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He taught the boys who
ran the Revolution

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By Charles W. Brewster

Editors Note: C.W. Brewster was a Portsmouth columnist in the mid-1800's. This article includes his opinions and may not reflect current research or current values.

Major Samuel Hale - Latin grammar school in State street - Patriotism - First Province School.

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As the bad travelling forbids a walk more distant, we will just step down by Exchange Buildings, and standing at the stone post on State street, gather up a few reminiscences. On the west is the site of the old Rockingham Bank, now occupied by the new Custom House, and a little to the east is what for half a century had been the high school house. In the last century one whose residence was on the site of the Rockingham Bank, passed this spot to that school house, for as many years as the children of Israel were journeying from Egypt to the promised land.

Although the teacher, and nearly all of his host of scholars have now passed away, yet to his instructions, his example and devoted life, may be attributed as much that has tended to build up Portsmouth and give it character, as to any other source--with due deference to the pulpit.

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Teacher Samuel Hale

As the subject of education, schools and school-houses, is at this age occupying the public mind, it may not be out of the way to call the attention of the younger members of the community to this able and devoted teacher of the Latin grammar school of Portsmouth, in former times. We refer to the venerable arid much respected Major SAMUEL HALE. Born in the year 1718, he graduated at Harvard College in 1740. He commanded a company of New Hampshire provincials at the expedition to Cape Breton in 1745, and soon after returning from the siege of Louisburg, in 1748, was engaged as instructor of the school which was kept on the spot where the present brick school house is located, on State street. It was, we think, a large, one-story, wooden building, much like the old school house formerly on school street.

He continued this occupation for nearly forty years, with great ability and effect. He imparted instruction to several thousand scholars, fitted a large number for college, and lived to see many of his pupils afterwards numbered among the distinguished men of the country. At Major Hale's school, John Langdon, Woodbury Langdon, John Peirce, and the old stock of Havens, Sheafes, and most of our distinguished merchants were educated. Those of his scholars who were destined for a liberal education were prepared for college under his tuition, and it was remarked that he never offered a candidate for admission to college who was rejected. Early in life he became a member of the South Church, and was highly respected for his piety, integrity, learning and talents. He died July 10, 1807, at the advanced age of eighty-nine years. A conspicuous headstone to his memory is erected in the North burial ground. The epitaph thereon, written by J. M. Sewell, is still quite legible.

As an instructor of youth, he was not only remarkably fond of the employment, but his fame in the regions of the Piscataqua, was equal to that of his contemporary, Master Lovell, in the metropolis of New England.

He was a warm friend of the American independence, and though living in the midst of political sentiments very different from his own, he early took a decided part in opposition to the tyrannical proceedings of England towards her colonies. Before the commencement of hostilities, he was a moderator of the town meeting, on a certain occasion, when several resolves were passed strongly expressive of the feelings of the true sons of liberty.

The abettors of the royal prerogative spared no pains to impress upon his mind what they, no doubt honestly, thought would be the consequence. Not long after this, from the peculiarly gloomy aspect of the provincial affairs, and from the representations which were continually rung in his ears, he came to the conclusion, that the leading patriots would soon end their days at Tyburn. Such were his feelings when he declined signing the Association Test. However, he soon rose superior to those fearful apprehensions, and was a strenuous asserter, and an active promoter of the liberties of his country.

Soon after the declaration of independence, he was appointed one of the judges of the court of common pleas for Rockingham county, and held it with dignity until the adoption of the state constitution in 1784.

Major Hale had four sons and two daughters. Elizabeth married Capt. Ebenezer Thompson, and Mary married Thomas Sheafe. His sons, Samuel and William, were merchants and ship owners; in the latter years of their life the former resided in Barrington, and the latter in Dover. Thomas also resided in Barrington, and John was a bachelor lawyer in Portsmouth. All are now dead. Hon. Samuel Hale, formerly of Portsmouth and now of Rollinsford, was the son of Samuel Hale, of Barrington.

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1708 School Law

Forty years before Major Hale commenced his school, there was a province free school ordered by the Assembly to be kept in Portsmouth, which in the act is called "A free scool for righters, reeders and Lateners." To support this school Portsmouth was assessed L21, Hampton L10, Exeter L8, Dover L8, and Newcastle L3. This law passed May 10, 1708. By the following order of the Assembly, passed six months after, it appears that the school arrangements had not then been completed:

PORTSMOUTH, 16 Nov. 1708.--Notwithstanding the pious law of the Governor, Council and Assembly of this province, in raising a free Grammar School for the province, to be kept in the town of Portsmouth, being the head of the government, and their good provision for the maintenance of a master, the Council are now informed that there is no provision made by the town of Portsmouth for a school-house for the receipt of the master and scholars.

Ordered, that the selectmen of the town of Portsmouth be notified of their neglect herein, and that they forthwith provide a suitable house for the said school to be kept, that the scholars may not lose their time, within three days next coming, upon the penalty of fifty pounds to be levied upon their persons and estates, as other fines, to be brought through the treasury to be expended in building of a good school-house for the future service: that the aforesaid good and religious act of the Assembly be not evaded or eluded.

Text scanned courtesy of The Brewster Family Network
Copy of Rambles courtesy Peter E. Randall
History Hypertext project by
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