1796, petitioned to the General Court to confirm Mr. Todd's title, and so unravel the snarl. The "minister's lot" now constitutes the town farm, on the east road.
An old burying ground is near the site of this log church, and the bones of many of the forefathers of the hamlet repose there. The first burials from the village were doubtless made there.
The Friends society in South Adams was formed in 1781, and worshipped in a log cabin until 1786, when they erected the house now standing about half a mile northwest of the center of that village. The families of David Anthony, Isaac Killy, Isaac Upton, Joshua Lapham and Adam Harkness constituted the society at its first organization. Robert Nesbit was their first recommended speaker. He was succeeded by Mary Beatty, and the third was David Aldrdge. These Friends, or Quakers, were principally from Rhode Island, and with their kindly ways, their sound morality, their hatred of aristocracy and humbug generally, and their thrifty habits, were a desirable acquisition to the town. Residing mainly at Adams, their further history will have to be postponed.
About the year 1782 the inhabitants of this village, of various religious sentiments, raised and covered the frame of a meetinghouse, 38 feet long by 30 wide, on the site of the William Blackinton house, on Church street. It stood without windows or doors until 1795, when the people subscribed a sufficient sum to remove it into the village and finish it.The job of moving was done by Captain Colgrove, the task occupying three days with a large force of men and thirty-five-or forty yoke of oxen. The pine stumps on the east side of Church street were cut down or smoothed off for the rollers to pass over, it being necessary, to keep the highway clear. The site selected for the building was the present site of the Baptist church.
Here the house was completed after a time. The floor was of loose boards, while the seats were rude benches without backs. The house faced the south, and a porch was placed in front with stairways leading to the galleries. There were three aisles, fifteen windows, and about four hundred persons could be seated. The pews were finished off in a large, oblong form, with seats on three sides, one side being reserved for the pew door, so that when the house was very full part of the audience sat with their backs to the speaker. The galleries being wide and rather low, some of those who sat in the pews nearest the wall could not see the pracher.
The gallery pews were finished in similar style to those on the floor, and the seats being as "square as a brick," and as hard as the good, sound lumber of those days was apt to be, the accommodations for sleeping was not by any means up to the modern fashionable standard. In the winter the women carried foot stoves, while in the summer both boys and girls went barefooted until well into their "teens." "Old enough to go to meeting barefooted" was not an unmeaning joke. For thirteen years after the removal of this meeting-house into the village (or until 1808) there was no regular organized church in North Adams.
A Baptist preacher named Dyer Stark was employed to preach a part of the time here and a part of the time in Stamford, Vt. Elder Amos Bronson also preached here, and various itinerants of different creeds held forth as opportunity offered. The pews having been sold to villagers of no exclusive faith. The house was opened whenever a request came from the proper source.
It is stated that the early settlers held meetings more frequently and exhibited a deeper religious zeal when their provisions became short and their garments ragged. This has been the case with all communities from the Jews of antiquity down to the Americans of the present day. In men's distress they "call upon the name of 'the Lord," and too often forget him when they are relieved.
By reference to a previous page of this sketch it will be seen that the old meeting house, which was the only one in this village, had been moved in 1794 or '95 to the site of the present edifice on Church hill. It was occupied as a house of worship, with occasional preaching, but without any organized church, for fourteen years. On the 30th of October, 1808, a Baptist church, consisting of twenty-two members, was organized by Elder Calvin Keyes. From its first organization until the year 1828 the whole number of persons who had belonged to it was 178. In consequence of removals and deaths the number connected with it at that time was only about 100. The pastors who have presided are as follows:
In 1829 the old meeting-house, being very inconvenient in form and much out of repair, it was deemed advisable to build another house for public worship to meet the wants of the growing society. The old house was therefore moved back, and now is occupied by families, just in the rear of the present edifice.
A brick building was erected on the same site, 40 x 63 feet, at an expense of about $3000. In 1844 the house was remodeled and improved inside at a cost of $1200.The constant and numerous additions to the church by membership, as well as the increased number of attendants, with the augmenting population of the village, caused the edifice to be extremely crowded. It was found to be too small, in fact, to accommodate the actual necessities of the denomination.
