History of Education in Penn Yan, NY
From: History of Yates County, N. Y.
Edited by: Lewis Cass Aldrich
Published by: D. Mason & Co.
Syracuse, N. Y. 1892

Educational Institutions of Penn Yan. - Be it said to the honor of the Board of Education of Penn Yang that no interior municipality in the State of New York can boast of a better system of common school and academic courses than this village. As a recent writer has truthfully remarked, "illiteracy has but poor excuse in this community." But while fairly within the province of this chapter to enter into a detailed history of the schools of Penn Yan, the necessity for so doing is in a measure removed by the thoroughness of the educational chapter in the general history. However, a, history of this village without at least a brief reference to its educational institutions; past and present, would indeed prove an unfaithful record.

The first school taught within the limits of what afterward became the village of Penn Yan was that conducted by Ruth Pritchard, the faithful friend and co worker of Jemima Wilkinson. This most estimable woman had kept a school in the Friends' log meeting house in 1796, and afterward at Benton Center. In 1797, having then been married to Justus P. Spencer, she resided near this locality and while here started a little school and thereafter taught the youth of the settlement for some years, and until the time of her death in 816. During this period, and in 1814, John L. Cleveland maintained a select school and numbered among his pupils several who afterward became prominent men in the village. George A. Sheppard, Charles C. Sheppard, Charles Wagener, and James D. Morgan, sr., attended Mr. Cleveland's school. John L. Lewis, sr., is also remembered as having been a teacher for about three years, commencing in 1815. In 1820 Mr. Gregory conducted a grammar school.

The old school house of the village, it is said, stood on the upper corner of the present academy lot, and was used not only as a school, but as well by the Presbyterian society as a place of worship. A short time prior to 1830 a brick school was built west of the older house, being located on the west side of Liberty street as afterward laid out. The latter was in use until 1843, when district No. 13 of Milo built the school on Head street, as afterward called. So near as can be learned from scattering records and untrustworthy memory, the early teachers in the several school buildings alluded to were as follows: John L. Lewis, ____ Gregory, Gurdon Badger, John Smith, Jason Andrus, in the old frame building on Main street; Pierpont Dyer, Joshua E. R. Abbott, R. P. Lamb, Jerome Corey, assisted by A scha A. Cornwell, afterward Mrs. J. S. Glover, Emily Cornwell, Hannah Benedict, Henry C. Wheeler, James L. Seeley, Samuel H. Chapman, ____ Wilkinson, Adolphus Kneeland, Philetus Olney, Richard Taylor, John Porter, William A. Coleman, Henry A. Brunner, Sherman Morse, Celinda Soper, Sophia Elwood, Charles Edson, Henry M. Stewart, Rev. Edward Brown, Cornelia Locke, Caroline Cornwell, Salina Easton, and others as early teachers in the Liberty street and Head street buildings.

In 1824, or the year following, the lower end of the village had built its first school house, standing on what is now Seneca street, but then know as Ray street, and nearly opposite the site of the Shearman & Lewis malt house. This building was in service until 1842, when the Maiden Lane school house was erected. Among the teachers mentioned in connection with the Seneca street school were Crinus B. Feagles, Austin Feagles, Selden Chadwick, Jethro Bonney, Hiram Kidder, A. C. Spooner, B. B. Stark, Mr. McGuinn, Benjamin L. Hoyt, and a Mr. Moore. Mr. Hoyt taught this school in 1840 and 1841. The lady teachers remembered in connection with this school are Nancy Raymond, Armenia Tyler, and Susan Shaw.

In 1842 the school house in Maiden Lane was erected, and here attended a fair proportion of those who afterward became and still are the leading business men of the village. The play ground extended to Main street, the scholars then having more freedom and latitude than appears to be the lot of the present generation of pupils. Where are now the stores of Roneke & Rogers, Donahue, Hazen, the First National Bank, L. P. Wagener, and others below, was the ball grounds occupied by the scholars under the instruction of Joseph Bloomingdale and teachers immediately succeeding him. The Maiden Lane school has been maintained to the present day. Originally it was in District No. 12 of the town of Milo, but for many years has been a part of the free school system of the village. Recalling the names of teachers connected with this school, these are found: Joseph Bloomingdale, Howard R. Miller, Mary A. Jocelyn, Harris Cale, Samuel Keifer, Asa Countryman, Jay Calkins, John W. Stewart, E. Hermon Latimer, Laura Latimer, Anna Matthews, Jane Stark, Mary A. Bennett, Sarah S. Hammond, Julia Hard, Eliza Casey, Charity Bishop, Henry R. Sanford, Almira L. Hobart, and possibly others whose names are forgotten.

