From Daniel T.V. Huntoon's 

History of The Town of Canton, Massachusetts (1893)



In May, 1719, it was voted by the town of Dorchester that 20 be added to the town rate for the keeping of a "Writing and reading school in the South Precinct, and the care of the school to be under the direction of the present selectmen."

In 1724 a committee was appointed by Dorchester and fully empowered to quit the town's right of purchase, and all their interest in the six thousand acres of land at Ponkapoag, to such of the inhabitants as they can agree with, one half the money to be given for the support of the school in the South Precinct. On the 16th of March Dorchester voted 25, to be paid out of the town's treasury, toward the keeping of a school in the South Precinct for the year ensuing, the place of keeping the school and the school-master to be determined upon by the selectmen.

In 1726 the dwellers in Ponkapoag had a reading ant! writing school; and the town of Dorchester granted them 20 to assist them in keeping ft. The children numbered about forty, and for want of a schoolhouse assembled at the house of Robert Redman. In 1760 the first schoolhouse at Ponkapoag of which we have any knowledge was built. The inhabitants hired a master upon their own responsibility, trusting to the precinct to allow them their share of the school money, which was done. This building was removed in 1799 to the Milton line, and converted to other purposes. On October 12 of the same year a new house was raised. This is still standing, but is now used as a dwelling-house, next north of the present schoolhouse.

In 1726 Isaac Royall, Nathaniel Hubbard, and William Crane were appointed by the town of Stoughton, soon after its incorporation, to ascertain what part of the income of the school farms lying within its limits, belonged to the town. The following year it was voted to raise 30 for the use of the schools.

In 1728 an article was inserted in the town warrant, "To consider and act upon the place or places where the town will have the school kept;" and in 1730, where said house shall be built; but nothing was done, and the school was "removed from place to place as formerly," until 1734, March 28, it was voted to build one schoolhouse, and that a tax of 20 be laid out erecting it. This schoolhouse was built on land owned by the town near the meeting-house. An article was subsequently inserted in the warrant to reconsider the vote, but it was unsuccessful. The building was erected under the charge of a committee consisting of Ensign Charles Wentworth, Lieut. William Billings, and Preserved Lyon, and completed in 1735. It was situated so near the meeting-house that in 1749 it was deemed expedient by the inhabitants to remove it "to prevent ye meeting house in ye first precinct being in-dangered by fire or otherwise;" and the precinct voted to remove the schoolhouse and provide land to set it on. This removal was from near the meeting-house, then standing, to what is now the Catholic Cemetery.

In 1765 this house was called "ye old School House," and five years later was deemed unfit for service, and sold. In 1771 a new building was erected on the land near the entrance to the Catholic Cemetery, on the westerly side of Randolph road, at or near the place where the old schoolhouse stood. It was a small red building. It is on the map of 1785, then called the grammar school; and Mr. Samuel Chandler, who attended it, said it was in his day the only school in town where grammar was taught. This building lasted until 1809, when there was raised, at the junction of the streets directly in the rear of the Eliot trough, the frame of the hip-roof building, where some of us made our first attempts to mount "the hill of science." The architect of this building was Samuel Carroll; but the work was done by Thomas Crane, the third of that name. This house in its turn, remodeled and removed a few rods farther south, answered its purpose until it was sold to James Draper and George Frederic Sumner, and moved to their factory, on the Deacon Everett homestead, Aug. 20, 1867.

In place of this schoolhouse was erected a two-story building, 30 by 14 feet, with a projection 20 by 14. The building was dedicated with appropriate ceremonies in June, 1867. This school has received from the committee the name of Eliot. On Jan. 5, 1882, the town voted to remove this building to a location near the hall of the First Congregational Parish.

In 1734 William Royall, then fresh from Harvard College, presented a petition to the General Court, in behalf of the town, that some of the province lands might be granted for the support and maintenance of the school.

