Historical Commission

Mailing Address: 325 Main Road, Gill, MA 01354

Email: ghc@gillmass.org

Visit us on FaceBook @GillHistoricalCommission

Commission: 7 members (currently 5 are filled with 2 vacancies) plus 2 Alternates - 3 yr. terms

Volunteer Opportunities: If you are interested in GHC membership or want to volunteer, please contact a member.

Meeting Schedule: The Commission generally meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 3:00 p.m. at the Riverside Municipal Building, 54 French King Highway, Gill. Please contact the Chair to confirm the meeting time and to be included on the agenda.

Next 4 meetings:

Members

5 of 7 seats. 3 years each seat.

  • Kit Carpenter, Chair. June, 2023. Gill, MA 01354 - 413-863-2505
  • Pam Shoemaker. June, 2022. Gill, MA 01354 - 413-863-4170
  • Robert Perry. June, 2022.
  • Charlene Currie. June, 2024.
  • Terri Rice. June, 2024.
  • VACANT
  • VACANT

Alternate Members:

Bev Demars

Lynda Hodsdon Mayo

Previous meetings:

Now Available! Gill Maps by Casey Williams

If you missed us at the recent Gill Harvest Festival we now have some beautiful hand designed Gill maps by local artist Casey Williams! These heavy weight prints are available in postcard ($3.00 donation) and 8x10 size ($18 donation).

Perfect for framing and gift giving. Contact one of our members or at ghc@gillmass.org if you are interested.

School Days

From the GHC museum collection.

Bits of History of the Schools in Gill

While we could easily write a small history book on the 200+ years of schools in Gill, this month we’ve randomly chosen three to highlight as a start with more to come.

Early History:
Town history reveals to us that permanent schoolhouses were first built in the Gill section of Greenfield between 1770-1775. There would be seven schools built in Greenfield (Gill was part of Greenfield until it incorporated in 1793) and it was planned to have two of those seven schools located in the section east of Fall River that eventually became the Town of Gill. However, because of the need at least three schoolhouses were built. The first of these schoolhouses was built at the juncture of Straits Road and a road no longer in existence near Factory Hollow.

Little is definitely known concerning the schools and school matters before 1818 because most of the records have been lost. However, the books from the Town Treasurer, land records and other miscellaneous sources of information pieced together gives us what we believe to be accurate.

The first schoolhouse in Gill Center stood on a knoll where Center Rd. joined Northfield Rd. before 1775. Fire destroyed the schoolhouse on February 13, 1807 and it was replaced by a brick schoolhouse built at the western end of the lot on the opposite side of the common. It served as a school until 1823 when the town divided into school districts and it passed into private ownership in 1824 when it was deeded to Samual Stratton (Bk. 61, p. 243).

Prior to 1823, five schoolhouses served various sections of town. During this time there were no specific school districts in place and it was up to the preference or convenience of the parents which school their children would attend. In 1823 it was voted by a committee to divide the town into 5 school districts.

Dwight L. Moody

In 1720, the area now known as Northfield Mount Hermon School was commonly called “Grass Hill” because of its beautiful grassy hillsides and pastures along the Connecticut River. It was considered part of West Northfield. However, once Gill incorporated in 1793, those residents petitioned to become a part of Gill and in 1795 this area officially became a part of the town.


In 1879, Dwight L. Moody, an evangelist and native to Northfield, started a school for girls called Northfield Seminary for Young Ladies in the town of Northfield. [As a point of reference, nearby Deerfield Academy was established in 1797 and Prospect Hill School of Greenfield (now known as Stoneleigh Burnham School), was established in 1869.]

Moody, who remembered his own limited opportunities for education, was drawn to the potential of capable young women in rural areas that lacked formal education. These girls came from respectable families however were encouraged to spend their time on trivial tasks. The benefit of higher education was denied because their parents lacked the means. He believed that a combination of “book-learning”, Christianity and domestic skills were essential. It was his plan that the girls themselves should help to run the school and gain practical experience. It was his vision that the students would come from the immediate vicinity of Northfield, however it quickly appealed to a much wider audience outside of Northfield and growth and expansion quickly followed.


