EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS OF COLUMBIA COUNTY.
The Regents of the University of this State were incorporated in 1787 and in their report for 1793, they called
attention to the benefits likely to accrue from the establishment of schools in the various parts of the State.
"The mode of accomplishing this desirable object," said the report, "we respectfully submit to the
wisdom of the Legislature."
At the opening of the session of 1795, Governor Clinton thus alluded to the subject in his message:
"While it is evident that the general establishment and liberal endowment of academies are highly to be commended,
and are attended with the most beneficial consequences, yet it cannot be denied that they are principally confined
to the children of the opulent, and that a great portion of the community is excluded from their immediate advantages.
The establishment of common schools throughout the State, is happily calculated to remedy this inconvenience, and
will therefore engage your early and decided consideration."
These were the first steps taken towards the establishment of the common school system of the State. On the 11th
of January, 1795, the Assembly appointed a committee of six to consider the school subject, and on February 19
they reported "An Act for the Encouragement of Schools," which became a law on the 9th of April. This
act appropriated $50,000 annually for five years, for the general support of common schools, which sum was at first
apportioned to the several counties according to their representation in the Legislature. Later it was apportioned
according to the number of electors for member of assembly, and to the several towns according to the number of
taxable inhabitants. The act provided, for the election of not less than three nor more than seven commissioners
in each town, who should have the supervision of schools. The inhabitants in different sections of the towns were
authorized to meet for the purpose of procuring "good and sufficient school masters, and for erecting and
maintaining schools in such and so many parts of the town where they may reside, as shall be most convenient,"
and to appoint two or more trustees, whose duties were defined by the act. The public money paid to each district
was to be apportioned by the commissioners according to the number of days of instruction given in each of the
schools. Provision was also made for annual returns from all districts, towns, and counties.
Lotteries were early instituted by the State for the support of schools, as they were for other public purposes,
first in 1799, when $100,000 was to be raised, $12,500 of which was to go to academies and the remainder to common
schools. Again, in 1801 an equal sum was raised, one half of which went to the common schools.
On the 2d of April, 1805, an act was passed providing that the net proceeds of the sale of 500,000 acres of unappropriated
State lands should be made a permanent fund for the support of schools, the avails to be invested until the interest
amounted to $50,000, when an annual distribution of that amount should be made. By February, 1807, receipts for
the school fund in the treasury had reached $151,115.69.
In 1811 a law was enacted authorizing the governor to appoint five commissioners to report a system for the organization
of the common schools. The commission consisted of Jedediah Peck, John Murray, jr., Samuel Russel, Roger Skinner,
and Samuel Macomb. Their report, made February 14, 1812, was accompanied by the draft of a bill embodying the main
features of the common school system as it existed until 1838. One feature of the bill was, that each county should
raise by tax an amount equal to that apportioned by the State. Following is a brief outline of the system:
That the several towns in the State be divided into school districts, by three commissioners elected by the citizens
qualified to vote for town officers; that three trustees be elected in each district, to whom shall be confided
the care and superintendence of the school to be established therein; that the interest of the school fund be divided
among the different counties and towns, according to their respective population, as ascertained by the successive
censuses of the United States; that the proportions received by the respective towns be subdivided among the districts
into which said towns shall be divided, according to the number of children in each, between the ages of five and
fifteen years; that each town raise by tax annually, as much money as it shall have received from the school fund;
that the gross amount of moneys received from the State and raised by the towns, be apportioned exclusively to
the payment of wages of teachers; and that the whole system be placed under the superintendence of an officer appointed
by the Council of Appointment.
Gideon Hawley was made the first superintendent of common schools and held the office from 1813 to 1821. In the
first report (1814) he called attention to the fifth section of the law under which it was a possibility that a
single town in a county might receive the whole of the public money for that county, and to other provisions giving
each town the choice of complying with the law and receiving its benefits and bearing its burdens, or of refusing
such compliance. Under these provisions many towns had refused compliance with the act, to the great detriment
of the system. The superintendent suggested that it be made obligatory upon the towns to comply with the act, and
also on the Boards of Supervisors to levy on the respective towns a sum equal to the sum "which shall be apportioned
to such towns out of the public money to be distributed." These suggestions were promptly carried out by amendments
to the act.
