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    Site No. 10.  South Side Primary School:  This corner of South and Main Streets housed town schools for nearly two centuries.  In 1767 Wentworth Cheswill taught here.  Built on his land, Cheswill’s school served Newmarket’s School District No. 4.  It’s the only known village school that predated the Newmarket Manufacturing Company’s arrival in town.  It remained here until it was replaced with this building.    

    An 1893 article in the Newmarket Advertiser describes the old wooden schoolhouse in 1822, with its huge fireplace and benches that were higher toward the back part of the room.  John Francis Chapman most likely wrote the article.  He was born in 1813, and would have attended this old school.  “Sunday Schools” met here as well, to educate the town’s poorest children. They were known as “ragged schools.”  Maybe some of the mill’s bobbin boys managed to attend here on their only day off. 

    Another newspaper article looks back at the old school in 1831.  It was in session for six weeks, and teacher William Folsom had 136 pupils ranging in ages from two to seventeen.  Fortunately for him, the average daily attendance was only 75.

     When this brick schoolhouse was built in 1848, the old wooden Cheswill schoolhouse was moved down by the creek, closer to the water.  We don’t know exactly how it was used, but it remained there for nearly 50 years before it was taken down.

    During the 1850s, Newmarket began to develop a “high school” here on the second floor—with a staff of one or two teachers.  When families of immigrants began moving into town, enrollment grew by leaps and bounds—especially in the primary grades.  This led to some serious overcrowding. There were generally fewer students in the upper grades—as many teenaged children worked in the mills to help their families.   So the second-floor high school would end up with younger pupils because there was no place else to put them. 

    After a new high school was built on Zion’s Hill, this became the South Primary School.  The North Primary School was across the river on Durham Side.  Newmarket resident George Walker recalls that during World War II, the police set up in the schoolyard and fingerprinted all the children.  This was one of many things done by Seacoast towns to prepare for a possible attack.

    In October 1946 a fire broke out which destroyed the interior.  It was too expensive to fix as a school, so the building was renovated into a much-needed fire station.   Volunteers did most of the work, and it opened in 1949.  It continued as the Newmarket Fire Station for over 50 years.

    Site No. 11 is on the other side of South Main Street.

    END OF AUDIO TEXT. See below for photos and more information.

    Site No. 10  (178  Main St.)  SOUTH PRIMARY SCHOOL – 1848-1946; fire station 1949-2004.  Wentworth Cheswill’s schoolhouse 1767-1848.

    Replacing an earlier wooden schoolhouse, this two-story 1848 brick schoolhouse served Newmarket students for almost 100 years.  Newmarket’s children came to school here at the  corner of South and Main Streets for nearly two centuries.  

    The first schoolhouse on this site had housed Lamprey Village pupils for over 80 years.    Built of wood, it was the only known village school that predating the arrival of the Newmarket Manufacturing Company. 

    Early Education in Newmarket

    While there are few records of those early years, there are several sources that shed some light on Newmarket education from colonial times, through the years of mill dominance.  

    From the very foundation of the New England colonies, it had been a governing principle, that “it is the right and duty of Government to provide, by means of fair and just taxation, for the instruction of all the youth in the elements of learning, morals and religion”.  When a town reached 50 households, one person would be appointed to teach all the children to read and write.  At first, instruction was offered only to the boys of the town.  Girls were generally not included until after the Revolution.  

    In the very early days schools were taught in private houses; sometimes barns were used as school rooms. The first school in Newmarket (today in the town of Newfields) was at Richard Hilton’s old garrison, probably in 1703, as it is recorded that “ye schoolmaster is to keep school at Richard Hilton’s,” he “to provide said schoolmaster with housrome & fire wood convanient.” 

    In 1728 the town of Exeter voted that, if Newmarket provided a school at their own expense, they would no longer be required to pay for the Exeter School.  

    In 1749 and 1750 Nehemiah MacNeal was the town school master, teaching and boarding in the homes of pupils’ families.  

