Amherst marks 150th year of Brick School

AMHERST – Bob Heaton attended fifth through eighth grades at the Brick School from 1957 to 1961.

There used to be a basketball court in front where there is now lawn, he said on Saturday at the 150th anniversary of the former school.

“We used to scrape the snow off and practice,” he said. “We had a team but we didn’t have any home games. It was a big deal to play in the Milford gym.”

Marge O’Dell, class of 1938, was the oldest graduate of Amherst High School present. She recalled a teacher, a Mrs. Bertha Piper. “She was a very rugged person, who wanted you to do as she said.

“I have a lot of fond memories and am thankful I could go here. We didn’t have all the things you have now, but we could all make change without it coming up on the register.”

Several others also recalled Schoolmistress Piper and her strict ways. She also coached spring plays and assisted the Alumni Association, which was formed in 1931.

The Amherst Heritage Commission planned Saturday’s celebration. Commission Chairman William Ludt served as master of ceremonies. Music was provided by the Amherst Town Band.

The program began with a visit from “Betsy Phelps,” a resident of Amherst when the school was built in 1854, as portrayed by Sharon Wood from the New Hampshire Humanities Council. Phelps described the town as it was then, spoke of Jane Means, who married future President Franklin Pierce, and reflected on the tragedy of the Civil War in which her son, Charles Phelps, died at Gettysburg.

Following the construction of the school, the 10 one-room schools in town were gradually closed, with all students in town attending the Brick School by 1935. A new two-room school – the Clark School – was built in 1937 to accommodate the growing population. Grades seven through 12 were at the Brick School, taught by four teachers including a teaching principal.

The high school closed in 1951 and students were tuitioned to Milford. In 1965, the school district deeded the school to the town. In 1967, it became the new home of Jack and Jill Kindergarten, an arrangement that lasted until 1997 when the town established public kindergarten.

School Administrative Unit 39 moved its offices into the Brick School in 1997 and continues to use it.

Several former students spoke briefly.

Teacher Marion Young recalled her three years at the school in the mid-1940s, describing how a student arranged a date with her older brother, who had just returned from the war.

“The Brick School was responsible for my living in Amherst for 55 years,” she said.

Three 12-year-old girls, members of the last graduating class from Jack and Jill, recalled the school grounds as “being all dirt, no grass. It looks wicked good now,” one said.

A painting of the school by artist Joyce Kingman was presented to Superintendent Howard Colter. Prints of the picture are available, with proceeds to benefit the Heritage Commission.

A farewell song to the school, from 1916, was sung to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne,” accompanied by the town band.

A three-tiered cake was cut by the oldest person at the celebration who attended the school – Elizabeth (Richardson) Miles, who went there 1928 – and the youngest – Alexandra Silva, 12.