Site Number 50.  The Old Newmarket High School.   To describe the beginnings of Newmarket High School, we need to look back to the 1850s.   Public high schools were rare before 1848.  That’s when the state legislature set guidelines for funding them.  The following year, 1849, the town built the two-story brick schoolhouse at the end of South Street to replace the old Cheswell school.  With all the new schoolroom space, there must have been talk about having a high school there because the 1852 school report stated just that.  So in 1853 they added a high school on the second floor of the 1849 building.  It had one teacher, and the average daily attendance was 40 scholars. 

    This early “high school” continued to function for 20 years with one teacher.  Not much is known about the course of study, and there is no record of individual graduates.  However, as more and more immigrant families moved to town, there were a lot of complaints about unqualified pupils ending up in the high school due to overcrowding in the lower levels.

    Then in 1874, the town built this new brick high school up here on Granite Street.  George McLaughlin was the first High School principal, and for the first time the town high school had a faculty of more than one.   It had three.  Now some things didn’t change.  As the population grew, in 1876 the Grammar School moved up here on the hill and shared the space as well. 

    But there was more clarity in the curriculum.  The course of study published in 1877 showed three levels within the high school—senior, middle and junior.  That year there were two graduates.  Newmarket High School remained here for fifty years.  And every school day, fifteen minutes before school, one of the boys would ring the huge bronze bell up in the cupola. That bell is now in the Stone School Museum. 

    After the “new” high school on Route 152 was built in 1924, the younger grades attended this school on the hill off and on until 1965. 

    Two years later, in 1967 it opened its doors again, but for much younger children.  This was one of the first area community daycare facilities. Named the Newmarket Child Care Center, it offered much-needed services to the town’s working families.  Later on, the Newmarket Child Care Center left this old high school for more space on Simons Lane—and got a new name—Great Bay Kids.

    In 1979 Berkshire Builders bought the old high school and transformed it to meet the needs of another population.  Its 27 apartments are designated as elderly housing. 

    This is the last stop of the Newmarket Downtown Walking Tour.  But there’s one more place you might want to visit.  Just across the street is a piece of public land landscaped and enhanced with imaginative sculptures – a gift to the town by local resident artist Judy Wall.  She invites you to come and sit a spell. 

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

    Site #50 Old Newmarket High School


    1874 – The School Committee started construction on a new brick High School on Zion Hill.  This building remained as a high school until 1924, when it changed to become a primary school housing the First through the Fourth grades until 1965.

    Newmarket High School Before 1875

    The Somersworth Act, 1848

    In 1848 the New Hampshire Legislature passed the “Somersworth Act” which allowed a school district to have a system of graded schools and to maintain a high school.  It also gave some guidelines for funding.

    At that time, Newmarket had seven school districts—two of which were in what would shortly become Newfields.   All were ungraded except for the Lamprey River district, where pupils were divided into four groups, sorted by some combination of age and ability.  The eldest (most of whom were under 14 years old) were in Grammar School No. 1.  Grammar School No. 2 was for the next younger group; then there were Primary Schools No. 1 and 2.  The youngest students—some under four years old—were in Primary School No. 2.   

    The following year, 1849, the new two-story brick schoolhouse (Site No. 10) replaced the old Cheswill schoolhouse, and all that new space started townsfolk thinking about having a high school.  It was suggested in the 1852 school report. 

    Newmarket Starts a High School, 1853

    In 1853 it was reported that there was a high school on the second floor of the South Primary School for 20 weeks.  The teacher was John I. Adams.   The average attendance was 40 scholars.   But the School Committee wanted more:

    “All that is wanting is means of extending the operation of our shcools throughout the entire year.  We would especially urge the attention of this district the importance of adopting the “Somersworth Act” thereby putting it into their power to raise a sufficient amount above what the law requires, 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…”

    Within a few years, all of the schools in the downtown district were open for a total of 31 weeks, divided into three terms.  The high school faculty still consisted of one teacher—an arrangement that would continue for many years.  In 1861 George T. Wiggin was listed as Principal (and only teacher).  He was described as having been an experienced teacher since 1852:

    “His method of teaching is peculiar to himself…he has been so successful in the school as to awaken an interest in the scholars that amounted almost to enthusiasm.”

    It’s unclear what exactly was taught in this early high school, but in 1865 there was this:

    “We think the welfare of the school would be promoted by the adoption of a prescribed course of study thus putting it on a footing with most of the high schools in the State.”

    That was the year the the state published state guidelines for high schools, but Newmarket was still struggling with overcrowding.  In 1866 there was mention of transferring the “first class of Grammar School with their textbooks to the High School” as a means of equalizing numbers of students in classrooms.  

    The 1866-67 report has the first mention of specific curriculum—sort of:  

    “Latin, Algebra and Book-Keeping have received the usual amount of attention; while the more common branches have been very thoroughly explained and understood.”

