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The History of Redding Connecticut Schools- From Charles Burr Todd's "History of Redding"  

We have before spoken of the care of our Puritan ancestors to provide for the church and the ministry in their infant settlements. They were equally careful to furnish them with the school and the teacher. If piety was one of the pillars of democracy, so also was intelligence; and church and school were alike deemed indispensable to the growth and security of the state; hence we find the pioneers of Redding making early provision for the establishment of schools among them.

The first recorded movement of the parish in the matter was in 1737, when, at a parish meeting held December 26th, 1737, it was voted to have a parish school, and to maintain said school by a parish rate. John Read, Joseph Lee, Joseph Sanford, John Hull, Nathan Lion, Stephen Morehouse, and Daniel Lion were the first school committee.

The meeting also voted: "that said school be divided into three parts, that is to say, five months in that quarter called the Ridge, and five months on the west side of the parish near the mill, and two months at Lonetown, understanding that the centre of division is the meeting-house, and that Stephen Burr belongs to the west side."These were the original school districts of the town; in them the first rude school-houses were erected, and from the one to the other went the peripatetic school-master as his duties called him.

These school-houses were built of logs; their furniture was of the most meagre description, consisting of a sloping desk of boards affixed to the wall and extending around three sides of the building, benches of rough-hewn plank and a planed pine board whereon the student "figgered” with bits of charcoal. Nor was the curriculum of the schools much more extensive. Reading, writing, and arithmetic were all that was then thought necessary for the country boy to know; further knowledge was to be acquired in schools of a higher grade.

Hence we find a parish meeting held December 10th, 1742, voting: "that the interest of the school money belonging to the parish shall be divided into three equal parts for the year ensuing, for the maintaining of three separate schools (each to be kept by a master,) one third part of the money for that part of the Parish east of Little River, one third for that part of the Parish between Little River and the Saugatuck River, and one part west of the Saugatuck River. Provided, that each part of the Parish fail in keeping a school as abovesaid, the other two parts that keep said school, shall equally divide the said money between them, and if two parts of the Parish fail in keeping a school as abovesaid, that part of the Parish that shall keep said school the three months, shall draw the whole of the school money." The same districts are defined in the appropriation of the school money in 1743 as being "the school on the West side of Aspetuck River, the school by Mill River (Saugatuck) and the school by the Church."

In 1745 the appropriation was made to the same districts, with the provision that each should "keep a school with a school master sufficiently capable to learn children to Wright and Reade."
There seems to have been no change in this respect until 1764, when it was voted: "that the school money should be subdivided according to the lists within such subdivisions." In 1768 the bounds of the districts were first set out by a committee appointed at town meeting for the purpose. This first committee consisted of Stephen Mead, Daniel Hill, and Daniel Sanford. the school committee for this year, appointed at town meeting, consisted of seven, and it is probable that each represented a district-which would give us seven districts in the town at that time.

December 19th, 1792, the following important vote was taken: " that the School money shall be lodged with the Treasury, and he to collect the interest arising on the school bonds annually by the first day of April, the interest already arisen and unpaid to be collected forthwith, and in failure of payment of back interest, he is send the bond, or bonds, and collect principal and interest, and to conduct in the same manner on neglect of annual payment of interest, and to conduct in the same manner on neglect of annual payment of interest on said bonds, and to pay said interest and school money to the School Committee as it may be appropriated by the committee of the districts annually.

As to the source or origin of these school bonds, or by whom taken, I am unable to give a positive answer. The town of Redding has a school fund of $400.00 distinct from the State fund, and which dates back to a period beyond the reach of memory or tradition; it is more than probable, however, that it was the sum realized from the sale of lands in Litchfield County in 1733, called western lands, and which was divided among the several towns in proportion to their poll list and ratable estate for that year and to be secured and forever improved for the use of the schools kept in said towns according to law. Redding, unlike most of her sister towns, has preserved this fund inviolate, and still uses its proceeds in support of her schools.

