Kasson School Pupils

The Lure of the Litchfield Hills

This article appeared in The Lure of the Litchfield Hills (date unknown)
by Walter P. Lake

Note - Walter P. Lake's father was a member of the Bethlehem Board of Education when the Editor began to supervise the school of that town in the fall of 1908.  He was a very able member with the best interest of the schools at heart. Walter P. Lake's sister, Elsie, taught in the Kasson School for the three years the Editor supervised the schools of the town.

The first public education in Connecticut was, I believe, the district school where a group of citizen living near together organized, build their own school, hired the teacher and ran the school according to their own standards. The size of the district varied according to families rather than distance, sometimes overlapping town boundaries.

The next district to the east of Kasson, Hard Hill School constructed of native brick, was only one mile distant, while the schools in the other three directions were several miles away. The following is mostly taken from the records of the Kasson District going back to 1794. The district was originally called East North Middle, but later changed to Kasson in honor of a prominent family by the name of Kasson. This family was much interested in having a good school.

"Bethlehem, March 23, 1794. At a proprietor's Meeting holden at the home of George D. Kasson, a subscription was opened and $146.00 subscribed."

"April 6, 1794. Voted to build a school house 24' x 16'. Voted to set up the building of said house to the lowest bidder. Bid off by Deacon Richard Gamsey at $50.00. Voted to dissolve the meeting."

"Nov. 5, 1794. Voted that writing tables (desks) shall be built next the outside of the house, and the benches within the tables."

Building the desks continuously around the outside of the school room with backless benches for the children seemed to be the original way. The advantage would all be with the teacher in keeping watch of her charges.

"Voted (at the same meeting) to lay a tax sufficient to paint the house, build the tables, seats, and to purchase shovel, tongs and irons."

"Bye Laws."

If any person or child shall break any glass they shall replace it inside of 24 hours or pay a fine of 12 1/2 cents. For the least cut or mark inside or outside, a fine of two cents.

"Voted to lay a rate of one cent and three mills on the dollar of the property list.

"Voted to exhonerate Clem Beardsley from paying any of afore rate."

"Oct. 29, Voted to engage Nathan Hawley to instruct the school four months beginning the first Monday of December next, and to give him $11.00 per month. Voted to allow $1.75 for a cord for good wood for the fire and piled to be measured by the instructor." (Apparently, the room was heated entirely by fire place until 1834.)

"Dec. 13, 1794. Voted to have Mich'l Chapman make fire seasonably and have for his trouble the ashes which shall be made in that time." (This shows how highly the potash content was valued.)

"April 30, 1799. Voted to direct the school committee to engage Mr. Charles Hull to instruct a school in the district for one month and then, if general satisfaction is given, three months longer, or more at $9.00 a month."

"April 30, 1799. Voted to set up a school the ensuing season for five months, in case an instructor can be engaged reasonably, also if Nathan Hawley can be procured to instruct the school to give him $12.00 per month. If not, voted to give Mylo Gamsey $9.00 a month if he can be procured for that. Nathan Hawley kept the school four months. Closed March 1800.

"April 3, 1800. Voted to [ ] a Ma'am School the ensuing season if an instructor can be procured cheap to the satisfaction of the respecting committee if they approve dame schools. Voted to give (?) Kasson $1.00 per week to keep a school this ensuing summer [ ] will accept.

"October 20, 1800.  Voted to engage instructor for $12.00 a month if he boards himself, $9.00 if board is furnished. [ ] proprietor sending one child furnish 1/2 cord wood and one cord for 3 children.


"Jan. 23, 1843. The building committee stated that they had made contact with Dan'l B. Jackson to build said house for $222.00 including small house in the back. Voted to tax ourselves 13 cents on the dollar."

The contract is so definite and affords such a fine description of the construction of a one room school that it is included here in full. As we read the contract, let us study the picture at the head of this article.