On Sept. 29, 1740, it was voted that 60 be allowed for the school. The school was called a moving school, because it was kept first in one part of the town, then in another. This year the school was kept in York for the first time, and the next year at Curtis Corner, now East Stoughton. The division of the town into precincts required some change in the division of the school money; and ft was decided, in 1744, that each precinct should receive such proportion as it pays to the province in taxes. The following year the town was asked to build a schoolhouse for each of the second and third precincts, but decided not to do so.

In 1747 the division of the school lands in which Dorchester and Stoughton were interested, the farm commonly called Waldo's farm, situated near Bridgewater, was apportioned, Stoughton receiving ninety acres on the southerly end of the farm, being forty-four one hundredth and fifteenths of the whole. The reservation was made that in case iron ore was discovered in any part of the whole farm, it should be applied for the use of the schools in both the towns. The committee on the part of Stoughton consisted of William Royall, Benjamin Johnson, Silas Crane, and Simeon Stearns.

The ninety acres of land which had become Stoughton's share of the Waldo farm was wild and unimproved, and frequently trespassed upon; no income had been received from it, and the town had been at some expense on account of it. A committee, consisting of Joseph Hewins, Elkanah Billings, and Theophilus Curtis, was appointed in 1761 to petition the General Court for leave to sell it for the most it would bring, the money to be for the use of the schools in Stoughton forever, and not to be converted to any other use. The petition was granted, and the proceeds of the sale were 345.

In 1755 40 was appropriated for the use of the school, and it was decided to establish a school where grammar should be taught. This school was soon in operation at Canton Corner under the charge of William Royall, and was continued for some years, but subsequently became a "moving" grammar school.

In 1758 the town voted that 50 be appropriated for the schools, and the selectmen divided the money as follows: to the first precinct, 20 16s. 6d.; to the second, 17 4s. 8 d.; to the third, 11 18s. 10d.

In 1759 the town refused to build a schoolhouse in the third precinct, but allowed the inhabitants of that precinct what they had paid toward building the schoolhouse in the first precinct, to enable them to build one themselves.

On April 24, 1761, a petition was presented to the town at May meeting to divide the school money so that the following "parts" shall receive their proportion; namely, first, all on the north side of "Poncapog" brook; second, all on the east side of Fenno's causeway to the precinct line of the third precinct; third, the part beginning at Lieut. William Billings "ye 2d," from thence to Mr. Nathaniel Leonard's, and all on the westerly side of "Mashapog" brook to the precinct lines.

In 1761 the town was presented before the court of General Sessions for not maintaining a grammar school for two years, it was fined 40, and borrowed the money of Seth Puffer. The town was again indicted in 1784 for not keeping a school. The grammar school was kept by Elijah Dunbar. He began to teach in Canton in 1760, and taught with greater or less regularity until the close of the century. In 1766 he began, on the 25th of November, at Ingraham's Corner, and continued until Jan. 3, 1767, boarding at Seth Pierce's. On January 5 the school was begun at York, where Mr. Dunbar taught four weeks, boarding at Samuel Tucker's, On February 4 he went to Curtis's Corner, now East Stoughton, and taught four weeks. March 9 he taught the Corner school, and continued fourteen weeks. He then went to Ponkapoag, and taught the Blue Hill Branch, beginning on July 6, six weeks. September 7 he went to Stoughton Village, and taught until Jan. 4, 1768, boarding at Mr. Capen's; then at Dry Pond three weeks, where he boarded with Mr. Aaron Gay. He seems to have boarded at one place in all the districts except when at Ponkapoag. Here the custom of "boarding round" prevailed: and the manner in which lie was disposed of in the month of August has been preserved :

"August 1. Dine at Col Doty's ; sup and lodge there. 3. Board at Kenney's. 4. Dine at David Lyons. 5. Dine at Mr. Crane's. 7. Lodge at Sam Davenports. 8. Dine at John Davenports, 10. Lodge at Col Doty's with Daniel Leonard. 12. Drink tea at Mr. Stone's. 15. Dine at Ben Bussey's. 24. Fine fiddling at Mr. Crane's. 25. Dine at, Mr. Spares, 26. Dine at Robert Redmans. 27. Dine at Jo Billings'; lodge at Mr. Davenports. 28. Dine at Col Doty's; tea at Mr. Redmans; singing. 29. Finish school at Blue Hills. 31. Singing meeting at George Blackmans."