The founding of this school system was an educational movement of the greatest importance and its benefits became
at once apparent. In his second report (1815) Mr. Hawley said;
"But the great benefit of the act does not lie in any pecuniary aid which it may afford. . . It consists in
securing the establishment of common schools wherever they are necessary; in organizing them on a suitable and
permanent foundation; and in guarding them against the admission of unqualified teachers."
In his sixth annual report the superintendent renewed his recommendations before made, for a revision and consolidation
of the existing school laws. On the 19th of April, 1819, accordingly, the Legislature re-enacted the "Act
for the Support of Common Schools," making the various amendments suggested by Mr. Hawley. To him is given
the honor and credit of having done more than any one person in the founding of the common school system in this
State. John Van Ness Yates was secretary of state and superintendent ex-officio of common schools from 1821 to
1826, the separate office of superintendent of schools having been abolished by the constitution of 1821. The constitution
provided, also, that "the proceeds of the sale of all lands belonging to the State, with the exception of
such as might be reserved for public use or ceded to the United States, together with the existing school fund,
were declared to constitute a perpetual fund, the interest of which should be inviolably appropriated and applied
to the support of the common schools."
In 1795 the first appropriation of public school money was made to Columbia county, the amount being £1,372
12s. 6d. ($3,431.56). The first school tax was raised in that year, the amount being one half of the amount received
from the State, or $1,715.78. In 1798, when the amount to be raised equaled that to be received from the State,
the sum was $1,412.12.
Azariah C. Flagg held the office of secretary of state and superintendent of schools from 1826 to 1833, and was
succeeded by John A. Dix (1833-39), during which period great improvements were made in the details of the school
system. In 1827 the sum annually distributed to the various districts was increased to $100,000. On the 13th of
April, 1835, an act was passed which laid the foundation of district school libraries; it authorized the taxable
inhabitants of each district to impose a tax of not more than $20 the first year and $10 each succeeding year for
the purchase of a district library. Under this act many libraries were established throughout the State and the
resultant benefit was beyond estimate.
In 1838 the sum of $160,000 was added from the annual revenue of the United States Deposit Fund to the amount to
be apportioned among the various school districts. In the following year the number of districts in the State was
10,583. The increase in the number of districts from time to time until 1835 is shown as follows: 1798, 1,352 districts;
1816, about 5,000; 1820, 5,763; 1825, 7,642; 1830, 8,872; 1835, 9,865.
On the 4th of February, 1839, John C. Spencer was appointed secretary of state and superintendent of common schools,
and continued in office until 1842. He advocated several changes in the system, the most important being, perhaps,
the county supervision of schools by regular visitors. These visitors reported to the superintendent, and one of
the early results of their reports was the plan of appointing county superintendents, which went into effect in
April, 1843, and resulted in great improvement in the general character of the schools. The office was abolished
in 1847, and those holding the position in Columbia county are given at the close of this chapter.
In his annual message of 1844 Governor Bouck entered at length upon the school question, stating among other things
"The substitution of a single officer, charged with the supervision of the schools of each town, for the board
of commissioners and inspectors formerly existing, in connection with the supervisory and appellate powers of the
several county superintendents, as defined by the law of the last session, seems to have met with the general approbation
and concurrence of the people."
Samuel S. Young was secretary of state and superintendent of schools from February, 1843, to February, 1845, when
he was succeeded by Nathaniel S. Benton, who continued until 1847, when the new constitution went into effect.
The subject of Teachers' Institutes was first brought forward in the Tompkins County Teachers' Association in the
fall of 1842, and the first institute was held in Ithaca, April 4, 1843; they soon became a powerful auxiliary
in elevating and improving the teachers' profession.
A persistent and nearly successful attempt was made to engraft upon the new constitution of 1846 a free school
system for the State. The section under which it was to be accomplished was the following:
"The Legislature shall provide for the free education and instruction of every child of the State in the common
schools, now established, or which shall hereafter be established therein."
