Earlier in this story I mentioned that the district school teachers were desperately underpaid. And they were! The year 1890 is as good a time as any to bring evidence to bear in support of that assertion. In that year the superintending school committee, apparently through some unfathomable foresight, recorded statistics about the district schools for us who might some day want to know.
And this report dealt, among other things with wages.
Signed by M.S. Bishop, H. F. Daggett and H. Hamlin, it listed district name and number; teacher at that particular time in each district school; weeks in term; wages per week; cost of board (for the town paid the board of teachers until about the close of the century); number of scholars registered in each school and the average attendance.
From that report we learn that Addie Church taught at Sargent Hill, wages $4 per week; board $1.50 per week, Gracie McIntosh, at the Goodrich School, wages $3, board $1.50; Edith Church, at the Hobbstown School, wages $2 (lowest wage in the system), board $1.50.
Sada Smart taught at the Stanchfield Ridge School, wages $3, board $1.25, (least expensive board in the system).
Three teachers were listed in District 5, the village: primary, Mrs. Sawyer (not Agnes), wages $5, board $2; Grammar, W.S. Bishop, wages $8, board not listed, Intermediate, Mrs. Smith, wages $6, board $2.
The Murray School (back Brownville Road), paid Amy Murray $3 in wages and $3 for board. Nellie Livermore, Drake School, wages $3, board $1.50; Alice Gifford, Tollbridge School, wages $3, board $3. And at the Holbrook School, Edith Bumps was teacher at a weekly wage of $2.50 and board $2.50.
In his report for 1891, Superintendent I.G. Mayo explained the disparity between teachers in the wages paid.
“In four of the districts, “he wrote, “there has been an attendance of less than nine pupils. In these schools the agents felt that they must hire teachers at a low price. High wages would mean a very short term. (This seems to imply that each district was allotted an amount of tax money in proportion to the number of its pupils registered. Weeks per year varied from 24 to 26 in the districts. The agents had one fixed factor-money-and two variables-weeks per year and wages. The variables the agent had to bring into the equation as best he could).
For whatever interest it yields these were the figures on scholars in that 1890 gold mine of statistics.
|1. Sargent Hill||26||24|
|4. Stanchfield Ridge||17||14|
The four schools with the low registration were, as shown, Goodrich (Medford Road); Hobbstown; Murray (back Brownville Road); and Drake (Brownville Road).
The superintendent was well aware of the complications inevitable in these low-paying districts.
“The consequence was, “the report went on, “we had several young, inexperienced teachers with only a fair, common school education. Most of these teachers have done fairly well, considering their opportunities and will, with more experience or, what would be better, a few years’ drill (that word “drill” again) at one of our normal schools, make a good teacher.”
The total wage picture, and its effect on schools, came up four years later in a vitriolic outburst by a superintendent whose name, for the first time, wasn’t signed to the report’at least in the town record. It may well have been I.G. Mayo who had a controversial way about him, a strong sense of dedication to education and a rather short fuse.
“At the beginning of the year (1895)” ran the report, “it was my good fortune to secure teachers educated at one of the normal schools. They gave excellent satisfaction. But it was the vote of the committee to change these teachers on the grounds that we were paying too much wages’ten dollars a week.
“I think,” the report went on acidly, “that the schools of Milo need a little more supervision and a little less committee!”
The supervising school committee evidently didn’t like his report any better that they liked his teachers and clipped his wings forthwith, for he complained at the end of the same report: “The authority of the Supervisor was so reduced that all that was left to do was to visit schools and report their condition; and do any other duty that was not particularly pleasant for the members of the committee.”
It should be noted here as indicated in the last sentence of the quotation that the superintendent, in those days, was a fellow member of the superintending school committee. He was chosen by the other members to serve as their field executive. He was their unpaid workhorse, more conversant than the others with the schools operation, but decidedly not “primus inter pares.” (first among equals)
Mayo may or may not have been the author of the diatribe just quoted but it sounds very much like his style. It he did write it, it was only through inadvertence that his signature didn’t go into the records. Mayo was one of the very strong characters that showed up in the development of the district schools in the 1880’s and the 1890’s. He was one of the early proponents of consolidation in order to bring more pupils and better teachers together into a larger school. He was also the first paid superintendent noted in the records. For his services during 1896, the year after the fiery disagreement on teachers, he received $50 for his services as Supervisor, according to the records of 1897.
Mrs. Helen Salley, Mayo’s granddaughter, whose husband, Mahlon Salley died in January of 1977, as this account is being prepared, told me earlier that her grandfather described himself as “schoolteacher, farmer and lumberman.” Whether his teaching service included a stint in the Milo schools, he didn’t tell her.
Mayo was born in Milo , December 28, 1839 and died in Milo in 1933. He spent some of his early years in New York and served during the Civil War as a field hospital nurse at City Point , Virginia . Wounded by a Rebel sharpshooter during a period of service with Grant’s army at the front in 1864, he received, under a special act of Congress in 1890, a pension of $10 a month. He died at the house on Highland Avenue where his granddaughter still lives.
These details about the life of I.G. Mayo I have written in recognition of a personality who exercised a strong influence for good on the schools of Milo . How he would have succeeded today when schools are complicated, motivation is low and public criticism can often sting, is moot. Touching people, as a superintendent does, at their tenderest spot’their children’he would probably, in these years, have become embroiled often in argument. Facing the burden of modern criticism, the superintendent of today, holder of an unenviable office, has learned to become aloof, or thick-skinned.
