Character -

This is the end of the school. Hence truth, purity, temperance, charity and reverence are virtues that should be nurtured in the school. Here children should be taught one of the cardinal principles of success in life, economy, carefulness, care not only for their own but the things of others, the property of the neighborhood and the town. The value of time, habits of industry and honest thrift should be learnt in the school. In a country school where the people are sovereigns, it is essential that the public schools should nurture the spirit of patriotism.

-An excerpt from the 1890 Annual School Report


Often, the first community building erected in a newly-settled town was a combination church and meeting house. The clergyman was probably the most educated person available, thus it seemed appropriate that he became the teacher. Teaching was done mostly in private homes.

In 1719, Colonial Law required every town with 50 families to provide a schoolmaster to teach children to read and write. Every town with 100 families was to set up a grammar school.

By 1746, the subject of schools was neglected with no town monies being raised. However, some schooling was provided by subscription for 3-4 weeks. It was not until 1759 that the subject of schools was brought up at a Town Meeting. Still, 1762 records show a vote "Not to build" any school or school houses in town. Some amount of schooling was made possible by raising money to pay schoolmasters.

In 1775, a committee was finally chosen to expend the appropriation for schools to be established in each corner of the town - schools built by the residents of each section and also maintained by them. Some eight years later the town voted to divide into five classes. Each district would receive one fifth of the money raised by the Town for its operations (supplies and boarding of schoolmasters, etc.). The sections were given numbers as well as a special district name (To this day, long-time resident families refer to sections of Pelham in this manner):

District No. 1: Pelham Center

District No. 2: Gumpus

District No. 3: North Pelham

District No. 4: Gage Hill

District No. 5: Currier Highlands

School terms were short, with the winter term of 2-4 months usually taught by school masters, and summer terms 2-3 months, or until money was depleted, taught by women. By the mid-1880s schools were built by the Town in all sections. For a brief period, District #2 was divided into the Hill District #6. This school operated intermittently for a period of about six years. Even though it had pupils from Tyngsboro, MA as well as Pelham, the number of scholars was not enough to warrant keeping the school in operation.

The district schools had classes up to and including grade 6. For a time the junior high classes were held upstairs over the general store known as Atwoods Store. As early as 1913 there are records which show that a vote at Town Meeting was taken to consider a junior high school. Finally, by 1920 land was deeded to the school district for a junior high school. Classes for grades 7, 8 & 9 were begun in 1920; by 1925 grade 10 was added. This continued into the 1940s, when grades 9 and 10 were eliminated.

Although the junior high school was a more modern building, it still had no so-called "modern conveniences", plumbing or electricity. A student paper has an article written by Richard Ivers, the School Treasurer, that $14.00 was given to the Town by the students to help pay for electricity which the Town had recently installed.

It may seem that education for high school had been ignored - there was no transportation provided. However, many took advantage of the trolley system and used that method of transportation to Nashua and Lowell. In later years, students endeavored to search out rides from friends and neighbors who worked in nearby communities - but many times it was a long walk to the community with a high school which would accept tuition students.

Following is a verbatim excerpt of the February 13, 1797 Report of the committee, appointed by the Town of Pelham to divide the Town into five districts to evenly distribute the student population:

The four schoolhouses now built In the four outside classes, shall stand where they are now built and not be moved, and the Town to be divided into classes as follows:

The South West Class - shall begin at Mr. Abel Butricks thence to Mr. Daniel Butlers, Mr. Edmund Hardys, Mr. Benjamin Hamblets, the widow Rebecca Butlers, Captain Thomas Spoffords and Mr. Seth Cutters; thence to Mr. Enos Hadleys and Mr. John Wells, all of whom are included, in the South West Class and all the inhabitants who live southwestardly of the above mentioned inhabitants to the Town-line from Mr. John Wells to Captain Asa Richardson's are to belong to the South West Class.

The North West Class - shall begin at Lieutenant David Butlers thence to Mr. John Nevens, Mr. Caleb Butlers, Mr. Daniel Tenneys, Deacon Daniel Barkers, Deacon Benjamin Barkers, Mr. Samual Hutchinsons, Messrs. Ebenezer and John Ellenwoods, Mr. James Hobbs' and Mr. Philip Richardson's Junior, all of whom are included in said class and all the inhabitants Northwesterly of them to the Town line from Mr. Philip Richardson's Jr. to Lieutenant David Butler's are to belong to said North West Class.