    Dates of the erection of the early schoolhouses are not known.  (In 1774 it was proposed that two reading and writing schools be formed – but that was voted down.)  The first was a schoolhouse at Pine Hill, which served the children in the vicinity of the old town center by Rockingham Junction and Ash Swamp Rd.  At first it was located on the south side of the hill beyond the Catholic cemetery; the road at that time went around the hill easterly.  

    It’s unclear as to who built the first schoolhouse here, but Wentworth Cheswill owned the land, and at some point built a store on the property as well.   In 1763 Cheswill, then 16 years old, entered the newly established Governor Dummer Academy in Byfield, Mass.  Upon his graduation he returned to Newmarket and became the town School Master in 1767. He was 20 years old.  We don’t know how many years he actually taught in the classroom.  

    In 1776 decisive action was taken regarding town education.  The town was divided into six school districts with each district providing a place for a school.  The districts were large areas, and the school locations were meant to be within walking distance for students: 

    1. the Newfields village area

    2. the Piscassic schoolhouse (western Newfields)

    3. Pine Hill (off Exeter Rd, past today’s Catholic Cemetery);

    4.  Lamprey Village School (at South and Main Streets—the Cheswill school),

    5. the Plains (Wadleigh Falls Road, near Lee Hook Road);

    6. upper end of Grant Rd (between Ash Swamp Rd. and the Epping town line)

    These districts would change with the times:  

    • The school on the corner of Grant and Ash Swamp Roads (a private home now) was built, (creating a new “district”)  in the 1840s, as the existing schools (Pine Hill, Grant Road, Plains) intended for children in that area were considered too far away for children to walk.  Being in between all of those schools, at first it was called the “Central” district.  Later on people called it “Four Corners.” 

    • After 1823 Lamprey River Village became the new town center. The Newmarket Manufacturing Company forever switched the town hub from the banks of the Squamscot to the banks of the Lamprey.  When South Newmarket separated from Newmarket in 1849, those two school districts became the responsibility of the new town of Newfields.

    • And in 1870, when Durham Side became part of Newmarket, two additional school districts became part of the mix:  the original Durham Side School was originally in the area of Kruczek’s Garage; and the Bayside School was a few miles out of town on Lubberland (now Bay) Road.

     In 1831 William Folsom was teaching in School District #2, Lamprey River Village.  The term was six weeks long.  There were 136 pupils assigned, with an average daily attendance of 75.  Ages ranged from two to seventeen.  It seems that the little Cheswill schoolhouse was the school for District #2.

    And in 1848, the two wooden buildings—Cheswill’s schoolhouse and his earlier store— were removed—most likely to make room for the new school (the current building). The store front was moved across the street and is still standing on South Main Street in 2021 (much renovated over time)—Site No. 11.  The fate of the Cheswill schoolhouse was uncertain until discovery of an obscure article entitled “Reminiscences.”  

    Cheswill’s Schoolhouse

    Published in the Newmarket Advertiser in 1893 under the heading of Old Newmarket Landmarks, this article had been written by J.F.C.  It describes a wooden building that had been located on the “east side of the creek” (in the area of Creighton Street, behind the American Legion).  It had recently (in 1893) been demolished, which must have prompted the author’s “reminiscences.”  

    J.F.C. states that around 1818, this building had been located near the foot of South Street. It had been the district schoolhouse where Captain Moses Hoyt had taught.  He continued:

    “In the south end of the building was a chimney with a huge fireplace, which held wood logs four feet in length and two feet in diameter.”  (This sounds quite similar to the wide fireplace built in the kitchen of the Wentworth Cheswill mansion as described by Nellie Palmer George.)

    “In the south west corner was a cloak room.  In front of the desk were eight benches, with an aisle in the center.  The seats in the back part were four feet higher than the front”. 

    “In the winter Master Hoyt had a bench near the fire for his boys to sit on.  In 1823 school privileges increased [sic]. The building was remodeled, three aisles put in, and it was used for school purposes until the brick building was erected in 1848”. 

     “In 1893 there are several townsmen still living who were taught in that same building.  In 1820 the teacher was very severe to the scholars, and some who are still alive will testify to that.

