The Old Schoolhouse

The story of the Old Schoolhouse begins when Perrystown (now Sutton) was first granted by the Masonians. The Masonians required that one "right" be set aside for the support of schools. The Masonians did not require the proprietors to establish a school, so the proprietors chose not to take on the responsibility and left it up to the settlers. The right of land reserved for school support was sold by the settlers and the monies received were used to establish a school fund.  The citizens of Sutton did not vote to publicly support schools until 1786, two years after the town was incorporated. Twelve pounds were raised to support the education of the town’s children that year.

The first teachers were men who were paid six to eight dollars per month plus their board. The teacher’s board was given by the families of the children he taught. The amount of board each family was responsible for was based on the number of children the family had in school. Once one family had met its commitment the teacher would move on to the next.
Beginning in 1789 the General Court of New Hampshire passed several laws designed to promote the support of schools and the education of the children of the state. Some laws specified how much money was to be raised by each town, other laws were concerned with the establishment of school districts and their administration. Five districts had been established in Sutton before the 1808 law which required towns to establish districts. The districts were laid out for the convenience of the residents. There were not many roads and people often relied on walking for transportation about Sutton. Often school was held in the homes of the residents of the district. Eventually small school houses were built in each district. Each school taught all of the students living in the district, boys and girls, young and old, in a single room. The 479 students in Sutton in 1858 attended school in fourteen districts.

The greatest population in Sutton occurred in 1820 with 1,573 residents. The next decade saw a decline to 1,424 residents.  The population of Sutton remained at about 1,400 during the decades preceding the Civil War. After the Civil War, the population began a steady decline which continued into the present century (in 1960 there were fewer than 500 residents in Sutton). The decline in residents resulted in fewer students and the number of school districts began to decline. The number of students in 1887 was 128 and the number of schools had been reduced to seven. The number of schools continued to decline until there were only three, one in Forth Sutton, one in Sutton Mills and The Old Schoolhouse in South Sutton.

The Old School House was built in 1863 and served students aged 5 to 15. One teacher taught all of the students, older students help teach the younger ones. Students were responsible for maintenance chores such as bringing firewood and stacking it, fetching water, shoveling out the school after a snowstorm, and the older children kept the fire going in the stove. The Town of Sutton eventually established one district with the three schools housing eight grades; first, second, and third at Sutton Mills, fourth and fifth at North Sutton, and sixth, seventh and eighth at the Old Schoolhouse in South Sutton. The three schools were used by the town until 1954 when the central school was opened in Sutton Mills and all of the grades moved to the new school. (The North Sutton school was last located near what now is the intersection of Mew North Rd. and Rte. 114 it has been converted into a house, the Sutton Mills school is located on the right side of Chalk Pond Rd just after the intersection with South Newbury Rd. and Main Street.)

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