Milton in NH Education Report, 1876

By Muriel Bristol | August 15 2021

In the thirtieth (June 1876) report, NH Superintendent of Public Instruction John W. Simonds included some information regarding Milton schools.

J.W. Simonds (1829-1885) appeared in the Concord, NH, directory of 1876, as Supt. Public Instruction, with his office in the State House, and his house at Franklin, NH.

Milton was one of thirty-three communities, including neighbors Farmington and Middleton, NH, whose superintending school committee failed to submit a report, as required by law.

The Milton Board of Education had available to it $7,463.00; of which $1,048.00 came from the town tax for support of schools, $6,000.00 came from district school taxes, $145.00 came from the literary fund, $30.00 came from local funds, and $240.00 came from contributions and the dog tax. (The $6,000 in district school taxes was raised and used to construct a new Milton Mills School (see below)). The school assessment rate was $0.030 [per $1,000].

The Milton Selectmen reported having 232 students. School District No. 3 had the largest expenditure, of $320. The district with the smallest expenditure spent $33. The longest district school term ran 32 weeks, while the shortest ran only 6 weeks. The largest district had 79 students, and the smallest district had 13 students.

In a table of Academies, Seminaries, High and Select Schools, Milton (Three Ponds) had its Classical Institute, under Principal J.P. Bickford (who was also one of three Milton town school committee members). Its building, apparatus and grounds were valued at $1,500. Its school year began in September and had a schedule of 36 weeks. It had 1 male teacher (presumably Bickford himself), 0 female teachers, 37 male students, and 32 female students.

Of these 69 Institute students, 65 (94.2%) of them were residents of New Hampshire (leaving 4 (5.8%) of them with homes in other states); 12 students were pursuing “higher branches,” 2 of them were studying ancient languages, and 0 were studying modern languages.

School Buildings

Martin V.B. Cook (1838-1891) replied to a School Buildings question, with a description of the new Milton Mills school building.

Question 4: State at length what has been done in erecting new school buildings, or in permanent repairs. If a new house has been built, give a full description, – size, material, number of school-rooms, number of ante-rooms kind of finish, furniture, entire cost, and account of dedication exercises. 

MILTON.M.V.B. Cook. During the past year an excellent wooden school-house has been erected in district No. 7, situated in the thriving village of Milton Mills. The main building is 40×40 ft., one and a half stories high, with French roof, and basement; also tower in front, 10×12 ft. It contains two school-rooms, four ante-rooms, and a library, and is finished with western pine and black walnut. The furniture is of the latest improvements. The entire cost exceeds $6,000, besides some valuable presents, – among which was a bell, presented by Hon. John Townsend, of Brookline, Mass. The dedication consisted of music and an address by Rev. Geo. Michael.

History of Education

Elbridge W. Fox (1834-1912) wrote the following in answer to a question regarding the History of [Milton] Education. His reply suggests that he had access to sources – both town records and people – that are no longer available to us.


In the early settlement of the town, the children, even when very young, were compelled by circumstances to do their part toward supplying the necessary food for sustenance, providing comfortable places for shelter, and clearing roads through dense forests, as a means of communication from neighbor to neighbor. This, together with a limited thirst for mental culture and the scarcity of the required books and proper instructors, allowed them to grow to manhood and womanhood without advancing, intellectually, much beyond the preceding generation.

The town was settled about the year 1775, it being then a part of the town of Rochester, from which it was taken by an act of incorporation, dated June 11, 1802, with a population of about 570.

At the time of  the Second (1800) Federal Census, Milton-soon-to-be had actually a population of about 899 persons. (See Northeast Parish in the Second (1800) Federal Census).

At this time, and for years prior to incorporation, the town consisted of but three school districts; but in the year 1806 two more were added, by a sub-division of the original three, with a total adult population in the town of 185.

The adult population, i.e., those above 16 years of age, totaled actually about 429 persons. (See Northeast Parish in the Second (1800) Federal Census).

In the year 1815, district No. 6 [Hare Road] was formed by a division of No. 2 [Hare Road & Nute Ridge]. The same year the town voted to divide No. 3 [Milton Mills and north of Milton Mills], and thereby form No. 7 [Milton Mills]. A legal division was not fully made, however, till 1819.

New districts were formed from time to time to meet the demands of the increasing population; and in 1827 the town was districted anew, forming ten districts. This number was subsequently increased to fourteen, and later, reduced to twelve, and still later, 1854, increased to thirteen, – which number still exists, although schools are taught in but twelve of them.


For years prior to the incorporation of the town, and before school-houses were provided, teachers, who received but a mere pittance for their services, were commonly employed by the inhabitants of neighborhoods, and would occupy for school purposes, alternately, the dwellings of the several inhabitants, from three to six days each, at which all the children of suitable age in the particular neighborhood would eagerly gather for instruction.

One of the earliest teachers of whom there is any recollection was —– McFarland, a native of the Emerald Isle, who was a thorough scholar and a practical and successful teacher, – a man of singular devotion, large experience, and established reputation, but so strict in discipline as to be termed by his pupils a “hard master.”

Mercy Merrick, who taught in district No. 1 [Plummer’s Ridge], was also one of the pioneer teachers. Not having books at that time containing the alphabet, she taught her pupils the different letters by drawing or marking them on chips of wood. “Old Master Sullivan,” as he was familiarly called, was also a teacher of early times, and of established reputation. The names of Joseph Main, who was quite celebrated as a neighborhood teacher, Isaac Chesley, Daniel Melcher, James Libbey, Ephraim Pinkham, Ebenezer Toy, Polly Bergen, Daniel Dame, and Druzilla Hayes may also be mentioned as successful teachers of early days.

