And now we must retrace our steps for a little search for the intriguing and hazy location of District 5’s first schoolhouse.
The town records of April 6, 1835 state that the town meeting took place in the District schoolhouse. It is the first statement about that schoolhouse which must have been built in 1834, eleven years after Milo was incorporated as a town and fourteen years after Maine became a separate state.
This was the oldest of the village schoolhouses and stood somewhere on Park St., near Clinton St.
Residents have long since forgotten this old schoolhouse but the High School Breeze of 1903 speaks of it; Roy Monroe has a good idea of where it stood; and Hazel Monroe has it from family tradition that some material from that building is now part of the living room of her house at 23 Park St.
The 1903 Breeze article, entitled “Glances Backward” and signed “Alumnus”, states categorically: “The second house that we see today below the Baptist Parsonage was the first school building in the village.”
Well, Roy Monroe knows where the old Baptist Parsonage was from an old deed as well as from church history. It was the house next door to Hazel Monroe’s residence – on the Brownville side − No. 25 Park St. The deed to the church was conveyed by William Young in 1881. From the reckoning of the Breeze story, therefore, the school stood at what is today 21 Park St., one door from Hazel Monroe’s on the Milo Village side.
There is a difference of opinion, nevertheless. Both Roy and Hazel Monroe dispute the statement in the article.
Hazel’s reason for disputing it is a family tradition that material from the school building was “brought across the road” and used in the house she now owns.
Roy’s contention is based on a deed conveyed by an ad hoc committee representing “the inhabitants of school district No. 5, to the town, in 1851”.
According to the deed, rather too long to quote here in full, the property would have enclosed, among other lots of today, that owned by Luthan Crosby, and the school building would have stood on the same side of Park St. as the Crosby property.
Various factors could have accounted for this difference of opinion’ the schoolhouse could have been moved across the street at some later date, and the moving not remembered by the informants of the author of more than half a century between the use of the building as a school and the writing of the article.
One passage in the old Breeze story about this first village school has a poignancy that demands quoting.
“Those who remember those days,” ran the story, “think of Miss Jane Snow as a teacher (there). The present generation (that is, those living in 1903) will remember her more readily as Mrs. James Bishop.
“It was while Miss Snow was teaching there that a singular incident occurred. During a severe thunder storm, a class was spelling, formed in two lines facing each other. A ball of lighting entered the schoolhouse and passed between the two rows of scholars, without injuring a child.
“This is one of the cases,” the story continued, “in which I expect present pupils to be duly thankful.”
No doubt those pupils’ descendants, if they could trace their genealogy, might today (1978) let drop a hurried, if fainter, amen.
There are several references in the town records to this old schoolhouse, which preceded, by some twenty years, the erection of the building we know today as the old primary school on High Street.
I have already mentioned the first town meeting held in that building in 1835. Thereafter town meetings were pretty regularly held there because of its central location.
Fifteen years after this first town meeting there the town voted “to choose a committee of three, living without (outside) the limits of School District No. 5, to purchase the schoolhouse for a town house, if it can be bought cheaply enough.”
The clause “if it can be bought cheaply enough” indicates not only that the district owned its own schoolhouse, but also that the school agent of a district was authorized to bargain independently, even with the town itself.
Well, the town did vote to purchase the building. Instead of the school agent doing the bargaining, however, a committee of three was most likely agreed on by both town and district. This committee, according to a copy of the conveyance, in the hands of Roy Monroe, included Lewis Wilder, Russell Kittredge and William Owen.
Voters authorized the purchase at a special town meeting, September 8, 1850, at a price of $100 − thus accomplishing the town’s two objectives: a town house; and cheap.
The deed I mentioned a few paragraphs earlier, executed February 1, 1851, ( a copy of which Roy Monroe has), was the instrument by which the inhabitants of School District No. 5 conveyed the property to the town.
Of course, sale of the schoolhouse to the town necessitated the building of another in the village. Roy says the town purchased the lot on High St., that same year (1850). Town records give no explicit account of the erection of the primary building we can still see, but it must have been erected very soon thereafter − because schooling had to go on!
In purchasing the new lot on High St. Roy says, the town (or could it have been the school agent, acting for the district?) failed to exact a deed to the property. This neglect was to return to plague the selectmen, in our time, after the town had no further use for the building as a school and yet had no proof that it owned the property.
There are two more references to the hazy old schoolhouse on Part St., after the town purchased it in 1850.
The selectmen, on March 25, 1875, deeded “the old schoolhouse lot to Isaac Hanscom”, who owned much of the land between what is now Clinton St. and Water St. This reference to Mr. Hanscom’s holdings is also from Roy Monroe’s delving. The phrase “the old schoolhouse lot”, gives evidence that the schoolhouse itself had been moved, or torn down before the sale. It couldn’t have burned, or there would have been nothing left of it to “bring across the street” for use in the Monroe residence.
This 1875 deed to Isaac Hanscom was evidently faulty, for in town meeting, March 12, 1882, the citizens voted “to ratify and make legal the conveyance, by quit-claim deed, from the selectmen to Isaac Hanscom, of the old schoolhouse lot in District 5. Date of deed, March 24, 1875.”
This vote in 1882 wrote finis to the old schoolhouse and its site, so far as the records are concerned.
