As mentioned in a recent blog post on the history of the East Acton school district, during the first decades of the nineteenth century, a one-room schoolhouse at the corner of today’s Great and Davis Roads served students from both North and East Acton. The result, especially in the winter months when farm work was not expected of older students, would have been crowding and a teacher with very little time for individual grades, much less individual students’ needs. Residents of East Acton campaigned for years to split the school. We recently came across a March 6, 1828 listing of all the students in what was then called the “East” School District. On it were the names and ages of 87 students, 48 “Masters” and 39 “Misses.” At a time when censuses listed only heads of household, this is a particularly useful document. In some cases, this is the only record we have found that shows a student’s presence in Acton.
Given the age provided in the March 1828 list, some of the students were easy to find in the town’s published birth records. Some, because of a common name or an age that does not quite match dates in the records, were not so clear and needed to be followed up in other records. Baptisms were sometimes done well after birth, so the provided age was less helpful in identifying individuals in those records. In some cases, we could not find the students in any other Acton records, so we had to search farther afield and try to work back to an Acton connection.
Below is an annotated list of the 87 scholars in the March 1828 East Acton School with the results of our research into their identity. Overall, we found 42 whose name and age seem to match a person in Acton’s birth records and another seven whose age was somewhat off but who probably matched an Acton birth record. For 14 students, we found no birth record in Acton or elsewhere, but we did find a church/baptismal record in Acton that is probably the right person. (Some were baptisms were done several years after birth, and some of those were born elsewhere). Research revealed five students whose later records reported an Acton birth, but there is no record of it at the time. We were able to find parents and a likely out-of-town birthplace for eight of the other students. The remaining eleven remain elusive.
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