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Newspaper article - 1932
Removal of the Old Point Shirley Schoolhouse Recalls Early Days
A Few Of The Old Desks And Chairs Used In The School To Be Placed In Deane Winthrop House, With A History Of The Point -- Interesting Facts On Early History

By Channing Howard

(Original available at the Winthrop Public Library)

The removal of the old Pt. Shirley school house (corner of Shirley street and Siren street) -- later used at one time as a hose house -- brings up recollections of the old days and few of our older people in starts a few who know of the ancient glories of Pt. Shirley to reminiscing. This school house of build an 1856 -- the same year as our first town hall, and by the same builder, George Shaw -- and cost $635. The lumber proved to be sound as new when taken down and stored by Mr. Roberts; the building was 22 feet by 26 feet

A few desks and chairs were rescued today after being cleaned up and repaired a bit, a sample will be stored -- with a history of Point Shirlegy-- at the old Deane Winthrop House. This sample desk is, or course, marked up with the names and initials of the boys having the envious opportunity to get their education at that desk and illustrations of the artistic ideas of the occupant and the sharpness -- or lack of it -- of his jack knife are in evidence. The names of D.J. Porter, T.E. Porter, C.H. Smith and the initials of D.P. are legible. Three “boys” and one “girl” have been discovered who got 'learning' at that his educational center more than half century ago -- two Wyman's and two Tewksburys.

By accident, through no fault of my own, I have the original signed reports the School Committee of the last year -- 1851, -- that we were a part of North Chelsea and the first year we were in Winthrop -- 1852. Our first school committee in 1851 were David Floyd, Henry H. Fay, street and in the and George W. Tewksbury, and Diantha P. Heath taught the Pt. Shirley school 35 weeks for $4.25 per week and the total cost of the school for that year was $600.15.

While passing, we must not infer that the first school the point surely was in 1852. Probably there were some schooling here many years before. There is evidence of public schooling here in 1837.

There was also a school house already existing at the Centre in 1852 where our new post office is located -- our first school house being built at that locus in 1805. The appropriation for both schools in 1852 was $400. An average attendance at Pt. Shirley (District No. 2) was reported as 14 out of a total of 21 scholars -- and a total in the town of 63 scholars. (We now have in with the nearly 4,000 scholars and spent for school maintenance in 1930, $284,000.)

In 1839 -- the year we were off set off from Boston (as a part of Chelsea) ten pounds were voted to be laid out by the Selectman in those parts of the new town known as "the Rocks and Pullin Point." Belcher Hancock taught at Pullin Pt. that year. In 1771 we find a record that the school at Pullin Point kept 14 weeks and one day. Schools were held in the old Bill house on Beale and in the old James Tewksbury house on Johnson avenue until the first school house was built an 1805 as above noted.

The old Revere Copper Works store which stood at Pt. Shirley just a bit southwest where the Catholic Church now stands and was removed some years ago about one-half way from the locus toward the Harbor {still on the west side of Shirley street} and has been used as a cottage for the last twenty-five years, is now been renovated and made into a two-story house. What a tale it could tell of the Copper Works time and people from 1845 to 1869 when the greatest activity of the little Town of Winthrop was at the Point. Several old Copper Works houses and buildings are still standing at Pt. Shirley, as well as four good, old houses which probably go back to the fishing enterprise of 1753 and it is said that some of the old timbers of the church built on the hill at that time (in which Rev. Mather Byles -- the "punning Torry Parson," preached) are still to be found in some of the buildings at the Point. Here Rev. Mr. McClenchan of the old Chelsea Church (still standing at Revere Centre) preached six times in 1753. In 1756, 1757 and 1761, as well as 1753 the old church and town refer to preaching at Pt. Shirley.

