Journal of the Point School – The First Student Government in America

Point School, Home of First Student Government

Sketch of the Point School

In 1840-41 when this journal or “Report of the Secretary” was written, The Point School was one of nine commons schools in Duxbury (there would eventually be 12 neighborhood schools throughout town). The school, built in 1800, was located on what is today the corner of Powder Point Ave. and Bay Pond Road.  The students at the Point School ranged in age from approximately 8 to 17, but it was only the older students who participated in the student government that produced this journal.

The students mentioned are: John Bradford, b. 1823; Daniel Brewster, b. 1825;  Lucy Brooks, b. 1825; Joan Chandler; John Cushman; Anna Delano, b. 1825; Henry Leach; Jane McLauthlin, b. 1925 (she married her classmate, John Bradford); Rufus McLauthlin; George F. Nickerson, b. 1824; Rueben Peterson, b, 1828;  Jane Smith; Jonathan Smith, b. 1824; Samuel Weston; Roland C. Winslow, b. 1825; and Amasa Witheral, b. 1824.

Their teacher was Mr. Edmund Gifford (1810-1883) of Pembroke. Gifford married Lucy Winsor Sampson, a Duxbury girl, in July of 1841, just a few months after this record was kept.  The Giffords moved to Elgin, Illinois where Edmund became an attorney and the superintendent of schools. Later he was a judge in New Orleans, LA.  According to a student, Mr. Gifford told them on the first day of school, “[we] must govern ourselves, or we could not help to govern our country wisely.” [1] They called themselves the “Mattakeeset Republic,” after the Native American name for the area.

In 1878 the location of the Point School was moved to an empty lot on Cedar Street. When the Alden School was built in 1927 the Point School was closed.

Report of the Secretary,
 of the
 Mattakeeset Republic

Monday morn.  December 28th  1840

This school was called to order by Mr. Edmund Gifford and it was voted to adopt the card of recitations that we used last winter.  It was then voted that George Nickerson continue in the office of secretary.   Mr. Gifford then proceeded to organize the classes which took nearly all day; George Nickerson resigned his (office) of secretary and Jane Smith was chosen in his stead.  John Bradford was chosen to keep the register, the school was then dismissed.

29th.  Considerable noise today and the schoolmaster spoke of it several times.  There were a few toasts today and it was moved to have an evening school but as Mr. Gifford could not come the motion was not put.  The school was closed by reading in the testament.

30th  This afternoon we wrote compositions.  It was moved that we have an evening school but the vote was not taken as Mr. Gifford could not attend.  School was closed by reading in the testament.

31st.  Nothing of any consequence happened this day.  A motion was put in for an evening school but did not put it to vote as Mr. Gifford could not attend.

January 1, 1841  — Voted that the class in the Fourth book select pieces.  Voted that we have a debate every Wednesday afternoon and that we choose a committee to prepare questions to debate upon on said occasions.  Voted that the exercises of the school shall close at ½ past 2 on Wednesday afternoon that we can have more debating.  Voted that we choose a committee to bring in questions for debate.  Amasa Witherell, John Bradford, & Jonathan Smith were chosen.

January 2, 1841  The Committee to bring in questions brought in 3 and they were all accepted.  Voted that we accept the third one for debate on next Wednesday which was, Which is the more dangerous a sailors life or a carpenter’s?  Voted that the schoolmaster should appoint two scholars to speak on each side.  Voted that no scholar under 12 years of age shall speak in the debate.

January 4.  Voted that Mr. Gifford should not go beyond the sound of the bell.  Voted that the scholars that have writing books should write a page in them every day.  Question where was the first railroad and who was the Inventor?

5th  Voted that the basin on the stove should be cleaned out every morning by the monitor.

6th  Wednesday afternoon we debated on the question for debate and it was decided in the negative that a carpenters sailor’s life is the most dangerous.  Voted that we take up question 1st for debate.  Ought our Pilgrim fathers to be justified in their treatment of the Indians?  George Bradford & Roland C. Winslow appointed to speak in the affirmative, & Reuben Peterson & George F. Nickerson in the negative.

7th  Voted that the second class in first class book shall take turns in selecting pieces to read… Voted that the Class in third book select pieces to read….

8th  there was nothing done today of consequence.

11th  Voted that we have an evening school this evening for the purpose of spelling and ciphering and Daniel Brewster was appointed monitor.  At ½ past six the school was commenced.  At ½ past seven Mr. Gifford not coming we chose sides and spelt.  After that we took up the question for debate and after a short debate laid it on the table for debate on Wednesday afternoon.  School was then dismissed.

12th  Voted to have an evening school this evening for the purpose ciphering and spelling.



15th  Samuel Weston not coming any more.  We chose John Bradford in his place on the board of health, and appointed Rufus McLauthlin in his stead on the debate.


17th  In the afternoon a story was read and all the boys spoke pieces.

18th————————-There was no school Friday & Saturday so Mr. Gifford went to Boston.

22nd  Voted that the dusting brush should be kept hung where it was then which was near the large black board.


24th  As there were not many ready to speak on the question for debate it was put off until the next Wednesday on conditions that we should all be ready with a composition or ready to speak.