"Know all men by these presents that I, Daniel B. Jackson of Bethlehem in the County of Litchfield, am held and firmly bound with George Kasson, treasurer of the Sixth School District in Bethlehem and to his successors in office in the penal sum of three hundred dollars to be paid to the said Kasson or to his successor in office to which payment will and truly to be made and done I bind myself, my heirs, executors and administrators firmly by these presents signed with my hand and sealed with my seal dated at Bethlehem the 31 day of January, 1843.

The condition of this bond is such that whereas the above named Daniel B. Jackson has contracted to build a schoolhouse in the Sixth School District, Bethlehem, on a plot of ground a little west of the old school house in District according to the following specifications to wit;

The house to be twenty-six feet long and eighteen feet wide with recess in the front end 6 ft. wide and 4 feet deep. A trench to be dug all around down to the hard pan and filled with stones to set the underpinning on. The underpinning to be handsome split stones 11 inches wide. A handsome stone to be laid in the recess 6 ft long and 4 ft. wide. The posts of the house to be 10 ft. the lower timbers of the frame to be of good chestnut or white oak. The other timbers to be chestnut or oak. Outside to be covered with first rate white chestnut clapboards, roof of boards to be good chestnut or oak and joints covered with scale board or some other material before shingling. Shingling to be first rate chestnut smoothed on one side if sawed. A handsome cornice to be put on all around proportioned to the size of the house.

Pilasters by the recess of suitable width and cap over head. Cornice castings corner boards and ridge boards all to be of good merchantable pine. Two doors one on each side of the recess to be framed with at least four panels. There is to be seven 14 light windows 6 by 8 glass lock sashes to be let down from the top. Doors, sashes and window-stools to be of good pine. The lower floor to be laid double, upper boards to be good oak not exceeding 8 in. wide. A floor to be laid in chambers. School room to be the width of the house and twenty ft. long, lathed and plastered down to the floor and ceiled with good chestnut boards as high as the bottom of the windows. Overhead to be plastered with two good coats. The lobbies to be lather and plastered over head and ceiled on the sides. Inside doors to be batting doors to be hung with good strap hinges. Thee is to be 12 double desks with lids hung with butts for each scholar and one for teacher. The desk to be fashioned similar to those in the school house in Middlebury near Mr. Stone's with the exception of the seats and desks being at different heights for different sized scholars and the fronts to rise four inches above the level part of the desks and a groove be cut by the side of the fronts for slates. The seats on the sides of the room to be attached to the walls to be made of chestnut plank also short sets in front of the desks for small children with shelves the underside for books. The lids of the desks to be of good merchantable pine. There is to be a place for ventilation in the top of the school room, and a trap door over one of the lobbies to enter the chamber. A lock is to be put on one front door and a hook or slide bolt on the other. Outside of house is to be painted white or red with white trimmings with three good coats. Inside to be painted two coats. Also a chimney to be set upon a flat stone on the upper floor and carried out at the ridge. Also to build an out house 9 ft long and 4 ft. wide, with two apartments and seats accordingly and to be painted in manner to correspond with the school house. All the boards for the school house to be thoroughly seasoned and the whole of the work to be done in a handsome, substantial and work man-like manner. And to be completed by the 15 of June next for which job D. Jackson is entitled to the sum of two hundred twenty-two dollars. Now if the above named Jackson furnish all the material and cause house to be built in all respects agreeable to the above specifications then the obligation is to be void and of none effect, or else to be and remain in full force and virtue.

Signed sealed and delivered in the presence of Orrin H. Addes and Herchia Brucker."

School term opened from middle of April to first of May for 5 or 6 months and from middle of November to December first for 4 months. Oct. 15, 1852, voted to allow 7/6 per week for board."

"Voted to adjourn two weeks to Nov. 9 and when that evening arrived it proved a very rainy night and none attended and of course nothing done."

The town took over the financing of schools some time towards the end of 1810.

I remember attending a committee meeting around 1900 with my father by lantern light to elect a committee man for the year, but soon after that State Supervision came and there was a definite improvement in the educational program for the small towns of the state.