In 1767 the report of the committee appointed to consult and find out proper places for two schoolhouses in the first, and one in the second precinct, was not accepted by the town. But the following year the town thought better of it, and granted money to the Canton Centre Branch to erect a schoolhouse, and also voted to appropriate 20 of the school money to build a schoolhouse in the second precinct. Jonathan Capen gave the land for the building, which stood on the corner near the residence of James Atherton, in Stoughton. In 1795 the building was purchased by Samuel Osgood for 10 10s. He placed it as an addition to his house, and it so remains at this writing, being the property of Thomas Swan and others.

In 1772 the inhabitants living south of the present Sherman schoolhouse to the precinct line desired to have their money lor school purposes separate. They were Joseph Esty, Eleazar May, Jr., Theodore May, Mather Withington, Bailey Withington, Abijah Upham, Samuel Morse, Eliakim Pitcher, John Clark, Reuben Hayward, Rufus Hayward, Ephraim Smith, Moses and Aaron Wentworth. In 1778 there were sixty children between the Stoughton line and the poor-farm. In 1796 the first schoolhouse was erected in what was at first the Ragged Row Branch, afterward District No. 5. The present building was erected in 1853, and has been named, in Junior of its location near the early home of Roger Sherman, the Sherman School.

In 1760 the inhabitants on the southeasterly side of Fenno's Causeway, including the Farms, York, and Indian Lane, were allowed what they had paid of the sum that was raised in the precinct for the use of schools. Their schoolhouse was used until 1797. It was in this schoolhouse that John Sherman taught in 1794 and 1795. He was the son of Roger, and is said to have been a captain in the Revolutionary War. He married Nancy, daughter of Joseph and Mary (Dana) Tucker, of Milton, and died Aug. 7, 1802. She was born Sept 22, 1762, and died Dec 7, 1858, aged ninety-seven years. She resided for many years on the corner of Washington and Sassamon streets. She was in receipt of a pension for her husband's services in the war. Both are buried in the Canton Cemetery.

The town voted to join with Dorchester in selling the school land in Wrentham; and on July 4, 1771, the General Court empowered the town of Stoughton to sell the eight hundred acres of land which had been laid out and appropriated in 1657, the money to be applied for the benefit of free schools in Dorchester, Stoughton, and Stoughtonham. On the 5th of November, 1772, the land was sold to Dr. Timothy Stevens for the sum of 284 13s. 4d., Dorchester receiving 175 15s., and Stoughton 108 18s. 4d.; the bond for the latter sum was deposited in the hands of the town treasurer by the committee, - Benjamin Gill, Elijah Dunbar, and Thomas Crane. In one week Stevens sold five sixths of it for more than three times the amount paid for the whole.

When White's farm was sold in 1791, and the sum of  371 8s. 7d. was received, of which 371 8s. 7d. belonged to our town, it would appear that this money was diverted from the original educational purposes for which it was designed, as the following vote of the town shows;

" In ye present embarrassed situation of ye town,  it is judged expedient for ye town to make use of ye school money to pay their debts, on interest; but at the same time it is hereby declared that ye town will by no means alienate ye fund, but will again raise and refund ye money, which shall be applied to ye use of ye schools, agreeable to ye design of ye donor."

In 1790 the modern "school committee" was foreshadowed when this year the town appointed Hon. Elijah Dunbar, Peter Adams, Esq., Mr. Joseph Bemis, George Crosman, Esq., and Capt. Samuel Talbot, a committee to join with the selectmen and ministers in visiting the schools.