This section was adopted by a vote of fifty seven to fifty three, and a provision was then added directing the
Legislature to provide for raising by tax the necessary funds to carry out the plan. The convention then adjourned
for dinner. After reassembling the school article was referred by resolution to a committee of one with instructions
to strike out the last two sections relating to free schools. This was done and the free school plan was defeated.
On the 13th of November, 1847, the Legislature passed an act abolishing the office of superintendent of common
schools, directing the appeals authorized to be made direct to the State superintendent, and the annual reports
of the town superintendent to be made to the county clerk. This measure was adopted largely in response to popular
clamor, and was in many respects disastrous to the welfare of the schools. Reports of town superintendents were
frequently superficial and incomplete, while they were "wholly incapable of supplying the place in the system
which had been assigned to the higher class of officers."
On the 15th of December, 1847, the various statutes relating to common schools were consolidated into one act,
with such amendments as seemed expedient; town superintendents were to hold their office two years; the library
law was modified so that library money in any district might be used for teachers' wages, with the consent of the
State superintendent, provided the number of volumes in the library had reached a certain proportion to the number
of children, etc. Christopher Morgan was secretary of state and superintendent of common schools from 1847 to 1851,
when he was succeeded by Henry S. Randall, who held the office until 1853. In the message to the Legislature of
1849 Governor Fish expressed his belief "that the restoration of the office of County Superintendent would
be productive of good to the school system." He recommended two measures, either of which would improve the
"First. The repeal of chapter 358, laws of 1847, restoring the office of county superintendent, and making
it elective by the people.
"Second. The election of a superintendent in every Assembly district, excepting in the city of New York, and
the cities which now have, or shall hereafter have, a city superintendent, or Board of Education, to manage their
The message then reviewed the situation as to the problem of free schools which was before the people. On the 26th
of March, 1849, the Legislature passed an act "establishing free schools throughout the State," the provision
of which will be found in the statutes of that date. Columbia county gave a vote in favor of the new law of 5,476,
to 987 against it; few other counties in the State gave larger proportionate majorities in favor of the system.
The practical application of the system met with wide spread and intense opposition from the first, and it soon
became apparent that a demand for its repeal would have to be met. At the annual election in the fall of 1850,
therefore, the people voted upon the question of repeal, and the majority in favor of repeal in forty two of the
fifty nine counties of the State was 46,874; in the remaining counties the majority against repeal was 71,912,
leaving a majority against repeal of 25,088. Thus the beneficent free school system was permanently established.
Columbia county again showed her deep interest in the cause of free education by giving 4,394 votes against repeal,
to 2,566 for it.
The number of districts reported in the State in 1850 was 11,397, and the number of children taught was 735,188.
In 1856 the provision of the law of 1851, appropriating annually $800,000, was repealed and a tax of three quarters
of a mill on the dollar on real and personal property substituted for the payment of teachers' wages, and the rate
bill was continued. A law was passed in 1853 providing for the establishment of Union Free Schools, authorizing
the inhabitants of two or more districts to elect trustees and levy a tax on the property of the united districts
for the payment of teachers' wages and other expenses. These schools have been established in many of the towns
of Columbia county, as shown further on.
The general school law was revised in 1864, and in 1867 the rate bill was abolished and a tax of one and one quarter
mills on the dollar of valuation substituted.
Columbia county is divided into two School Commissioner Districts, the first district comprising the towns of Ancram,
Claverack, Clermont, Copake, Gallatin, Germantown, Greenport, Livingston, Taghkanic. The second district contains
the towns of Austerlitz, Canaan, Chatham, Ghent, Hillsdale, Kinderhook, New Lebanon, Stockport, Stuyvesant. The
late reports of the school commissioners, not only in Columbia county, but elsewhere, show that while frequently
the number of children attending has decreased, the number of days of attendance has greatly increased; this fact
is probably largely due to the compulsory law. The graded system has been adopted in most schools to their great
improvement. Rural schools as a rule are growing smaller, a condition due to the growing desire on the part of
young men and women reared in the country districts to leave their homes at the first opportunity and find occupation
in cities and villages.
