Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Tucked away in a folder in the archives at the Storrs House Museum are more than a dozen attendance registers for the eight District Schools in Longmeadow, MA for the year 1850-1851. These registers reveal teacher names and salaries, student names, ages, and attendance histories for the three different school terms: Winter, Summer and Fall. Many also contain the names of textbooks required of students - the same books required in each of the small district schools. Each district school building contained either one or two classrooms, allowing for a mixing of students of eligible age within the classroom space and outdoors as well.
Just as today, placing each area of town into a particular district was an attempt to create equality in school population size and fairness in proximity for students who travelled to school Monday through Saturday of each week for each of the three terms. Regardless, sometimes there was a large imbalance. For example, in the Summer Term of 1850, the District 3 school had an enrollment of 17 students ages 4-12, while District 1 enrolled 46 students ages 4-12. Yikes! It’s important to keep in mind that in 1851, the town of Longmeadow still included what today is the separate town of East Longmeadow. In that sense, it’s a wonder that eight schools was enough!
District 1 Register of 42 Students for the Summer Term 1850 An additional 4 students are listed on the next page
Examining these registers reveals a few interesting insights:
Summer terms running May through September were usually the domain of the younger students, ages 3-12, while the Winter Term running December through March saw a large influx of teenage students. Presumably the older children in a family were needed at home to work the farms during the busy warm weather months.
School Board members visited several times throughout a term to check on the behavior of students and the aptitude of the teacher. Unfortunately for the District 7 teacher during the Summer Term of 1850, her class of 32 students ages 3-14 were found “not above mediocrity” with a “want of punctuality and order.” It’s not clear if the teacher was to blame for the mediocrity, or the families.
Most teachers taught only one term and did not return for the subsequent term.
It appears that in every instance, male teachers were paid more per month than their female counterparts. For example, Parsons Henry was paid $29 a month for his term teaching at District School #4, while Laura Stebbins was compensated only $17 a month for a term teaching at the same school that year. Mr. Henry taught 25 students ages 10-19 that winter, while Miss Stebbins handled 46 students ages 4-12 over the summer term.
Selectboard records indicate that the town funded the education of its young residents by paying teacher salaries, room and board for the teachers who lodged in the homes of local families, firewood to keep the buildings warm, and even a small amount( $1.00) to someone tasked with lighting the stoves within the school buildings.
Selectman Records noting payments to support the schools
The only school we have an image for is the District 3 School which stood just south of the intersection of Maple Road and Longmeadow Street. It’s also the school that saw the lowest enrollment that year.
District School #3 stood just south of Maple Rd on Longmeadow Street
Pupils were encouraged to bring their own books if their families could afford them, otherwise the town was legally required to provide them. Titles covered during the 1850-1851 terms included the popular series of Webster’s readers, spellers, and dictionary, as well as Mitchell’s Geographies, Goodrich’s U.S. History, Weld’s School Grammar, Greenleaf’s Series of Arithmetic, Watt’s On the Mind, and Miss Swift’s Natural Philosophy. Some differentiation must have been made for the youngest students as Smith’s First Book in Geography and Peter Parley’s 1st and 2nd Books of History seem more tailored to younger readers.
Contributed by Melissa Cybulski, LHS Board Member
Originally published December 9, 2021