In 1794 a committee of sixteen was chosen to confer on some method for the more equal distribution of learning; and shortly afterward sixteen more gentlemen were added to the committee, and their report was ordered to be posted up in public places in order that the inhabitants of the town might all read and understand it. 140 was voted this year for schools; and a committee of three in each branch was chosen to consult as to the manner of building school-houses, in order that they might all be built on a similar plan. The following were the branches, or districts, which were recommended by the committee on schooling: in the First Parish, six brandies; namely:

"Blue Hill to remain as usual, i. e. all north-east of Ponkapoag Brook; York, to take all above the causeway by D. Tucker's, and to include Philip Whiting, Amariah Oliver, and Seth Wentworth. Upham's, to take from John Morse's to Esq. Crosman's brook, all to ye Southard; Bailey's, to take in all West of Ponkapoag Brook, Israel Bailey, Nathaniel Shepard, and John Taunt to be ye southerly bounds; Centre, to take all north of Pequit Brook and to Ponkapoag Brook, and then to extend to ye bounds of ye other branches."

The following gentlemen were chosen a committee of the several branches:-

Centre, First Parish, Elijah Dunbar, Esq., Nathaniel Fisher, Capt. Wm. Bent; Blue Hill, Col. Nathan Crane, Redman Spurr, Capt. Abner Crane; Ingraham's, Elijah Crane, Jacob Shepard, James Endicott, Esq.; Upham's, Col. B. Gill, Lieut. Sam. Capen, Capt. Nathan Gill; Bailey's, Henry Bailey, Lieut. Edw. Downes, Capt. George Jordan; York, Deacon Benj. Tucker, Capt. John Tucker, Lieut. Elisha Hawes

In 1797, the districts were designated as follows:-

No. 1, Centre Branch; No. 2, Blue Hill Branch; No. 3, Ingraham's Branch; No. 4, York Branch; No. 5, Ragged Row Branch; No. 6, Bailey's Branch. In 1814 the names remained the same except the districts were numbered.

The residents at Packeen petitioned in 1774 for a separate school; and in 1783 those composing the neighborhood again desired to be set off. They consisted of the families of the following persons: Henry Crane, Richard Bailey, Preserved Lyon, Joseph, Joseph, Jr., and John Aspinwall, Roger and Isaac Billings, Israel Bailey, William Crane, 2d, Joseph Thompson, John and Levi Taunt, Mary Spurr, and Ezekiel Fisher.

This school, known as Bailey's Branch, or No. 6, but commonly called the Packeen School, was situated in Pecunit valley, almost upon the margin of Pecunit Brook, in that part of Canton now called Packeen. The school was in operation about 1796, and continued till 1832. The children were then distributed between Canton Centre and Ponkapoag. The original building is said to have been disposed of by the prudential committee for two pairs of boots. It was built by Henry Withington in 1806; and about 1838 it was moved to the Centre, and was for many years a woodshed attached to the house of the late James Draper.

The distinguished mathematician, Warren Colburn, who was born March 1, 1793, and died at Lowell, Sept. 13, 1833, taught school in Canton in 1818. He had previously learned to weave of Captain Williams, a Norwegian, who lived here in 1811. Colburn was taxed here in 1812. He married one of his pupils, Miss Temperance C. Horton.

In 1822 the town chose the following committee to go with the ministers and selectmen of the town to examine the several schools according to law; Thomas Tolman, Thomas French, Adam Kinsley, Charles Tucker, Ezra Dickerman, and Abel Farrington; in 1823 Thomas French, Joseph Downes, Elijah Endicott, Simeon Tucker, Samuel Chandler, and Samuel Taunt; in 1824 Thomas Tolman, Joel Lewis, Elisha Crane, Jeremiah Tucker, Samuel Chandler, and Samuel Taunt.

Two years after, May 1, 1826, it was voted that the school committee consist of a chairman, who should be chosen at large, and six others, one from each school district; and Deacon Ezra Tilden, Thomas French, Simeon Tucker, Zachariah Tucker, John Gay, and Samuel Taunt, were chosen, with Rev. Benjamin Huntoon as chairman. Six hundred dollars was raised for schools, and fifty dollars for the purchase of books. This year it was voted to discontinue grammar-schools for instruction in the Latin and Greek languages.

In 1826 a law was passed obliging towns to choose a school committee; and the following-year a statute allowing the districts to elect prudential committees, with power to contract with teachers, took the matter of selection out of the hands of the town committee, leaving it a veto-power rarely used.