And now, having established more or less accurately the location of the first district 5 schoolhouse, let’s return to the town records.
School critics were apparently still undiscouraged by the categorical treatment they had received at the hands of voters, and they continued to ask for return of their school tax money. More likely it was inconvenience, and the distance from schools that inconsiderate district lines had laid on some, than criticism of the quality of schooling itself that loaded the town warrant at times with requests to draw one’s proportion of school money and school one’s children elsewhere. However, that may be, the requests continued to come in.
At the April 3 , 1837 town meeting voters denied the proposal “of Elliot Staples to be set off as a school district by himself (!), or to receive his proportion of school money.”
And from this point on we encounter a strange, complete reversal of policy by the town. Every single subsequent application for withdrawal of one’s proportion of school money was granted! And those applications were rather numerous!
We’ll return to this unexplained reversal of policy later on in this story.
Now I must tell you about Milo’s public lands; write a possible explanation of why public support of the schools wavered from $250 in 1828 down to $75 in 1829 and 1830 and then back up to $150 in 1831; name an official board known by three different appellations and take note of a ghost that once a year, without fail, passes through the town office and then back to its grave!
Back in the early days of the nation, especially in the northeast, when a township was laid out, a section of it was left in lands reserved for public use, more especially for the support of schools and of the ministry. These public lands (I got this information from Roy Monroe) amounted, in Milo, and presumably elsewhere, to 1280 acres. They were divided into four separate parcels here of 320 acres each. Revenue from half was dedicated to the support of the ministry, one quarter to the support of schools and one quarter for the use of the state.
In unorganized townships these lands couldn’t be sold; in organized townships, like Milo, they could be sold but all profits from the sale had to be devoted to the purposes intended − the ministry, the schools and the state.
I don’t know where Milo’s public lands, in their entirety, lay. Some of them were on the back Brownville road; some were around Stanchfield Ridge. Whereabouts of the rest I didn’t seek out since it wasn’t pertinent to this story.
The agency set up to have custody of these lands and of the revenue to be derived from them was composed of the Board of Selectmen, the town treasurer and the town clerk. This information is from the book of the clerk of that board from the years 1842 to 1875 which is in the town office.
The board is spoken of, in the records of town meetings, sometimes as the Trustees of School Funds; at other times as the Board of Trust of School Funds. In the town treasurer’s records it is know as the Trustees of Ministerial and School Funds.
The fact that revenue did come from the public lands could explain why the item for support of schools to be raised at town meeting went from $250, back to $75, in two successive years and then back to $150. The town’s appropriation could have been supplemented by revenues from public lands. The records do nothing to clarify this.
We do know: (1) that revenue came from the public lands; and (2) that the Trustees of School Funds had money in its custody.
Two articles in the 1837 town warrant make these assumptions conclusive.
The first article read: “To see if the said inhabitants (i.e., the voters) will authorize the treasurer to give a note to the Trustees of School Funds for two hundred dollars, borrowed to pay debts last year.” This article was approved.
The second article read: “To see if said inhabitants will authorize the Trustees of School Funds to leave grass and timber on the public lots and collect dues for grass and lumber cut heretofore.” This also was approved.
If the Board of Trust of School Funds did supplement what the town raised for schools, with revenue in its custody from public lands, then it is clear that the board held a certain surplus − otherwise it could not have loaned the town two hundred dollars out of this fund.
This loan was apparently the subject of an obscure article in the warrant and an equally obscure vote at a special town meeting on October 3, 1842.
This was the article: “To see what instructions the town will give the Board of Trustees in relation to the school funds.”
And the vote was “To instruct the Board of Trustees to do their duty.”
This item of two hundred dollars, loaned to the town, evidently in 1836, surfaced again at a special meeting, September 10, 1849, thirteen years after the loan was made.
At this meeting the article was “To see if the town will authorize the treasurer to give a nod to the Trustees of School Funds for money used by the town, belonging to said school fund, dating back to the time when said money was used by the town; and further authorize the treasurer to pay interest to school fund from November 1st, 1847 (eleven years after the money was borrowed). The article was approved.
Six weeks later, November 28, this long overdue repayment of the two hundred dollars belonging to the school funds came up again before the conscience of the town at a special town meeting. The article read: “To see what instructions the town will give the town treasurer in relation to money used by the town, belonging to the school fund.”
The vote was to pass over the article. That was the last time in the records that I noticed any mention of that two hundred dollar loan.
This is by no means to charge the long-since-dead members of the Board of Trust of School Funds with dishonesty. If they were guilty of anything meriting reproof, it was their half-hearted dedication to preserving these funds for the use intended. It was no doubt a common failing in many towns besides Milo, pressed for money to meet its obligations, to eye these school (and ministerial?) funds as a possible help to ease the town out of some difficult situation.
Oh yes, and the ghost.
Year after year, the town treasurer’s books have carried a balance, a paper balance of $1320.13. This account is inked in yearly on a neatly designed page under the heading of “Trustees of Ministerial and School Funds”
At one time that balance must have represented real money. Where did it come from? Where did it go to? I am sure that custodians of the funds didn’t appropriate it to their own use. I am not so sure that it didn’t go into the town treasury with all its other funds, to be applied against exigencies in some stringent time. The ghost on its annual visitation offers no explanation. And the town treasurer neatly inks in the balance from year to year, simply because it was there last year and nothing has happened since to warrant a revision of the account.
