School History of Ashford, Connecticut

During the early years of Ashford town life the question of maintaining schools received some backward blows. A party of ignorant and unenterprising men succeeded for a time in holding the control of the public voice so far as to prevent a school being kept up. In 1722 the town voted ” not to be at the expense of hiring a schoolmaster.” This state of affairs, however, did not continue for any great length of time. In October, 1723, a schoolmaster was hired by the town to keep school half a year. In 1726 the public interest was bending all its energies toward completing its meeting house, and in the pressure of economy for that purpose it was decided to ” wave having a schoolmaster.” But this suspension of the school was probably for only a short time. In 1727 we find the schoolmaster in the town, an active factor in society, in the person of John Andrews.

In 1734 the one schoolmaster for the town was replaced by three school-dames,” for the three sections. These were described as follows: ” One school to be east side of Bigelow river; one to sute the middle of the town: one west side of Mount Hope river.” A committee of three in each section was .selected to attend to the business. The  “school-dames” employed that year were a Mrs. Chapman, Ann Eaton and Sarah Bugbee, and their pay was for each of them, four pounds for three months. In 1735 Samuel Snow, Edward Tiffany and Thomas Corbin were allowed to build a school house at their own cost and charge, on the meeting house green, south of the Hartford and west of the Mansfield road. A schoolmaster was hired to teach three months at each end of the town. In 1737 he was hired for nine months; in 1739 for a year, he to find house room wherever practicable. Arrangements were now in progress for procuring suitable school houses. An agreement was entered into with Mr. Stoddard, by which, in consideration ‘of the recognition by the town of his claim to 8,864 acres of land within its limits, he gave two hundred acres of land for school purposes. January 1st, 1739, this land was ordered to be sold and the money to be placed at interest for the benefit of a religious school in Ashford forever. The minimum valuation fixed upon it by the town was four hundred pounds. Afterward the town was divided into three districts for school purposes, each of which should pay its own expenses. These districts were respectively Eastford, Ashford and Westford. A rate of £150 was soon after ordered to build a schoolhouse in each section. Under this new arrangement Elijah Whiton and John Griggs were the first .schoolmasters of which we find any mention. The salary of the .former was thirteen pounds for two months’ school service and boarding himself. Mr. Knowlton was one of the public spirited men of the town, and was deeply interested in behalf of the schools. When he was chosen deputy to the general assembly in 1751 he begged the privilege of bestowing fifty shillings upon the school instead of investing it in the ” treat ” to the company which the custom of the day required in return for such an honor as he enjoyed. In the following spring he made a voluntary gift of twelve pounds ” old tenor ” to the school.

In February, 1716, the foundations of a civil settlement having been partly laid in prospective Ashford, it was voted that the meeting house be built first, that is, before the minister’s house. The dimensions of this house were forty feet long, thirty-five feet wide and eighteen feet high. The wages paid the men who did the work of building were three shilling a day for the master mechanic, two shillings nine pence a day for journeymen hewers, and two shillings a day for ordinary laborers. The price of board for a mechanic then was four shillings and six pence a week. In the mean time a committee empowered by the town to secure the services of a minister obtained Mr. James Hale, of Swanzea, a graduate of Harvard in 1703, who served the people, and at the organization of a church became pastor. They gave him for settlement a salary of forty pounds a year for three years, after which it was increased annually for seven years till it reached sixty pounds, besides his firewood and a hundred acres of land. They also agreed to build him a two story house ” with a twenty foot room in it.” This room is supposed to have been intended and used for public worship until the completion of the meeting house. The meeting house does not seem to have been carried forward to completion from the start.

Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889

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