Nov. 20, 1826, a new district was established; and in 1827 a schoolhouse was erected at a cost of six hundred dollars, in that part of the town which has been designated as the Stone Factory and No. 6. It was intended to place the schoolhouse on the lot where the chapel stands; but the Manufacturing Company offered to give the land at the junction of Neponset and Chapman streets. An addition was made to the original house on the southerly side, and in time a second story added.

The school kept at the corner of Chapman and Neponset streets is now called the Revere School, in honor of Paul Revere, who resided in this town from 1801 to 1818. The original building, though many times transformed, still remains.

In 1830 books were delivered free to the children of parents unable to pay for them. In 1835 Thomas French and Thomas Tolman, in 1836 Rev. Erastus Dickerman, and in 1837 Asaph Merriam visited the schools. Henry D. Thoreau taught school in Canton during his college vacation in 1835, but with poor success. The same year Mr. William F. Temple drafted a plan for a new division of the town into school districts.

In 1839 the whole number of scholars was, in summer, 386; in winter, 454. There were many absentees, and the committee deeply regretted the fact "that moral and religious instruction has been almost entirely neglected, seemingly by common consent." Asaph Merriam and Ezra Abbot, M. D., were school committee this year. Mr. Ezekiel Capen taught a school for the instruction of youth in Greek and Latin in the old Town-House. He was born in Sharon, January, 1818, and died at Canton, April 5, 1872. He fitted for college at Milton Academy, but never finished his course at Brown University. From 1849 to the day of his death, with the exception of three years, he was a member of the school board. Upon the occasion of his death the school committee passed resolutions expressing "feelings of gratitude for his character and worth as a citizen, an educator, and a man;" and the members of the religious denomination of which he was a zealous member have placed a mural tablet in the Baptist meetinghouse, where it appears he was "for many years its wisest counsellor and most liberal benefactor."

In 1840 the committee reported the condition of the schools as "truly deplorable." The schoolhouse in Ponkapoag was "a disgrace to any civilized community," sixty or seventy children being crowded into a little, low, dirty room that could not supply good air or accommodation to half that number. The seats in the schoolhouse at Canton Centre, especially for the little ones, "could not be made more uncomfortable or more injurious to the health of those who occupy them." The committee consisted of Rev. W. H. Knapp and Levi Littlefield. Twelve hundred dollars was appropriated for the support of schools. The number of schools was seven, designated as follows; Centre, Blue Hill, Forge, York, Chandler, Factory, and Hardware.

In 1841 the committee congratulated themselves that obstacles of which former committees had complained - inconvenient schoolhouses, a multiplicity and variety of textbooks, absence and tardiness of pupils, deficiency in the qualifications of teachers, lack of interest of parents - were less than in former years. The first printed school report appeared in 1841-42, Charles O. Kimball and Levi Littlefield, committee.

In 1842 the committee reported that Canton stood ninety-fifth in the list of 307 towns which had made liberal appropriations for the support of common schools in the State. "It is said by those who are competent to judge, that our schools were never in a better state. . . . The locality of our town, its proximity to the city, the abundant and easy modes of conveyance by means of the railroad, and various other advantages render it, in the opinion of the committee, peculiarly desirable that our means of literary and moral improvement should be multiplied to the extent of their capabilities" Charles O. Kimball and Thomas French were the superintending committee.

In 1843 Ellis Ames and James Dunbar were school committee. Mr. Ames appeared to be fastidious in regard to reading, as in his report he wrote of the reading as "bad." Mr. Ames had taught school at Ponkapoag in 1827. The money appropriated was fourteen hundred dollars.

The committee of 1843 were satisfied that the schools had been respectable. The reading, however, "was so indistinct and devoid of energy, emphasis, or animation" that the committee could not keep the thread of the story; in some schools the reading was "bad beyond description."

