Fall 2004


Schooling in Ashfield, Early Days

A Nineteenth-Century Teacher

Genealogy at the AHS

Excerpts from the Annual Meeting

Now Available at the Museum Store

Mystery Photo!


The Ashfield School Room, a new exhibit room at the Museum, will be open for viewing beginning the weekend of October 9 and 10 during Fall Festival from 10 AM to 3 PM.

joanne.jpg Artifacts and other memorabilia from the Ashfield schools will be on permanent display in this room. We thank the volunteers who helped paint this room and set up the display. Donations from individuals and from the Sanderson Academy Alumni Association have made this room possible.



Researched by Alden Gray

In 1642 the governing body of the Massachusetts Bay Colony promoted literacy at an early age by passing a law requiring parents and masters to educate their children. Their purpose was to ensure that the next generation could read the Bible and obey the laws of the colony. Five years later they passed a second law known as The Old Deluder Act of 1647 (from Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in New England (1853), II: 203):

It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures, as in former times by keeping them in an unknown tongue [Latin or Greek], so in these latter times by persuading from the use of tongues, so that at least the true sense and meaning of the original might be clouded and corrupted with false glosses of saint-seeming deceivers; and to the end that learning may not be buried in the grave of our forefathers, in church and commonwealth, the Lord assisting our endeavors.

It is therefore ordered that every township in this jurisdiction, after the Lord hath increased them to fifty households shall forthwith appoint one within their town to teach all such children as shall resort to him to write and read, whose wages shall be paid either by the parents or masters of such children, or by the inhabitants in general, by way of supply, as the major part of those that order the prudentials of the town shall appoint; provided those that send their children be not oppressed by paying much more than they can have them taught for in other towns.

And it is further ordered, that when any town shall increase to the number of one hundred families or householders, they shall set up a grammar school, the master thereof being able to instruct youth so far as they may be fitted for the university [Harvard, founded in 1636], provided that if any town neglect the performance hereof above one year that every such town shall pay 5 pounds to the next school till they shall perform this order.

The royal charters for the Massachusetts Bay Colony, New Plymouth Colony, and the territories of Maine and Nova Scotia were cancelled in 1692. These colonies and territories were reincorporated into a single Province of Massachusetts Bay. A new set of laws were written. (Section 5, Chapter 26):

That every town within this province, having the number of 50 householders or upwards, shall be constantly provided of a school master to teach children and youth to read and write. And where any town or towns have the number of one hundred families or housholders (sic), there shall also be a grammar school set up in every such town, and some discreet person of good conversation, well instructed in the tongues, procured to keep such school. Every such school-master be suitable encouraged and paid by the inhabitants. And the select men and inhabitants of such town, respectively, shall take effectual care and make due provision for the settlement and maintenance of such school-master and masters. And if any town, qualified as before exprest, shall neglect the due observance of this act, for the procuring and settling of any such school-master as aforesaid, by the space of one year, every such defective town shall incur the penalty of ten pounds for every conviction of such neglect, upon complaint made unto their majesties' justices in quarter sessions, for the same county in which such defective town lieth; which penalty shall be toward the support of such school or schools within the same county, where there be most need at the discretion of the justices in quarter sessions, to be levied by warrant from the said court of sessions in proportion upon the inhabitants of such defective town as other publick charges, and to be paid unto the county treasurer.

Where was the First School Located?

The original Proprietors' Records for Huntstown (later Ashfield) state that it was voted before the first drawing of lots on 24 July 1739 to reserve Lot #24 and #55 for the minister and ministry respectively and Lot #54 (in the area of what would be about 200 Main Street) for a school. Later Lot #1 in the second division was reserved for a school. (This lot was in the area of what would be about 2000 Conway Road). At the first recorded Ashfield town meeting in 1766 the town voted £4 for the use of the school. Was there a school building in Ashfield in 1766? How was the £4 spent?

(Sources: Reports found in the Ashfield Town Hall and Ashfield Historical Society archives; F. G. Howes, History of Ashfield 1742 – 1910, p. 175.)