Isaiah G. Mayo served one more year as superintendent after the altercation in which he may or may not have been a participant. His last term was in 1896. Thereafter his name appears as a member of the superintending school committee and as a furnisher of wood for fuel for one or another of the schools. Never again though did he serve in the top office he had held for so many years.
In 1897, two years after the controversy over teachers, the voters at town meeting authorized the school committee to choose a supervisor “not of their own number.” The records show that Martin L. Durgin, a Milo attorney for many years, was the next superintendent.
And then a strange thing happened. Three out of the next four superintendents were women. They were the only women to serve in that capacity, so far as can be determined from the records, during the long history of the Milo schools.
In 1899, L.H. Doble was chosen as superintendent. Since no title of “Mrs.” Appeared before the name as recorded, it appeared at first glance that L.H. Doble was another man’until Edna Hanscom set me right.
L.H. Doble was Lillian H. Doble, Mrs. Hanscom told me’wife of Ronella Doble. Ronella was an uncle of Frank Doble, who was the father of Richard Doble, out present postmaster. The Ronella Dobles lived where Mrs. Edna Hanscom lives today, two houses on the Brownville side of Albert Street .
Mrs. Stella Doble, Frank Doble’s widow, later corroborated Mrs. Hanscom’s statement. The High School Breeze of 1901 also contained substantiating details in an obituary of Mrs. Doble. It was written by Leon G.C. Brown, a member of the Class of 1901 and later, for years an attorney in Milo .
According to the account Mrs. Doble was born and educated in Maryland . She seems to have moved to Milo early in life. The obituary notes that she served as postmistress in Milo during the Cleveland administration. Mrs. Hanscom mentioned that she was a very intelligent woman and the Breeze article noted that she was extremely popular.
Evidently Mrs. Doble died suddenly, only a little more than three weeks after she had been elected to her third year as superintendent.
Her successor, chosen the week after her death was Jane A. Jones, second of the very strong characters in the development of the Milo schools around the turn of the century.
Unlike Superintendent Mayo, whom I delineated earlier, Jane Jones was mild in her disposition and her love was teaching, not administration. She served out the one year as superintendent and then went back to the desk.
The best characterization of Jane Jones would be that she drew respect wherever she lived or worked. She was a teacher for forty years in Milo , East Eddington, Lakeview, Medford and lastly Lisbon Falls . Her career as teacher was interrupted briefly by work in the electrical shop of a relative in Colorado and in the office of the American Thread Company in Milo .
Born in Bucksport in 1875, she graduated from Higgins Classical Institute and took courses at the University of Maine .
The High School Breeze of 1906 carried her picture, that of a very beautiful young woman. She taught during three different periods in Milo High School , the last time during the years around 1926.
Mrs. Agnes Sawyer still preserves with great respect a letter of recommendation written by Jane Jones in 1911 while Miss Jones was teaching Latin and history. Roy Monroe told me he still remembers the excellence of her teaching when her subject was English, in 1926 and he was one of her students.
Miss Jones died in 1959 at the age of 83.
To retrace a bit:
After her one-year tenure of the superintendency in 1901, Miss Jones was succeeded by W.W. Hayden in 1902. He, in turn, was succeeded again by a woman, Mrs. Susie Bumps, a former teacher in the districts school. In those early years, before her marriage, she was listed among teachers as Susie McLeod, as early as 1884.
Her tenure as superintendent evidently lasted for three years, for her picture captioned superintendent of schools appeared in the Breeze of 1906, a very bright-eyed and intelligent woman in appearance.
Mrs. Bumps was the wife of Charles Bumps, an insurance man. They lived on Elm Street , two houses on the Bangor side of Charles Street .
Following Mrs. Bumps as superintendent was a man the Breeze mentions only as Superintendent Heath. I didn’t run across his name in the town records.
In 1906, voters at town meeting authorized the school committee to unite with Brownville in the employment of a joint superintendent and voted $250 as Milo ‘s share in the new venture. Superintendent Heath was evidently the first chosen under the joint system.
Choosing a superintendent was, by the way, the sole function of the joint committee under the school union, as it came to be called. Otherwise the schools in each town functioned under their own separate school committee.
Milo ‘s share of the salary of the superintendent increased in 1908 to $375. And one year later the joint board of Milo and Brownville announced the election of F. E. Russell as superintendent for one year at a salary of $1500. He was reelected in 1910.
The records don’t so state, but it is to be presumed that somewhere in this period the state had begun to contribute its share toward the superintendent’s salary, as it was to do regularly in later years’as it still does.
The first indication that the school committee was becoming an entity, steady on it own feet, showed in a minor report in 1910 when Superintendent Russell announced as secretary of the board, that the Milo committee had appointed M.L. McNamara and George E. Gubtil as truant officers. The crisp announcement indicated that Russell was accepted and trusted as the executive official of both boards. He was still sworn in by the town officials, presumably of each town separately, but he belonged to the school committee and not to the selectmen.
School committeemen themselves became paid officials, of a sort, in 1912 when the town voted $25 as compensation for each member.
W.S. Adams became the next superintendent in 1913. And three years later the voters extended the scope of the joint board authorizing the school committee “to join with Brownville or some other town or towns” in the employment of a joint superintendent.
The school union as extended finally included Lakeview and Barnard as well as Brownville. The union was destined to continue until both it and the schools themselves were expanded by legislation authorizing the School Administrative District.
Incidentally, in 1921, Milo voters increased the town’s share of the superintendent’s salary to $500.
