Bernardston — Schools

Extracted from "History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts, Volume II," by Louis H. Everts, 1879.

      There was some discussion in the winter of 1769 about providing a schoolmaster "to teach the youth of the town," but nothing more was done in the matter until December, 1770, when "6 were appropriated for the use of a school, and the selectmen were instructed to provide a schoolmaster, and to appoint a time and place for keeping said school. In December, 1772, it was

      Voted "to raise one shilling and six pence for each scholar in town for schooling, which is £7 10s., and that boys from six to sixteen years of age, and girls from six to twelve years of age, shall be reckoned as scholars, and that the scholars at ye south end of ye town, up as far as Maj. Burk and Daniel Loomis on ye river, and on ye east side of ye town up as far as Amasa Sheldon's, shall go to Mr. Remembrance Sheldon's house to school; and that all the scholars on ye hill from Mr. Wright's, north, shall go to Sergt. John Severance's house to school; and that all ye scholars from Benjamin Green's, north, and so out to Simeon Edwards', shall go to Samuel Connable's house to school; and that those people in ye west part of ye town may have a school where they can agree, and if the money that has been raised and is now raised for schooling is not expended for that purpose in the term of one year from this time, the scholars shall not be entitled to said money."

      December, 1773, it was

      Voted that "all the schoolers south of ensign Shelden and Daniel Loomis shall go to one school, and all the schoolers north of Wm. Wright's shall go to one school on the hill; and all the schoolers north of Benjamin Green shall go to one school on the river; and all the schoolers on Beaver meadow and on Frizzel's hill shall go to one school; also, that all schoolers joining on Colrain be allowed their proportion of the school money."

      Nothing appears to have been done by the town about school affairs between 1773 and 1784; but in the latter year it was ordered that the town should be divided into four school districts, and that each district should build a school-house at its own cost. In 1786 an appropriation of "20 for schools was the first made for that purpose since 1772.
      Bernardston now enjoys educational advantages far superior to those ordinarily possessed by towns of its size, and, while the cost of these advantages is now but nominal, as will be seen farther along, provision has already been made whereby that cost will, one day in the future, be reduced to almost frothing.
      There is, firstly, a school fund of $716, created by the sale of school lands as far back as the latter part of the eighteenth century, and the income of this fund must forever be devoted to the support of schools. Secondly, the common schools receive the income of $5000, bequeathed by Edward E. Powers, a citizen of Columbus, Ga., but a native of Bernardston. Thirdly, the town has a fine classical school at Bernardston village, called the Powers Institute, which is free to the inhabitants of Bernardston, and to its support Mr. Powers, above named, bequeathed the income forever of $5000; and, fourthly, Mr. Job Goodale, a resident of Bernardston, gave the town, in 1836, $200, conditioned that the fund be allowed to accumulate until it should reach the sum of $20,000, after which the income of the $20,000 is to be devoted to the support of schools, the town poor, and the town library.
      As the town raises now but $550 for schools, it will be seen that by the time the Goodale fund becomes available, the cost to the town for the support of its schools will be trifling.
      The Powers Institute receives, in addition to home students, many pupils from other towns, and enjoys high distinction as an institution of learning. The school building was erected by the town in 1856, at a cost, including furniture, of $6700. The lot upon which it stands was donated by Col. A. Ferry, and its valuable scientific apparatus was the gift of Mr. John Sanderson. A large boarding-house, connected with the institute and situated opposite thereto, was bequeathed to the town by Hon. Henry W. Cushman, and in his honor is called Cushman Hall.
      Bernardston had in 1833 a school of some note called the Goodale Academy, which was endowed in 1833 by Job Goodale, conditioned that the pastor of the Congregational Church should be the preceptor, and should have the benefit of tuition fees. The school continued to prosper from 1833 to 1856, when the Powers Institute entered upon its career.
      Bernardston has, besides the Powers Institute, six common schools, with an average daily attendance of 141 pupils. The institute had, in the winter term of 1878 and 1879, 90 pupils, of whom 47 were from Bernardston and 43 from other towns.
      The town has also a free public library, containing upward of 3500 volumes. It was founded in 1862, upon a donation by Hon. Henry W. Cushman of $1000 for the purchase of books; another one of $500, by the same donor, for the erection of a library building; and a third one, by which he agreed, if he lived so long, to give $100 a year for ten years, for the support of the library. Dying in 1863, Mr. Cushman left for the library a fund of $2500, the annual income of which was to go toward the purchase of books. The library building, a neat brick edifice in Bernardston village, is owned in part by the town and in part by John Sanderson, Esq., who added to the structure a second story, known as Sanderson Hall.

These pages are © Laurel O'Donnell, 2005, all rights reserved
and cannot be reproduced in any format without permission
This page was last updated on
17 Jul 2005