In 1795 came the sale of the Western Reserve, and Connecticut's munificent grant to her common schools, which has put them in front rank of educational forces, and contributed so much to the material prosperity of the State. In October of that year the inhabitants of Redding met, and formed themselves into a school society, in order that they "might have the advantage of the monies arising from the sale of western lands." Peter Sanford, James Rogers, and Simeon Munger were the first committee chosen by this society. Prior to 1870, the cost of supporting the schools above that derived from the school funds was borne by the parents or guardians of the scholars, but in that year the legislature passed a law compelling the towns to maintain free schools, and this plan has since been pursued. The town appropriated for schools this year, 1879, is $2,500.00; before 1879, it was $3,000.00. The income from the School Fund is $936.40.

There are at present ten school districts in the town, and three half districts, named and numbered as follows:

District One:Centre, 30 Students
District Two: Ridge, 48 Students
District Three: Couch's Hill, 15 Students
District Four: Diamond Hill, 17 Students
District Five: Boston, 54 Students
District Six: Hull, 20 Students
District Seven: Umpawaug, 51 Students
District Eight: Lonetown, 29 Students
District Nine: Pickett's Ridge, 9 Students
District Ten: Foundry, 23 Students
District Eleven: Georgetown, 40 Students (Half-District)
District Twelve: Florida, 46 Students (Half-District)
District Thirteen: Rock house, 5 Students (Half-District)

The total number of children enumerated was 387. The whole number who attended school was 406.

Messrs. Arthur Hill, William R. Duncomb, and Rev. X.A. Welton comprise the present Board of Education for the town. William E. Duncomb and Rev. X.A. Welton are the acting School Visitors.

From an early period Redding has been favorably known for the number and excellence of her select schools; some of these were conducted by the pastors of the different churches, and others by professional teachers. One of the earliest of these schools was that kept by S. Samuel Smith, Esq., in the centre. The Rev. Jonathan Bartlett opened a school for boys and young men about 1795, that attained a high reputation and flourished for a term of years; his school was kept in his dwelling house now the residence of Mr. Lemuel Sanford. The first boarding school in town was opened by Mr. Walker Bates about 1825. Mr. Bates was a pupil of Mr. Bartlett's, and a very successful teacher. A few years after, Mr. Eli Gilbert opened a select school at the centre, which continued in successful operation for a term of years; and in 1836 two schools were established on Redding Ridge-one by Mr. John Osborne, the other by Mr. Aaron B. Wilson.

One of the most noteworthy schools of the town was the Redding Institution, founded by Daniel Sanford, A.M., in the fall of 1847. Mr. Sanford, after receiving a thorough education, and spending some years as a teacher at White Plains, N.Y., returned to Redding and built the large and well appointed school house adjoining his dwelling. His school from a small and feeble beginning grew to be large and flourishing, containing at one time forty scholars, most of them sons of prominent New York and Brooklyn families. In 1851 he secured the services of Mr. Edward P. Shaw, a graduate of Wesleyan University, who continued with him as a teacher until 1867, when Mr. Sanford retired, and Mr. Shaw became principal and conducted the school successfully until 1873, when, owing to a family bereavement, he was obliged to discontinue it.

The boarding school opened by Mr. Burton Bradley about 1850, and Miss Polly Sellick's boarding house for young ladies, founded in 1844, were successful and well conducted institutions. The only select school at present existing in the town is the Misses Sanford's school for young children.

In 1878 Rev. Aaron S. Sanford, of New Haven, donated the sum of five thousand dollars for the endowment of a High School. This munificent gift was accepted by the people of the town, and the Hill Academy was incorporated under the laws of the State. The trustees of the institution are seven in number, viz. Francis A. Sanford, Aaron Treadwell, John Todd, X. Alanson Welton, Stephen Sanford, Thaddeus M. Abbott, and Arthur B. Hill.

The officers of the corporation are: President, Francis A. Sanford; Vice President Thaddeus M. Abbott; Secretary, Arthur B. Hill; Treasurer, Aaron Treadwell; Auditor,Stephen Sanford.
The first principal of the academy  was Mr. T.M.W. George, of Hartford, who closed his first year's labor July 1st, 1879.


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