Conway Historical Society / Conway NH

HISTORY OF
CENTER CONWAY SCHOOL

As Compiled by Mrs. A. M. D. Blouin, School Board Member, and read
by an 8th grade pupil at the dedication of the Pine Tree School in the fall of 1914.

   The information we have gained relating to the schoolhouses and schools in this village of Centre Conway is a real "Little Red Schoolhouse", which was situated on a knoll at the western end of the village. It was in use in 1847 at which time Mr. J. E. Morrill, one of our late prominent citizens, attended school there.
    I will give a brief description of its interior arrangement. It had a sloping floor, thus making the rear seats higher than the front row. The teacher's desk was at one end of the low middle part and the door at the other. The stove occupied the center. The scholars evidently attended in a hit or miss sort of way. As late as 1863 it seemed impossible to keep the school term for any length of time, notwithstanding the fact that, at one time, the months of school were very few at best.
    When a term opened the children quite generally were all present, probably to look over and size up the new teacher. After the newness wore off the scholars would drop out, at will, and the term would end prematurely, drag along with one or two scholars in attendance. It is sad to know that even in the '6O’s one child, at least who lived within plain sight of the schoolhouse went out into life's work only able to make his mark instead of writing his name. Miss Delia Walker (now Mrs. Tobias Eastman of Fryeburg) taught the last school in this "Little Red Schoolhouse" in 1877.
    A new lot was selected and a new schoolhouse built a little to the east of the old lot where Archie Mason's house now stands. It was a neat, trim building painted white with green blinds and furnished with modern furniture with two pupils in each seat. According to the Town Report of 1879 this was the first fine school building in the town. This building is now the Town Office and Library building, having been moved to its present location after they built schoolhouse number 3. Miss Susie Zounds of Sweden Me. , was the first teacher. She was followed by Miss Abbie M. Dole of Limerick, Me., (now Mrs. Blouin) and who since that time with the exception of a few years, has been continuously connected with the schools of Conway, either as a teacher of member of the School Board.
    During the year of 1879 there was 31 weeks of school. Rev. Mr. Norcross was Supervisor of Schools at this time, and held the office for many years. He took great pride in the fact that he could call every child in town by name. In the report of 1892 we find this statement concerning the Center school. "This school is too large for one making a primary grade". There were 52 pupils enrolled.
    The following spring the School Board, with the consent of the Selectmen, opened a school for the primary grades, in the old Town House with Mrs. Mattie Stark Smith as teacher. There were 20 pupils registered.
    In 1895 The School District appropriated the sum of $2000. for a new school house at Center Conway. The Commissioners were called upon to locate the new building and a lot of land was purchased from Mr. H. McNorton upon which the new building was placed and a new road opened to the same. This was a 2 room building and arranged with modern furniture, slate blackboards, etc. The first teachers in this building were Harry A. Greenwood of Wales, Me., grammar; Miss A. H. Chadbourne of Mattawamkeag, Primary. In 1899 the pupils of the school, through the energy and interest of W. H. Whitaker (always known as "Billy") secured a bell and placed it in the tower of the school building. In 1907, through the efforts of the teacher, Mrs. Ella F. Hasty and the pupils, a piano was purchased and placed in the grammar room. This acquisition was much enjoyed by the pupils in the building.
    In 1909 the District voted to enter a Supervisory District for the purpose of employing a Superintendent of Schools and Mr. Ernest C. Witham of So. Boston was employed.
In January 1912 Mr. and Mrs. George Cameron presented the primary room with a nice organ.
    In June 1912 Superintendent Witham tendered his resignation and Mr. A. J. Knowlton of Belfast, Me., was secured by the Supervisory District for this position. By reason of the amount of work the two teachers were compelled to do to keep this school up in grade with other schools it was decided to have an assistant Miss N. Masterton was engaged and the office of the School Board in the Town Office building was used for a recitation room. As cold weather came on this was not feasible so a partition was placed in the center of the primary room and a room thus arranged for the intermediate grades. The teachers at this time were Miss Witham, Miss Goodwin and Miss Gushee. On the morning of Jan. 31, 1914 an alarm of fire was sounded and a dense gray smoke told people of the Centre that the schoolhouse was on fire. From appearances the fire started in the attic. The building was so filled with smoke when the fire was discovered that nothing was saved.
    Besides school supplies and apparatus belonging to the school district, there were nice pictures in each room, the piano, organ, many books of reference, dictionaries, etc.; also a picture of the first flag given by the D.A.R. of No. Conway.
    A short time before the primary pupils had gotten a "Soap Order" and purchased a pretty book case. in which were arranged many specimens of nature. The intermediate school, at the close of the winter term, gave an entertainment, "A Trip to Europe", and raised money and bought an unabridged dictionary and holder for their room. Gifts of a flag, 40 volumes of Annual Cyclopedias, a desk and pictures for the teachers' room had been given the school by the family of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Baird. The school district at the annual meeting in March, 1914 made an appropriation of $8000 for a new school building. In order to have a new building with all modern improvements, it was decided to purchase a new lot and the present lot was bought from H. E. Potter.
    Various architects submitted plans and the one by Huntress of Lawrence was decided upon. Mr. Ross Ward of Intervale was given the contract. The building committee was Mr. W. E. Garland, Mr. Geo. Petrie, Mr. L. A. Hill, Mr. L. A. Prescott and Supt. A. J. Knowlton. Much credit should be given contractor Ward for the great pains he has taken to have everything of the best, and to the committee for their untiring efforts.
We have invited you to this opening for inspection and we trust you will all be pleased and will feel that Centre Conway has again, in 1914, the finest school building in town.

Copied from the original given me by Mrs. A. M. D. Blouin in the fall of 1914 --E. M. Masterton, primary teacher 1914-1921 1943-1960

ADDITIONAL NOTES: Copied from original notes given me by Mr. A. M. D. Blouin, but not used by her, in her history write up that was read at the dedication of Pine Tree School in the fall of 1914. -~E. M. Masterton Primary teacher 1914-1921
   The Little Old Red Schoolhouse was sold and moved into the Centre of the village on the lot just east of the Town House, and forms the nucleus of the attractive residence of Mr. McLoy.(now -1962- Frye's residence)
   The Archie Mason property referred to in this paper is just east of the Center Conway Chair Saw Co. of today (1962) Schoolhouse No.3 was built on a lot about where the Town Garage now stands (1962).
   In 1892 Columbus Day was publicly observed by the Centre Conway School. The pupils, with aid from their energetic teacher, Miss Addie L. Allard, had purchased a fine flag and with appropriate exercises, it was un furled over the school building on Oct. l2th. In 1898      Lafayette Day was observed and quite a generous subscription was forwarded as a patriotic and public spirited gift from this school, to go to the fund being secured by the school children of the land, for the erection of a monument to Lafayette in Paris.
   They also contributed many bricks towards the building of Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia. The children raised money by entertainments, sufficient to purchase a set of Students Cyclopedias. The following year, 1900, they purchased a beautiful large globe for the grammar school room and later purchased a smaller one for the primary room. They also purchased a variety of books such as would be helpful to them in their work and gave them to the Public Library in this village.
 
 From this random history of our schools you will readily see that we have been favored with teachers the best to be obtained for what could be paid them and then have enthused the children with a spirit of patriotism and love for the school. The children of today are not behind those of earlier years and are always ready to respond to any call.

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