History of The Geneve Academy, Geneva , New York
SARACUSE, N. Y., 1893


It is reasonably certain that the first school established in Geneva was that afterward known as the Geneva Academy, and that the first school-house was the one which stood on the lot now occupied by the session room of the First Presbyterian Church. When the school was established, and when the school-house was built are questions that cannot now be answered definitely. That the school was in operation as early as 1796 may be inferred from the fact that from 1796 to 1800 inclusive school commissioners were elected annually at town meeting to receive the money granted by the State for the use of schools, under the act of which provided an appropriation annually to schools for the five years following. That the school-house was in existence and was regarded as in a manner a public or well-known building as early as 1801, appears from the further fact that the annual meeting of the freeholders of the town held that year was adjourned to meet the following year at the” school-house.” That there was more, than one regular school or one school house at this early date is extremely improbable, as there were in Geneva in 1800 but sixty families, and as late as 1806 only three hundred and twenty-five inhabitants.

January 30, 1807, twenty-three freeholders of Geneva joined in a petition to the Honorable the Regents of the University of the State of New York for the incorporation of Geneva Academy. This document*1 is interesting as being the oldest extant document in which the academy is mentioned by name. It contains the following statement which is historically of much value:

"Your petitioners beg leave further to represent that the real estate belonging to their Academy consists of a lot of land fronting the public square in the said village of Geneva, on which they have erected a building twenty-five feet by thirty-eight feet, and one and a half stories high, and that they have for upwards of two years past employed a gentleman of abilities, regularly graduated at Princeton College, who, together with an assistant, has the superintendence of upwards of sixty students."

This petition was not granted, and the academy remained without a charter till 1813, when another and successful application was made. It is a matter of regret that diligent inquiry has thus far failed to ascertain the name of the graduate of Princeton referred to in the petition.

August 7, 1809, the trustees of the academy announced by advertisement in the Geneva Gazette the engagement of the Rev. Andrew Wilson to take charge of the academy. This announcement is of sufficient interest to justify its reproduction here, especially as it has not appeared in any history of the academy.

The Rev. Andrew Wilson, formerly of the University of Glasgow, at the request of the trustees, has undertaken the superintendence of the Geneva Academy, and engaged to teach the respective branches of literature on the following terms, viz.:

First Class-Reading, writing and arithmetic, 2 dollars 25 cents per quarter.

Second Class-English grammar, book-keeping, geography and mathematics, including geometry, mensuration, algebra, surveying, navigation and astronomy, 4 dollars per quarter.

Third Class-The Latin, Greek and Hebrew languages, 5 dollars per quarter.

The tuition feespayable in advance.

From the respectable recommendations produced by Mr. Wilson, the trustees have every reason to believe that he will do ample justice to the pupils committed to his charge.



N. B.-Boarding can be had on reasonable terms.

In 1812 Mr. Ransom Hubbell, a graduate of Union College, and highly recommended by the Rev. Eliphalet Nott, president of that college, was made principal of the academy and remained such till 1817.

On the 29th of March, 1813, an act of incorporation was obtained from the Regents of the University, for which was subscribed the sum of $1,6,, by the following persons, not less than $50 being subscribed by any individual: Polydore B. Wisner, H. H. Bogert, Robt. W. Stoddard, Samuel Colt, William Hartsen, Jonathan Doane, Thos. Lowthrop, James Rees, James Carter, John Nicholas, David Cook, John Woods, Thos. D. Burrall, Joseph Stow, Walter Grieve, Robt. Scott, Fred A. De Zeng, Wm. Tippets, Abner Cole and Abraham Dox. The first Board of Trustees named in the charter was as follows: Rev. Jedediah Chapman, Polydore B. Wisner, Jas. Rees. Samuel Colt, John Nicholas, H. H. Bogert, Robert Scott, David Cook, Thos. Lowthrop, Jonathan Doane, Walter Grieve, Wm. Tippetts and Fred. A. De Zeng.

In 1817 Mr. Hubbell was succeeded as principal by the Rev. John S. Cook. December 8, 1817, "in consequence of some differences of feeling," at a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the academy it was resolved, "that the academy operations be suspended." However, to obviate any public disadvantage, a committee was appointed, consisting of Rev. Henry Axtell, Dr. James Carter and David Cook, to take charge of the school building and give the use of it to any respectable teacher till the trustees should again resume their duties.

On the 6th of March, 1821, a meeting was called by senior trustee James Rees, and at this meeting, the first meeting held since December 8, 18 17, the following action was taken : "Whereas, Trinity Church, New York (city), in consequence of an application from the trustees of Trinity Church, Geneva, have transferred to Geneva Academy an endowment of $750 per annum, granted by them for the support of an academy at Fairfield, N. Y., Therefore, Resolved, That the endowment thus transferred with the conditions stipulated, be and they are hereby accepted, and that we will take immediate measures for raising the necessary funds for carrying the endowment into effect."