    The High School teacher that year was Susan B. French, who had an average of 40 students.  She continued teaching part of the following year until she was replaced by Newmarket-born Channing Folsom.  (He went on to teach in several different schools, eventually becoming the Superintendent of Schools in Dover for nearly 20 years.  After that, Folsom became Superintendent of Public Instruction for the State of NH.   He was much respected for his work on the state level, but some didn’t like his progressive ideas.  He returned to Newmarket after he retired.)  

    The 1867-68 report again mentioned how the problems of overcrowding affected any attempt at having a high school:

    “The limited number of pupils qualified to pursue the branches usually taught at the High School and the crowded conditions of the lower grades forced us to send to the High School pupils poorly qualified to attend even a grammar school, consequently the High School exists only in name.”

    This situation continued until the new High School on the hill was built.  So for twenty years Newmarket tried to have a high school, to be frustrated by overcrowding and no clear organization or curriculum.   There was no listing of graduates during that time.  

    The New High School, 1875

    George McLaughlin was the first High School principal at the new high school with 60 students in attendance; the daily average was 55.  School length was 34 weeks.  The only other High School teacher was Thomas J. Davis, he and the principal were assisted by Susan B. Tenney.

     Comments made in the Town School Report for the year ending March 1875:

     “the erection of a new school in this district will supply a deficiency very long felt in the way of accommodations, but, fellow citizens, let us not be deluded by the idea that because we have a new school building, our schools will necessarily attain to a higher grade.  Without a well-organized system of school government, rigidly enforced, and sustained by a healthy public sentiment, we shall miserably fail to secure the advantages we so earnestly desire.”  

    The report continues with a plea for higher salaries to attract a teacher who considers education a profession, rather than just an interim step to some other employment.  And then there was this plea

    …we would suggest that after the new building shall have been dedicated, and the schools graded, the services of a male teacher be secured who shall be required to have a general oversight of all the schools in the village, and toward who all the other teachers shall rank as subordinates…”

    Newmarket’s problem of overcrowding in the younger classes continued, and in 1875-76, the Grammar School moved up the hill to this new building.  Dr. J. Low Elkins of the Newmarket School Committee concluded his March 1st, 1876 School report with the admonishment:

     “…the erection of costly buildings, and the introduction of new methods of instruction will avail but little, if you shall permit the love for the almighty dollar to beguile you into the belief that a parsimonious frugality which withholds all necessary support from our public schools, is economy….The stream cannot rise higher than its fountain, therefore employ none but the experienced teachers, who are known to be good disciplinarians, and to possess the faculty of imparting instruction; avoid a too frequent change of teachers; visit the school frequently, and judge by actual observation of their progress; attend the annual school meeting, make all necessary appropriations cheerfully, and encourage, and sustain by hearty co-operation your committees and teachers, in the impartial discharge of ther arduous, but, thankless duties…”

    In 1877 the first named graduates from the new High School were Annie M. Sanders and Helen Bennett.  The following year there were nine graduates.    In the 1878 School report, the Rev, Isaac White wrote on behalf of the School Committee:

     “We cannot for the present expect it to be crowded, but doubtless a larger number, from year to year, will continue their studies beyond the Grammar School, and not a few from the surrounding districts and towns will be attracted by its advantages.  Its graduates this year, as in the two previous years, are an honor to it, and their disciplined minds, richly stored with a knowledge of the higher branches of learning, will not fail to commend to others its inestimable advantages.”

     Statistical Table excerpted from the 1877-78 School Report.

    The 1877-78 report listed—for the first time—the High School Course for students, along with the textbooks.  The High School course of study encompassed three years. 

    And there were specific school rules.  Here are some of them:

     1)Hours: All schools shall, thoroughout the year commence at 9 a.m., and close at 12 o’clock p.m.; and from the middle of October until the close of the year, the afternoon session shall begin at 1:30 o’clock p.m. and close at 4:30p.m., with suitable recesses for each session.

    2) Teachers will be at their respective schools at least 10 minutes before each session.

    3) The morning session shall be opened with the reading of the Scriptures.

    4) Every school shall be furnished with a record book registering names, ages, absence and tardiness of each scholar, with daily average rank in recitation and deportment and the register shall be open to all visitors.

    5) Pupils absent or tardy must bring satisfactory excuse from their parent or guardian.

    6) Names of truants shall be reported to the School Committee.

    7) Teachers will enforce rules of cleanliness for all pupils.

    8) Good morals is the first importance…the pupils shall be carefully instructed to avoid idleness and profanity, falsehood and deceit, and every wicked and disgraceful practice, and to conduct themselves in an orderly, courteous and respectful manner; and it shall be the duty of the instructors (so far as practical) to exercise a general inspection over them, in these regards, both in and out of school, and while going to same and returning home.