With the school’s success, parents wanted Moody to include boys as well. Because coeducation was contrary to his judgement, two years later he established Mount Hermon School for Boys in 1881 in the area of Gill known as “Grass Hill”.

In the early days, his hopes were to create a generation of committed Christians. The Bible was the primary “tool” in the classroom, accompanied by a very challenging academic program. According to the NMH website, “a factor that distinguished the schools (and continues to do so today) was the manual labor required of all students. At Northfield, girls worked 10 hours per week, helping prepare meals or cleaning dormitories. At Mount Hermon, boys performed janitorial, laundry, kitchen, and farm work. The work requirement has shrunk over the years (it is now four hours per week), and while students still help in the dining hall and on NMH's farm, they perform a variety of other jobs as well.”


Throughout the 20th century, less emphasis was placed on religion and more on social justice. The schools worked together with various organizations including the National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negro Students (1940’s), A Better Chance (1960’s) and Upward Bound (for the last 50 years).
In 1971, the two secondary schools merged to become Northfield Mount Hermon School and maintained both campuses. In 2005, they consolidated NMH to the Mount Hermon campus in Gill. In 2009, the majority of the Northfield campus was sold to Thomas Aquinas College, a Catholic college based in California returning it back to its Christian roots.
(For additional information go to https://www.nmhschool.org/about/history)

With the school’s success, parents wanted Moody to include boys as well. Because coeducation was contrary to his judgement, two years later he established Mount Hermon School for Boys in 1881 in the area of Gill known as “Grass Hill”.

In the early days, his hopes were to create a generation of committed Christians. The Bible was the primary “tool” in the classroom, accompanied by a very challenging academic program. According to the NMH website, “a factor that distinguished the schools (and continues to do so today) was the manual labor required of all students. At Northfield, girls worked 10 hours per week, helping prepare meals or cleaning dormitories. At Mount Hermon, boys performed janitorial, laundry, kitchen, and farm work. The work requirement has shrunk over the years (it is now four hours per week), and while students still help in the dining hall and on NMH's farm, they perform a variety of other jobs as well.”


Throughout the 20th century, less emphasis was placed on religion and more on social justice. The schools worked together with various organizations including the National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negro Students (1940’s), A Better Chance (1960’s) and Upward Bound (for the last 50 years).
In 1971, the two secondary schools merged to become Northfield Mount Hermon School and maintained both campuses. In 2005, they consolidated NMH to the Mount Hermon campus in Gill. In 2009, the majority of the Northfield campus was sold to Thomas Aquinas College, a Catholic college based in California returning it back to its Christian roots.
(For additional information go to https://www.nmhschool.org/about/history Photos and history credit to NMH).

West Gill Schoolhouse

West Gill Schoolhouse:
Served Gill students from 1879-1939
The school pictured here of West Gill Schoolhouse was located at the crossroads of West Gill and Center Roads and most likely had a school building there since around the time that the town was incorporated in 1793. As populations grew or schoolhouses destroyed by fire, the replacement was rebuilt in the same location. Found in town records, a school building was noted in 1804 (Bk.19, p. 363) and in 1836 (Bk. 137, p. 269) where it was called "The Red Schoolhouse" and one of the only schools in Gill that had been painted.

Fast forward to 1879, it became necessary to erect a new schoolhouse, so the district built a brick structure which at the time was considered to be a "model school building" (pictured). The West Gill Schoolhouse served the town for over sixty years until 1939.

Students in front of the West Gill Schoolhouse in 1923.

Students pictured in front of the West Gill Schoolhouse in 1923 as identified by Francis Remillard in 1992.

Starting from bottom right: Mary Krejmas, Victoria Krejmas, Catherine Beauregard, Harriet Remillard, Miss Walker (teacher), George Baker, Joseph Krejmas, Leo LaMountain, Mary Sak, Ruth Peters, Floyd Hale, Warren Hastings, Harold Baker, George Peters, Francis Remillard, Francis Campbell (?)

Gill Elementary School 1961

Gill Elementary School:
Construction began in spring of 1955

After WWII, one of the challenges the town faced was adequate schooling. State and national standards became more demanding and the school-age children population in Gill was rapidly increasing. At least one of the several schools (North School) was in disrepair.