In 1848 it was deemed advisable to take down the building and erect on the same site a more capacious and convenient building. The new house was commenced May 12, 1848, and completed in a little over one year. It was built of brick and of the following dimensions: Length, 94 feet; width, 64 feet; height of ceiling, 40 feet. It contained 120 pews on the first floor, 38 in the galleries, and would comfortably seat 1000 people. There was a large and convenient vestry in the basement, which would seat about 400. The edifice cost $15,000. The organ had thirty-two registers and some 1200 pipes, and cost $2000. The entire property of the society in 1858 or '59 was about $20,000. The church was dedicated June 21, 1849, by Rev. Bartholomew Welch, D. D., then of Brooklyn, N.Y.
On October 30, 1858, at the, completion of half a century from the date of the organization of this church, special religious services were held and an appropriate and interesting sermon preached by Rev. Miles Sanford, the pastor.
On the 4th of May, 1875, the church was badly burned, the fire originating in the organ. In August of that year the work of tearing down the ruins was begun, the Wilson Hall being used as a place of worship until the spring of the next year, when the chapel was completed. On the 7th of August, 1880, the church was dedicated. It will comfortably accommodate 1000 persons, and is valued, including other property, at about $100,000, the original cost of the church being $30,000. The society now has nearly 900 members, with Rev. F. H. Rowley as pastor. The home Sunday School has 600 scholars, and the five mission schools about 100 each.
The Universalist society of this village was organized in 1842, under the ministry of Rev. William Wilcox, formerly of Vermont. Previous to 1840 there was occasional preaching. In that year Rev. Mr. Beckwith preached here every few weeks, the meetings being held in the third story of the Arcade building. Rev. William Wilcox preached during 1841 and 1842.
In 1843 Stephen B. Brown purchased for the use of the society the Methodist church building on Centre street, afterward used as a Catholic church, and now by John A. Bond & Bro. as a livery stable, for the sum of $450.
In 1851 the society purchased of S. W. Brayton, at a cost of $900, the lot on State street which forms the present site of the church, and erected the building now standing at a cost of about $7100. It contains 70 slips, and will seat about 500 people. There is a pleasant and comfortable vestry in the basement, which has been used for a school room.
METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH.
In 1784 a considerable body of Methodists made their appearance in the south part of this town. Soon after there were a few in the north part, principally in the Notch, where a small class was formed in 1823.
The origin of the Methodist Episcopal church in this village dates back to that year. Mr. Ebenezer Alden then removed here from Pownal, Vt., to take charge of the grist mill. About the same time a young man named Joseph Hayden came to work for Captain Giles Tinker, as a machinist. He had a license to exhort, and being anxious to see the work of God advanced, started a prayer meeting at the house of Mr. Alden. The result was a revival and the conversion of sixty-four persons and the formation of a church of these converts.
A local preacher of Petersburg, N.Y., who had labored in the revival, formed a class and organized the church in proper form. It was received into the Petersburg circuit, and the circuit preacher delivered a sermon here every two weeks. Among the original members were Ebenezer Alden and wife, Joseph Hayden, Giles Tinker and wife, Hart Ives and wife, Thomas McClellan and wife.
The society met at Mr. Tinker's shop, also at the schoolhouse and various private dwellings, until the summer of 1824. They then purchased a lot on Centre street, on the site of J. A. Bond. & Bro.'s stable, for $30. The deed bears date of June 21, 1824. They also purchased for a small sum an unfinished frame building which had been erected for a glass house by Daniel Sherman, but never used. This building was removed to the site selected for it and temporarily fitted up. The original trustees were Ebenezer Alden, Edward Holden, Harris Arnold, Giles Tinker and Orson Wells.
The M. E. church continued to worship in this building until 1843, when they sold it to the Universalists for $450. It afterward passed into the hands of the Roman Catholics. The society then purchased the lot where the present church stands and built an edifice which was completed in 1844, and dedicated by Rev. John B. Stratton, the presiding elder of the conference. The new church was built at a cost of $4000. In 1847 North Adams became a station, and in that year the church had 237 members. The pastors of the church have been numerous, for the reason that the rules of the church require a change every two years. They are as follows:
In 1872 their meeting house was torn down to make room for their present edifice, which cost about $65,000, and is valued, including the grounds, at $75,000. The society now has a membership of 650, and the Sunday School 400.
