District #5 School, East Washington, N.H.

Bob LaPree/Union Leader

The Washington Historical Society owns and maintains the District #5 School, an 1849 one room schoolhouse in East Washington, New Hampshire. The school is open for vistors every Saturday during July and August from 1-3 PM.

Read the March 9th, 2000 Union Leader article by John Clayton about the school.

From a handout available at the school:

In the late 1790's, the town was divided into school districts. At the most, there were 10 school districts. Each district was responsible for the running of their school. Students in that district would attend their own school. In 1825, there were 371 students in the 10 school districts, while in 1848 there were 256 scholars.

This district was known as School District #5. In 1817, $200 was raised to build a school house. It was a log school and was located across the road from the one now standing.

The current school was built in 1849. In 1851, the State Board of education cited it as a ``model school house''. This school was larger than any other, except for the Center School in Washington Center (now the Police Station). In 1878, there was an average of 42 students in each of the three terms and a total school year of 30 weeks. not much money available to buy extras, so in 1869, the students and teachers earned money to buy a clock (still on the wall), table, chair and five reference books. In 1883, the teacher and students presented an elegant copy of Webster's Unabridged dictionary which stands by the teacher's desk, showing much usage. During the 1890's, the building was extensively repaired and new desks were installed.

There are two coat-rooms, one on each side of the building. The one on the right was for the girls, the one on the left for the boys. Boys entered the classroom by the left door, and the girls on the right. The bathroom facilities and woodshed are in a separate building. The boys bathroom is on the left, the girls on the right with the woodshed in the middle. In the winter, it was the rule that when a student went out to the outhouse, they must bring back in a piece of wood for the fire.

A wood stove was the only means of heat and was usually in the center of the room. Water was brought for drinking from the Fletcher place for the day. A bucket with a common dipper was used. Later, the State of New Hampshire demanded a more sanitary method and the water jug was used. There has never been electricity in the building. Lamps (probably oil) were suspended from the ceiling for use on dark days. The windows on the east side of the building were added in the 1920's.

There were at least two, and sometimes three terms per year. Each term lasted eight to ten weeks. A teacher was hired for the term, so in some cases, there would be three teachers in one year. If there were not enough students, the school would be closed for that term.

A committee of five persons living in the district were elected to supervise the schools. This committee hired the teachers, provided for the teachers room and board, repaired the school house, provided fuel and care of the school, furnished school books to needy children and provided money that was not paid by the town. These inspectors were to visit the school during the first and last weeks of the term as a group. Then each inspector was assigned a week to inspect the school and see that all was going well.

Bob LaPree/Union Leader

Teachers were boarded in the neighborhood. Some moved from family to family during the term, and some stayed with one family. This was considered part of their pay.

Teachers were usually female and unmarried. Male teachers were paid more than female teachers for the same work. In 1878, men teachers earned about $30 per month and women teachers earned $20 per month. Most of them were untrained as teachers except for a year or so in high school. There were at least two teachers in town who started teaching when they were 14 years old. This meant that some of them were younger than their students, who ranged in age from 4 to 17 years old. Classes were small and ungraded and books were often "hand-me downs".

In 1885, the state legislature enacted a new law, that each town would be a single school district and be responsible for the education of all students. A School Board would be elected by town vote. This helped to give each student an equal education. Some of the schools would be closed down and transportation provided for students to addend another school.

Some of the rules or by-laws were:

  1. School hours will be 9 AM to noon and 1 to 4 PM in the winter term and 2 to 5 PM in the summer term (6 hours per day).
  2. There will be no Saturday afternoon classes.
  3. Each child will have an assigned seat.
  4. The teacher shall punish students who break the rules.
  5. When the teacher approaches the school house, each student will go into the school, take his seat, and rise when the teacher enters the school room and not leave his seat until he has permission.
  6. There will be no whispering or other disturbance. Students can only speak with the teacher's permission.
  7. If any student over the age of 10, refused to obey the instructor, the student shall be expelled, and can only return with the permission of the inspectors.
  8. Each student shall have his own book for reading class.
  9. Each student shall be furnished with a suitable writing book, ink-stand, and ink, pen or quill, and ruler, before he is instructed in writing.
  10. If any student breaks any glass or damages the school house, unless the damage is repaired in 3 days, he will be deprived of the privileges of the school until the damage is repaired.
  11. Each scholar shall leave the school house as soon as convenient after school and go directly home unless directed otherwise.
  12. It shall be the duty of the scholar to keep their books, clothes and persons neat and clean.

The subjects that were taught differed, depending on the teacher ability, the age of the students and the availability of the books. Some of the subjects that were taught were reading, spelling, penmanship, grammar, arithmetic, geography, rhetoric, history and even philosophy. Students were expected to supply their own textbooks until 1889. After that time, the School Board was to supply uniform texts to all students.

In 1927, Agnes Barney Young started the use of the school house as an annual gathering place for former teachers and students of district #5. At their last meeting in 1978, they established a scholarship which is annually given to a Washington student for further education.

In June of 1938, there was only one family with children left in this part of town. This school was closed and the children were transported to the Center School in Washington, and the District #5 school was closed. The school house is owned and maintained by the Washington Historical Society.

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