Milo’s public lands have long since been sold. Ministers are paid now enough to live on − which they weren’t in the old days. And we support our schools today at an annual figure which all the dues from grass and timber on the public lands, in the old days, couldn’t have equaled. So that empty balance of $1320.13 solemnly entered on the treasurer’s books, year after year, probably need not keep our town’s corporate conscience tossing nights, unable to sleep!
All the same though, just out of curiosity, it would be intriguing to know just where that money did come from and what became of it.
I did mention the clerk’s book of the Trustees of Ministerial and School Funds, which is in the town office, along with the town clerk’s records back to 1823. This clerk’s book is merely an account of annual elections held by the Board of Trustees from 1848 to 1875.
The first entry, in 1848, reads as follows: “I hereby certify that seven days at least, prior to the 10th day of June, A.D., 1848, I called a meeting of the selectmen, town clerk, and town treasurer, of the town of Milo, constituting the trustees of the Ministerial and School Funds, in the town of Milo, to meet at my office in Milo on the 10th day of June, at 1 of the clock in the afternoon, and gave the selectmen, town clerk and treasurer, personal notice thereof.”
Such punctilio in respect to the rules of calling meetings could not but give confidence as to the meticulous execution of the provisions of dedication made when the public lands were set aside for the support of the ministry and of the schools.
The books last entry is a simple announcement of the election of officers of the Board of Trustees of Ministerial and School Funds, October 15, 1875. The board’s officers were listed as M.L. Durgin, President; W.E. Gould, treasurer; and R. A. Monroe, clerk.
We return now again to the chronological events in the town’s school history. Two items of importance appear in 1838:
1. Milo ceased to be a part of Penobscot County. It became affiliated instead with Piscataquis County;
2. The town added District 7 (Tollbridge) to its roster of school districts.
The list of school agents now had one additional name. This was the new complete list: First District, Charles Ricker ; 2nd, Phineas Tolman; 3rd, Henry Wilkins; 4th, John Shurborn (whose name was flagrantly misspelled through the years); 5th, P.P. Fowler; 6th, Levi Johnson; and 7th, Charles Foster.
The town raised $200 that year for the support of schools.
The year of 1838 was apparently a financially depressed time. One indication of this was a vote to allow six per cent discount on taxes paid within thirty days of billing. Another indication was a vote to instruct the several school agents “to agree” with the several instructors in the schools to wait for their pay “until the month of March next; and that the selectmen draw orders for instructors payable in March.” (Since this was already March, and the instructions were to wait until NEXT March, it seemed, on the face of it, that the teachers’ pay was to be held up for a full year)!
At the next regular town meeting, April 8, 1839, the restlessness in district school lines, mention earlier, showed up in two articles in the town warrant.
In the first of these voters passed over the application “to see if the town will set off John Shurborn and William Sturtevant from District 4 to District 6.”
Voters approved the second article “to set off George Stanchfield from District 5 to District 2.”
In 1840 nothing of moment disturbed the serenity of school operation. The town again raised $200 for the support of education.
A year later, however, the old restlessness was again tugging at the district lines.
At this meeting a committee, new in the records, made its appearance. This was “The Committee on School Districts.” Whether it was ad hoc or a permanent committee we have no way of knowing. The time however was certainly ripe for some authoritative group to recommend carefully considered changes to district lines.
Stable district lines, alas, were still a long way off.
Voters, however, accepted the recommendation of this new committee. The article read: “That lots 100-101, belonging to District 2, with the occupiers of the same, be set off from District 2, and the same be annexed to District 6; and that lot 102, owned by William Newcomb, and lot No. 3 (103?), by William Sturtevant, and No. 104 − which belong to District 4, be set off from District 4, and the same be annexed to District 6.”
At this same meeting, a new district (No 8) was voted and then promptly exorcised to await reinstatement for more that a decade.
District No. 8 was the Drake district centering near the foot of Swett Hill.
The wording of the article that created it was as follows: “that a new district be formed commencing where the east side of lot No. 8 strikes the Sebec River, thence south, so that the new district shall enclose lots No. 7, No. 20, No. 18 and lot No. 15, with all that part of lots No. 14 and 13 occupied by Enoch B. Cutts and Daniel Holman, thence so to include lots No. 11, 10, 2 and 9, with all that part of the town lying west of the above named lots and between the Sebec and Piscataquis rivers and that said district shall be called No. 8.”
A few articles later confusion was confounded with a vote ” to annex District 8 to District 1, with all their farms and non-resident lands.”
An effort by certain townsmen to achieve the formation of still another district, at this same meeting, was “indefinitely postponed.” That article read: “To see if the town will form a new school district including Daniel Boober, Phineas Tolman, Daniel Dennett, Stephen Snow, Jesse Rollins, William Newcomb, William Sturtevant and their farms.”
The town meeting of March 13, 1843 brought $302.40 for support of the schools − the odd amount indicating either some unexpended balance, or revenue from some other source, possibly the public lots.