A Few Comments from Early School Committee Reports:

By 1855 each district in Ashfield owned its own school. A "Prudential Committee Man," mandated by state law, was in charge of providing the materials necessary for running the school. The school committee made visits, critiqued teachers, and wrote reports. Teachers lucky enough to have pupils who read without moving their lips got the highest praise. By 1869 the town, not the districts, owned the schools. There was concern about unequal education among the district schools as it cost about $18 per student to educate 6 students, but with 35 students the cost per student dropped to $6.

The 1875 report began, "A hopeful feature of the present outlook is a vague feeling of dissatisfaction with our schools..." In 1890 it was noted that a "new" South Ashfield school opened on Oct. 7th, thus closing both the "old" South Ashfield School and the Round School. Where was the "old" South Ashfield School located?

Also noted in the 1890 report: "There will be an examination of pupils for admission [from the lower schools] to the High School...pupils must show a proficiency in reading, writing and spelling, must have completed the Language Lessons and Common School Geography ... arithmetic as far as Ratio and Proportion ...a good knowledge of the parts of speech...and parse simple sentences...we would recommend that pupils remain in the common school until they are more advanced. The higher school should increase the efficiency of the lower, rather than lessen its work."

(Source: Annual School Committee reports found in the Ashfield Historical Society archives.)

For more on Ashfield Schools, see also Howes, History of Ashfield, Chapt. 10; "Supplement," Greenfield Recorder-Gazette, 25 June 1965 and Greenfield Recorder, 10 June 1967.

Catalogue of Sanderson Academy, 1829 – an excerpt

"It is believed that there are few villages in which the temptation to vice are less than in this, and the moral character of the students is under the watchful care of the Trustees and Instructor. The following are among the books recommended to be used in this Institution."

Adam's Latin Grammar; Goodrich's Greek Grammar; Latin Reader; Greek Reader; Greenleaf's Grammar; Colburn's First Lessons; Colburn's Sequel; Smith's Arithmetic; Woodbridge and Willard's Geography; Worcestor's History with Charts; Goodrich's History of the United States; Newman's Rhetoric; Hedge's Logic; Historical and Descriptive Lessons; Porter's Analysis.

Officers of the Corporation. Hon. Elijah Paine, President; Enos Smith, Esq., Vice-President; Rev. Thomas Shepard, Secretary; Mr. Asa Sanderson, Treasurer; Thomas White, Esq., Auditor; Robert A. Coffin, Instructor. Trustees: Hon. Elijah Paine; Ephraim Williams, Esq.; Enos Smith, Esq., Hon. Thomas Longley, Thomas White, Esq.; Rev. Moses Miller; Rev. Thomas Shepard; Mr. Asa Sanderson; Dea. Samuel Bement; Dimick Ellis, Esq.; Gen. Asa Howland; Dr. Atherton Clark.

(Source: Ashfield Historical Society archives – School Room Exhibit.)

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Lydia Hall

Miss Lydia Hall, age 30.

The following article was published in the Gazette and Courier, Greenfield, Mass., April 20, 1901, titled in part: Sketch of the Remarkable Work of Mrs. Lydia Hall Miles:

There are several persons living in town who have been in service as teachers for over 25 years. Mrs. Marietta Packard Coleman and Mrs. Eliza Packard Coleman were popular teachers in town 50 years ago. F. G. Howes was on the list of teachers for many years, also 40 years on the school board. Mrs. Amelia Dole Ford, the present assistant at the academy, has been in almost continuous service as a teacher in this town for over 25 years. But the real veteran who has taught the largest number of terms and had the most pupils under her charge is Mrs. Lydia Hall Miles, now 84 years of age, who began teaching in 1836, when she was 19, and taught until she was 57, about the time of her marriage with Mr. [Seth] Miles…. In her early teaching the common wages of a teacher were $1.25 a week and "board round." Frequently the boarding places were over a mile distant and the teacher seldom carried. In the blank space of the register where the value of board was to be given.