The early schools of Columbia county were, probably, no better or poorer than those in similar localities in other
parts of the State. It is true that the Dutch were a little less imbued with a belief in the importance of early
education than the pioneers from New England; but this fact is not directly traceable in this county. Log school
houses were built at an early day after settlement in most neighborhoods where there were children sufficient in
number to make it desirable; these were soon superseded by frame buildings of better character, but deplorably
deficient in many conveniences. The teachers of early times were, as a class, incompetent in comparison with those
of recent years; at the same time the text books were very deficient and imperfect. But as the various communities
increased in population and wealth, general progress in educational facilities improved.
The first mention in the records of schools of Columbia county is under date of November 30, 1702, when a man named
Paulus Van Vieck "was accepted as precentor and schoolmaster of our church," and mention is made of Joghem
Lammersen and Hendrick Abelsen as having preceded him in those positions. The reader will not fail to notice, not
only in this quotation, but in many others, that in early years the association of church and school was very close.
The duty of teaching children in the few studies then pursued, and of preaching to their parents, was very frequently
performed by the same person, and doubtless much of the education thus transmitted was drawn from the Bible and
the catechism. It is recorded that Dominie Schaets, the minister at Rensselaerwyck, was by his agreement bound
not only to preach, but "to teach also the Catechism there, and instruct the people in the Holy Scriptures,
and to pay attention to the office of schoolmaster for old and young."
Among the Palatine settlers in the southern part of the county schools were established early, and they were all
under charge of the minister. The first school opened, and the first school house built is supposed to have been
in 1711, though it is quite probable that teaching, either in families or otherwise, was pursued to some extent
before that date. An old receipt reads as follows:
"Jan. 18, 1711.
"I acknowledge to have received of Robert Livingston 40 boards for ye school house in palateyn town, called
Queensbury, and desire said Livingston to send for ye s'd use 30 Boards to Compleat ye school house.
Joh. Fr. Haeger, Min.
Whether this was the first school on the Livingston manor may be a question that cannot be definitely answered;
but there were others in Albany county and vicinity at that date and probably some years earlier. In 1710 Rev.
Thomas Barclay wrote the secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, that he was
teaching the Dutch children in Albany the English tongue and the catechism; that he had "taught the scholars
the prayers appointed for charity schools," and had encouraged "the school masters by giving them what
charity is collected in our church." In the same letter he said, "I have this summer got an English school
erected amongst them," i. e., the inhabitants of Schenectady.
The records show that a little later than the date under consideration, a piece of land was set apart for "the
use of the Palatine minister," provided "he shall likewise teach a school." There was a school of
some kind at Linlithgo, on the Livingston manor, as early as 1722. On the 27th of March, 1791, a special act was
passed authorizing "the building of a school house and the maintaining of a school master" in the town
of Clermont, out of "the monies arising from excise and other sources, in the hands of the overseers of the
poor, but not needed for the support of the poor," and Robert R. Livingston, Samuel Ten Broeck, John Cooper,
William Wilson, Marks Blatner, and George Best were directed to carry out the provisions of the act.
The first school building of which there is authentic account in the city of Hudson, was a small structure which
stood in the year 1784 on the old country road at a point near what is now the corner of Partition and Ferry streets.
It is not now known whether it was erected especially for school purposes, nor by whom, whether the proprietors
or the people; but in the year named a small school made up partly of children of the proprietors and partly of
those of early settlers, was taught there by James Burns. This building was subsequently removed or demolished
to make way for the opening of a street, but not until after the incorporation of the city, for the first charter
election was held in it, when it was spoken of as "the school house."