Our last superintendent under the school union was Reginald H. Dority, who held probably the longest tenure in that office in school history. Dority came to Milo in 1948 as superintendent and held that office until the School Administrative District was functioning. As a matter of fact, Mr. & Mrs. Dority are still living in Milo .
Mention of the truant officers a few paragraphs above recalls that the first one noted in the records was George Jones, appointed in 1897. The next mention of such officials was in 1902 when the selectmen appointed three truant officers: J.L. Martin, Clarence Stanchfield and I.F. Hobbs.
It might be noted parenthetically that the truant officer, in those old and more credulous days carried a fearsome aspect for those who were wont to “creep like snails to school” − or, worse still, not creep to school at all. I remember in my earliest days as a scholar, although my parents never frightened me with him, my mental imagery pictured the truant officer as different from all other persons. His skin was dark and his countenance always unsmiling’a sort of Heathcliff. His mouth was open to something of the extent of a power shovel of today and his eyes turned continually this way and that, looking for little boys and, I supposed, for little girls who weren’t prompt and regular in their school attendance. What he did with such was a mystery I never worked out in detail but undoubtedly it boded no good for their future pleasure!
Now permit me to return for a moment to the low wage scale of the teaching profession of a couple of generations ago.
Actually, teachers as producers of something that could not be consumed and thus in a manner of speaking, economic parasites, continued to work under a low wage scale for a long time. Payment for teachers hadn’t changed much when our five living district schoolteachers were active.
In 1910, Agnes Sawyer, teaching in the Stanchfield Ridge School , was paid $8 a week, out of which she paid her own board. That was $2.50 a week. Nor was the pay scale to change materially, in Milo or elsewhere (for Milo was by no means unique), until teachers were able to band together and demand more. And by that time the mercenary spirit had begun to creep into the teaching profession as it had in other lines of work and dedication began to lag tiredly behind.
As an example of the wage scale in the teaching profession, in the second decade of the twentieth century: my sister, Anne Treworgy, who taught mathematics in the Milo High School for nearly thirty years began her teaching career in Springfield directly after she graduated from Colby in 1917. Her starting salary was something like $600. I myself taught one year in Milo , 1921-22, between years in college, on a temporary certificate. Payment had increased quite a bit by then. My salary was $1200.
In the long, long past when Maine was newly a state and Milo ‘s economy was probably less secure than it is now, we don’t know what sum of money the town spent for education. We have no information of how they were funded.
Our first record is from 1823 when the town raised $100 for that purpose. For some years this figure was constant, or nearly so. At the end of the Civil War, in 1865, the item for schools had increased to $800. This, according to the article in the warrant, was “over and above what is required by law to be divided among the different districts.” What was required by law, we have no information.
In the year 1883, orders drawn on the town treasury for common (elementary_ schools amounted to $1535.31. The state, by that time, was certainly paying a share of the cost of schooling. It was not, however, until 1869 that the records put the state subsidy into figures. That year the town raised $750. From the “School fund and mill tax from state” there was $579.53. And from “interest on school fund from town”‘whatever that meant– $79.21.
In 1890, according to the record, the town paid the W.W. Walton Company “for pail and dipper, thirty cents.”
I have written about this item in school equipment, earlier in this story. Water pail and common dipper were indispensable items of equipment in every single district school, and every scholar’s lips touched the dipper’s rim, with no washing in between, day in and day out, so long as he or she went to school there. The bacteria of potential epidemics may well have taken a good look at what was on the dipper’s rim and floated away in disapproval, for sickness, in those days, seemed to have been no more prevalent than now. Anyway, the water pail and dipper were as inseparable as pepper and salt, or man and wife’more so than the latter, for no dipper ever divorced its pail, nor any pail its dipper.
Along about this time (1890), the building of fires began to be an item of expense. Someone had to go early, in the winter, and start a fire in the ramdown stove in order to bring the temperature to a supportable lever by the time school started. Figures on the cost of building fires vary from $1.50 to $2.75, probably for the term, and this, most likely, included also filling the water pail at the spring, or brook, or whatever source was within reach. I noted one figure as high as $5.00, which may have indicated either an ill-tempered stove or a long distance to walk or an employee who was trying to get rich overnight.
An expenditure for textbooks appears in the records in 1892. These were the items: “27 United States Histories, $14.50; 37 readers, $9.19: 15 English compositions, $2.16; 39 geographies, $19.14. 74 algebras, $12.15, 10 x dozen spelling blanks, $4.16; 9 natural philosophics, $5.89; 22 physical geographies, $18.92; and 10 geometries, $7.19.”
In the high school, in those years, one-half the board of teachers was paid by the state (from the record of 1895). The town was still paying board for teachers in the common schools.
By 1897, the town was raising $1000 for common schools and $250 for the free high school in addition to what the state may have contributed. The second revision of courses throughout the schools had been completed that year and, evidently influenced by that revision, the town voted $300 for textbooks’six times what it had paid out on that item in 1890. Textbooks were free to pupils, as I observed earlier, after 1889.
That same year, 1897, the town raised $1000 to repair the primary building as noted in another place.
In 1896, voters approved an article raising $3.15 for diplomas. This would have coincided with the first graduation from the high school, in 1895.
By 1897, details of fuel costs began to appear in the records; “Elias Drake, wood for No. 8, $12. W.T. Livermore, wood for No. 5, $8.25; and I.G. Mayo, wood also for No. 5, $39.” Fuel bills for the other six districts weren’t printed there ( Murray School was closed anyway), but undoubtedly these schools were heated, at least enough to take the chill off.
