Vintage Views: Our old neighborhood schools

 The old North End School in Concord was located on the corner of Church and North State streets during the 1800s.

The old North End School in Concord was located on the corner of Church and North State streets during the 1800s. Photo from the James W. Spain Collection

By JIM SPAIN

For the Monitor

Published: 05-18-2024 6:00 AM

Our little town of Rumford was growing. People were arriving, and the frontier was becoming a town. Governor Benning Wentworth determined that the name would be changed to Concord to mixed emotions within the community, and the Revolution arrived, resulting in the birth of a new country. The future was bright, and the possibilities were endless for the next generation.

With this optimism we find ourselves in Concord during the 1800s with great hope and many dreams. People were arriving from the country farms seeking employment in factories in some of the larger cities such as Manchester, while Concord was seeing development in such areas as carriage building, railroads and granite.

The Industrial Revolution ushered our ancestors well into the 1800s with much hope and desire.

It was soon recognized that this hope and desire would require our young children to attend school and learn to read and write. Where there is a will, there is always a way, and Concord was determined to educate their young in a very structured and organized environment with new schools and teachers.

By the year 1883, we find many schools in the Concord community, schools with names such as Walker, Merrimack, Chandler, Rumford and Penacook. There was the Franklin Street and Spring Street schools. We even had a Fairgrounds and Plains School within our little city to educate the children.

The small one-room country schools were disappearing from the landscape, replaced by larger schools with windows, heat in the winter, school yards and teachers, very qualified teachers. We had Miss Lizzie Palmer and Miss Abbie Leary over at the Walker School, Miss Jennie Smith at Merrimack School, and, of course, Miss Lillie Collins down at the Rumford School. With the schools came opportunity to further these young minds while providing employment for the young woman with whom we trusted the future of our little town.

With the young children now enrolled in a system that provided formal education, we wanted to eliminate any excuse that would keep the youngster from attending, so we built more schools, neighborhood schools allowing the children to attend in their own neighborhoods for there was no public transportation and we all know that our ancestors had to walk to school on those cold winter days.

The children enjoyed education and learned the basics in primary, intermediate, grammar and high schools in a period when many adults did not know how to read or write. These parents, most recent immigrants to our town, were very thankful for food, housing and safety. Education was something that they were not afforded in the old countries, but it was now available, desirable and free to anyone that desired it.

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Some of the old neighborhood schools lasted for many years, they saw young, timid children arrive in primary school with a tin lunch bucket and formed them into productive members of our community. These young children learned and progressed through the system with many graduating from Concord High School in later years. They became bankers, managers, contractors, business owners and teachers themselves. A foundation for the future just as their parents desired.

Other neighborhood schools did not survive after the initial wave of immigrant children passed through. The buildings fell into disuse and disrepair and eventually the halls once filled by the voices of Concord’s young fell silent. The Civil War was over but we proceeded to the next war and the Great War too. The children were educated, some went off to war and returned while some sadly did not. The many schools became fewer as the years passed before us.

Some schools were torn down, and today we see small city parks sprouted in their place.

Other schools closed, such as the Franklin Street School on the corner of Franklin and Rumford streets. The building was sold to old Mr. Foster, who moved it up to North State Street across from the park and converted it into residential rental property for the next wave of Irish immigrants, another fine building added to our beloved “Fosterville.”

The very old “North End School” was located on the corner of North State Street and Church Street, the same lot as the former Rollins Mansion and St. Peters Rectory. This school was one of the very first in Concord serving the community for many years. The building was eventually taken down and replaced when Governor Frank West Rollins built his mansion on the same site in 1890.

The Rollins mansion was in continual use by the Rollins family until it was sold to the Diocese of Manchester for use as the St. Peters Church Rectory. The St. Peters Church was built in 1956 after the Rollins mansion was purchased.

As we progressed into the next century transportation was no longer a concern and the methods that we used to educate our young became advanced, allowing for less teachers and less buildings. These little neighborhood schools disappeared. Where there was once children playing marbles in the old schoolyards, we now find flowers, hills covered in green grass, toys and yes, once again the voices of Concord’s young that were silenced as the schools closed over one hundred years ago.

The next time you pass a small park on a corner in one of Concord’s old neighborhoods, stop and think about what might have been. I think that Miss Lizzie Palmer, Miss Abbie Leary, Miss Jennie Smith and Miss Lillie Collins would like that.