The endless tug-of-war on district lines continued. At this 1843 town meeting, voters denied a proposal “to set off the School District No. 5, and annex to District 7, lots 62 to 72 and the part of 73 owned by Lewis Wilder, together with lot 99.”
Seven school agents were still elected. For although District 8 had been formed it had been as quickly disavowed and annexed to District 1!
The school agents listed without specification in the records as to the district they were attached to were Ichabod W. Mitchell, Robert Walton, Henry Wilkins, Robert Cutts, John S. Shurborn, Zacharias Buker and Solomon B. Stanchfield.
Very little of controversy or change in the schools came up in the next several years. The town voted year after year $303 for support of schools.
In 1847 the warrant carried an article for the first time to permit the several school districts to choose each its own school agent. The proposal was voted down.
Two requests, one in 1848, the other a year later, for permission to draw school money were approved.
The first, in 1848, asked that “Arthur Megquier, Abijah Chase and Jesse Livermore be permitted to draw their proportion of school money to be appropriated IN SUPPORTING THEIR OWN SCHOOL.”
Even more demanding of implicit trust was that of David Livermore, that he “have the privilege to draw his proportional share of school money To APPROPRIATE AT HIS OWN CONVENIENCE.”!
Continued confusion in regard to districts came in a vote “to unite districts 2,4 and 6 again into District 2” (whence they had come)!
In 1849, for the first time, the town voted to permit districts to choose their own school agent.
Whether the consent by the town to draw one’s proportion of school money was intended for one year only is not entirely clear. In the case of Arthur Megquier’s request, it was evidently so intended, for he returned with the same request in 1850 and in 1851. In 1850 the town voted permission to him to draw his money “and spend at his own convenience”, adding only the stipulation “he shall present to the selectmen that he has expended said proportion − and the selectmen are authorized to draw on the treasurer for his proportion in his favor.”
The permission in 1851 was without strings: it was voted “to permit David Livermore and Arthur Megquier to draw their proportion of school money personally.”
Voters responded to the tug of restless district lines again in 1850, making a considerable change in District 5. It was voted “to set off Amos C. Abbey, Abner Ramsdell, John H. Ramsdell and farm occupied by Aaron Tolman, farm owned and occupied by R.A. Jones − and annex to District 5: also all that part formerly in said district, where J.B. Hobbs, Jr., Jackson McPhetres and Daniel Moores live, and their real estate, and also set off and annex that territory in the original limits of District 5, except that part next to Sebec river, now in the limits of District 1.”
In 1851, at the annual meeting in March, it was “voted to redivide District 2 into 2,4 and 6 − exactly as they were before they were consolidated at the annual meeting in March 1849.
School annals were brief in 1852, the most important item being the appropriation of $400 for support of schools. Common schools, as they were usually called at that time, rather than Public or Elementary schools, as they would be later. The terms “scholar” and “common” were current for years. Even today, although those words are obsolete when used in that sense, they would still be understandable. No one would look questioningly at the user nor ask him to repeat.
The amount of $400 in support of schools continued for the nest two years.
In 1853 voters again approved the withdrawal of school money. This time it was Iona b. Hobbs, Jr., Daniel Moores and Sanford McPhetres who applied for and received permission to draw “their scholars” proportion of school money.
In the next three years, 1854-55-56, nothing of importance to school operation occurred. Voters raised $563 in each of these years for the support of schools.
Back in the 1840’s, you remember, voters first authorized formation of District 8 and then almost immediately voted to annex District 8 to District 1.
At the meeting of March 9, 1857, voters successfully carved out District 8 (Drake District) from District 3 (Hobbstown) and District 5 (Village). This time the new district stayed as authorized.
The list of school agents now appearing in the records were as follows:
District 1, Joseph L. Sargent; 2, Lewis L. Mayo; 3, William Hobbs; 4. John Lindsay; 5, Isaac Leaonard; 6, Nathaniel Day; 7, Aaron Morse; 8, Henry K. Palmer.
The 1858 town meeting brought out the distaste of voters for repairs and new construction. They voted to pass over an article “to give an opinion of the town in regard to the disagreement of the inhabitants of School District 1, and if they think it necessary or expedient to require a sum to rebuild or repair the schoolhouse in said district.
Last of the school districts, No. 9 (the Holbrook District, centering at the corner of Billington and River roads), became a fact at the town meeting of March 8, 1858.
The annex of district lines went on, the town voting, at this meeting “to set off Albion and Jeremiah Webb ( and a number of other specified lots) from District 1 and annex to District 5.”
At the town meeting on March 12, 1860 the town elected its first “Supervisor of Schools”, with the obscure statement appended: “in line of the superintending school committee.”
Milo’s first elected Superintendent of Schools was Ezra Kimball. That was Dr. Ezra Kimball, whose office it has been mentioned earlier, was in the residence just on the Brownville side of where the home of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Howard stands today. Dr. Kimball was the great-grandfather of Mrs. Nora Hamlin and Mrs. Mary Tyler.
By 1865 the amount raised for support of common schools was $800. And now the wording of the article in the warrant gives evidence that state law had begun to regulate local education. The article that was voted at town meeting proposed the amount of $800 “over and above what is required by law to be divided among the several districts at the discretion of the selectmen and school committee.”