The Middle Class shall begin at Captain Jonathan Gage's, thence to Major Daniel Coburn's, Mr.s Amos Johnson's, Mr. John Atwood's, Mr. James Wilson's, Doctor Aaron Grosvenor's, Mr. Joshua Atwood's, Mr. Uriah Abbott's, Mr. Simon Beard's, Mr. Asa Kent's Jr., Mr. William Hardy's, Mr. Samuel Davis's, Mr. Asa Wyman's, Mr. John Wyman's, Mr. John Marsh's, Amos Moody, Esq. Adjut. Daniel Hardy's, Mr. Edmund Tenney's. Mr. Asa Stickney's, Mr. Daniel Wyman's, Mr. John Wyman's the 3rd, Mr. Andrew Tallant's, and Captain Jessie Smith's, all of whom are included in said Middle Class and all the inhabitants west of Golding's Brook and within the compass of the above mentioned inhabitants are to belong to said Middle Class.

The North East Class shall begin at Mr. Mosses Noyes' thence to Mr. Joshua Atwood's Junior, Mr. James Foster's, Mr. Daniel Atwood's, Mr. Isaac Gage's, Mr. Asa Gage's, Lieut. Alexander Grime's. Mr. Jonathan Webster's, Mr. Ebenezer Webster's and Mr. Josiah Gutterson's, all whom are included in said North East Class and all the inhabitants North Eastwardly of them to the Town line from Mr. Josiah Gutterson's to Mr. Mosses Noyes'.

The South East Class shall begin at Mr. William Webber's thence to Mr. Silas Trull's, Captain Jesse Wilson's, Mr. Daniel Wilson's, Mr. John Barker's, Mr. Nathan Hobb's, Mr. Nathaniel Currier's, Mr. Enoch Howard's, Mr. Abiel Barker's, Mr. Asa Carleton's Jr., Mr. Ezekial Richardson's, Mr. Jonathan Lyons', Mr. Roger Coburn's, all of whom are included in said South East Class and all the inhabitants south easterly of then to the Town line from Mr. Roger Coburn's to Mr. William Webber's.

David Gage, Thomas Spofford, Ezra R Marsh

Committee for classing the Town of Pelham into five classes. Pelham February 13th, 1797.

Number of families in each class:
So. W. Class: 34
No. W. Class: 30
Middle Class: 31
North East Class: 31
South East Class: 26

Following is an excerpt from the 1873 Annual School Report, written by Moody Hobbs: 

From the early settlement of the town, down to the present time, our Public Schools have been the objects of the highest interest, as well as of an honest pride. And they may justly be so, for, from our former rude schoolrooms in this town, have gone forth men who have graced the pulpit, the halls of legislation, State and national, the judicial bench, the highest medical professorships, those who stand among merchant princes, as one of them, and successful business men in almost every department of industry or trade; and men, and women too, distinguished as teachers at home and abroad.

When we take all this into consideration, and reflect that they, all of them, received their first educational impulses in the Schools of our town, again I say, that we may justly feel proud of our Common Schools. To us, to you, is committed the charge that they receive no detriment. Let them be the precious objects of your care and watchfulness. That you now feel a deep interest in the welfare of your Schools I am well satisfied. The attendance of such large numbers of citizens, ladies and gentlemen, at the examinations of the Schools, is sufficient evidence of your deep interest in their prosperity. Suffer not this interest to flag in the least degree, but rather let it be stimulated to increased and ever-increasing zeal to advance the prosperity and usefulness of those "colleges of the people," your Common Schools.

Following is a verbatim account from the September 14, 1931 newspaper article reporting on the Gumpus School Reunion: 

The reunion of teachers and pupils of generations, formerly attending old Gumpus district school, held this afternoon at the school house there, proved an occasion of genuine pleasure to all participating. The affair was ushered in with ideal weather and the little old school house, glistening in the sunshine and pleasantly cloistered in it surroundings of shady trees and rugged grounds, was a charming spot. A mammoth white pine, a century in age still stands as yard sentinel, familiar to all home comers. A mammoth sign of "welcome" decorated in evergreen hung suspended on the piazza front.

