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Early Simsbury Connecticut

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Early History of Simsbury

Citations in the following should be verified. Any possible unintended plagiarism should be eliminated.

From Trumbull, Memorial History of Hartford County, 2:355:

The problem of fencing the improved lands of Simsbury was for years a source of contention among the town’s inhabitants. Much of the mandated fencing had never been erected, and maintenance had always been difficult. Contention arose when neighbors’ cattle grazing in common lands overstepped into neighbors cultivated fields and ruined them. In view of the fact that Simsbury was such a huge town--ten miles long and ten miles wide--it was also obviously impossible to protect the whole area from wolves and other predators. Many attempts were made to solve the problems, sometimes by enactments of the town meeting, sometimes through voluntary associations.
After Simsbury finally laid the matter before the General Court, a committee of the Court ruled that all proprietors should be responsible for the cost of fencing the land extending from the border of Fannington seven miles north to John Higley’s land on both sides of the river, with specific men living on the east side charged with building the fence on the western border and another specific group on the west side building the eastern fence. Although this order roused grumbling it was carried out, and there was actually a general improvement in the situation. However by 1703 disputes became more frequent. Several farmers at Weatogue had in the meantime banded together in loose groups to fence, their own farms for protection, and that idea spread and eventually became common practice.
In spite of his boyhood infraction of the fence law, John Humphrey served as surveyor and fence viewer in later life, overseeing the maintenance of the fencing and making sure no one moved any of it. The fence viewer had an assistant called a "pounder," who had the power to condemn stray livestock and put them in a pound until they were redeemed by their owner.
There had been a public school system in the Colony of Connecticut since 1650, fifteen years after the first settlement at Windsor, when the General Court decreed that any town having more than fifty householders must hire a schoolmaster and pay his salary. Simsbury had grown enough by 1701 to require a schoolmaster, John Slater, who was hired "to teach such of said town Children as are sent, to read, writ, and to cypher, or to say the rules of arithmatick." .

From Stiles: [citation needed]

In 1713 John Humphrey, Jr. was appointed to the Simsbury school committee. By that time Simsbury had schools on both sides of the river, all to be "keept up five months in one year, at least," and at least four schooldames and one schoolmaster [Ibid.]. Paper was a very scarce commodity; writing and number work were done on birch bark, using quill pens and ink made by boiling the berries of the sumac tree. The New Testament was the chief textbook for the teaching of reading.
The laws of the Connecticut Colony pertaining to the common school system included the following stipulations
1. An obligation on the part of every parent and guardian of children "not to suffer so much barbarism in any of their families as to have a single child or apprentice unable to read the holy word of God, and the good laws of the colony," and to "bring them up to some lawful calling or employment," under a penalty for failing to do so.
2. A tax of forty shillings on every thousand pounds of the lists of estates to be collected in every town with the annual colony tax, payable proportionately only to those towns which should keep their schools according to law.
3. A common school in every town having over seventy families, kept throughout the year; and in every town with less than seventy families, kept for at least six months in the year.
4. A grammar school in each of the four head county towns to fit youth for college, two of which grammar schools must be free.
5. A collegiate school, toward which the General Court made an annual appropriation of £120.
6. Provision for the religious instruction of the Indians [Stiles, 1:401].

Theoretically the town meeting was responsible for all religious and school matters. In practice, the administration of the schools gradually was vested in the ecclesiastical societies, which emerged in 1736 to administer church affairs; it was not until 1795 that a secular school society was formed and school funds transferred into its hands.

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Categories: Simsbury, Connecticut