Just what the law required as basic ” to be divided among the several districts”, and whether, indeed, the state itself had begun to contribute a share of the cost of education, is not apparent from the article, not from any other explanation in the records.
It is from the year 1864 that we have our first glimpse, a mere glimpse, of the district teacher and of the certificate that authorized her to teach. These certificates have been donated to the Historical Society by Mrs. Mary Tyler of Alton St.
They were issued, one in 1864, two in 1865 to Mary E. Kimball, grandmother of Mrs. Tyler and Mrs. Nora Hamlin. Mary E. Kimball was also the daughter of Dr. Ezra Kimball, just mentioned as the first elected Supervisor of Schools in Milo. Dr. Kimball himself received his certificate to practice medicine in Maine in 1865.
All three of these teacher’s certificates received by Mary E. Kimball read the same, except for the filled-in district in which she was hired to teach. This is the wording:
“This certifies that in the opinion of the undersigned, Miss Mary E. Kimball, of Milo, has a good moral character, and is qualified to give instruction in reading, writing, spelling, geography, arithmetic and in such other studies as are taught in public schools and particularly those taught in (here was filled in the district: District 2 in the certificate of December 15, 1864; District 5, April 14, 1865; and District 9, November 2, 1865).
All these were signed by two or all three of the following members of the superintending school committee: George W. Lord, C.B. Huckins and W.E. Gould.
The restlessness, mentioned earlier in regard to school district lines persisted for years.
In the special town meeting (of which there were many in those early years) of July 15, 1871, voters passed over an article to see if the town would annex District 3 (Hobbstown) to District 8 (Drake) and on what conditions. Hobbstown was always a small school.
Again, in 1881, the restlessness manifested itself in a vote by the town “to set off Ira Weymouth and the real estate occupied by him from School District 2 (near the old Brockway Dairy Farm on the Medford Road), and annex same to District 4 (Stanchfield Ridge).
The Weymouth farm, Roy Monroe told me, was located where Gary Robinson today has his stable of race horses and practice race track, on the hill on the Lakeview Road, just before the entrance into the Ramsdell Road. After Weymouth’s time, this was known as the Tolman Farm. The forested summit of the hill, surrounded by the race track is still crossed by stones that were once neatly laid up on stone walls when the land was cultivated.
In 1882, voters passed over a significant article “to see if the town will establish a school district in part of District 9 (Billington Road and River Road) south of Bangor & Piscataquis Railroad and annex the remainder of District 9 to District 1 (Sargent Hill).
What was apparently intended by this defeated proposal was to centralize this new proposed District 9 nearer to Milo Junction (Derby) which had been growing up as the railroad flourished and to leave the few scholars near the corner of Billington and River Roads to go up to the Sargent Hill School. This plan to centralize a school at Milo Junction, however, was destined to wait another quarter century before it was realized. By that time Derby had grown quite a bit and the zeal for , and importance of, separate district were in process of being forgotten.
Returning again for a bit to the reversal of town policy in regard to permitting the withdrawal of school money:
On March 11, 1861, the town voted “to let Joseph Hamlin draw his proportion of school money from District 9 and expend it in some other place”. It might well have been that the petitioners had already explained to the voters what they proposed to do with the money but officially there were no strings attached to approval of the proposal.
Again in 1870, it was voted “to allow Henry W. Hobbs to draw his proportion of school money and expend it in some other place.”
A year later by a similar, apparently unanimous vote, the town permitted Samuel W. Frost to draw his proportion of school money from District 5 and expend it in District 8.
The last noted record of this strange , individual latitude accorded with regard to school money, as expressed in the town records, was in 1882 when the town voted “to allow J. W. Buker to draw his proportional share of school money and expend it in a school at his home.”
Thereafter, either district lines were becoming more stable or the voters were becoming more firm in regard to their concept of the block use of school money, or citizens were philosophically resigned to the proposition of leaving the schools as they were.
Good education, apparently, is not a byproduct of modern buildings, flush toilets, drinking fountains, heated buses or plenteous free textbooks. The pupils of long ago had none of these. Schoolhouses were cold, discipline was firm, if not downright stern, pupils paid for their own textbooks and they got to school, as Edith While told me, “the best way they could”.
School districts possessed a great deal of self-rule, were coddled very little and were admonished not to expect too much in the way of assistance from the town.
A case in point was the disposition of the old tollhouse at the equally old tollbridge on lower Elm St. right where the present bridge is.
Payment of tolls to pass over the bridge had long been a bone of contention at town meetings. Every year there was an article in the warrant proposing to allow residents to pass over the bridge freely. After being voted down many times, the proposal got enough votes to win, leaving payment for the bridge for someone else to think about.
It also left the tollhouse as quite surplus property.
Now evidently the schoolhouse in District 7, right by the bridge, was pretty badly in need of repairs, a fact that had already been mentioned. Residents of the district, therefore, began to cast lustful eyes on the tollhouse, which wouldn’t do anyone any good just standing there. It could well be used as a schoolhouse, maybe a free one. So, in 1873, the district asked for it as a gift from the town.
But the town, on its ungenerous part, voted at the next town meeting, to sell the tollhouse to District 7 for $25. This was a lot of money at that time, but evidently the offer was gratefully accepted, for no further mention was made in the records of inadequate school housing in District 7.
