Some of the Portsmouth one room schools Lost to Time.

Some of the Portsmouth one room schools Lost to Time.

Thanks to the efforts of the Hall family and the Portsmouth Historical Society, one of the original one-room schoolhouses in Portsmouth has not been lost to time.  On the grounds of the Portsmouth Historical Society museum, the Southermost School provides a glimpse of Portsmouth School Days in the 1700s.  Around 1730 there were two schools in town – the Southermost by the corner of Union and East Main and the Northermost School which was located (logically enough) in the north of town (near where the post office is today).

Around 1860 the town was large enough to divide into eight districts. Southermost and Northermost Schools were retired.  Southermost served as a harness shed on the Hall farm on Union Street.   Prudence Island’s one room school house is one of those original eight.  Bristol Ferry, Chase Main (near the location of Melville School), McCorrie School (Schoolhouse Lane), Vaucluse (Braman’s Lane near Wapping Rd.), Gibbs School (Union St. near Jepson Lane) and a school that served the coal mine area were among these one room schools.

As the school system outgrew the one-room schools, schools that had two or three rooms were built.  Newtown School on Turnpike, Quaker Hill School (the Administration Building today) and Coggeshall School on East Main began to handle different grades.  As the town grew older students went to Anthony School and Anne Hutchinson School held a variety of grades.  Along the way the schools were repurposed or moved.  Coggeshall School received a large addition that is used by the Aquidneck Island Christian Academy today.

Here is a 200 year old list of Rules and Punishment posted at Southernmost School.  Imagine if they were the rules at school today!

  • Boys and girls playing together – 1 lash
  • Fighting at School – 5 lashes
  • Quarreling at school – 3 lashes
  • Climbing for every foot over 3ft up a tree – 1 lash
  • Telling tales out of school – 8 lashes
  • Giving each other ill names – 3 lashes
  • Misbehaving to girls – 10 lashes
  • Leaving school without leave of the teacher – 4 lashes
  • Wearing long fingernails – 2 lashes
  • Boys going to the girls’ play place – 3 lashes
  • Girls going to the boys’ play place – 2 lashes
  • For every word you miss on your heart lessons without a good excuse – 1 lash
  • For not saying yes or no sir or yes or no marm – 2 lashes
  • Telling lies – 7 lashes
  • Swearing at school – 9 lashes.