The first time insurance, fire insurance, that would be, appeared in the records is 1897: “William E. Gould, insurance for schoolhouse, $23.” It must have been for the grammar school which the 1903 Breeze noted enthusiastically as the “handsome new edifice which is familiar to all as out high school building.”
In 1898, orders drawn on the treasury for common schools amounted to $2061.80.
First money for the high school laboratory, $25, the town raised in 1901. This amount was quickly increased to $150 in 1904; and to $250 in 1905.
Janitor service in the high school was first explicitly listed in 1907. The amount was $125. Janitorial duties in the district schools were still performed, presumably, by teacher and such strong-armed and willing scholars as could be beguiled to help. There was one obscure mention of what could have been payment for such services in a district school in 1897: “Martha Jones, care of schoolhouse, $2.50.” That would certainly have been for the term.
In 1912, the town installed water and sewerage in the primary build, at $2200, and the following year, lavatories and a cesspool at the Milo Junction School , at $250 plus unspecified unexpended funds of the preceding year.
The year 1912, was noteworthy for another innovation: members of the superintending school committee, as noted in another place, received a yearly payment of $25.
The visiting nurse made her first appearance in 1915, according to the records. The town raised $300 to meet this new expense.
In 1915, also, the town raised $25 “to pay the expense of graduation.”
By 1917, the town’s share in the expense of operating the common schools was $3200 and the high school, $2100.
The first item of expense for the high school library showed up in 1918 when the town raised $24 for books.
School costs had jumped considerably by 1919 when the figures show that the town raised $6500 for common schools and $3500 for the high school. This was, of course, in addition to the state subsidy, which the records don’t show.
The next year costs had practically doubled–$12,500 for grade schools and $7,000 for the high school. Textbooks that year amounted to $1200 and repairs $3,500.
Once again, in 1920, the state’s contribution the cost of grade schools appears in the records, possible because there was an overdraft. The town raised $6500 that year; the state’s contribution was $5350. The total cost of operating the grade schools was $14,785. The overdraft was $2,666.
In 1921, Domestic Science and Manual Training began in the high school, the state paying one-half the cost. The town raised $2000 for this item.
Janitor service for the high school was now at $7000. Still no mention of janitor service in the district schools’perhaps in the hope that if it was not mentioned, it would go away.
In 1922 the item for grade schools was $10,000 and for the high school also $10,000. The town’s share for the salary of the Superintendent of schools was $1,000. The other towns in the Union ‘Brownville, Lakeview and Williamsburg ‘also contributed their share as did also the state.
There was an item in 1922 of $500 for fire escapes at the high school and at Derby (as it was now unhesitatingly called). The cost of high school janitor service was now $900/
In 1923 there was another overdraft in the cost of operating the grade schools. The town raised $10,000; the state contributed $6,330.31. The cost of operati8ng was $17,749.45!
And this was the last year of the last district school in Milo.
Common Schools ‘ Their Curriculum
In an earlier section on the high school and its development, I have mentioned the lack of standardization in its curriculum as revealed by the 1894 revision of courses, the first general overhauling in all the Milo schools.
Apparently this same “every-school-for-itself” approach prevailed in the olden days’the 1820’s to the mid 1890’s’in the district schools also.
An anonymous writer in the High School Breeze of 1898 had some critical words to say about the district schools before they were graded and the great change that became manifest after grading was completed.
“We will try in this article, “wrote the anonymous author, “to give a contrast between the graded system of schools and the old, ungraded system AS WE FOUND IT (capitals mine)… The system of graded schools is so far superior to the ungraded system as to leave no doubt in the mind of the person WHO HAS SEEN BOTH SYSTEMS USED (capitals mine), as to the advantage of the graded over the ungraded.
“As to our experience when we went to the (ungraded) district school’well, we could study about what we wished; take whatever number of studies we desired; and thus it went on, term after term. And when a scholar thought he knew enough he left school without form or ceremony.
“This, of course, made a loose-jointed affair and the school which should have been an institution of learning was often used as a place where the first attempt of the scholars was to ride the teacher out on a rail or bury him in a snowdrift.
“If they succeeded the committee had to hunt around for a teacher who was able to govern the scholars, probably at the expense of educational abilities.
“In Milo, the schools, when graded, had three divisions: Primary, Intermediate, and High. But as the average of grade schools tends to rise (a rather obscure passage), our school grades have risen to the number of five: the sub-Primary and Grammar having been added.”
This is the only eyewitness account in all my research that I ran across of the district schools before the two major overhaulings in 1894 and 1897. It indicates that the schools, in the early years, left much to be desired in the way of sequence in studies, teaching methods and studey content. It accounts, too, for Superintendent’ Mayo’s report after the first complete revision of 1894.
“It required considerable labor,” he wrote, ” to arrange the classes (after the revision) and get each scholar in his proper grade and class.”
That could have been one of the understatements of the century!
It was only after the two revisions in 1894 and 1897, that the thoroughness, teaching methods, know-how and sequential study content, which I have praised highly in the earlier part of this story, began. And no little part of that praise must be directed to the willingness of the teachers to attempt an educational miracle under the most primitive of working conditions’primitive even up to the time the district schools came to an end in 1923.
Nor is this to disparage the efforts of the earlier teachers prior to the study revisions. They lacked not only the physical facilities (as did their successors), but they lacked also the guidance, the specific directions, teaching methods, adequate textbooks and study content that gave later teachers know-how and purpose in carrying out their daily routine.