25th  Voted that we should choose some one in George Bradford’s place to keep the monitorial list.  Jonathan Smith was chosen.



February 1st

2d  Voted that we should have two new brooms before sunrise the next morning.

3d  Took up the question for debate and after a short discussion decided in the negative, took up question 6th for debate for the next Wednesday, Ought we ever to inflict bodily punishment?

4th  Voted that the brooms should be hung where they were then when we were not using them that is in the back part of the school house.

5th  Voted that we should have a board of health to consist of four whose duty it should be to see that every thing in and about the school house should be kept neat and clean.  Chose Samuel Weston, Jonathan Smith, Joan Chandler and Anna Delano.


8th  Voted that we shall have an evening school Wednesday evening for the purpose of spelling and cyphering.  Chose the heads of divisions and appointed the place to spell.


11th  Took up the question for debate and after a short discussion decided in the affirmative.  Took up question 1st for debate on the next Wednesday, Ought Napoleon Bonaparte to be considered as a great man?  John Bradford, Jonathan Smith, George Nickerson, John Cushman, in the affirmative, Samuel Weston, George Bradford, Henry Leach, & Reuben Peterson, in the negative.  Voted that the paper on the walls shall be mended by those who tore it off.

11th  Appointed the girls to write on the question.

13th  In the afternoon took up the question for debate and after a short argument it was decided in the negative.  Voted that we have a committee on tardiness.  John Bradford & Jane McLathlen were chosen.  Voted that we take up question 3d  Who should have the more praise in gaining the victory revolutionary war those who served in the house of congress or those who fought in the fields of battle.  Affirmative  Henry Leach, John Bradford.  Negative Daniel Brewster, Jonathan Smith.

14th  nothing voted today.

15th  Mr. Gifford being sick today John Bradford & Jonathan Smith kept school in the afternoon.

16th  no school this day.

18th  Voted that we have a school Friday evening for the purpose of speaking pieces.

19th  Voted that we have new mug.

20th  Took up the question for debate and after a short discussion decided in the negative.  Voted that we defer deciding on any question until Friday night.

21st  Voted that the one who takes the key shall see that the blinds are fastened.

22nd  5 questions were brought on for debate and all accepted question Ought nations ever to go to war with one another was taken up for debate next Wednesday.  Roland C. Winslow, George Bradford in the affirmative and John Cushman and Reuben Peterson in the negative.


March 1st  Being a pleasant day we had a general recap both the forenoon and afternoon.


3rd  Took up the question for debate.  There was not much said on either side and the debate was dropped.  Mr. Gifford appointed the class in chemistry to write a composition on the properties of the atmosphere and water and animal organization.  The class in History to write on the constitution of the U States.  First class in Smiths Geography on a voyage to Russia and from there to China.  2 class to write about N. England – Class in Olney’s

Voted not to have any school on Thursday as old Tip was coming in.


6th  Secretaries report was read at the close of school on this day.

March 8th  Nothing of importance

March 9th  General recess both forenoon and afternoon.

10th  Spoke pieces in the afternoon and the compositions were deferred until the next Wednesday.  Moved that we have an exhibition at the close of school but was not taken as it was thought best to let rest for a few days so that we might have a chance to think on the subject.  A motion was put to see whether the majority of the school would be in favour of an exhibition.

11th  There was a motion in the box for an exhibition but was not taken as it was thought bet to defer deciding it a while longer.

12th  But few scholars at school this week on account of passing.  No school on Saturday as there was a very bad snow storm.



17th  Compositions were read among which were 2 French dialogues.

18th  There were a few remaining compositions read.

19th  There were many voices raised for a general recess but Mr. Gifford informed us that he should not grant one when we made so much noise.

20th  Voted that we should have an evening school on Monday evening for the purpose of spelling and ciphering.

22nd  Chose the heads of the divisions of spelling and as Mr. Gifford could not attend this evening, voted to have the evening school on Wednesday evening.


24th  Compositions read this afternoon.  A motion to have the school on Friday evening was put but was not carried, Mr. Gifford then declined attending as he did not feel able.

25th  The remaining compositions were read this day.

Voted that the girls shall not go to the stove when it is the time for the boys.


25th  Voted that we have an evening school Tuesday evening for the purpose of spelling & ciphering.


27th  Took up the question for debate and after a short Debate decided it in the affirmative, took up question 7th for debate on next Wednesday which have been the more wronged, the Negroes or the Indians?  Appointed Samuel Weston in the affirmative, John Bradford in the negative and they chose three boys on each side.  Lucy Brooks was appointed to write a composition in the affirmative & Jane McLauthlin in the negative & they chose 4 girls on each side.

28th  Voted that Amasa Witherell should write a composition this week.  Voted that if the monitor or the one that makes the fire does not do his duty or her duty faithfully they shall make the fire and sweep the school next morning.

29th  Voted that we have an evening school next Tuesday evening, for the purpose of speaking.

30th  Voted that the monitor shall wash the blackboards clean every morning and that not one shall chalk on it concerning their lessons.


[1]Paper by  J.W. Smith, Feb. 1, 1908.

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