At the foot of the lake, in 1825 or thereabouts, was organized district No. 9 of the town of Milo, but the district itself has now become mainly absorbed by the Union District. About 1824 or '25 Van Rensselaer Vorce had a school in Aaron Plympton's old log house, and after the building of the district school he was its first master. Following him as pedagogue were Henry H. Tupper and Electa Williams. Other early teachers here were William W. Hartshorn, Isaac W. Hartshorn, John T. Perkins, James Hartshorn, Joseph Bloomingdale, Edward Randall, Mr. Gillette, and Samuel V. Miller, the latter in 1840 and 1841. Still later teachers were Sherman Morse, Jerome Corey, Lucien Corey, and Eber Stone. The maintenance of a school in this part of the village was necessary even after the absorption of the locality by the Union district. Under the direction of the Board of Education in 1879 the brick school on Lake street was erected, at a cost of about $2,500. Since that time the school here has been a part of the excellent system of education adopted by the board, and is now one of the juvenile or primary departments of the village.

The Chestnut street school, so called, likewise originally formed a part of the Milo district No. 4, and became a village institution by absorption in 1879. Its patronage is derived from the residents east of the railroad. The union district erected the school building in 1879, the cost of the entire property being more than $3,000. The first village¬ school east of the tracks was established by the board in 1876, but prior to that, and as early as 1845, old district No. 4 had its school, and a prominent institution it was. Among the teachers there at an early day were Jethro Bonney, Benjamin L. Hoyt, B. F. Cook, and William P. Gaylord.

The several institutions heretofore referred to as being schools incident to the village had their origin in the district arrangement of the town of Milo, and afterward became schools of the village, or more properly the union district. But in this narrative no mention has yet been made of that leading institution, the Academy, the chiefest of the educational interests of the village, and one with which there is connected more history, perhaps, than with all others combined. A description of the academy, its origin, growth, and value, together with mention of the persons connected with it in various capacities, is reserved for the closing pages of this branch of municipal history. But in the present connection there should properly be made some reference to other educational institutions of the village than its public and district schools; those that are and have been commonly called private or select schools. With these the village of Penn Yan has in times past had an abundant supply.

The first school of the kind of which there appears to be any record was that managed by John W. Willey, who also was a lawyer and afterward attained some distinction as the first mayor of Cleveland, Ohio. Thomas J. Nevins taught public and private schools, and it was largely through his efforts and influence that the academy was founded. Jane S. Bellows and her sister Martha Bellows were also select school teachers in the village, the former in 1825 and the latter afterward. In the same connection mention may also be made of Mary Jones, Charity Sheldon, Reuben P. Lamb, Dan. B. Bradley, Uriah Hanford, Orra Andrus, Jason Andrus, Asa P. Norton, Samuel H. Northrup, Jerusha Kinney, Roscius Morse. These are said to have been teachers prior to the founding of the academy. John Brown, said to have been a superior teacher, conducted a select school near the rear of the Baptist Church. Among the other teachers in the same building were Robert Murray, Artemas Bigelow, Evan W. Evans, Charles Hopkins, William H. Lord. Other select teachers, whose school buildings were in various parts of the village; were Joshua E. R. Abbott, L. P. Paddock, Nathan W. Ayer, John Owen, Mrs. William L. Porter, Helen M. Chamberlain, Mrs. Robinson, Miss Ryckman, Sarah Wisner, Maria Lathrop, Louise West, Miss Hubbard, Maria Benham, Adelia Benham. Miss Minor, Ann Arnold, Miss Teall, Elizabeth Philbrick, Celinda Soper, Jane Stark, Sabra Lapham, Isabella Sherman, Sarah Welles, Josephine Ellsworth, Henrietta Starkweather, and others whose names among the multitude of teachers from time to time conducting temporary schools in the village may possibly have been forgotten or overlooked.