As early as 1938 there was discussion to consolidate the various 1-room schoolhouses across the town into one but no action was taken until 1949 when a committee was appointed to review the current needs. Over the next several years much research, town meetings and resident input was top of mind. The residents of Gill also included those teachers and staff employed by Northfield School for Girls and Mount Hermon School for Boys, who lived on campus or in nearby homes with their own young children and families. They were very much in favor of a new elementary school.

The committee was tasked to research reasonable alternatives and present a coherent plan with their recommendations. Initially they looked into building an addition to the current 3-room Riverside School. Option 1) was to increase the size of the building to a 4-room school, Option 2 ) was to increase to a 6-room school or Option 3) was to send the students to Turners Falls – of which the Turners Falls officials viewed as entirely out of the question!

The committee was tasked to research reasonable alternatives and present a coherent plan with their recommendations. Initially they looked into building an addition to the current 3-room Riverside School. Option 1) was to increase the size of the building to a 4-room school, Option 2 ) was to increase to a 6-room school or Option 3) was to send the students to Turners Falls – of which the Turners Falls officials viewed as entirely out of the question!

Finally, a special Town Meeting was held in 1954 where over 200 voters attended with the discussion lasting over 90 minutes. Residents spoke on both sides and after much talk, building a new school on Boyle Road passed 151 votes for with 70 against. The total cost including land, building, equipment, site development and architect fees came to $214,500 of which $93,500 would be eventually reimbursed by the state.

The town committed itself to the new school, but as with most large town projects like this, some issues ensued but eventually were resolved. Harriot Tidd, Slate Memorial Librarian was quoted as saying, “The school project has been “cussed and discussed” at about 26 meetings, both formal Town Meetings and informal ones since March 1948.” On September 6, 1956 the new Gill Elementary School opened its doors.

Three Historical Books of Gill Now Available

The Gill Historical Commission has three books now available:

Jennie Williams Bardwell: Life in Gill 1860-1950 A beautiful, full-color, hardcover book (published 2021) with more than 200 vintage photos, maps, artwork and documents. This book follows the life and times of Jennie Williams Bardwell and living in Gill through excerpts of her handwritten diary and letters. ($50 donation) Click here for order form.

Riverside: Life along the Connecticut in Gill, Massachusetts A full-color, 180-page coffee table book with over 300 vintage photographs, maps, artwork and documents. ($45 donation) Click here for order form.

History of Gill Volume II: 1943-1993 Originally published in 1993, this 300-page volume incorporates a collection 50 Gill residents’ reminiscence of life in Gill as seen through their eyes and in their own words. This includes over 100 photos, maps and images. ($10 donation) Click here for order form.

SEND DONATIONS FOR ORDERS TO:
GILL HISTORICAL COMMISSION
TOWN HALL • 325 MAIN ROAD • GILL, MA 01354

Please submit your check, payable to Gill Historical Commission, with
an order form. We will keep reprinting the book as we receive orders.
Sorry no credit cards. We will contact you when the books are available.
Donations will be used to cover printing costs, other expenses, and for
the work of the Gill Historical Commission. Please include an additional
$9.00 for Priority Mailing. Thank you for your order.

Additional Links:

Archaeological Accountability Policy Click here to read more.

Historical Research on Roswell Field, Gill Farmer (1804-1882) To view the complete paper click here. (Used by permission of, and many thanks to Robert Herbert.)

Calendar of Events
Fri, Sep 30, 2022, All Day
Town Hall
Posted to: Town Hall
Board of Assessors -- SCHEDULED
Wed, Oct 5, 2022, 4:30 pm
2nd Floor Town Hall
Posted to: Board of Assessors
Fri, Oct 7, 2022, All Day
Posted to: Town Hall
Board of Health -- SCHEDULED
Tue, Oct 11, 2022, 5:00 pm
2nd Floor Town Hall
Posted to: Board of Health
Tue, Oct 11, 2022, 7:00 pm
Zoom Meeting
Fri, Oct 14, 2022, All Day
Posted to: Town Hall