School

An Early Nelson School

This is the first installment of a long article on the operation of one of Nelson’s early schools.  The main source for the series is the seventy page record of School Number Seven from 1820 to 1858 which was generously donated to the town archives with many other valuable historical papers by Ethan Tolman. Thanks to a grant secured by Susan Hansel, the record of School Number Seven is preserved and available to the public on a CD at the Olivia Rodham Memorial Library.  The balance of the source documents are the Nelson Town Records preserved in the Town Archives and material on the Woodcock Patent located at the Cheshire County Historical Society.


Settlement in Nelson had increased remarkably in the years immediately after the revolution increasing from 186 in 1776 to 721 by the first national census in 1790.  With that growth came things that made settlements, proper towns: things like schools. In an era when we worry about dwindling school enrollment in our town of seven hundred, it is ironic to think back to 1790 when Nelson (then Packersfeld) had seven hundred and twenty-one inhabitants and a surfeit of students.

Nelson divided itself into nine school districts in 1789.  Thanks to Ethan Tolman’s donation of a collection of his mother’s papers, the Town Archives has the written record on one of those early school districts from 1820 to 1858. School District Seven included the Southeast Quarter of the town from the area of Tolman Pond (Bryant Pond in those days) to today’s Harrisville it included the Bancrofts at the current junction of the Cabot and Tolman Pond Roads, the Yardleys on the Clymer Road, Samuel Scripture on the Scripture Road and Grovers and Morses around Tolman Pond. Later came the Tolmans, the Bryants, the Farwells and the Harris’ of the mill village that came to be named after them.

When those first school districts were established in Nelson, each was given their proportional share of 270 pounds and required to build a school. School taxes were levied on the whole town and funds were allocated to each district in proportion to their valuation.  Continue Reading »

Nelson School Named a Blue Ribbon School

by on June 9, 2011 in Nelson School
Nelson School is one of three schools in New Hampshire that have been named Blue Ribbon Schools.

Nelson School Principal Sheila Vara (3rd from left), School Board member Allison Aldrich, and co-superintendent from SAU 29, Wayne Woolrich (3rd and 2nd from right).

The Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private K-12 schools that are either academically superior in their states or that demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement.

First, it recognizes schools that have at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds that dramatically improve student performance to a high level on state assessments or assessments referenced against national norms at a particular grade, as determined by the Chief State School Officer (CSSO).

Second, it recognizes schools whose students, whether from disadvantaged or privileged backgrounds, achieve in the top 10 percent on state tests or the top 10 percent in the state on assessments referenced against national norms at a particular grade”.

Yesterday the NH State Board of Education recognized the achievements of Nelson School and two other schools in NH at their regular board meeting. Present were Wayne Woolrich, co-superintendent of schools from SAU 29, Sheila Vara, principal of Nelson School, and Nelson School Board member Allison Aldrich.

We are right to be very proud of our students and staff at the Nelson school!

Nelson Strings Inaugural Concert

See this concert on YouTube!

On Thursday evening, May 19th, dozens of Nelson residents (and a few flat-landers) assembled in the Hoffman Auditorium at the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music. The occasion was the premier performance of the Nelson Strings, a collaborative project between the Nelson School and Apple Hill. This was the brainchild of Val Van Meier, and the result of  many hours of planning and the generous support of community members, and notably Nelson School Principal Sheila Vara, and Apple Hill Director Lenny Matczynski.  This first years Nelson Strings ensemble are Elizabeth Hull, Sarah Hull,  Tae’lar Forcier, Fallon Smith, and Molly Gray.

Nelson Strings Continue Reading »

Nelson Strings Are Singing!

by on January 5, 2011 in Music, Nelson School

Nelson StringsGrins, giggles and excited chatter greeted Sarah Kim, the Nelson Strings teacher on the first day of lessons.  Ten eyes looked eagerly at six cases sitting on a table. Minutes later Nelson Elementary School’s first violin students were learning proper standing position, the name and function of parts of the violin and how to care for and hold their instruments.  Five students are learning finger positions, pizzicato (also known as plucking the strings) and their first song.  Having a strings program for elementary school children is not too unusual these days. But Nelson’s program has a couple of unique twists.

First, with a nod to Nelson’s heritage of traditional music for contra dances, students are learning some of these traditional tunes. They are working with the O’Connor Violin method, an approach to teaching young people that is based on American folk fiddle tunes. This was developed by Mark O’Connor, a child prodigy who had recorded his first album of fiddle music at the age of 10. Forty years later he is known throughout folk, bluegrass, jazz and classical realms for his brilliant playing and compositions that cross all of those genres.

Second, how many towns the size of Nelson have a world-class chamber orchestra? Enter Sarah Kim, who has been a violinist with the Apple Hill Chamber players since 2008, and on the summer faculty since 2003.  Since moving to town she has enjoyed going to the local dances, and the opportunity to hear different music from what Apple Hill typically performs. She was familiar with the O’Connor method, and in fact, had toured with Mark O’Connor in 2001 as a member of the orchestra that accompanied him for a performance of his “American Four Seasons”.

The idea of a strings program has been germinating for several months. With financial support from the community, several quarter-size instruments were purchased. A grant from the Country Dance and Song Society (CDSS) allowed for the purchase of the Mark O’Connor curriculum, The New England Fiddler’s Repertoire (by Randy Miller & Jack Perron) and other music. The program is a joint venture of the Nelson School and Apple Hill.

As the students grow (in size as well as musical prowess) the program will need to acquire half- and three-quarter- size instruments. Nelson residents (or anyone else) who would like to support this program should contact me, Val Van Meier, at 847-3371 or val@applehill.org.

Meanwhile, be listening for Nelson’s young violinists to be included in upcoming school programs and who knows – eventually some of them may be heard playing for dances in the Town Hall.

A Great Old Home Day

by on August 17, 2009 in Life in Nelson, Nelson School with 0 Comments

Val Van Meier has kindly shared these photographs of friends and neighbors.

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