Wednesday, October 1, 2014

1796 Joseph Lunt and Village Leaders Form Committee to Build Schoolhouse!


     It has been thirteen years since the war for independence ended.  Life in East Deering Village and the region is more stable.  Although Maine is still bound to Massachusetts, community leaders begin to take action to build for their future and that of their children.

     While completing  final preparations for our Dedication of the memorial for the Early Settlers of East Deering Village this Sunday, October 5th, I thought it timely and appropriate to share this wonderful  find from Joseph Lunt's personal papers.  The document is hand-written and too fragile to copy; none-the-less, it is very revealing since it contains the signatures of the 'subscribers', leaders in the village:

Joseph Lunt     George Illsley     Peter Noyes     Hutchinson Noyes     Ephraim Sawyer

Thomas Blake      Benjamin Sawyer     William Sawyer     Timothy Galvin John Sawyer

Anthony Sawyer     John Barber, Jr.     Zebulon Knight     Zebulon Sawyer     James Barber

Nathan sawyer     Benjamin Sawyer     Thomas Sawyer     John Barber     Josiah Barber

Asa Morrell     Asa Sawyer.

The Development of Education in Maine

    The Information included here is taken from "Maine Education -150 Years of Education in Maine -Part I."

'The Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1652, claimed the Province of Maine under its charter...The purchase of the Province of Maine by Massachusetts removed all doubts to its claim and brought it under the Massachusetts Bay Colony Laws of 1642 and 1647 which contained the first legal requirements  regarding schools.  In 1642, the General Court of the Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay had ordered
     "that the selectmen in every town, shall have a vigilant eye over their bretheren and          neighbors, to see first, that none of them shall suffer so much barbarism in any of their families, as not to endeavor to teach, by themselves or others, their children and apprentices, so much learning as may enable them, perfectly, to read the English tongue and knowledge of the capital laws, upon penalty of twenty shillings for neglect therein."

  This ancient law was the first step toward compulsory school attendance  and carried with it a punishable offence for neglecting this duty to educate children.  However, the earliest inhabitants of Maine, had more pressing matters to contend with like survival and subsistence.   During the early days, children did not venture far from home for safety, consequently, formal education was slow to develop, and it was around 1700 before schools were built and maintained.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, the roots of the educational system were slowly developed.

     One provision in the laws regarding education, stipulated that when there were at least 50 households, a committee should establish a schoolhouse, a reputable school master hired, and his salary be paid by 'the parents or the masters of the children, or by the inhabitants in general..."  When a town increased to one hundred families, the selectmen were to establish a 'grammar school to instruct youth for the university.'  A grammar school was considered more like our present day high schools or academies.

The East Deering Village Schoolhouse

     When Joseph Lunt and his fellow subscribers came together to formulate their plan for building a village school house, they each made a monetary commitment according to their
means.  The amounts were a great deal for this time: $35.00 to $5.00 in colonial currency.
     The document reads in part:  the Committee will build a school house "in a spot appointed by us adjoining the road below Benjamin Sawyer's house and the Back Cove Bridge, 20 feet long and 20 feet wide."

     I have tried to piece together some hints about the proposed location from information contained in Theodore Sawyer's  From Back Cove to Quaker Lane, where Ted speaks about the completion of the Back Cove Bridge (Tukey's Bridge) when people who lived near the Presumpscot River petitioned for a road.  

    "Following the same course as the bridge, a road was laid out for 28 rods until it encountered the Illsley-Noyes lot line: northwest by this line one hundred and eighty rods, then north 52 rods to the road leading to the lower bridge on the Presumpscot River, this last course (our Morse Street) passing between Col. Noyes' house and barn.  The second course lay all on the west on Major Illsley's land."

Could this be the school house from the photograph taken by LB Chapman in the late 1800's?  

     Exactly where was Benjamin Sawyer's house and which Benjamin Sawyer is referred to in the proposal?  You'll note their are two subscribers by the same name.  I 'll have to continue to research to see if there are more clues.  I'm excited to find this valuable piece of history because it's the first time so many of the early inhabitants of the East Deering Village are named together in one single action taken for the benefit of their community and for future generations.  More about this at a later date.

I hope to meet those of you who live in the Portland area at the Dedication Ceremony,this Sunday afternoon, at 1:30 PM at the East Deering/Grand Trunk Cemetery.  You will honor the memory of these early settlers by your presence and continue your interest and support for this reclamation project.