Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
North Center School District Records
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The collection consists of seventeen handwritten documents including financial records, a report, and recipes relating to the North Center School District in Hatfield, Massachusetts, representing the period from 1818 to 1833. While not a comprehensive collection, the items nonetheless offer insight into education at the turn of the century, especially the sort of expenses accrued in maintaining a small town schoolhouse. Some of the papers indicate the need for a new schoolhouse and include a summary of the contract for a site.
Of particular interest are the individual and family names that appear in the documents. Many names of prominent Hatfield citizens appear on the items, from descendants of the earliest settlers to family names associated with charities and education in the Connecticut Valley: Dickinson, Bardwell, Smith, Waite, and Morton.
The financial records include treasurer's reports on expenses of the North Center School District from about 1818 to 1830. These reports reflect costs for tuition, housing, instruction, and repair of the schoolhouse, among them reimbursement for sawing wood, mending windows, and providing "a ride down and back." Expenses for the 1827 year totaled just over $125.00, including payment to "Miss Dickinson to keep the School for four weeks ... at $1 per week." The 1828 treasurer's report lists "Israel Dickinson tuition money" and payment to the "Charles Smith Committee," as well as the "District's proportion of money for the year."
A handwritten expense summary for 1830 includes handwritten minutes of what might be one of the first instances of school choice. Apparently superseding a phrase apportioning costs, the following decision is recorded as passed: "Voted that any scholar belonging to this district who shall actually expend ...the district's proportion of Money in a select school or higher school in this Town or any other town and absents himself or herself from this district school for the whole warrant year - shall be entitled to draw from the district Treasurer his or her proportion of the Town's Money raised for the support of district scholar."
The Schoolhouse Site Selection Committee Report (1833) summarizes a contract with Solomon Dickinson "for a site on the north side of his home lot for the sum of One Hundred and fifty Dollars" with provision for re-deeding the site to Dickinson's heirs after ten years.
The warrants illuminate the history of the North Center School District from the formation of committees to raise money, to their consideration of repairs, to the purchase of items for the school, and, finally, to the selection of a site for a new schoolhouse.
The earliest dated warrant (1818) directs the selection of a clerk, the raising of "a sum of money sufficient to procure a school house," and the choosing of a committee to "procure said house." An 1827 warrant directs consideration of raising money for repair and procuring "a suitable Stove for their schoolhouse."