Preserving Falmouth's Heritage The Falmouth Historical Society 

About Falmouth - Retrospective—February 2021

Two Pictures Recall the Life of a Falmouth Schoolmaster

William and Joan Moulton of Falmouth recently donated a pair of framed portraits of William’s great-great grandparents to the Falmouth Historical Society.

 Framed Portraits of the Moultons
 Close-up Portraits of the Moultons
 David Odell Moulton and Mehitable Perry Wormwood

William’s ancestors moved to Falmouth 150 years ago.  During the next three decades, they left an indelible mark on Falmouth while they lived and worked at Falmouth Corners, just around the corner from William and Joan’s 140 year old home. 

David Odell Moulton was born at Parsonfield, Maine, in 1830.  His father was a blacksmith.  The 1850 census shows him living and working on his father’s farm.  A decade later, he had married Mehitable Perry Wormwood and they were living on their own farm in Cornish, Maine, just half a mile down the road from his father’s.  Mehitable was born at Cornish in 1836, the daughter of a farmer.  

The 1860 census notes that David had attended school within the year—unusual for a 30 year old farmer.  The records of the York County Teachers Institute list David O. Moulton of Parsonfield as a member.  Thirteen Teachers Institutes were established in 1847 to train schoolteachers.  The Institutes were replaced in 1860 by the system of normal schools.  During David’s time working in Falmouth schools, another teacher observed that the teacher at the largest school had received only seven months of “schooling.”  That teacher was David.  He could have been enrolled at the York County Teachers Institute when it was shut down.  That did not deter him from pursuing a career in education.

By 1870, the Moultons had moved to Falmouth.

In November 1868, David and Mehitable purchased a homestead on the north side of Middle Road near the intersection with Longwoods.  (This lot is now located on the Falmouth Spur before it passes under Middle Road.)  They also purchased a woodlot on Woods Road.  Nineteen years later, they purchased the 24 acre “Pettengill meadow” on the south side of Middle Road.  

As early as 1880, the Moultons also rented a home on Front Street near Cushing’s Point in South Portland.  

David became the teacher at Falmouth School #3 with the summer term in 1871.  He left that position by 1875 but returned in 1882 and remained until 1892.

During that five-year gap, the Moultons appeared on the 1880 census for South Portland with David listed as a teacher.  He may have been teaching for Cape Elizabeth (before South Portland split off in 1895) but those records are not readily accessible.  

When David resumed his duties as the teacher at School # 3, he also became active in town affairs.  He served many terms as a selectman as well as other positions.

Falmouth Corners Schoolhouse # 3

School #3 was located at 14 Falmouth Road in the heart of Falmouth Corners, just a half-mile down the road from the Moulton’s home.  The school backed onto Falmouth Road with the entrance facing Middle Road across a large playground.  The two-room schoolhouse was built in 1867.  It was later named the “D.W. Lunt” school, in honor of the town’s former superintendent of schools, and remained in use until the new Lunt School was built near the high school in 1941.  Today the former Schoolhouse #3 is a private garage.

David typically taught 35-50 students and sometimes more.  School #3 was usually the largest in Falmouth.  When he began teaching in 1871, there were summer and winter terms together lasting about 23 weeks.  Schools shifted to spring, fall and winter terms lasting 28 weeks in the 1880s.  Falmouth had twelve “common” schools; students would attend high school elsewhere.

When David began teaching, he earned $50 per month for the summer term and $60 for winter; that translates into $1,072 and $1,286 per month today.  By the time he retired, he earned $40 per month in spring and fall, and $60 in winter; that translates into $1,150 and $1,725 today.  His total earnings in 1891 were $281.20, or $8,083 today.  His “daily wages” were about $2 which was on par with that of skilled craftsmen.

Evaluations of each teacher’s performance were published in the annual town report.  David’s evaluations were excellent.  Instead of a superintendent, three teachers served as supervisors with responsibilities similar to those of school principals today.  Each annual town report includes a report by the supervisors.  When it was David’s turn, his high personal standards and low tolerance for weak teachers carried through loud and clear.

The Moultons had four children—three sons and one daughter.  They became a businessman, a physician, and an attorney.  The daughter followed in her father’s footsteps and became a teacher.

David’s final term as a teacher in Falmouth schools was fall of 1892.  He was sixty-two.

After leaving his position with Falmouth schools, they spent more time on Cushing’s Point.  As they aged, they also stayed with their youngest son, the attorney, who lived on Vaughan Street in Portland.  The Moultons became deeply engaged with the First Universalist Parish in South Portland which was established around 1900.

In May 1905, they sold their homestead in Falmouth.

David and Mehitable died within three weeks of one another during the summer of 1920.  He was 90 years old and his cause of death was “asthenia,” characterized by generalized weakness and usually involving mental and physical fatigue.  He was spent.  They are buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Portland near their sons.

David Edward Moulton, their son, prominent attorney, and founder of the Portland Water District, acquired the property that was to become Gilsland Farm in 1911.  As a lasting tribute to her father, Ruth Moulton Freeman and her family presented Gilsland Farm to Maine Audubon in 1971.

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