On the 19th of April, 1785, the proprietors voted to give a full sized lot on Diamond street to any person who
would erect thereon a building not less than forty by twenty four feet in size, which should be and continue to
be a school house, which should be open for attendance of all people living in Hudson, irrespective of denomination,
and for which the owners should receive an annual income of not more than nine per cent. on their investment, but
should be at liberty to sell it to the corporation for school purposes whenever they might have opportunity to
do so. In that building James Marshall opened a school for teaching "Reading, Writing, Cyphering, Composition,
English Grammar, Geography, Surveying, and the Latin and Greek Languages;" which was a very extended curriculum
for that time.
Within a few weeks after granting the lot for this school the proprietors appointed a committee to examine and
adopt a plan for "a proprietors' school house," to be located on Market square. Whether such a building
was there erected is not known. In the same year Ambrose Liverpool advertised in the Gazette that he would open
a seminary where, besides the English branches, he would teach Latin, Greek, and the use of certain musical instruments;
he also offered for sale a quantity of "extra strong English beer."
Other early schools were taught in Hudson by Dorrance Kirtland, Major Fowler (on Parade Alley), a Mrs. Wilson,
one Prowett, and many others, doubtless, whose names are a part of the forgotten past. On the 28th of May, 1796,
the following resolution was adopted by the city council:
"Resolved, That the supervisor of this city be requested to propose to the Board of Supervisors for the county
to petition to the next Legislature for permission to raise money by a tax on the county for the purpose of establishing
an Academy in this county; and that the Cor poration of this City will sell the City Hall and the lots on which
it stands for that purpose, the County paying to the Corporation for same such sum as said Supervisor shall agree
for; and the Common Council of this City will engage to convey said building and lots for the aforesaid purpose."
This project was not consummated, but the old city hall was occupied a number of years by schools taught by various
masters. For example, on March 1, 1797, the Council resolved "that the trustees of the school taught by Mr.
Hedge have the west chamber in the city hall, and that the trustees of the school taught by Mr. Palmer have the
east chamber in the city hall for the use of the said schools for one year from the first of March instant."
In 1799 the school then taught in the building was ordered "to vacate the premises before the first of October."
In February, 1803, it was resolved by the Council that "the school money now in the hands of the County Treasurer
from the Commissioners of Schools be appropriated by the Corporation for contingent expenses;" the reason
for this rather strange proceeding is not known. In the same year a charity school was opened by the Episcopalian
society of Hudson, and was liberally supported, forty scholars attending.
The following preamble and resolutions were adopted on January 11, 1804, by the City Council:
"Whereas, A number of citizens have petitioned to this Council for one of the chambers of the City Hall for
the purpose of a school room; therefore,
"Resolved, That the Council do not deem it proper to grant the prayer of the said Petition. And as there are
two vacant public Lots either one of which may be occupied for a School house; Therefore.
"Resolved further, That if any association of persons will build a convenient School house, of such materials
and of such dimensions as shall be approved by the Common Council on either one of the said public lots, that the
Common Council will convey one of the said lots to the said association for that purpose."
This arrangement was probably not carried out.
The old Hudson Academy was established in 1805-6 and was opened in the latter year. The condition of educational
facilities in the city at that time is thus spoken of in an article published in the Balance of December 6, 1816;
"No public building (not even a common school house) for the education of youth had been previously built
in the city of Hudson.' No public encouragement was given to literary pursuits. The citizens of one of the most
flourishing towns in the State were compelled to send their children abroad for education, or to leave them uneducated.
Did a teacher appear among them, he had everything to discourage him. Amongst strangers, unaided by committees,
trustees, or overseers, he had to procure his rooms, obtain his scholars, and, after all, collect his subscriptions.
Had he merit, it would meet with better encouragement under well regulated institutions. Had he none, his scholars
would be little better for his instruction."
This was a sweeping charge and doubtless was not wholly justified by the situation. There had been schools enough
in Hudson prior to that date and perhaps they were as good as the average of those early institutions; but the
academy was needed and the community congratulated itself upon its establishment. In 1824 it reported eighty five
students, of whom twenty four were taking a classical course.
In 1816, a number of public spirited and benevolent citizens, Capt. Judah Paddock being among the most active,
founded a school upon the Lancasterian system, a history of which and of the long existing academy will be found
in later chapters devoted to Hudson city.