    “In those days, a scholar was considered well advanced in figures if he or she could answer the question: “If 2 be 3, what will 5 be?”  Some of the oldest were advanced to Murray’s Grammar and Adams’ Geography.  If a winter term was kept some of the scholars turned beyond their majority.

     “In 1822 a Sunday School was kept in the old schoolhouse.  In those days it would be called a “ragged school”, and such it was.  The boys with bare feet, chip hats and fustian jackets and trousers with iron buttons.” 

     “The girls were not dressed much better.  Mary Pinder, Eliza Smith and Mary Murray were the supervisors.  Joseph Floyd married Miss Smith and John M. Towle married Miss Pinder.” 

    A “ragged school” was described as a school sponsored by charitable organizations dedicated to the free education of poor children in 19th century Britain. They appeared in working-class districts, and were intended for society’s most destitute children.

    This “ragged school” concept is in keeping with the culture of the earliest New England mill owners and overseers.  Many were Universalists and followed the Samuel Slater “Rhode Island system” which attempted to better the social and religious life of their employees through education and social lectures aimed to uplift the mind and spirit of the worker.   

    The following is an excerpt from Samuel Slater’s A Memoire  - 1827

    In the factories at Newmarket, N. H., which have been in operation about four years, there are employed, 250 girls [these are the “Factory Girls”, young adult women], five boys and 20 overseers and assistants.

    Nine only of the girls are under 15 years of age, six of whom are 14. Three of the boys are under 15, two of whom are 14. In every instance the children under 15 reside with their parents or guardians in the village; and are admitted into the factories on account of the peculiar circumstances of the families; they are allowed to work only six months in the year—during the other six months, they attend a public school in the village. 

    J.F.C. continues: “…The old wooden schoolhouse was also used at times for preaching.  George Pickering, preached the first sermon ever given by a Methodist in this town from this building.  Both Elder Brodhead and Elder John Osborne have preached in it.  Elder Osborne would hold his meetings until midnight!  

    “The wooden warehouse owned by the NMCo. was used later on for preaching Sunday Schools.  One Sunday School was organized May 24, 1826 with thirty scholars.  Superintendent Timothy Chamberlain; teachers Mrs. John Mead, Miss Jane Kelley, Miss Mary Murray, Miss Deborah Haines and Miss Young.

    The 1893 article ends: “…the schoolhouse and the hall are now gone, the empty warehouse remains.  The supervisors, teachers and nearly all the scholars have passed away.  Only a few of the latter still alive, some have passed four-score, others are close to it.”

    Who was J.F.C.?  See the link to this article 

     GRANT ROAD SCHOOL , DISTRICT No. 4.—( Grant.) Parents v. Corporal Punishment

    From 1856 -1857 Town Report — Punishment issues dealt with at all District Schools

    MISS LENORA. TUTTLE, Teacher. 1856 

    “Length of School 15 weeks. Number of pupils 25 ; average in attendance 23. This was the best attendance in the town, though the school was taught during the severest part of the season. This district has a fine schoolhouse, worthy of being copied after by districts Nos. 2, 3 and 5,1’ which, together with an industrious and capable teacher, has furnished one of the best schools in town”.

    “As in most of  like districts, some parents made, near the close of the school, a little disturbance, which was readily felt in its influence, as it must always be. Almost throughout the town there is a feeling that teachers cannot lawfully punish a scholar; which feeling is the cause of quite all the disturbances in our schools. One family in a district, of this character, is quite enough to destroy the efficiency of any teacher. Until the community shall be better instructed in the laws of the State and in the laws of God, our schools will necessarily suffer incalculably from such sources ; and men, in order to get into office, will often countenance and encourage these feelings”.

    Newmarket High School Started Here

    In the Newmarket Report ending March 1852, the Superintending School Committee suggested that the town:

    … adopt the High School system, thereby giving the more advanced students a thoroughly educated teacher, affording them the same facilities for learning as are enjoyed in other villages…

     The following year Newmarket began a “high school” here on the second floor.  The building housed primary and intermediate students on the bottom floor.   (Records of 1848-52 mention only grammar and primary schools.)  