Miss Hall wrote, "The trouble of going after it."

Notwithstanding the small wages received by Miss Hall and her sister [Clarissa Hall] each laid by quite a competence from their earnings. Miss Hall was mild but firm in her discipline, an earnest but progressive teacher.

She carefully investigated the new educational methods as they appeared and adopted such as seemed real improvements, which she could use readily. She was a close student, and in the evening made special preparations for the next day's classes, even if she was familiar with the subject and branches taught.

The result of her earnest and faithful labors told on her pupils. One of our most intelligent and influential citizens who died several years since, used to say that about all the school education he ever received came from Aunt Lydia Hall. Her sister Clarissa, who died two years since at the age of 84, also had over 30 years of service as a teacher…. Mrs. Miles is the aunt to President G. Stanley Hall of Clark University and takes a great interest in his as well as in the other pedagogical theories of the day."

(Source: Ashfield Historical Society archives.)

Lydia Hall Miles attended the Steady Lane school, went to the Franklin School in Shelburne Falls for two terms (1835-1836) and then went for one term to the first Sanderson Academy in Ashfield located on Main Street. She taught in Shelburne Falls, Sanderson Academy, and the Ashfield district schools in Wardville, South Ashfield (Round School), the Village School [Plain], New Boston [Watson], Spruce Corner, and Steady Lane. After the death of her husband in 1890 she lived with her brother, Oliver Hall, at Snake Rock Farm in Steady Lane. She was the last survivor of her nine siblings, dying in 1909 at the age of 92. She is buried next to her husband, near her parents and many of her siblings in Hill Cemetery.

(For more on Lydia Hall Miles see Frederick G. Howes, History of the Town of Ashfield 1742– 1910, pp. 335-345, 348.)

A Teaching Certificate

Ashfield May 4th 1812

I do hereby certify that Miss Lydia Gray of this town is in my opinion duly qualified to instruct a common summer school. And as such I do cheerfully recommend her to those people in this town who may see fit to entrust the education of their children with her.

Alvan Sanderson,

Pastor of Cong. Chh in sd town.

(Source: Gray Family files. There are other teaching certificates in the archives of AHS.)
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If you are researching an Ashfield ancestor, Nancy Gray Garvin (413-625-6234) is willing to help you find sources. Currently she is finishing up a project with Carol Booker, an Ashfield genealogist, and Kate Spencer, photographer, reading and recording gravestones in Ashfield.

We encourage you to donate a copy of your family history with your sources to the Ashfield Historical Society. Recently we received a copy of the research done by Mary Casey of Edgewater, Florida on her ancestor "John King, Sr. of Braintree, Bridgewater and Ashfield, Massachusetts."

Karen Nilson has been researching her ancestor, Sarah Payne/Paine, daughter of Joseph Ruggles Payne. Sarah was born in Braintree, was married in Ashfield to Simeon King, and died in New York State. You can view Karen's research here.

And if you should receive our help in tracking down your ancestors, please remember that your donations are always welcome. Simply mail them to the Historical Society Treasurer at the museum address.

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Due to my limited schedule this year, I find the best use of my time is to schedule appointments for research purposes. This allows me to get materials together before the appointment; I have found that people are more apt to make a contribution.

In March I gave a talk at the South Ashfield Library using Les Guilford's oral history. In August I prepared a program for the Bassett family.

The Ashfield School Room on the second floor will be open for Fall Festival. We are in the process of arranging the materials.

David Gracie and Steve Wagner from Hadley have spent a great deal of time at the museum this summer. Steve has cleaned the guns, swords and leather items in our collection. David is doing research on our collection of Ashfield pottery.

I extend my thanks to the volunteers and Board members who work so hard to keep the Ashfield Historical Society up and running.

Visitors are amazed at our collection and the condition of our museum. We need to be aware always of what we have and the importance of maintaining it for future generations. To schedule an appointment, call the Curator at 628-3900.