St. Michael's School. - A Catholic parochial school was started in Penn Yan in October, 1883, under the general supervision of the Rev. Father Eugene Pagani, the worthy priest in charge of the local parish. The school building and property are conveniently situated in the western part of the village. The lot cost $1,200, upon which was erected a commodious school house at an additional expense of $6,400. Interior improvements and fixtures increased the total cost to $10,000. St. Michael's school is conducted by several faithful sisters of the Order of St. Joseph, and is in all respects a useful and worthy institution. Being a denominationally school, the expense of its maintenance is borne by the parish.

The Penn Yen Academy. - The present superior educational institution of the village, known and distinguished by the name of Penn Yan Academy, was founded and established during the year 1857, and although then an original conception and consummation, it was indirectly the outgrowth of one of the ancient educational interests of the village and locality. But the plan upon which it was proposed that the new academy should be started and maintained was so complete and elaborate; and contemplated so radical an improvement over a preceding institution, that between the two and their systems of management there was no resemblance whatever. The first was one of the infant interests of an unorganized village in a newly erected county, white the later was designed to be a modern school, founded for the purposes of higher and more advanced education; upon a broader and more liberal scale. In fact the establishment of the Penn Yan Academy in 1857 was a grand onward movement, a long stride in the work of advancement and progress; but like all such reformations, the subject was not discussed nor the work itself accomplished without some opposition and bitterness of feeling, encouraged and fostered by the same element of population that in every community invariably opposes each and every proposition, no matter how worthy the object, that calls for an unusual expenditure of means or a departure from ancient customs. However, the academy was founded and put in operation by the voice of a good majority of the people, and despite the efforts of its opponents, and not one person lives today, whether in favor of or opposed to the plan at the outset, but that realizes that what was done was for the best interests of the village and locality, and of the greatest value to the people of the county. But as we are supposed to refer to events, so near as may be in their order of occurrence, the attention of the reader must first be directed, briefly however, to the old academy.

It was during the time in which Thomas J. Nevins was conducting a school in the village that the prominent men of the place began discussing the advisibility of establishing an academic school to the end that the youth of the locality might be given the advantages of thorough education in the English branches. The result was an application to the State legislature of 1828, followed by an act passed by that body incorporating the Yates County Academy and Female Seminary. The first board of trustees designated by the act, were: Cornelius Masten, Samuel S. Ellsworth, Thomas J. Nevins, George Sherman, Ebenezer Brown, Ira Gould, Henry Bradley, James C. Robinson, Eben Smith, Joseph Ketchum, Aaron Reamer and Andrew F. Oliver. These persons, leading and influential men of the village and locality, organized and established the school in accordance with the provisions of the act. The academy building was opened for pupils on the first Monday of January, 1829, with Gardiner Kellogg, a graduate of Bowfin, as principal. The building occupied for the academy was the old Holcomb hotel structure, standing then where Charles C. Sheppard afterward lived. Attached to the building proper was a boarding house for young ladies, with accommodations for about forty persons. Mrs. Kellogg, mother of the principal, had charge of this department of the institution.

But the old Yates County Academy and Female Seminary proved to be a rather short lived affair, but just what causes led to its decline and final downfall is now difficult of determination. Principal Kellogg, too, remained its master but a year or two when he and his good mother took their departure, he being succeeded by Seymour Gookins who presided over its affairs for nearly six years. During the principalship of Mr. Gookins the academy reached the height of its glory, the catalogue for 1834 showing the attendance of 202 male and 139 female pupils. James Taylor, Miles Benham, Charles Hubbard and Samuel Wise were then members of the board of trustees, while David Malin, Bachelor of Arts, was announced as senior tutor and classical teacher. Likewise, Richard Taylor was junior tutor and mathematician; Charles S. Davis, teacher of English; Chloe Parmele, preceptress; Mary Niles, assistant preceptress; Clarissa Hagaman, teacher of music; Sarah Hill, primary teacher. In 1835 the total attendance was 315, of which 185 were males and 130 females. This year the primary department was discontinued.

After Mr. Goolcins left William H. Schram and wife conducted the school for a time, but were in turn succeeded by W. H. Schenck and wife. Daniel B. Wakefield next followed as principal for a short period, but was superceded by Richard Taylor and Joseph Bloomingdale, under whose joint efforts an attempt was made to re establish the institution on a paying basis, but without substantial success; the Yates Academy, so called for brevity, was doomed and its fall was inevitable. Its whole career covered a period of about eleven years.

