Section 17 (notes)

Berwick
Its People and Institutions as I knew them about Sixty Years ago.

D. O. PARKER.

Wednesday, July 7, 1897


SCHOOL HOUSES

NOTES. – The first school house stood on the vacant corner lot front of Mr. Patterson’s store, and was built of logs. The first Sabbath School in West Cornwallis was organized there in 1825, only 9 years after the first Sabbath school in America was established in New York; and 44 years after the first movement made by Robert Raikes in England. After its organization it was made a traveling school, and went from house to house. The text books were the Testament and the "Shorter Catechism" and the children were required to learn the ten commandments and recite hymns. The teachers were Samuel Beckwith, Esq., Ebenezer Congdon, Holmes Morton, Matthew Fisher and MR. Watkins was Secretary. Two of the original members of that school are yet living – Deacon John Lyons of Berwick and Mrs. John Power of Weston.

The next school house stood near Mr. Anthony’s store and was the most important institution in the district. It was used for religious meetings, temperance meetings, anti-tobacco meetings where, before I could write my name, I took the pledge which for sixty years has been sacredly kept – debating societies, singing schools, etc. The writing desks were wide inclined boards placed against the walls on three sides of the room. All the seats were made of slabs. I remember seeing my father making the holes for the legs with an old pod auger. The seats at the writing desks were high and sometimes were fastened to the floor. The third house, now a part of Aberdeen Hall, was designed and built by the writer when about twenty years of age, and at that time was one of the finest school houses in the province. The opening of it in connection with the temperance hall in the second story, was a grand event. Dr. Cramp and Father Harding were among the speakers; and a number of students walked up from Wolfville, among whom was D. M. Welton, now a Doctor of Divinity at McMaster University, Toronto. This was one of the first country school houses with double desks, and seats with backs in the province. Previously I had worked in Mass. and brought the pattern of the desks and seats from there. In the original plan the hall had a high ceiling, but on the principles of false economy was made low. In working up one of the old desk boards of the former house I took out the blades of six pen knives, which had been used, no doubt, in cutting the names and hieroglyphics with which the desks were completely covered. This house stood directly west of T. H. Parker’s and the land was a free gift to the district as long as the house was used for school purposes. The government at that time gave a small grant of money to the schools for the benefit of poor scholars. The teacher was paid by voluntary subscription of the parents who gave so much per pupil. Ordinarily the teacher boarded from house to house. The parents of the children furnished the wood for the fire, which was usually brought green from the woods in long logs, and often was cut by the boys after they came to school. There were no prescribed books, nor classification of pupils nor systematic teaching. The quaint teacher referred to above was Mr. Guy Morton who taught the summer school. He lived several miles away and rode to school on horseback. The winter schools to which the full grown young men and women went, were in advance of the times. The teachers were well informed men and gave instruction in surveying, navigation, trigonometry, history, natural philosophy, grammar, etc.


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