In 1844 the committee determined that the literary and moral qualifications of teachers should be such as the law required. They therefore organized themselves into a Board of Examination. They recommended that more money be raised by the town, the raising of money by districts having been attended with much perplexity and expense of time in soliciting and collecting subscriptions; also the committee believed that the system worked unequally, throwing the burden upon a few individuals, and did not insure a general attendance of the children of the districts. The committee were Benjamin Huntoon, Abraham Norwood, and Leonard Everett.

In 1847 Canton stood number seventy-one in the State average of schools, and fourteen, among the twenty-one towns of Norfolk County. The committee were Benjamin Huntoon, William B. Hammond, and Timothy C. Tingley, all clergymen.

In 1854 the present schoolhouse, which accommodates the children living between the village of Canton and the Sharon line, was erected. The Hardware, as this portion of the town is sometimes called, had been a part of District No. 3, but in 1835 it was set off as a separate district by itself, and a new schoolhouse was erected, and designated as No. 7. Oct. 2, 1854, in view of the fact that Gen. Richard Gridley had lived, died, and been buried in the vicinity, the name Gridley School was placed on the front of the building.

We cannot fix the date of the erection of the first school-house in what is now South Canton. It stood opposite the entrance to Walnut Street, and was 13 by 13 feet. It was in good condition in 1766, when Elijah Dunbar taught in it. It was superseded by a new one in 1796, which was situated near the corner of Washington and Neponset streets. It was commonly known as Ingraham's Branch, from the fact that it was situated near the house of Jeremiah Ingraham. In 1826 it had outgrown its usefulness, and was removed to the site of the Universalist meeting-house, converted into a tenement-house, and subsequently burned. The stone house at Ingraham's Corner, now occupied by Fuller Brothers as a store, was erected in 1827, and until purchased by the Neponset Bank Corporation, in 1836, was used as a schoolhouse. It was built of stone at the solicitation of General Crane, who agreed to pay the difference between the cost of a wooden and a stone house. The district then erected, about 1837, a one-story building on the site of Peter Crane's house, the later having been removed to the Revere Copper Yard. This schoolhouse was raised, in 1846, from one story to two stories, and was used as a repository for the equipments of the militia after the destruction of the old Armory.

The present school building in District No. 3 was dedicated April 18, 1854. This house, when built, was declared to be a building "which in beauty of architecture, completeness of design and adaptation, is unequalled." The land on which . it stands had been owned and occupied by Major-Gen. Elijah Crane; for which reason the committee named the school very appropriately the Crane School.

In 1856 the committee decided to appoint a superintendent of schools. Mr. Samuel Bradley Noyes, who had for twelve years been a teacher or committee-man, was the first superintendent; he served in that office during the years1861-63, 1868-70. J. Mason Everett succeeded Mr. Noyes as superintendent in 1859; Ezekiel Capen succeeded Mr. Noyes in 1864. In 1866 and 1867 Daniel T. V. Huntoon was superintendent, and again in 1871; Thomas E. Grover in 1872-73; Frederic Endicott from 1874 to 1878; George I. Aldrich from 1879 to 1883; George W. Capen, 1883.

The map of Canton, published in 1855, has the boundary lines of the school districts distinctly traced.

In 1858, a committee chosen at the March meeting recommended that the town choose a school committee of one from each school district, and two at large. This plan was adopted, and the school committee has been so constituted ever since.

In 1858, a petition for a high school was presented by Nathaniel Dunbar, Virgil J. Messinger, and others, and from this time forward, the establishment of a high school was urged in all school reports until May 4, 1866, when the first examination for admission took place in the Crane school-house. In 1869 it was placed in the building especially erected for it, at a cost of $10,000, after much controversy as to its location. In r868 the district system was abolished; and in 1870 the town took possession of the schoolhouses at an appraisal of $27,000. In 1871 evening schools were established, and for a few years were well patronized. In 1878 the salary of the superintendent was raised from five hundred to thirteen hundred dollars. The following gentlemen have been principals of the High School: Henry B. Miner, 1866-69; John F. Casey, 1869-73; Frank M. Wilkins, 1874-76; Clarence H. Berry, 1876-80; Frederic L. Owen, 1881 -18--.


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