This old district school, to many present, constructed their only institution of learning and to them in particular it is still and quite naturally regarded with deep affection and sentiment. Not only for the foundation of education that it afforded but also for associations formed there never to be forgotten. So word was passed around informing all as far as possible of the reunion of teachers and pupils. The response to this call was highly pleasing and the number present clearly showed a latent yearning by old school mates to meet on the occasion and renew once again the comraderies and good fellowships that existed in those former days in old Gumpus. Old school mates - per chance classmates - greeted each other with true regard and dwelt affectionately on occasions of those happy yesterday and many experiences, reminiscent of those times were recalled and related in kindred mind and kindly spirit.

After a cordial reception "dinner hour" was observed and dinner pails and lunch boxes rattled again as of yore as former schoolmates grouped about and eagerly inspected their midday lunches.

Group pictures were then in order. Mrs. Catherine Donovan called "school" to order after ringing the old school bell and a score of her former pupils marched to their seats.

The singing of "America" with Arthur W. Greeley as organist opened the program and was followed by role call reminiscences of Gumpus school days by Mrs. Julia Cutter Richardson and read by Mrs. Clara Cutter Jack, were as follows:

I began attending the Gumpus school in the spring of 1856 and continued constantly til 1867. There were only two terms a year, spring and winter; for the winter term a man was the teacher. Two pupils sat on each board seat, the back of which formed the front of the desk behind, all painted green.

The first winter for me, the big boys in the back seats were Charles Seavey, Henry Jones, Orton Moore, all of whom were respected citizens of this district the rest of their lives. The oldest girls were Susan Butler, Jane Greeley Moore, Marla Cutter Auten, Annette Butler Burton, and Philena Whitehouse Scruton, the last three now living are well on to 90 years.
For recitations, the older pupils sat on a long stationary seat across the back of the room. The little ones stood with toes on a line in the floor near the teacher.
The janitor work was done by the pupils, the boys taking turns at building fires and the girls in sweeping the floor.
Methods of teaching have changed. One that has served me well was reciting in concert, points of importance as they were pointed out on maps on the wall by the teachers were shouted lustily by the whole school. I could name them all before I could read them. Also the multiplication tables and other tables were recited forward and back. For writing, I have not seen any method that gave better results than the copy books that were passed around to be inspected by parents and friends on examination day.
In 1860 we all took great interest in the presidential election. Some of us wore pins with Lincoln and Hamlin pictures on them. We kept well informed about all the big battles of the Civil war as they were fought and the generals who led them. Many war songs were sung with much feeling, as the "Battle Cry of Freedom," "John Brown's Body," "Tenting Tonight," "Johnny Comes Marching Home," etc.
I spent the summer of 1873 and the following term as teacher in this school. One little bright-eyed girl, the youngest in the school, whose toes were always on the line and mind alert, was Katie Lee, now Mrs. Donovan, the much-loved and efficient teacher at the present time.
I would like to speak of each teacher I have had here and pay tribute to their worth and my classmates. They were a fun-loving lot, studious if they had to be, and would average well with pupils of the present time, I believe. (Mrs. Richardson says that a milk man that passed the school used to bring news of battles in the Civil war. She says that Frank Butler, Otis Goodspeed and Orton Moore volunteered and went to war).

Other numbers included: class in arithmetic; recitation by Frank E. Marsh; class in geography; song, "The Shanghi Rooster." Professor Roy E. Jones; State Agricultural college; song, "Little Maggie May," Mrs. Alice Greeley Hillman of St. Petersburg, Florida, Recitation, "Gumpus" by six old Gumpus pupils; song, "Beautiful Katie," in parody affectionately and appropriately dedicated to Mrs. Donovan; spelling match; health song by present pupils; poem, composed and read by Miss Helen Zolkos, in second year of high school at Pelham Centre as a tribute to her attendance at Gumpus; poem "A tribute to Our Teacher," written by Miss Mary Gage of this town for he teacher Sidney Howe - read by M. Ernest Jones.