    9) Ventilation, the teacher shall see that the air is thoroughly changed at each recess and at the close of each school session.

    10) Teachers shall be held responsible for any want of decorum or neatness about school premises.

    11) Teachers shall be held responsible for all damage done to school property in their respective rooms during school hours. Any pupil who writes any indecent language of obscene or indecent drawings on any part of school premises shall be liable to explusion.

    12) No teacher shall inflict any punishment whatever upon the head of any pupil, and corporal punishment may be inflicted only after all other means to secure obedience have been exhausted.

     Newmarket High School Photo taken 1893




     A bronze bell manufactured in 1877 by the Henry N. Hooper Company in Boston was installed in the cupola atop the school. The Hooper Company foundry was built in 1871 by Joseph and Paul Revere, grandsons of the Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere.  The cupola and bell fell after a lightning strike in the late 1960’s and was sold for scrap metal.  Ronald Griswold and  Red Schanda tracked the bell down and found it on top of a junk heap in Portland, ME.  They retrieved it and brought it back to the New Market Historical Society where it now sits in the Stone School Museum. Visitors are encouraged to pull the rope and strike the bell to hear the crystal clear tone ring out once again in a school setting.

    High School boys were tasked with ringing the bell twice during the school day:  15 minutes before the start of class in the morning, and 15 minutes before the end of lunch break to summons students back up the hill.  (Students went home for lunch.)

     In the 1880s and 1890s the High School had what was considered the finest architecture in town and was celebrated on silver plates, post cards and tea cups.

    From High School to Grammar School 1924-1965

    After 1924 when the new high school was built on South Main Street, the school became an elementary school.   After the mill closings and during the Great Depression, the town population took a nose dive, and the building was rarely used as a school.  Not until after WW II and the “baby boom” explosion from 1946 on, did it once again reopen to house grades one through four.  Grades five and six met at the old Stone School. Seventh and eighth grade classes were held at the South Main Street High School.   

    With the new elementary school (an annex on the 1924 high school on South Main Street) built in 1965, this building ended its service as a school—after nearly 100 years.  But another younger population would soon enter.  

    Newmarket’s First High School & Great Bay Kids

    Newmarket’s first high school building then became Newmarket’s first community day care center.  The Reverend and Mrs. Mervin Ramsey of the Community Church had organized a group of interested citizens—most of them housewives,  and approached the selectmen.  They were given this old building, which by that time had been empty for a year.  The Newmarket Community Action Council for Day Care Centers, Inc. was incorporated in September of 1967 as a non-profit organization to administer quality child care programs for children. Financed through local fundraising and a grant from the Spaulding-Potter Charitable Trust, the center addressed the needs of low income families, with payment set up on a sliding scale.  According to the initial response from parents in the community, about 90 children were in need of day care.   

    After renovations had been  made, the Newmarket Child Care Center opened here on October 2, 1967 , with 40 children.  It ran from 6:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. for children ages 3-5 years old. The center also took in children after school up to age eight, providing a safe place for them to be, instead of going home alone. nd this was just the beginning:

    In 1973, the organization applied for a 3 to 1 matching federal grant through the Division of Welfare.

    The organization branched out, addressing the growing need for child care in the Exeter area; a center with space for 50 children was opened there in January of 1975.  To reflect this, the agency name changed to ”The Newmarket/Exeter Child Care Center.”

    After ten years here, Newmarket’s facility was relocated to current facility at 3 Simons Lane.  It has continued to meet the needs of the community with a 1983 expansion to serve 64 children.  An infant program was added in 2016.

    In 1997, what had started out 30 years earlier here in Newmarket’s old high school building became Great Bay Kids’ Company.

    When the Day Care Center moved in 1977, this building became the Newmarket Youth Center—which didn’t last very long.   According to Red Schanda in an 1980 interview with the Foster’s Daily Democrat, there hadn’t been enough interest to sustain it.  The town, intent on raising money for a future public safety complex, sold the building for $50,000 in 1979.   (At the time, Newmarket’s Fire Department was housed in the old South Primary School—Site No. 10, and the Police Department was crammed into the basement of the old Town Hall.)  

    Newmarket House

    The buyer, Berkshire Builders renovated the building at a cost of nearly one million dollars.  The old 1875 high school now had 27 apartments.  Construction included an addition that more than doubled the size of the original building.  The apartment complex was designed for the elderly—especially for those who qualified for Section 8 subsidies.   Elevators were installed, and all the apartments were outfitted with such safety measures as bathroom pull cords.  Outdoors, a covered staircase was built around the granite outcropping, providing a walking path to South Main Street. 

    The Newmarket House filled a definite need among those whose retirement funds had been hard hit by inflation in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  It opened in the late summer of 1980 and has continued as a Project-Based Section 8 property associated with HUD.  Some or all of the rents at this elderly housing community are based on tenant incomes.   They remain as one or two-bedroom apartments.