In the town meeting of 1871, two years before this transfer of the tollhouse, a cryptic sentence in the records mentioned a vote “to tax the poor farm, or town farm, and property thereon, to aid in building a schoolhouse for District 7.” This unkind phraseology may have paved the way for a smooth transfer of the tollhouse, even eliciting gratitude, along with the 3,25, from the district. The unkind cut in the record seemed to say: “Oh, yes, the town will help, with your schoolhouse, but note under what improverishment we must do it, when even the pennies from the poor farm must come under levy!”
(To reach the poor farm, by the way, turn left, right at the entrance to the bridge, an lower Elm St., and travel, if not prohibited, along private property, a distance of half to three-quarters of a mile. The ruins of the old farm are still visable there. It’s still all right to look at out of curiosity, but of little use if anyone is thinking seriously, in these inflated times, of taking up residence there!)
Another inference of the town’s reluctance to become involved in district problems was a vote, at the town meeting in 1875, to lass over an article in the warrant asking the town to ASSIST in building a schoolhouse for District 8 (back Brownville road).
Pursuing this municipal reluctance a bit farther afield:
In former times, close to a century ago, pupils paid for their textbooks. Not only that, but they paid enough to yield the town a small but definite profit.
Evidence of this is an article in the town warrant of 1878 to instruct the Supervisor to furnish books to the pupils (the second tine the word “pupils” came to my notice in the records) AT COST – in accordance, the article went on, with Chapter 11, sec. 6, revised statutes. No good to tangle with the law.
The year previous, voters had rejected a proposal in the warrant “to provide free school books for scholars of the poor.”
it wasn’t until 1889 that the town voted to furnish school books free to all pupils.
Incidently, the report of 1891 indicates that the town hadn’t been getting rich on the profits from schoolbooks in its nine districts. The total cost of textbooks for the year 1890, the report indicated, was $50.
This 1891 report gave an itemized price list of books in 1890. Individual texts included the following: New Franklin primer and reader, 16 cents; second reader, 25 cents; third reader, 35 cents; fourth redder, 45 cents; fifth reader, 60 cents; modern speller, 15 cents; Scudder’s history, 84 cents.
Our first glimpse of school textbooks by name, though, had been in 1880. In that year, Supervisor Daniel Murray announced adoption in the schools of Watson’s Independent Readers, Barnes’ Brief History of the United States, and Fish’s Complete Arithmetic
These are nothing but names to us now, but they are a part of the record.
The next report on textbooks was in 1886, when Supervisor Thomas Kinney listed (again) Scudder’s History of the United States; Child’s Health Primer; “Wentworth’s Geometries” (evidently for the high school); and Colburn’s Mental Arithmetic.
In 1890, H. Hamlin, and M.L. Durgin, representing the superintending school committee, reported the adoption of the new Franklin Readers, the price list of which I noted above.
Five years later, in 1895, Supervisor S.D. Page reported another change, to the Barnes’ series of readers.
Apparently the schools were thought to be operating at a high rate of efficiency then, for Supervisor Page thought fit to include with his report on readers: “We are now approaching a time when the standing of our schools will be high in comparison with others in Maine.”
Most likely what brought on this burst of pride was the new morale resulting from the 1893-94 complete overhauling of the curricula in all the schools in town – the first such overhauling the records show.
In 1897, M.L. Durgin was Supervisor. He reported the introduction of the Cyr series of readers. Apparently these wore well through the years, for they were still in use when Agnes Sawyer was teaching at Stanchfield Ridge, in 1910.
THE HIGH SCHOOL
First mention of higher learning in Milo showed up in the town meeting of 1874 when the town voted $100 “to support a free high school.” There was a similar vote two years later. In 1897 the amount was increased to $145. In 1880 it was back to $100.
That year (1880) the possibility of a state contribution was weighed and the amount voted was “on condition that the legislature appropriated a like amount.”
Evidently this request fell on friendly ears for in 1883, the free high school received the sum of $214 for its operation. (In those early years the word “free” always preceded “high school.”)
Of the $214 expended the town had raised $100; the state had contributed another $100 and three tuition payments of $3 each had added another $9. That left the high school account in the red by $5 in 1883.
An article in the High School Breeze of 1903 gives credit to the state for making the first move to open its treasury to foster higher education. The article entitled “Glances Backward,” and signed “Alumnus” states:
“When the state legislature made its offer of aid to towns wishing to establish Free High Schools (capitals mine), Milo was prompt to take advantage of it and Milo High School had its birth.”
And this, of course, accounts for the meticulous use of “free” whenever the title “high school” was used.
An obscure passage in this same 1903 Breeze article seems to indicate that a rudimentary attempt at higher learning had been made even earlier that the records show.
“Two schools in this (primary) building, “it said, “were spoken of as the “small” school and the “big” school −the latter being the embryo of our high school.
What was taught in the “big” school and the time of its origin, the article leaves vague.
It is clear, both from this article and from an account in the Breeze of 1908, that the high school did, in fact, have its earliest home in the primary building. The 1908 Breeze article entitled “Recollections of a Milo boy,” and signed by Fred K. Owen, then living in Portland, noted at the beginning of the account that “The present primary schoolxused to be primary school, high school and all the rest.” What he meant by “all the rest” isn’t clear but as for the first home of the high school, this corroborates the “Alumnus” statement of five years earlier.