The Hudson Female Academy was founded in 1851 and occupied the large building formerly used by Dr. White for his
lunatic asylum, elsewhere mentioned. The proprietor was Rev. J. B. Hague, and the school gained a high reputation.
It was removed in 1865 to the corner of Warren and First streets. The institution ultimately passed out of existence.
There is fragmentary mention, also, of the Hudson Female Seminary which was in existence many years before the
founding of the Female Academy. There was also a select school taught by Ebenezer King in St. John's Hall, and
a certain Hudson Classical Seminary, which also was under his charge at the latter date. Andrew Huntington taught
a classical school for a time in a hotel building opposite the Presbyterian church.
The Hudson Young Ladies' Seminary was established in the fall of 1848 by Misses Elizabeth and Sophia C. Peake,
which had a successful existence in after years. The Misses Skinner founded a school for young ladies in April,
1867, which rapidly came into prominence. In 1869-70 they erected a brick building at 281 Union street and occupied
it in April, 1870. Additional teachers were employed, with better equipment and the school entered upon a prosperous
In the mean time schools and academies were opened in other parts of the county which demand brief notice here.
The fact that the town of Kinderhook had the earliest regular teaching of which there is authentic record has been
mentioned. It is undoubtedly true that during the Dutch control and perhaps longer, most of the teaching of children
was done by church officials of some character. Andrew Mayfield Carshore opened an English school at Kinderhook
in 1778, which he continued about ten years, and was succeeded by David B. Warner, though there may have been an
interval between their periods of teaching. Mr. Warden was at the head of what was then called the Kinderhook Academy
in 1799, and a few years later Elijah Garfield, who was an excellent scholar, took the position. He was succeeded
in 1813, by Joseph Montague. This old institution of learning, which was called an academy, was probably nothing
more than a thoroughly good school of a somewhat select character, and it was succeeded in 1823 by the academy
that for more than half a century had a high reputation.
The meeting at which the preliminary steps were taken for the establishment of this institution was held March
13, 1823, and called out most of the prominent citizens of the place. It was there determined to occupy the second
story of the public school house then in existence, and a guarantee of $1,050 was subscribed to secure the salary
of the principal, and the following board of trustees was elected: Dr. Henry L. Van Dyck, president; Peter Van
Schaack, jr., secretary and treasurer; Peter I. Hoes, John I. Prnyn, James Clark, John L. Van Alen, John G. Philip,
Francis Silvester, and John P, Beekman. Prof. John Glezen, who had held the position of principal in the Lenox
(Mass.) Academy, was employed as the first principal and remained four years, when he was followed by his assistant,
Silas Metcalf, a graduate of Williams College. He successfully conducted the institution during twenty years, and
by his efforts gave it a wide reputation. In 1836 there were seventy five students, the property was valued at
$1,500 and there were three hundred and ninety three books in the library. During his administration a new building
was erected, a female department was added, and a department for normal instruction. From that time forward the
history of the old academy is an interesting one, as will be seen in the later history of Kinderhook.