Some textbooks they had had, to be sure, although as late as 1890, as I noted in another section, the town was spending only $50 for books for all the schools. Even taking into consideration the difference in prices, then and now, however, this revealed a scanty equipment in books. After the revision of 1897, the town’s expenditure for books was multiplied by six, to $300.
The 1894 revision changed all the early confusion of helter-skelter education and frowned officially on pupil mischief and teacher-baiting.
Superintendent Mayo’s admonition to school agents, I have noted elsewhere: “Hire teachers who have some nerve.”
From the exacting standards set up in 1894, the beginning of excellence in the accomplishments of the district schools may well be dated. The courses as set up HAD to be with state help, for scholastic knowledge, psychology (native horse-sense, for psychology as such was hardly out of its diapers), and know-how in methods of teaching, were evident in the overhauling of district school operations.
One of the specific accomplishments in the 1894 and 1897 revisions was that of grading. Superintendent Mayo mentioned it and the author of the High School Breeze article of 1896 mentioned it.
The word “grading” can be a stumbling block, something one can trip over without seeing it, unless one is looking. It can also be something to skirt out around, to the tragic waste of pupil brains, as I will mention in a moment.
Grading delineates the step-by-step process by which a teacher imparts and a pupil absorbs (or is supposed to absorb) definite, sequential aspects of the learning PROCESS. This doesn’t mean facts only, or necessarily but more definitely higher and higher skills with education’s tools, of which reading is the first and most important. The grade is the plateau on which a pupil should stand after a marked and specific expertise with these tools.
Grading is a concept educators have paid lip service to ever since the two revisions in the district schools curriculum'”lip service” because, alas, grading in fact has too often succumbed under educative stress to the rationalization of easy solutions carrying the euphemism of “Social promotion.”
And social promotion is the evil under which many, many undrilled, illiterate (and mostly teachable) pupils are passed on from grade to grade, until they finally complete high school still functionally illiterate but blessed with the stamp of approval implicit in the diploma.
This evil is a mark of pretty nearly universal culpability, for it is a by-product of the ideal of universal education and universal education, to be a reachable goal, implies the willingness to apply varied teaching techniques to cope with the problems of individual peculiarities and those not necessarily signifying retardation.
Milo suffers, has long suffered, from this evil’but not alone. It is a black mark on the record of nearly every community in the nation.
Some schools with facilities and money to hire especially trained teachers have sought, with more or less success, to by-pass standardized “grades” by sending on pupils as individuals as fast as they can gain the skills that grading has marked out, step-by-step.
Where mass education prevails and there are not enough teachers to cope with specialized needs, “social promotion” is the obvious but tragic solution.
Social promotion is apt to send on the big boy or girl, too well-developed physically to be kept back, lest he or she, be laughed at or find discomfort in the company of smaller classmates. It is apt to send on the “hell−raiser”, the hyper-active, who may or may not be exceptionally intelligent but for whom one year is enough, the teacher feels, along with all his or most likely her other teaching duties. Social promotion is apt to find its largest group in the (for some reason) unmotivated pupil who came to class illiterate and goes on in the same state to the next class. Most tragic of all is the social promotion, which carries along the puzzling individual whose facilities for absorbing need special teaching to reach him.
No, the big pupil, the hell-raiser, the unmotivated, the puzzling mind are not necessarily to be blamed on the teacher’s neglect, particularly if she has large classes to handle. It is however, a problem to be considered with deep concern, for not only are the student brains being wasted but a lot of taxpayers’ money is being wasted also in this unfruitful process.
Perhaps modern education could well take a page from the book of district school teaching methods.
The directives laid down in 1894 and 1897 for the district schools were rigorous and painstaking.
Word reading, phonetics, punctuation and spelling began right away, in the first year of school. By the second year there was “correcting of simple errors in writing; the beginning of the four basic functions in arithmetic; and geography.” In the third year, pupils were taught, “to read with expression.” There was required “constant practice (i.e. drill) on letter sounds”, and “mental arithmetic daily.” This learning to stretch the mind by doing problems mentally was to be a continuing item in schoolwork throughout the remaining years of the district system.
Even as late as 1910 there were echoes of these standards as laid down in the 1890’s. Mrs. Agnes Sawyer told me that in her approach to teaching reading, she used both phonetics, sounding out letters and identifying words as words’the later “look-see” method.
In the sixth year, after the revisions, there is mention among other items of “spelling, always,” and learning to use the dictionary. In the seventh year, “Reading, always,” with attention to diacritical marks.” There is mention again and again of drill: “Drill in phonetic spelling:” “Drill on the sounds of letters;” and of mental work, without the use of pencil and paper. In the first year of the Intermediate school (corresponding to our fifth grade today) there was mention of “mental arithmetic daily; rapid addition of columns of figures.”
The 1897, or second revision of courses was more a rearrangement of grades and schools than any great change in methods. The new arrangement gave two years of sub-primary classes and two years of primary; two years of intermediate and three years of grammar school’a total of nine years in the grades. This arrangement left the high school to concentrate on high school subjects rather than to spend the first year on what we should consider today grammar school studies.
Under the second revision, though, there was a greater mention of textbooks. The first year of intermediate school (our fifth grade), the subjects were reading, arithmetic, physiology, geography, language, spelling and a sort of early earth science. In all these subjects, except language and earth science, textbooks are specifically mentioned and pages of coverage specified.
