Hampton's Old District Schools -- Part 5

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First Public School in New Hampshire -- 1649

Part 5

The Massachusetts General Court in 1647 passed a law that any town with over 50 families in it, shall teach its children "reading and writin'." At the town meeting of 1649, the town of Hampton passed a resolution to hire a man by the name of JOHN LEGAT to teach the children of both sexes of Hampton, the three "R's."

Mr. Legat came to Hampton on October 8, 1640, but in 1643, he sold his property on "Wigwam Row" (Exeter Road) to Anthony Taylor and then moved to Exeter where he was active in court cases for both the residents of Hampton and Exeter.

Mr. Legat's contract with the Town of Hampton for teaching children was dated April 2, 1649 and is worded as follows:

"The selectmen of this Towne of Hampton have agreed with John Legat for this present yeare insueing -- To teach and instruct all the children of or belonging to our Towne, both mayle and femaile (wch are capiable of learning) to write and read and cast accountes, (if it be desired), as diligently and as carefully as he is able to teach and instruct them; And so diligently to follow the said imploymentt att all such time and times this year insueing, as the weather shall be fitting for the youth to com together to one place to be instructed; And allso to teach and instruct them once in a week, or more, in some Arthodox chatechise provided for them by their parents or masters. -- And in consideration hereof we have agreed to pay, or cause to be payd unto the said John Legat, the sum of Twenty pounds, in corne and cattle and butter att price currant, as payments are made of such goods in this Towne, and this to be payd by us quarterly, paying £5 every quarter of the yeare after he has begun to keep school."

This is the contract. The date of commencing the school appears from the records: "John Legat entered upon schooling the 21 day of the 3 month, 1649." However, the exact date of the opening of the first public school in the town: "The 21 day of the 3 month 1649, O.S., or May 31, 1649, as we now reckon time.

It seems that Mr. Legat was not paid promptly for his services to the Town as he subsequently sued Anthony Stanian and Robert Tuck, two of the selectmen, in behalf of the town, in an action "of debt for scooleing and other writings done for ye Towne." Mr. Legat withdrew his suit and it was probably settled by all parties involved out of court.

First Public School historical marker
First public school in N.H.

The State of New Hampshire roadside historical marker #14 is situated on the front lawn of the Centre Elementary School at 53 Winnacunnet Road and states:

in New Hampshire, supported by
taxation, was opened in Hampton
on May 31, 1649. It was presided over
by John Legat for the education of
both sexes. The sole qualification
for admission of the pupils was
that they be 'capable of learning'."

Bride Hill School Commenced

November 5, 1860

"The term commenced November 5 in the year of our Lord 1860.

Sarah M. Garland, daughter of Adna Garland, teacher.

"Scholars of the Bride Hill District School in the winter of 1860:
Melbern Marston
George Batchelder
David S. James
Charles H. Davis
J. Hamilton Davis
Walter L. Drake
Henry L. Dodge
Charles Taylor
Oliver Henderson
Jona. L. James
George C. Davis
George J. Davis
Norman Marston
John Leavitt
John Taylor
Albert James
Orin Elkins
Warren Batchelder
Warren James
Emma Batchelder
Alice S. Taylor
Laura Marston
Emma Marston
Lizzie Leavitt
Isabell Elkins
Priscilla Davis
Nellie Elkins
Nellie Marston
"The girls take turns in sweeping out the school house. I have done something in that line myself.

"The boys take turns in building the fire and sweeping out. Many a time have struggled through the deep snow up to the schoolhouse to build the fire.

"Grand times we had that or rather this winter, skating & sliding & coasting as well as studying. I have made considerable progress in my studies this term. I liked the teacher very much. Sarah M. Garland, not partial, but kind and firm. I will always remember her."

(Author unknown)
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