The old town of Claverack has always kept to the front in the character of its educational institutions and established
what was the first real high school in Columbia county, the Washington Seminary. It was begun in 1777 and fully
established in 1779. Its originator was the Rev. Dr. Gebhard, pastor of the Reformed Church, who had taught the
children of some of the prominent families of that town and saw the necessity of better facilities for carrying
on his work. He was made superintendent and so continued until the close of the seminary. Dudley Baldwin was in
charge of the classical department, and Abraham Fonda of the mathematical. In 1780 N. Meigs was appointed principal
and was succeeded by Andrew Mayfield Carshore, a former impressed soldier in the British army under Burgoyne. After
the surrender at Saratoga he went to Kinderhook and opened a school. From there he removed to Claverack and became
a member of Dr. Gebhard's family. He became proficient in Latin and Greek, the knowledge of which was of great
benefit to him in his later conduct of the academy. He was, moreover, admirably equipped by nature for the duties
of teacher and under his direction the Washington Seminary gained high repute. Mr. Carshore remained at the head
of the institution about twenty five years, when he left to take charge of the academy in Hudson. Within a few
years after Mr. Carshore's departure the seminary was merged with the common school, an arrangement which was not
suffered to long exist. There was an insistent demand for a school of a higher grade, and Rev. Richard Slnyter,
who had succeeded Dr. Gebhard in the pastorate of the church, was induced to take the necessary steps for the building
of an academy which might be made a permanent and successful institution. His efforts were successful, and the
academy was opened in 1830 with Rev. John Mahon, a man of high attainments, at its head. A board of eighteen trustees
composed of prominent men of the town took general charge of the institution, which soon became a well known seat
of learning. The Rev. Ira C. Boice succeeded Mr. Sluyter in the pastorate and carried forward the task of his predecessor
in connection with the academy. In 1854 the institution was rechartered as the Claveraclc College and Hudson River
Institute, and opened under the best of auspices in the fall of that year. The board of trustees chose Rev. Ira
C. Boice their president and Rev. Alonzo Flack, Ph. D., became the lessee and president of the institute. He was
admirably fitted for the position and occupied it with remarkable success until his death in 1885. He was succeeded
by his son, Rev. Arthur H. Flack, A. M., who continued at the head of the institution until the year 1900. During
the nearly half a century since the institute was rechartered it has maintained a very high reputation in all of
its departments. Situated amid the quiet scenes of the ancient village, with beautiful scenery near at hand, and
surrounded by ample grounds, it offers to parents an ideal place for educating children in academic and classical
studies. The main building, erected in 1854, has been repeatedly improved to meet increasing demands. College hall
was built in 1864, and to these have been added within a few years a dining hall, chapel and music hall.
In the town of Livingston the early records contain almost nothing regarding schools; but it appears from the records
of the Linlithgo Church at Johnstown, that Robert Livingston, the first lord of the manor, made some provision
for the encouragement of education as early as 1822. Indeed, it would be surprising if he did not do so, realizing
the benefits, direct and indirect, that would accrue to him and his tenants through instruction to the young. In
late years this town has been among the foremost in providing educational facilities.
In September, 1795, as learned from the records, the following school commissioners of the town of Chatham met
at the house of Gaylord Hawkins and adopted measures to establish schools: James Savage, Martin Krum, Hosea Bebee,
Abraham Hogeboom, Samuel Wilbor, Peter Van Alstyne, and James Bartholomew. James Palmer was appointed clerk, and
was directed to write twelve advertisements, containing a part of the act for the encouragement of schools, and
the date of the next meeting. This was held at the house of William Vosburgh, but there is no existing record of
its proceedings. This was the beginning of public effort to establish educational institutions in that town, as
far as now known. The Chatham Academy was erected in the village in 1871 and became a successful private school,
which is noticed more in detail in a later chapter.
New Lebanon took an early and prominent place among the towns that liberally supported the cause of education in
this county. The records are deficient regarding schools during the first half century after the settlement of
the town, but in 1819 the school board formed sixteen districts, which number continued until recent years; there
are now fifteen districts. One of the very early academies was founded here about 1784 at the suggestion of Jarvis
Mudge, who gave a lot for the purpose at Lebanon Springs. A stock company was formed and the school opened with
promise of success and usefulness. The building was ultimately burned, while in use for other purposes. About the
beginning of the century Dominie Booge taught a select school in the northern part of the town in which he fitted
young men for college. The Shakers, who have long been numerous in this town, have always maintained a good school.
In the town of Stockport the Hudson River Seminary was erected in 1836. It was a large five story brick structure
containing ninety six rooms and was built by a stock company. The institution was opened under Prof. E. D. Maltby,
assisted by George Schenck and others. An attendance of nearly two hundred was reached, but unfortunately the financial
basis was weak and it was closed soon after 1837 for want of funds. The building was ultimately demolished.