Summing up the standards set by the 1894 and 1897 revisions, the preponderance of attention in the early years, seems to have been on the “Three R’s” with marked attention to word formation, spelling, punctuation and correct grammatical usage. In arithmetic the stress appeared to be on stretching the memory to make it fast and accurate.
One concern today, which seems to have been noteworthy for its absence among school officials and teachers alike, in those chastened and standardized district schools, was that of separating scholars into two classes’learners and failures. All pupils appeared to be considered learners’a concept that might well offer food for reflection in the grades today.
Beginning with 1885 the list of teacher names appears in the record-scores of names. Milo had nine district schools-eleven rooms, counting the three rooms in the primary school. The school year had three terms and changes in teachers were frequent. Only the strongest and most dedicated could survive the daily challenge. The life was rigorous; discipline a “must”; pay was very low; and working conditions anything but modern. Changes, therefore, were not only frequent but inevitable.
Most of the teachers on the lists would be just names to a newer generation. A good many came from out of town, taught briefly and then moved on. The list that follows will contain only names of teachers from within Milo or those who had connections that can be traced locally.
Earlier in this story I mentioned our five living district schoolteachers now residing in Milo. Several others, still living, are out of town. Lydia Rhoda, who taught at Sargent Hill when her brother Fred operated the dairy farm at the corner of Billington and River Roads, is now in a nursing home. (Remember this was written in 1978). Hazel Black, who taught at Stanchfield Ridge, lives in Bangor. And Jessie Sturtevant Stinneford, sister of Roy Sturtevant and Mrs. Etta Cookson lives in Connecticut.
Mrs. Stinneford, by the way, taught at the Goodrich school to earn money to attend the University of Maine. Such a purpose, kept constant on such a low wage, demanded the utmost in dedication!
Mrs. Cora Mayo Gaudette, daughter of I.G. Mayo and mother of Mrs. Mahlon Salley, taught at the Tollbridge School. And Eva Clark, daughter of Ben Clark taught at the Drake School. Ben Clark, by the way, lived where Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Bragg live today; corner of Elm and Belmont Streets. Mr. Clark owned a large share of the old White Elephant Mill near the river, a little above Prospect Street.
Belle Levensalor, whose husband was a cousin of Mrs. Nora Hamlin and Mrs. Mary Tyler, taught at Sargent Hill.
I have already mentioned Jane Jones, rated as one of Milo’s finest teachers. Her sister, Martha Jones, later Mrs. Martha Prescott, mother of Rachel and Jane Prescott, taught for a time. So did Mrs. Flora Wingler and her sister, Mrs. Alice Brown.
The list included Elizabeth Rowe Humphreys, sister of George Rowe; Abbie Darrah, sister of Mrs. Fred DeWitt; Mrs. Flossie Taylor, mother of Mrs. Helen Livermore; Mrs. Jennie Ladd, who lived next door to the present home of Mr. and Mrs. Dennis Hatch, and who moved later, with her daughter Ruth, to Wiscasset.
My wife’s mother, Carrie Livermore, who was later the wife of E.M. Hamlin, taught at the Holbrook School. Her sister, Nellie Livermore, later Mrs. Chester Hamlin, mother of Mrs. Nellie McLaughlin and grandmother of Mrs. Gayle Shirley, who teaches today at Penquis Valley High School, taught at the Drake School.
Mrs. Delia Carver, who lived with her husband on a no longer used road that ran north from the D’Este Road (then called the Carver Road), taught at Sargent Hill.
Other teachers on the list were June Gray, daughter of H.O. Gray, who lived in the first house on the right on Albert St.; Clint Kittredge, brother of Mel Kittredge, who himself taught manual training years afterward at Milo High School; Clara Carlburg of Monson, cousin of Lewis Mountain and so related to his daughter, Mrs. Pat Ricker; Rose Doble, aunt of Postmaster Richard Doble, who later moved to Virginia; and Carrie Snow, aunt of Mrs. Catherine Worster.
I have already mentioned Mrs. Linnie Dick, whose article “The Haunted House”, was quoted above. Linnie lived, in those days, on the back road to Brownville and later across from the town hall. She was rated as one of the strong disciplinarians and an excellent teacher.
Those who knew Hiram Gerrish, the lawyer, whose office was in the Oddfellows Hall, Corner of Main and Elm Streets, scarcely remember his early days when he taught at Stanchfield Ridge. Hiram, nicknamed “Judson” in those days, was the grandfather of Judson, Jr., who teaches today at Penquis Valley High School.
Lucy Bishop, whose brother Will broke out many a winter road on the east side of Pleasant River, was a teacher. So was Susie McLeod, later Susie Bumps, already mentioned as the third and last woman Superintendent of Schools in Milo.
I’ll end this list with Abbie S. Owen, later wife of Abner Ramsdell and their daughter Lillian Ramsdell, both of whom taught in the district schools.
This is but a sampling. The list could go on and on but it must be held to its proportionate share of the total story.
MILO HIGH SCHOOL BREEZE
Having quoted frequently from the old issues of the High School Breeze, I think this story would be incomplete without a few words about the early issues of that paper.
The Breeze apparently had its origin in 1897, (since this was written we have been given copies of the pages of an 1896 Breeze), for the “Christmas Number” of 1898, carried this statistic: Vol. 2, No. l.
The Christmas number, 1898 is in the files of the Milo Historical Society.
That issue carried the following revealing statement; “About the future of our paper: we hope to continue it and to do so we must have subscriptions. We shall charge 25 cents a year or ten cents a copy. We sold our first paper (note the singular) for 5 cents a copy, THAT WE MIGHT INTRODUCE OURSELVES, (Capitals mine), but from now on we shall charge 10 cents.”