Short history of the present schoolhouse was outlined by Ernest G. Sherburne, who stated that it was built in 1851, by the Gumpus district at a cost of $675 assessed plus small amounts obtained otherwise. Miss Fannie F. Clement gave an interesting talk on school affairs in general and others spoke also. The program closed all joining in singing "Aulde Lang Syne." Some of the older pupils present were Adolph S. Batchelder, Waltham, MA, winter class of 1863-4; Mrs. Julia Cutter Richardson, Dracut, attending 1856-67; Charles W. Spear, Pelham, graduated 1867; Frank Murray, Lowell, attending 1863-70; George W. Kelley, Hollis, NH, attending about 1872; Miss Lillian Winn, Nashua, attending until 1882; Mrs. Ida Seavey Gowing, Hudson, attending in the 1860s. Letters of regret were read from George E. Pearson of Manchester and from Mrs. Annette E. Burton of Lowell, 90 years of age, who remembers well the erection of this school house, stating that her father, David Butler, had charge of its construction.

The familiar names of Cutter, Jones, Butler, Greeley, Hillman, Marsh, Spaulding, Spear, Sherburne, Seavey, Coburn and Cloyd recently so prominent in affairs in this town, no longer grace the roll of attendance at this district school. However, about 125 names were registered today and nearly all of these old families were well represented, eagerly taking part in the program of the day. Souvenirs of the day - a small snap shot of the school house mounted and tied with ribbon - were donated by Miss Fannie F. Clement. The affair was sponsored by the Gumpus P.T.A., who selected Mrs. Catherine Donovan, chairman of a committee of arrangements, which included Otis W. Butler and Albert L. Jones of Lowell, Mrs. Emma (Coburn) Wiggin of Dracut, Miss Mary A. Cutter and Miss Bessie F. Jones of this town.

School District No. 1
No. 1 Schoolhouse is located on Windham Road, the schoolhouse now houses the American Legion.
School District No. 1 Schoolhouse is located on Windham Road, the schoolhouse now houses the American Legion.

School District No. 2
No. 2 Schoolhouse (Gumpus School) is located on Mammoth Road, south of Bush Hill Road.
School District No. 2 Schoolhouse (Gumpus School) is located on Mammoth Road, south of Bush Hill Road.

School District No. 3
No. 3 Schoolhouse is located on Mammoth Road, North of Nashua Road.
School District No. 3 Schoolhouse is located on Mammoth Road, North of Nashua Road.
Click here to see the 1848 Warrant for District No. 3. Each district had its own meetings. This is the warrant posted for the 1848 meeting.

School District No. 4
No. 4 Schoolhouse is located on Old Gage Hill Road North.
School District No. 4 Schoolhouse is located on Old Gage Hill Road North.

School District No. 5
No. 5 Schoolhouse is located on Currier Road.
School District No. 5 Schoolhouse is located on Currier Road. School District No. 5 Schoolhouse is located on Currier Road.

Junior High School
Pelham, NH Historical Junior High School

Ernest G. Sherburne School
The 1950 Addition to the Junior High School which was named Ernest G. Sherburne School in the same year.
Ernest G. Sherburne School The 1950 Addition to the Junior High School which was named Ernest G. Sherburne School in the same year.
E.G. Sherburne School was replaced with Pelham Elementary School.
The building formerly know as E.G. Sherburne School now houses the Pelham Town Hall and Pelham Police Department.

Pelham's Sherburne Hall: Rich in History
Article from Pelham-Windham News by Doug Robinson - 9/24/10

School Transportation

Pelham's first school bus. This photograph shows Thelma Carleton Boutwell driving an early bus with her son, Ralph Boutwell standing on the running board.

Pelham's first school bus.
This photograph shows Thelma Carleton Boutwell driving an early bus with her son, Ralph Boutwell standing on the running board.

The first yellow school bus in Pelham in the early 1940s. It was owned by Frederick E. Herbert.

The first yellow school bus in Pelham in the early 1940s. It was owned by Frederick E. Herbert.

Much of the information found in the Historical Town Sites section of this website was taken from the Reflections, A Pictorial History Of Pelham, New Hampshire 1746 - 1996, Published by The Pelham 250th Anniversary Committee, copyright 1998 and the Pelham 250th Anniversary Souvenir/Program Book, Published by The Pelham 250th Anniversary Committee, copyright 1996.  There are still copies of these books available at our On-Line Bookstore, as well as other historical books and records.

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