To go back a little, we ought to give due notice to Pt. Shirley's four business enterprises of the eighteenth and nineteenths centuries. We noted the fishing enterprise of 1753 and later. It was of considerable magnitude and import but did not prove to be financially successful. About the time of the revolution it was officially reported that “Pleasant Point had about twenty good dwelling houses, some stores, and work-houses and barns and some vessels and about twenty families.” We noted the church of this time and should note that John Hancock, our first governor under the constitution, and his famed wife, Dorothy Q., summered here with other notables in those early times. Don't forget the four fine houses of these times, above referred to, are still standing. And there was a still older house here until about 30 years ago {and we have a picture of it}, the old Tewksbury-Wyman house also on the old lane now call Siren street.

Samuel Sturgis came here in 1812 from East Boston and established salt works on the flat lands south of that hill and for the remainder of the century he and his family were a considerable item here. We have a very valuable picture - a drawing - made at that time showing the salt beds, the hoses on Siren street above noted, the old buildings, the paths, fences, etc.

The Revere Copper Works were established and run by the family of famed patriot, Paul Revere, and were a considerable enterprise. Daniel Long of that enterprise was selectman in 1856 and Wm. H. Long in 1857, 1865 and 1866. Daniel Long was one of our first assessors in 1852 and John W. Tewksbury of Pt. Shirley was one of our first selectmen in that year. The Pt. Shirley wharf was built at that time -- but enlarged in 1844 for steamboat landing purposes. Pictures of the works, which are extant, and the recollections of our older people record much of interest of the times of the Copper Company.

The remaining reference is to Taft's Hotel. Orra A. Taft learned the hotel business not unnaturally with his father who kept a hostelry at Chelsea near the ferry. He came to Pt. Shirley and built a home to hotel and house of public entertainment on what was the Wheeler land close to Shirley Gut and it became of great renown -- it is said “world famous.” He closed it up about 1890, due to advancing years, he having run it for a lifetime. It is said that a thousand game birds, of all kinds, were in his larder at once and the young men of Winthrop had a constant order from Taft for shore birds of all kinds -- let us hope they shot no song birds, sparrows, robins or snow birds or the like for the Taft “boarders.” There is a record that on July 4, 1882, fifteen hundred carriages passed through the town on the way to Taft's. We have the picture of Taft and both his hotels and many instances of happenings here were told by the late Lucius Floyd, Albert Richardson, Sam George and in fact by several people now living.

The ownership of Pt. Shirley by our first governor, John Winthrop, the “Christian Indians,” the trip via Pt. Shirley of Rev. Increase Mather in 1688, the fisheries enterprise, the new buildings and church on 1753, the naming of the Point after our Royal Governor, W. Shirley, in the same year, the Acadian refugees, the old fort, Mugford’s Battle at Shirley Gut, the small pox inoculating hospital, the escape of the famed Constitution through Shirley Gut in 1812, the salt works, the copper works, the little old Catholic Church on the flats, south of the hill in the copper works days, the places of private and public entertainment at the Point and Deer Island, culminating in the “world famous” Taft’s Hotel, the stage lines, the horse railroads, 1872-1877, the 3-rail steam railroad, 1880-1885, and the steamboat of the same date, the street railway, 1910-1928, and now the bus line; the ownership in later years of the Point by two New England governors, the cutting down of the hill and filling in low land in 1907, the building up almost completely as a place of residence and summer settlement in the last 20 years, make “Point Pleasant” the “modulous expansion of Pt. Shirley”, the “fairest wallflower in Boston Harbor” (cognomens applied at various times by her ardent admirers) great and glorious in history and geographical location, being the furthest extension of the old Winnisimmet, Rumney Marsh and Pullin Point peninsula extending down into Boston Harbor on its northerly side, has caused comment and description by Capt. John Smith, Graves, Force, Francis, Higginson, Wood, Brown, King, Blake, Chamberlain and a galaxy of others; the poems of Frederick William Augustus Steuben Bown, “the beautiful Miss Sturgis” the most extraordinary transportation (or lack of it) means and methods from early Indian footpath to the modern automobile, the great storms, Shirley Gut, our neighbor Deer Island, and the romance of Taft’s Hotel, are all a part of the Pt. Shirley classic and are duly brought to remembrance by the passing of the Point Shirley school house.


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