Development of the high school in its earliest years is puzzling to say the least, from conflicting statements about it.
Records of town meeting show, in 1887, payment of $5 to Dirigo Lodge (I.O.O.F) “for schoolroom for the free high school.”
The 1903 Breeze article says: “After a time'(that is, after the 1870″s) private schools were introduced. The town schools were held in summer and winter, and the Private High Schools (capitals mine) in between. Tuition was charged for attendance during the session of high schoolx”
“The village schools were now beginning to be considered of some consequence. Another school was added, and Intermediate, and the ground floor of The Old IOOF Hall was used for this purpose. This building, it goes on, parenthetically, “will be recognized as the tenement near the present primary building.
“So, then,” the article continues, “pupils attended the “small” school, “Hall” school, “big” school, and “high” school if they chose.”
Considering that the town records show an expenditure of $16, in 1885, for housing for the high school in the Odd Fellows Hall and continued expenditures for rent there in succeeding years until the new grammar school building was erected in 1892-93, the Breeze story leaves many questions to be answered.
Was the intermediate school it mentions in essence the high school? Were the private high school sessions competitive with the “free high school”? How did the “big” school, “hall” school and the “high” school differ? Was the subject matter presented all at the same level that pupils could attend the one or the other “if they chose?” And when did the private high schools vanish and the free high school come into its own as the sole institution of higher learning in Milo?
One important fact we do gain from this article: when the new grammar school was built (1892-93), it became the one village school.
“So 1893,” the Breeze article went on, “brought the handsome new edifice, which is familiar to us all as our new high school building.” (That was the building that we, in 1978, call the old grammar school). “Joyfully,” says the article, ” the children trooped to the new house and settled into their places as Primary, Intermediate or High School Scholars (capitals mine). Joyful at sight of the fine new building but reluctant to leave the pretty grounds around the old school ( the primary building).”
This last sentence carries us ahead for a moment, to the Fred K. Owen article in the 1908 Breeze. The reason the old primary building had “pretty grounds” was that “The year of 1876 was known as the Centennial yearx and there was a general tree planting all over the country, as one way of celebratingx and many of the beautiful shade trees growing in various parts of the village are a result.”
The Odd Fellows Hall and the primary building were next door to each other. “The two yards were practically one,” wrote Mr. Owen, ” and it was resolved by the members of the lodge and the school committee (as a centennial celebration, remembrance) that a handsome grove of maples and elm trees should be set out there, one which future generations should be proud of.”
That is why the pupils were reluctant to leave the “pretty grounds” of the primary school when the new high school opened in 1893’and why they “looked with envy upon the pretty yard around the primary building.”
One more parenthetical thought before going on with the development of the high school.
I mentioned a few paragraphs earlier the 1903 statement that the old IOOF Hall could be recognized “as the tenement near the present primary building.” So we know that this building had been made into a tenement prior to 1903. Most likely, alterations on that building had been made shortly after the new Odd Fellows Hall at the corner of Main and Elm Streets was erected in 1890. The old tenement, let me add, during Civil War times was owned by the state and was known as “Armory Hall.” The town once negotiated, unsuccessfully for its purpose as a town hall. This old building can still be seen on the Historical Society’s map of Milo dated 1896.
Now to continue with the story of the high school:
During its first ten or twelve years of operation, attendance at the high school was evidently small, for in 1885, this item appeared in the town treasurer’s records: “Paid out for use of hall, wages and board of teachers, $192.50.”
In the late 1880’s attendance took a spurt and in 1890 registration was listed at 105 with an average attendance of 90. In 1889, F.F. Hayes, the principal, received a salary of $125.35. His assistant, Lillian Russell, received $80. The year after the principal was F.O. Small and his wage was $74 a month. There was no mention of an assistant.
This understaffing in the high school was to plague the process of higher education for a long time. Despite an increasing registration the principal continued to operate with never more than one assistant. The Breeze of 1905, in an editorial, deplored the continued understaffing.
“The greatest need of our school,” said the editorial, ” is a third teacher. Two teachers are wholly insufficient to do the work that is being done at the present timex They cannot carry on successfully the work called for in our courses of study as it necessitates each teacher having an average of ten recitations per day throughout the year.”
Not only understaffing but also the lack of interest of parents and towns people in the schools drew complaints from the Breeze editors in issue after issue. The complaints were coupled with a plea for visitors to come and see what was being done.
For nearly twenty years after its establishment in 1874, the curriculum of the free high school remains a closed book. There is no light in its content until 1894 when Supervisor I.G. Mayo reported in a town authorized revision of the course of study throughout the school system. This was the first such undertaking of the town’s records show.
In the course of his comprehensive report, Supervisor Mayo wrote: “The (New) course of study was adopted at the fall term (1893). It required considerable labor to arrange the classes and get each scholar in his proper grade and class; especially so in the high school, where they had been allowed to study anything and everything from the spelling book to Greek grammar.”