This same issue proposed in an editorial, to make the Breeze a weekly sheet if the townspeople wished.
“A weekly paper here, run on a small scale,” it noted, “will help build up the town and perhaps bring in here industries that will pay a large percentage to those who invest.”
On that subject of industry, the town is still indulging in the same blessed hope as did the Breeze staff in 1898.
The 1901 Breeze mentioned the old building that stood, first as a Church and later rebuild as a tenement, nearly on the site of Mrs. Ruth Daggett’s residence of today:
“Why isn’t the old Church which adorns (?) (that’s the way they put it) the corner of the yard, bought and fitted up for a gymnasium and school hall?”
That old building, which was later made into a livable, tow-story tenement, must have been deserted for some time and must have become quite dilapidated at the time this rather contemptuous editorial was written. Anyone, by the way, who wished to know what the old Church looked like can see by consulting the Historical Society’s 1896 map, which shows it as a small, one-story building, quite unmistakably a Church.
And the 1910 Breeze related the speed with which an athletic facility was constructed and made ready in that day before ecology, pollution and environmental impact had become common words in the everyday vocabulary of Milo residents;
“Early in the spring of 1909,” the article read, “feeling the need of a tennis court, the boys went to work one afternoon, which Prof. Pratt had kindly given them, and in a few hours had a good bottom of ashes laid. Then clay was hauled and rolled until very hard. A man was then hired to build the backstop and money was raised by subscription to buy a net. On the whole we think the court has been enjoyed very much by a certain few of the school.”
The district schools lived to a venerable old age before consolidation was effected and managed, even on their deathbed, to meet their end with several quite healthy kicks. It was economics, together with the feeling that “bigger means better,” that finally did them in. And who could deny them an honorable and dignified obituary?
To note the first symptom of the disease that was to end in consolidation, we must go back to 1885 when the town “paid Frank Hobbs for carrying scholars, ten dollars.” Where he carried them we don’t know. But the word “distance” had made itself heard and the town had spent ten dollars to bridge it. This was the first mention of payment for transportation that I ran across in the records. Two years later there was a second entry: “Paid Edward Ricker, for carrying scholars, ten dollars.”
In 1886, the ghost of consolidation stirred again in an article at the town meeting, which proposed “to build one schoolhouse, east of Pleasant River to accommodate the scholars in districts 2, 4, and 6.” The article was voted down.
The next year, 1887, the Drake district was in trouble financially and the town voted to pay its school debt − apparently money owed to Willie E. Kinney “for teaching in district 8, winter of 1885 − to wit: $5.50 per week, including his board and interest on same from time said bill was due.”
At the same meeting, voters passed over an article proposing “to receive what were district 8 scholars into the village district, if District 8 so requests.”
There was still a deep determination to keep the districts autonomous and operating on their own. The ghost of the future, however, was moving, never again to be permanently laid.
Four years later, in 1891, Supervisor I.G. Mayo called attention, somewhat gloomily, in his annual report, to the fact that “in four of the districts, there has been an attendance of less than nine pupils.” “Pupils,” instead of “scholars,” was beginning to become good usage.
The first direct mention of consolidation that I ran across appears in the 1893 report of A.N. Stanhope.
“The plan for concentrating the schools of the town in the village,” he wrote, “is believed by many to be one of the best devices for schooling a rural community that has ever been discovered.”
This earnest advice came in the same report with the announcement that the newly’built grammar school “will be ready for occupancy September 1st.” This was the schoolhouse that still stands a hundred yards or so from the old high school building. (It is the building with the bell that rang out the news with becoming formality, a few months ago, of Basketville’s first completed basket in Milo).
A year later, in 1894, Superintendent I.G. Mayo was again pressing the issue of consolidation.
“The village,” his report said, “had on April 1, 1893, 188 scholars. In the other eight districts there were 126. Some plan should be devised to bring these children together in sufficient numbers to maintain a respectable school.”
By 1895, the voters were ready, at least in town meeting, to go along with his assessment of the situation. They voted favorably on an article “to consolidate, as far as practicable and economical, the so-called Morse District with the village; Holbrook with Sargent Hill; Hobbstown with Drake, and scholars east of Pleasant River in one school.”
Even as they voted their approval to partial consolidation, however, the village schools were beginning to become crowded. Supervisor S.D. Page reported, the same year the vote on consolidation was taken, that “in District 5 (the village), there were 140 pupils in the building.” He meant, of course, the new grammar school building, completed in 1893, which, as we have noted, housed all the elementary and high school students in the village.
Movement of the pupils toward the village went on, although slowly. The 1896 figures showed 187 pupils in the village school and 76 registered as attending the five rural schools left to operate as separate units.
The attack on the fragmented district school system continued. In 1897, the superintending school committee produced figures showing that “it has cost $5.40 (per year, presumably) to educate each pupil in the village school; $9.58 for each child outside the village.”
Supervisor M.L. Durgin reported, the same year, that “the old school” “that would be the one we called the old primary today” had been “practically rebuilt”, and that about 75 children were attending there. (This was not the major alteration of that building. That would come eight or nine years later).
Here we must insert a strange interlude in the occupancy of the primary school. Early in this story I noted that it had stood, a sleeping ruin, for quite a few years prior to 1976.
This is not the first time such indignity had befallen the primary school. Apparently, after the grammar school was completed, in 1893, it was abandoned for nearly four years.