Spencertown Academy, in the town of Austerlitz owed its origin to efforts of Rev. Timothy Woodbridge, D. D., and
such after success as it enjoyed was very largely due to his labor and perseverance. He was nearly half a century
in the pastorate in this town and died in 1862. The academy was incorporated by the Legislature on May 13, 1845,
with the following trustees: Rev. Timothy Woodbridge, George Lawrence, Benjamin Ambler, Uel Lawrence, Samuel D.
Dean, Smith Shaw, Isaac Clark, Chester A. Smith, Dr. Ebenezer Reed, George Wager, Jacob S. Bump, and William Raymond.
A two story frame building was erected and the institution was opened in September, 1847, under the principalship
of Prof, John L. T. Phillips. The detailed history of the academy and its final disposition as a Union School will
be found in the history of Austerlitz herein.
Riverside Seminary was established at Germantown Station in 1864, on property belonging to Philip W. Rockefeller
and largely through his efforts in carrying out a long cherished plan. The first principal was Rev. H. R. Schermerhorn,
with Prof. Mattice, instructor in languages and mathematics; and several women teachers. This school continued
only four years, its closing being due at least in part to the failure of other citizens to aid in its support.
This school occupied the building which became the Mountain View House, which was opened by Mr. Rockefeller.
In some of the remaining towns of the county all record of the very early schools is lost, but where accessible
will be properly treated in the histories of the towns. Enough is here given to indicate that educational work
in the county at large began among the pioneers, with such facilities as they could command, very soon after settlement
was well established. In more recent times few if any counties in this State have more liberally or energetically
supported the cause of education, as later pages will amply prove. Many of the towns have now successful union
schools, with fine examples of modern school buildings, and the best teachers that can be employed. Many of the
old academies have been converted into union schools, as they have in all the counties of the State where they
existed, to the great benefit of general education. The academies saw their period of large usefulness, but with
the vast improvement in public schools in every community, they became almost superfluous and their rapid decline
followed in most cases.
The number of districts in the county in 1836 was 187 that made reports, and the number of children taught was
Through the decrease in recent years of the average number of school children in proportion to the gross number
of inhabitants, and the tendency of boys and girls who have reached nearly the limit of school age to seek education
or employment in larger business centers, the number of children taught shows a slight annual decrease, the figures
for 1899 being 7,514.
School Commissioners. - Prior to 1857 school commissioners were appointed by the Board of Supervisors; since that
year they have been elected by ballot by the people. The first election held under the act creating the office
was in November, 1859; the term was made three years. Those appointed for this county were as follows:
1856, Charles S. Jones, first district; Peter I. Philip, second district; 1857, Nathan S. Post, first district;
Peter I. Philip, second district.
Elected 1860, Hartwell Reynolds, first district; Peter I. Philip, second district. 1863, Hartwell Reynolds, first
district; David G. Woodin, second district. 1866, William P. Snyder, first district; David G. Woodin, second district.
1869, Hiram K. Smith, first district; Hiram Winslow, second district. 1872, John Strever, first district; Hiram
Winslow, second district. 1875, Richard M. Whitbeck, first district; Isaac Van Valkenburgh, second district. 1878,
Amasa P. Basher, first district; George V. Bushnell, second district. 1881, Amasa P. Lasher, first district; Isaac
T. Haight, second district. 1884, Oliver W. Hallenbeck, first district; Peter Silvernail, second district. 1885,
O. W. Hallenbeck, first district; Peter Silvernail, second district; William P. Snyder, city superintendent. 1887,
Myron Schermerhorn, first district; Orville Drumm, second district. 1890, Myron Schermerhorn, first district; Orville
Drumm, second district; William S. Hallenbeck, city superintendent. 1893, Oliver W. Hallenbeck, first district;
John D. Mickle, second district. 1896, John W. Scott, first district; John D. Mickle, second district; Frank J.
Sagendorph, city superintendent. 1899, Abram Smith, first district; Hugh J. Fish, second district.
Under an act passed May 26, 1841, and repealed in 1847, deputy commissioners of schools were appointed; those for
this county were 1841-43, David G. Woodin; 1845, Henry H. Poucher; 1847, Peter Bonesteel.