Before we take lightly this chaotic curriculum of the early years, we would do well to remember that the school was breaking a new road for itself. All towns that entered into this new venture no doubt experienced some such problems of how to fit unprecedented details into one big, successful whole operation. Most of us touched a hot stove once before we knew “what” hot meant. The revision of 1893, despite the inevitable humiliation, was undoubtedly a great relief and a helpful boost to morale. The revision must have been accomplished with help, at least, from the state department of education (to the extent that that department was then functioning), for the 1893 attention to details of teaching was painstaking as well as explicit.
The high school course, as standardized in this first revision, had freshmen subjects much like those in the grammar school of today’arithmetic, grammar and geography. In the upper years algebra, geometry, physics and history appeared and for the college bound, some Latin, chemistry and mineralogy.
“The college course,” the Superintendent’s report remarked, “has been made to accord with the requirements for admission to these institutions.”
For high school terminal students, the senior year was devoted to a review of grammar school studies’principally arithmetic and grammar’along with the normal high school subjects, algebra and geometry.
With an eye to thoroughness which was to be a mark of the district schools of the future, the report noted that there would be reading, spelling and penmanship, the first three years and compositions throughout the course together with “the formation of a literary society in which all high school scholars will be expected to take part.”
The 1898 Breeze, as it happens, lists “the new officers of the literary club” of that year. They were President, James McFadyen, Jr.; Vice President, Miss Nellie Rogers, Secretary-Treasurer, Charles Bradeen; executive committee, Miss L.S. Pray, Miss Susie Perrigo and Miss Freeda Holbrook.
In a subsequent second revision of courses throughout the school system, in 1897, the high school curriculum looked more like that of ours today minus, of course, those mostly scientific subjects which, in the past generation or two, an increment of new knowledge and a growing awareness of the world about us, have thrust, willy-nilly into our schools.
A few requirements after that second revision were different from today: Latin, or French required all four years, physical geography and a course labeled, “essay work”‘together with a footnote which announced that “all grammar school studies, viz. arithmetic, geography, physiology, United States history, to be reviewed during course, at times optional to teachers.” There was an ambiguous sentence also: “studies introduced to take place of languages”‘although no substitutes studies were mentioned; and a note that there would be compositions twice each term.
Not knowing what information and quite possibly valuable encouragement or inspiration to foster a desire for learning went into the teaching in the free high school during its first chaotic twenty years, when students had been “allowed to study anything and everything,” it’s impossible to comment with any degree of significance on what it accomplished through those early years.
One observation, however, it is possible to make: the expression “high school” or “higher learning,” carried in those early days the same fallacy they carry today’or did carry, until they began to be questioned in recent years.
The fallacy is that mere exposure to the atmosphere of high school, (or for that matter, college), per se, cultivates the mind of the student thus exposed. Such false thinking has led, and is still leading, to the waste of taxpayers’ money and of student potential, in the tragic and often empty pursuit of a paper goal’the diploma. Attainment of this goal’still cherished and still easy’has led many educators to declare bitterly that the high school diploma is a worthless piece of paper.
The optimum purpose of education has been no more clearly defined today than it was in those long past years. The foundation of learning is a mind disciplined and prepared by a thorough competency with learning’s basic tool, reading. Next to that, in the optimum process of learning, is the dedicated teacher who sees his or her duty as that of fanning the flame of curiosity and of floating over the student as an aura of self- responsibility.
The debate of the “Three R’s” Versus “relevant to the changing scene” is sheer nonsense. Without the Three R’s, students will continue ignorant even if Whether Or Not courses are relevant to anything! Without competency with the tools of learning, the intelligent unmotivated and the intelligent illiterate will continue to graduate from high school waving their diploma but minus the skills necessary to All learning, which they should have acquired in the very early grades with “drill, drill, drill!”
The defect in the educational process does Not come from deficient intelligence in the inchoate child. In substituting, during the past fifteen years or so I haven’t noted more than a dozen pupils who I felt confidant couldn’t learn. I have seen many who wouldn’t learn and who responded to questions with half thoughts heavily peppered with that meaningless barbarism, “You know.” I have listened to utterly ungrammatical sentences and noted widespread, lackluster interest.
Many students who attempt to read are pathetically unprepared, not by defective native intelligence, but by the lack of assiduous drill, years back, to enable them to confront words and pronounce them correctly and to comprehend, in the process, the substance of what they read.
Intelligence is high enough in almost all kids to made it possible for them to learn everything they want to learn if the tool of reading is put into their hands at an early age, their fingers closed over that tool and taped by drill, drill, drill, until the tool itself loses its feeling of heaviness and becomes a part of their being. Drill should persist in the years before pupils become convinced of their propensity to failure; before they become unmotivated; before they grow to be rebellious for the very reason that they can’t read with comprehension or even read at all.
Perhaps this practical attainment indicates the necessity of fewer pupils to a teacher in the early grades so that he or she can give personalized attention to pupils. This might require a greater expenditure of money for teachers and a tightening up on the standards under which teachers are hired. It would be preferable, however, to the waste of the same taxpayers’ money spent now in hurrying illiterate students on in their pursuit of the, too often meaningless, diploma.
Perhaps this goal of better education demands, too, our activated fury against the low’grade TV programs and comic books’whose purpose is solely to make money for those who put them before their viewers and readers. These worse than useless attractions compete successfully for the child’s attention because they don’t demand any stretching of the mind to comprehend them.