Sunderland — Schools

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

      Although in their petition for incorporation, in 1718, the inhabitants petitioned for land for school purposes, they took no public action concerning educational matters until December, 1719, when it was determined to hire a schoolmaster for the winter, on condition that writers should pay 4d. a week, readers 3d., "the rest to be paid by the town." Joseph Root taught school in 1721, 1722, and 1723, but who preceded him—for it is likely that there was a teacher before him—is not known.
      The first school-house was probably erected in 1731, and its location "as near as convenient to the middle of the street, near about the south side of Capt. Scott's home-lot." This school-house, which was destroyed by fire in 1762, was used until 1749 as an exclusive winter school, after which date summer schools came into favor. It was located on the Street, near the road now leading to the Sunderland bridge. For many years there was but one school-house in the town, but in December, 1760, £4 were appropriated for schooling in the east part of the town, which is now Leverett.
      A new school-house—to succeed the one destroyed by fire—was built in 1763, and set in the town street north of the meeting-house, "on a certain heap of earth carried there, known as the monument." In 1771, when Caleb Billings taught the school, it was voted to build a school-house in the east part of the town; but this vote was rescinded, for the reason that one school was thought to be as many as the town could afford to support. In 1779, John Montague received $6 a month for keeping school in the winter, and he taught, it is said, as many as 100 scholars.
      In 1791 the town was divided into three school districts, the first including all north of Clay Brook; the second, all south of Clay Brook to what is now Cold Spring; and the third, all south of the latter point. In that year, too, the old school-house was sold to Melzar Hunt, at public vendue, for £2 16s. Its successor, built in 1791, did duty in Sunderland village as the shoe-shop of Ira Beaman until 1875, when it was taken down. Between 1816 and 1862 the districts provided their own schools, engaged teachers, etc., but in 1862 the charge of town schools passed to the care of the town. The first school-mistress of whom mention is made was Elizabeth Wair, who taught in 1779.
      There were in the town in 1879 four school districts, in which, during 1878, 205 scholars attended school. There is at Sunderland Street an excellent graded school, divided into three departments, and popularly known as the high school. For the support of schools during 1877 the town expended $1668.
      The town has an excellent public library, containing 1600 volumes. It was founded in 1869 by a donation of $1000 from Rufus R. and Augustus Graves, descendants of Erastus Graves, one of the early settlers of Sunderland. To this was added $200, offered by the late Horace Greeley to the town first reporting to him the growth of two grape-vines upon each homestead within its borders. Later, Mr. A. J. Johnson donated $500, and from the estate of the late R. R. Graves $2000 were received as a perpetual fund for the use of the library.
      Among the natives of Sunderland who became college graduates were Rev. E. Billings, the first minister of Greenfield, Mass., William Billings, Elisha Billings, Rufus Graves, Rev. Joseph Field, Rev. Eli F. Cooley, Rev. H. N. Graves, Rev. A. O. Hubbard, Rev. Jonathan Hubbard, Rev. O. G. Hubbard, R. B. Hubbard, and Nathaniel Smith.

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05 Aug 2005