- Grace Lesure, Curator


AHS is blessed with volunteers who devote much time to the Museum and a membership that continues to provide the needed financial support to keep us solvent so we can preserve the artifacts and memorabilia in this museum

I have produced calendars this year for both the towns of Colrain and Buckland from our Howes' Brothers collection this year, as well as the AHS 2005 calendar.

And I have produced "thumbnail" pictures from our collection in a brochure and introduced them to historical societies in the surrounding towns. Owners of houses pictured in the brochure can order digital prints from AHS at a modest price. For more information on these brochures or on purchasing a digital print, call 628-3383.

    - Dr. Norman B. Pike, President


President …………………Norman B. Pike

Vice-President……………Alden Gray

Secretary………………… Seth Cranston

Treasurer………………… Marilyn Bobetsky


  • Nancy Gray Garvin
  • Kimball Howes
  • Barbara Maloney
  • Tamsen Merrill
  • Joanne Ostrowski

We need up to four more trustees! Please call Norman Pike at 638-3383 if you are willing to volunteer!


Renewal Reminders mailed ....……….. 151

Renewals Returned .................……….. 91

Did you forget to renew your AHS membership for 2004? Or do you wish to renew early for 2005 and save us postage? We need your support. Please use the form printed on the last page to renew your membership for 2004 and /or 2005.


  • FIND NEWSLETTER MATERIALS– We invite AHS members to submit ideas or articles to be considered for publication in future editions of this newsletter. The only requirements are that the article must be succinct (or it may be edited), relate to Ashfield history, and include the sources from which the information came. Photos are welcome. Call Nancy Gray Garvin at 625-6234.
  • SERVE AS A FALL FESTIVAL GUIDE – We need people to donate a few hours of their time on either Oct. 9 or Oct. 10 to assist our curator during Fall Festival. It's a good way to learn about our collection, stay in out of the weather and enjoy some fellowship.
  • VOLUNTEER FOR A FOCUS GROUP – We have reorganized into focus groups in order to make the best use of our Board and Curator's limited time and still fulfill the purpose of the Ashfield Historical Society. Meetings, if needed, will be limited to the amount of time it takes to accomplish the purpose of a specific group. We need members of AHS to volunteer to help in one of the following areas:

  • -Ashfield History, Volume III
    -Building Maintenance
    -Website, Publicity
    -Museum Programs

Please call Joanne Ostrowski at 628-3835 to volunteer.


Some of the classes are not represented in our photo gallery of Sanderson Academy graduates. If you have a photo of any of the following classes, it would help complete our wall of photos. The missing classes are: 1894, 1897, 1902, 1903, 1919, 1927, 1929, 1932, 1945, 1946, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957. If you do not want to part with your photo, we can make an instant digital reproduction of it. Call Grace Lesure at 628-3900, or Dr. Norman Pike at 628-3383, if you can help


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Our third annual calendar is ready and will be available for $10 at the Museum Store during Fall Festival, at Neighbor's and at Ashfield Hardware. The 2005 calendar features photographs of Ashfield found in the personal album of George Howes, one of the Howes' Brothers photographers. This album is in the AHS archives.

COOKBOOK: Besides the AHS 2005 Calendar we have a new publicaton for sale. The Pudding Hollow Cookbook, written by Tinky "Dakota" Weisblat, has many paintings and sketches of western Massachusetts by folk artist Judith Russell. "A Tribute to a New England community that is small in population but big in flavor." Visit us during Fall Festival and get your copy. It is a delightful book and makes a great gift for someone!

EBAY: Ashfield Historical Society publications are now available on ebay as well as at the Museum store. You can access them on ebay at:


We recently installed a much needed answer machine at the AHS Museum with a directory of people to call when the Museum is not open. Call 413-628-4541 to access this telephone directory.

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Mystery Photo

This Howes' Brothers photo was taken between 1882 and 1907. We do not know who these ballplayers are. If you recognize them, and/or can date the uniforms, please call Norman Pike at 628-3383.

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