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Vintage View: Education Expenses

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When the first settlers arrived in our small town, their priorities were very simple. It was to prepare for the winter in order to survive. Land was cleared, crops were planted, and trees were cut down for shelter and firewood. Thoughts of such subtleties as formal education did not enter their minds until a few years later. This rustic building served as a shelter, town meeting, church service, and school.

The Massachusetts Bay Colony gave the land called Concord in 1725 and named it the Pennycook Plantation. Settlers began arriving in 1727. He changed the name to Rumford in 1733 and Concord in 1765.

As the years went by and our small community began to grow, more children were born. They were expected to contribute where additional hands were needed. The community became concerned about the limited school system and plans were made to build a building dedicated to education.

At the northern end of Concord there was a series of early buildings that served as schools, primarily in the same location, the southwest corner of North State and Church Streets. This location is a subdivision known as the Rollins Mansion or St. Peters Rectory building. The plot had two known buildings of his built for the education of local children. It is the third school built on this site that has created a sense of controversy among those living in our community.

The new school was built on the same site as the previous school and was named Bell School. The school was built in his 1820s and is widely regarded as the most extravagant school our ancestors have ever seen. Citizens living in the northern end of Concord were very pleased with the modern structures for educating their children in the years to come. was far more concerned about the impact of the The land is owned by the town, has a history of being used as a school building, was planned and materials were obtained. Some good craftsmen were hired and the foundation was put in place. Progress was slow but steady as the foundation was completed, the building assembled, and the siding added. The roof was completed and real glass windows were installed. This is the type of window that lets a lot of natural light into the classroom. Once the building was completed, landscaping was done and a grand opening was planned. Unlike the school years before it, the North End children eagerly awaited the opening of his 1820 school.

Much attention to luxury was a concern raised by the Concord Building Commission. Will the budget help open Bell Schools, and how will Bell Schools be perceived within the community? At the time, the building was not fully completed and the debt was still owed to the merchant. Judge Nesmith was first assigned to maintain the school in the new building while Captain Joseph Walker was a member of the Concord Construction Commission.

Judge Nesmith, assuming there was a last minute problem with the construction, happily handed over the keys to the school to Captain Walker. The judge assumed the keys would be returned the next day. He passed a day, and a second, without the keys being returned to Judge Nesmith. Judge Nesmith became concerned that the keys had not been returned and decided to visit Captain Walker the next day to discuss it.

Judge Nesmith got up early and walked to City Hall to meet with Captain Walker and the Concord Building Commission. He expected the issue to be just an oversight and to be rectified soon. He politely requested the keys to Bell School and was informed by Captain Walker that the Concord Building Commission had decided to hold the keys and the schoolhouse until the last bill was paid.

Weeks before the grand opening of Bell School House, the merchant was compensated and the keys were finally returned to Judge Nesmith.

Walker School was built in 1875 and Bell School was permanently closed. Governor Rollins eventually built a mansion on the site, which stands in pristine condition to this day after being renovated by the Potter family last year.

Constructed in 1820, this state-of-the-art schoolhouse was certainly expensive and of interest to the people of the time. Limited education with inadequate schools was seen as a very sad price to pay. Yes, Bell School opened and secured the future of quality schools in Concord to this day.

Vintage Views is a local history column exploring Concord and the surrounding towns. This runs weekly in the Sunday Your Life section. The author is a historian, not a staff member of the Monitor.