    The March 1853 report gave the following statistics under the High School heading:

    Boys 41, Girls 22, total 63, average attendance 40; wages of teacher $38.00 per month exclusive of board.  This School, taught 20 weeks, by Mr. John I. Adams, contains the more advanced scholars in the whole district…

    … We would especially urge … this district …to raise a sufficient amount … to keep the High School in operation during the whole year.  Two hundred dollars, in addition to what the law requires, would be sufficient for this purpose…

    The longer school year must have been a priority:  the 1853-54 records show 18 boys and 33 girls in the high school; and all village schools were open for 24 weeks. In 1856-57 they were open for 31 weeks. 

    The road to a functioning high school was bumpy.  There were struggles with funding and curriculum, as well as the longstanding challenge managing increasing numbers in this mill town’s school-age population.

    As one teacher noted, “Scholars should not be taken from the Grammar and crowded into the High School before they have thoroughly learned the elements of the common English studies.”  — T.V. Haines, 1859-60 Newmarket High School teacher.  

    The teacher’s complaint apparently went unaddressed.  In the 1863 school report a section titled HIGH SCHOOL has a subtitle underneath: (SO CALLED).  It begins:  

    Lest any one be misled, by the name affixed to this school, into the belief that it is in reality what its name implies, we must remark that this title is a decided misnomer; there being no such qualifications for admission…but rather such a number of the oldest, or perhaps more advanced pupils of a lower grade, is sent to this school as will equalize the amount of labor…

    There were generally fewer students in the upper grades—especially with the lure of a factory job for the sons and daughters of mill workers.  And the construction of Mill No. 4 in 1869 likely brought in more families, contributing to the growing numbers of primary school students—likely leading to the practice of moving students to a less crowded classroom.  Enrollment in District 1 grew from 69 in 1861 to 118 in 1873. 

    By 1865, the state had developed some guidelines for the emerging public high schools:

    • Admission requirement (after 1850) that pupils: 

      • 1) have a certificate of good moral character,

      • 2) have elementary proficiency, and 

      • 3) pass an examination.

    • Encouragement to include the sciences

    • Creation of a “course of study” (1865)

    Once the high school got into its own building in 1874, things began to improve.  No longer being so short of classroom space, the district was able to address the other issues. Within a few years, an official course of study was developed and articulated for the entire school district. 

    The Next 70 Years This Schoolhouse Continued as a Primary School until after World War II.

    School reports seldom indicated which building housed which classes, but the 1920-21 report showed “South Primary”  with an enrollment of 140 pupils in grades 1-4. 

    Once the 1924 high school was built, there was considerable flexibility in housing grades 1-6—between this building, the Stone School, and the old high school (which became known as Central School). 


    George Walker attended this school for Grades 1 – 4, during the last four years of its use as a school.  He recollects:

    It was WWII time and the Police Dept. took our fingerprints outside under the three trees on the South Street side of the yard. At that time the yard was enclosed by a chain link fence, not for security purposes, but just to keep us in check during recess. Thus we were going to school in the “chicken coop”, said the passers by.

     While there is no mention in the Newmarket town reports of fingerprinting children during those years, a Hampton NH description of that town’s wartime preparation activities states:  Schoolchildren were fingerprinted so that, in the event of an enemy bombing attack, victims could be identified.

    Newmarket Fire Station

    On October 21, 1946 a fire broke out in the Primary School destroying the interior of the building.  It was deemed too expensive to rebuild as a school. Apparently, some of the furnishings were salvageable.   Mr. Walker’s sister lived in the house next door to the school.  She managed to salvage one the Seth Thomas clocks that hung on the wall of each class room. 

    In 1948 the Town voted to expend $24,000 to renovate the building into a much-needed fire station.  With most of the work being done by fire volunteers themselves, it was completely rebuilt and opened for public view in 1949.  It would continue into the next century as Newmarket’s Fire Station. 

     In 2004 the fire trucks moved to the new Public Works facility on Young Lane.