From about the year 1840 down to the founding of the present Penn Yan Academy, the village was without an institution of academic character other than could be discovered in the select schools from time to time started, but only to run a short course of existence. At last, during the fifth decade of the present century, the progressive men of the village and immediate locality were awakened to the necessity of having a high school for the better and more advanced education of the youth of the village; an institution that should furnish knowledge to its pupils beyond the limited course afforded by the common village and district schools. Therefore recourse was again had to the State legislature, with result in the formation of the Penn Yan Union School District, embracing then, as it does now, a larger area than is contained within the village limits proper. The original board of trustees was as follows: Ebenezer B. Jones, Charles C. Sheppard, Benedict W. Franklin, Levi O. Dunning, Darius O. Ogden, George Wagener, Jeremiah S. Gillett, Martin Spencer, Daniel W. Streeter. The organization was perfected April 30, 1857, with Ebenezer B. Jones as president.

For the purpose of erecting a school building the trustees purchased land on the west side of Main street, at an expense of about $2,000. On this lot contractor Charles V. Bush, following the plans prepared for and adopted by the board, erected the academy at a cost of $8,000. The work of construction was completed during the summer of 1859, and the building made ready for occupancy the same year.

While it is not within the province of this chapter to comment upon the character or value of any of the village institutions, the writer nevertheless feels constrained to reproduce for the reader's benefit the words of a recent contributor to the pages of the annual school catalogue for the years 1883-84, as follows: "Founded upon a system of permanence and sure support, it has been a prosperous school'. It has been of incalculable worth to the village and the surrounding country, and has given opportunities of advanced education to hundreds of pupils, to whom they would have been largely inaccessible if this school had not existed. The wisdom of its projectors has been abundantly vindicated. The primary schools were declared free upon the organization of the district, and the academy was made a free school to all the residents of the district in 1875.

As a preceding chapter of this work has referred at length to the educational institutions not only of the county at large but as well those of the village of Penn Yan, it is not deemed prudent in this connection to enter into a more extended narrative of the local schools, nor even to furnish a succession of the trustees who have from time to time been chosen to office. But it is entirely proper at this point that there should be recorded the names of persons who have been called to the position of principle of the academy, and as well the persons who have held the honorable offices of president and secretary of the board of trustees.

The present members of the board of education are these: George R. Cornwell, Benjamin L. Hoyt, John S. Sheppard, John T. Andrews, 2d, George R. Youngs, Perley P. Curtis, Edson Potter, Silas Kinne, and Stephen B. Ayers. Officers of the board: George R. Cornwell, president; George R. Youngs, secretary; Morris F. Sheppard, treasurer; William P. Gaylord, collector.

Succession of Principals. - Rev. Otis L. Gibson, 1859-1860; Willard P. Gibson, A.M., 1861-1863; Winsor Scofield, A.M., 1863-1866; Cicero M. Hutchins, A.M., 1866-1868; Rufus S. Green, A. B., 1868- 1859; John T. Knox, A M , 1859-1860; Samuel D. Barr, A.M., 1870-1872; Burr Lewis, A.B., 1872-1873; Rudolphus C. Briggs, A.B., 1873-1875; Francis D. Hodgson, A. M., 1875-1883; Henry White Callahan, A.M., 1883-1890; F. Theodore Shultz, A.M., 1890-.

Presidents. - Ebenezer B. Jones. 1859-1861; Charles C. Sheppard, 1861-1863, 1865-1873; Benedict W. Franklin, 1863-1865; Darius A. Ogden, 1873-1876, 1880-1889; Levi O. Dunning, 1876-1877; Stafford C. Cleveland, 1877-1880; Benjamin L. Hoyt, 1889-1891; George R. Cornwell, 1891-.

Secretaries.-Daniel W. Streeter, 1859-1860; Jeremiah S. Gillett, 1860-1863, 1865-1866; Lyman Munger, 1863-1865; John T. Knox, 1873-1874; Benjamin L. Hoyt, 1874-1877; George R. Youngs, 1877-1880; Reuben A. Scofield, 1880-1882; Fred S. Armstrong, 1882-1884; George R. Youngs, 1884-.

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