Some other early Milton teachers might be mentioned too. Sophia Cushing (1781-1857) taught at Plummer’s Ridge and Milton Three Ponds. John Brewster (1813-1886) and Lewis W. Nute (1820-1888) were for a time teachers at Nute Ridge. Benjamin B. Dorr (c1815-1901) was “engaged for many years in educational work” in the mid-19th century (See Milton in the News – 1901). James W. Applebee (1844-1931) was a teacher (and school committee member) around 1870.

For the service of the latter teacher one term, the town warrant at one time contained the following article: “To see if the town will vote to pay Druzilla Hayes six dollars, for teaching a school in district No. 2 [Nute’s Ridge].” The article was disposed of by referring the matter to the discretion of the selectmen.


During the existence of neighborhood schools, and in the early history of district schools, only one term in each was held for the year; but at a later period, and even to this day in a majority of districts, two terms were and are held, one designated as the summer and the other as the winter term, – the former almost invariably taught by female teachers, and the latter, in a majority of cases, by male teachers, at a salary in early times, for females, of one dollar per week, and for male teachers, of ten dollars per month, including board, which was generally furnished by the several families without charge in order to lengthen the school.

One might suppose that potential male teachers might have been busy farming until the harvest was completed and so only then became available for the winter term. The pay difference is less explicable.


This style of boarding was so customary with school-teachers in early days, that it originated the phrase “boarding ’round,” which is not unfrequently used at the present time in connection with itinerant boarders.


The first text-book used is said to have been Webster’s Speller; then gradually came into use the Testament, American Preceptor, Columbian Orator, Merrill’s Arithmetic, Alexander’s Grammar and Murray’s Small Grammar.

Noah Webster was author of the American Spelling Book [also known as the “Blue-Backed Speller”] (1783); Caleb Bingham was author of the American Preceptor (1794) and Columbian Orator (1797); Lindley Murray was author of English Grammar (1795); and Caleb Alexander was author of the Columbian Dictionary (1800).

The text-books of to-day are, – Progressive Speller; Monroe’s Series of Readers, six numbers; Cornell’s Series of Geographies, four numbers; Greenleaf’s Series of Arithmetics, six numbers; Tower’s, Quackenbos’s, and Kerl’s grammars; Quackenbos’s History and Philosophy; Robinson’s Algebra.

Benjamin Greenleaf was author of Introduction to National Arithmetic (1845); Horatio Nelson Robinson was author of An Elementary Treatise on Algebra (1850); Sarah S. Cornell was author of Primary Geography (1854), Intermediate Geography (1857), and High School Geometry (1857); George P. Quackenbos was author of A School History of the United States (1857), Natural Philosophy (1859), and An American Grammar (1862); David B. Tower was author of Common School Grammar (1859); Simon Kerl was author of First Lessons in English Grammar (1866); Lewis B. Monroe was author of First Reader (1873) Second Reader (1873), Third Reader (1873), Fourth Reader (1873), Fifth Reader (1873), and Sixth Reader (1873); (See also Milton’s Arithmetic Textbooks of 1878).

Not till the year 1817 was a superintending school-committee chosen; and in the year 1833 the town voted to dispense with their services, so far as relates to the inspection and examination of schools, except when called upon by the prudential committee.

The first appropriation for schools by the town was in 1807, and was a sum equal to fifty per cent of the amount required by statute. In 1810 and 1812 all the interest collected was appropriated for this purpose. In 1811 a direct appropriation of one hundred dollars was made; and in 1829 the interest of the Literary Fund was made a part and parcel of the school-money, and has ever remained so. An effort to appropriate the interest of the Surplus Revenue Fund was successful in the year 1838 only. Since that time the required statute appropriation, with an occasional town and district appropriation, has been regularly distributed.

The NH State Literary Fund’s principal originated as taxation extracted for a state university, which was not spent as being inadequate for that purpose. The town-level Literary Fund’s principal would have derived from several sources, including a share of the annual interest from the NH State Literary Fund, if any, local fines, forfeitures, etc., and any interest accrued and not spent. It was often supplemented by a local tax on dogs.

As nearly as can be ascertained, the first total expenditure of schools after the incorporation of the town was less than one hundred dollars. The present year the amount falls little short of fourteen hundred dollars.

Since the establishment of school-districts in this town, rapid strides have been made in the methods of education, and the appliances and means have been multiplied an hundred-fold. In the early history of schools, it was a common practice for the girls to bring their sewing and knitting-work, and devote such portion of time to these pursuits as would not interfere with their studies while in the school-room.

Advance has also been the watchword in the matter of wages and salaries of teachers, – beginning in “ye olden time,” with one dollar per week for female and ten dollars per month for male teachers, and gradually advancing till the former command six to ten dollars per week, and the latter forty-five to seventy dollars per month.

Next in sequence: Milton in NH Education Report, 1877


Find a Grave. (2011, December 4). James W. Applebee. Retrieved from

NH Superintendent of Public Instruction. (1876, June). Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2018, November 16). Caleb Bingham. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2021, July 17). History of English Grammars. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2019, October 24). Lindley Murray. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (2021, June 24). Noah Webster. Retrieved from

Author: Muriel Bristol

"Lady drinking tea"

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