Our information comes from the 1903 edition of the Breeze, in the same article from which I Have quoted before, entitled “Glances Backward” and signed “Alumnus.”
The year 1893,” the alumnus wrote, “brought the handsome new edifice which is familiar to all as our High School building (the old grammar school). Joyfully the children trooped to the new house and settled into their places as Primary, Intermediate or High School scholars. Joyful at the sight of the fine, new building, but reluctant to leave the pretty grounds around the old school…”
This paragraph was quoted earlier to illustrate a different point. Its significance here shows in the next paragraph.
“In 1897,” the Breeze article goes on, “there was a period of confusion- of rearranging. For the sub-primary and grammar schools were introduced and the little, old red schoolhouse (so it WAS) painted red) which had been abandoned (that was in 1893) was attacked and transformed into a neat little building containing the sub-primary and primary rooms.”
An affectionate sentiment for the district schools persisted. The system kept its tentacles wrapped around the hearts of the townspeople. So Supervisor Mayo’s report, in 1898 still mentioned six district schools, besides the village building. Drake, Goodrich, Stanchfield Ridge, Tollbridge and Hobbstown building, he reported, were in fair condition. Sargent Hill had been repaired. Holbrook wasn’t mentioned and the Murray school, on the back Brownville road, had been closed, never to reopen.
From now on there would be increasing head-shaking about the poor condition of the rural school buildings, and a stepped up call for building in the village, to take care of crowded conditions.
By 1897, “carrying scholars” had gotten to be quite a business. The town spent $350 that year for transportation.
It was not until 1906 that the rush to build began. It flourished then with all the intensity of an idea whose time has come.
The major alteration of the primary school probably came first. The records don’t make the exact date clear. Mrs. Etta Cookson told me that she started to school in the fall of 1908. She thought her class was one of the earliest to attend after the complete renewal of, and addition to, the building.
The extent of the change in the primary building can be seen clearly by examining the Historical Society’s Milo map of 1896 and then looking at the ruin of the same building today. Before the major alteration, the primary school was scarcely more complicated than any other district school. It stood, end to the street. Its only embellishments were two porched entrances, one in front, the other on the side away from the Church. It is possible that one of the two wings perpendicular to the original building had been put on it in the 1897 alteration which wouldn’t, of course, have shown up on the 1896 map. The major overhauling, however, was done about the year 1906. At that time, I must add, a woodshed stood near the rear of the building on the side away from the Church.
Next in chronological order, in the building program, was the new high school, next to Belmont Street. Voters approved this building at the town meeting of April 14, 1906. The cost was set at $12,000. The building was completed in the late fall of 1907.
The 1907 issue of the Breeze hailed “the magnificent new high school building (that) is now nearing completion, and will be ready for occupancy at the beginning of next term, which will open some time after Christmas.”
So, the class of 1907 was the first to graduate from the new high school, having spent the final term of their final year there.
The 1907 graduating class number nine. They were E. Ethel Bishop, Delia M. Clark, Mary L. Ingalls, Maribel Levensalor, Charles W. Leonard, Edna A. Packard, Bessie E. Snow, Lizzie Shaw and Linnie A. Ryder.
After several stormy town meetings in which it was approved, the vote rescinded, and again approved, and rescinded, the Derby school (called the Milo Junction school, as I noted earlier) was finally approved March 11, 1907. The initial vote was set a cost of $8,000. This was subsequently increased by another $700.
Earlier in this story, I mention an aborted attempt, at town meeting, in 1882, to “establish a school district in part of District 9 (the Holbrook district whose school house was at the corner of Billington and River Roads) south of the Bangor & Piscataquis railroad.” This, I explained, was a proposal to centralize the district nearer the growing railroad community at Milo Junction (Derby).
We have no statistics on the early growth of Derby, but an article in the High School Breeze issue of 1907 reveals unmistakably the need for a school there by that time.
The article in the Breeze was headed “Milo Junction,” and went on as follows: “During the period from 1904 to 1906 about 75 houses were built for the employees of the railroad company; one large hotel and a dwelling house for Mr. Stuart, the General Superintendent. Shops and houses are lighted with electricity.”
There was already an attempt at schooling in Derby’whether public or private, we aren’t told. This information is from the same article in the 1907 Breeze.
“A vestry,” the article says, “was erected by the Methodist Episcopal Church (that was on Church St.,), in which they hold meetings. The vestry also serves AS A SCHOOLHOUSE FOR THE SMALL CHILDREN OF THE JUNCTION (Capitals mine). It is expected that the Church proper will be erected the summer of 1907.”
To continue again with the main story:
The extensive building program, around 1906-1908, eased the congestion in the village schools for a few years. It did not, however, put a quietus on the district schools. They hung tough and went on with their excellent education in the still primitive surroundings for fifteen years.
The most obvious effect of the surge in building was to relieve, for the use by the grades, the grammar school, which had been occupied partially for at least ten years by the high school students.
The first high school class to graduate form this grammar school building had been that of 1895 so this building had been crowded ever since its erection. These 1895 graduates constituted a small class numerically but they had taken up space the same as if there had been more of them.
The 1895 graduates, Milo’s first high school graduating class, included Carroll Ramsdell, Clara Sherburne (nee Mitchell); Ethel Thomas (nee Brown); Mae Stanchfield (nee Mitchell); W.H. Hobbs and Nora Ladd (nee Hodgkins). The married names have been used because present residents will remember them more easily than by the names under which they graduated as girls in their teens.