The first formation of the Congregational society in town has already been described in this work in connection with the old church over which Rev. Samuel Todd presided, situated at the cross roads between the two villages. From the time of the dismissal of Mr. Todd until the 19th of April, 1827, there was no regular organized church here of this denomination. On that date and year, however, the present church was organized, Rev. J. W. Yeomans being the first pastor. In the following year their first church was built, but September 6, 1865, their present edifice was erected. The society now has a membership of 438, with no settled pastor.
Below is a list of the pastors who have been settled over the society:
The cost of the present edifice was about $33,000. A bell weighing 5125 pounds, and costing over $3000, hangs in the tower of the church, the gift of Samuel J. Whitton of Coleraine, but afterwards of Perkinsville, Vt.
St. John's Episcopal church, located on Summer street, was organized by William Tatlock, Stephen H. Tyng, Jr., the students of Williams College and others, in 1856, the Rev. Benjamin F. De Costa being the first rector. In 1857 a church building was erected of wood, which was succeeded in 1869 by the present stone structure, which will seat about 350 persons, and is valued, including grounds, at $26,000. The building was a gift to the society from Mrs. Hiram Sibley, of Rochester, N.Y. The society now has 159 communicants, with Henry I. Bodley as rector. The Sunday school has 191 scholars and 15 officers and teachers.
The Blackinton Union church, located at Blackinton, was organized by Rev. John Alden in 1843, with twenty members. The church building, erected in 1871, will seat 300 persons, and is valued, including grounds, at $12,500. There are now about 150 members, the pulpit being supplied by the pastors of the Baptist, Congregational and Methodist churches. The church building was erected by Sanford Blackinton and donated to the village.
ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.
In 1825 several Irish families had settled here, but they had no organized religious services until 1848. In that year Rev. Father Edward Cavanaugh, the pastor in Pittsfield, established a mission and said mass once in three months in some of the Irish houses. The first mass was celebrated in the house of Michael Ryan, in the "Union." The Roman Catholics then numbered about twenty families. Father Patrick Cuddihy succeeded Father Cavanaugh as pastor in Pittsfield, and attended the mission in North Adams. The first church was built on Centre street, about this time Father Edward H. Purcell succeeded Father Cuddihy in 1860, and Father Charles Lynch was appointed his assistant in the same year.
In less than two years the Roman Catholic population had so increased that Father Lynch was appointed pastor here, with missions in South Adams, Williamstown and at the east end of the Hoosac Tunnel. From November, 1862, until 1883, Father Lynch labored assiduously for the flock entrusted to his care. He bought a lot of land on Eagle street and began the present church edifice in 1864.The corner-stone was laid in the summer of 1867, and the church was completed and dedicated in July 1860. At the east end of the tunnel and at the central shaft halls were procured and mass celebrated once each month. A few years afterward, as Father Lynch saw the debt of the church diminishing, he placed in the tower of it a large bell and a set of chimes. In this he was liberally assisted by the manufacturers and citizens of the town.
After many years of hard and assiduous labor Father Lynch was stricken with paralysis on the 28th of May, 1883. He was 53 years old at the time of his death. He had been a priest twenty-six years, all but fire of which were spent in this town. He was succeeded by Father Charles E. Burke.
The English speaking Roman Catholics in town now number about 3500 people.
FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLICS.
The French Canadian congregation was established in 1870, by the Rt. Rev. P. T. O'Reilly, Bishop of Springfield, who kindly granted the permission asked by the numerous French families in town of haying a pastor of their own nationality. Up to that time the French had worshipped with the Irish Catholics of St. Francis' church. The first pastor of the French church was Rev. Fr. Crevier of the diocese of Montreal. He took charge of the congregation in January, 1871. At that time there were 200 French families in North Adams, and also about 100 in South Adams.
Father Crevier found himself at the head of a large congregation and mission. In 1871, there being no French church, the people rented the old Irish chapel on Centre street. After four years this chapel was abandoned for the basement of the new church, which the congregation had commenced building in a sightly location on East Main street. The first service attended in this basement was on December 25th, 1874. Owing to the lack of funds at this time work was suspended on the building, the congregation continuing to worship in the basement.
They worked hard and untiringly to reduce a debt of $24,000 on the property, and in 1885 had diminished it to $8,000. Their hopes of completing the church edifice now began to assume shape, for in the summer of this year the walls and spire were raised, and the church will be completed in the spring or summer of 1886, leaving the church about $20,000 in debt.