One of the conditions of the proposed grant from Trinity Church, New York, being that the inhabitants of Geneva should erect a suitable building for the accommodation of the "Branch Theological School," and funds for this purpose having been already secured by citizens of Geneva by a subscription paper cirèulated under date of February 15, 1821, it was further resolved at this meeting, in order that the site for the Geneva Academy might be selected without regard to individual or sectional interest, that the location be made by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Hobart, and that on the site selected by him the necessary buildings be erected. Agreeable to the resolution the bishop viewed several sites in Geneva, and on March 17, 1821, he communicated to the trustees his selection of the site now occupied by the college buildings. In the same year the erection of" Geneva Ha!l" was begun, and the work completed in the spring of 1822.

At this same meeting (March 6, 1821) the Rev. Daniel McDonald, D. D., formerly principal of the Fairfield Academy, was appointed principal of the Geneva Academy, and on the 25th of April Geneva Academy started anew, its home till the completion of Geneva Hall being in the frame school-house erected in 1817 in the rear of Trinity Church in Geneva. Under the Rev. Dr. McDonald (1821-25) Geneva Academy prospered greatly.

On the 21St of January, 1822, the trustees of the academy made application to the Board of Regents to grant the academy the powers and privileges of a college. April 10, 1822, a provisional charter as such was obtained and the conditions imposed by it having been complied with, on February 8, 1825, the Regents granted a charter by which Geneva Academy became Geneva College.

With this consummation attained naturally ends the history of the old and noted Geneva Academy, but certain prior conditions and stipulations governing the subscription funds continued it in existence for seven more years, and even beyond this time the college trustees found themselves occasionally confronted with an ancient scholarship certificate which entitled the holder to academic instruction in the college or its auxiliary institution, which was for some time maintained in connection with the higher institution. To meet this exigency the college trustees established the Academic School, so called, which went into operation January 3, 1827, and was abolished July 31, 1832.

The circumstances under which the Academic School was established were briefly these: A very considerable portion of the original endowment of the college-the fund required by the provisional charter for the securing of the permanent charter-was raised by the sale of certificates, each of which, in consideration of the sum of one hundred dollars subscribed and paid, entitled the holder, his heirs and assigns, to the privilege of sending one student to the Geneva Academy or to Geneva College, free of tuition fees, for the term of twenty years, commencing from the date thereof, or whenever he might choose. No sooner was the permanent charter obtained, February 8, 1825, than claims were put forward by the certificate holders, or in their behalf, that the Geneva Academy could not justly be discontinued. Accordingly, at the first sitting of the Board of Trustees of Geneva obart] College, in May, 1825, Doctor McDonald, Mr. R. S. Rose and T. D. Burrall were appointed a committee to consider and report upon the propriety of continuing the Academy School under the care of the trustees of the college. Subsequently, August 24, the committee reported against the continuance of the Academy School and their report was adopted.

In September Geneva College began. The certificate holders who claimed that academic instruction should be continued were defeated, but only for the time being, for, on December 9, 1826, the executive committee of the Board of Trustees established a school (opened the following month), employing as principal U. M. Wheeler, the committee being satisfied that it was expedient to establish a permanent academic school to which the holders of certificates might send on the terms of their subscriptions. The Academic School originated, then, as a concession to a demand-a demand which appears to have had no real foundation.

The Academic School went into operation June 3, 1827. It was abolished July 31, 1832. During the first two years of its existence it was kept on the ground floor of the Masonic Hall, a building erected in 1825 on the site of the original Geneva Academy, the lot being that on which now stands the session room of the First Presbyterian Church. From January 2, 1829, to the date of its discontinuance it was conducted in the building best known to the present generation as the Old Chapel, a wooden structure that stood ten or fifteen feet north of Geneva Hall.

While under Masonic Hall the Academic School received as pupils both boys and girls, and was, in point of grade, essentially a primary school. During this period the number of pupils in attendance at any one time did not, probably, exceed fifty. A new era begins with the term which opened November 26, 1828. The roll ceases to show the names of girls, and the students are divided into two groups, the classical and the English, there being ten of the former and sixteen of the latter. The most noted names on the roll are the following: James R. Doolittle, Archibald C. Campbell, Butler G. Noble. The next term opened February 19, 1829, with more flattering prospects, thirty-two students being in attendance. In the following term, which began May 14, the names of fifty-eight students appear on the roll, and noticeable among them are those of Walter Ayrault and Anthony Schuyler. Henceforth the fortunes of the Academic School declined, and November 10, 1830, the following resolution was adopted by the Board of Trustees

Resolved, That all resolutions of this Board authorizing the payment of any salary or other compensation to the teachers of a preparatory school in Geneva be rescinded from and after the 17th instant.

The school was continued, however, by Mr. Walter T. Taylor, under permission from the Board of Trustees, as a private school, and so remained till January, 1832. The Board of Trustees then assumed control again, employing a teacher, but in July of that year by resolution permanently discontinued the Academic School.

The teachers (i. e. those employed by the college) and their respective terms of office were as follows: [The Rev.] U. M. Wheeler, class of 1826, from January, 1827, to November of the same year; [the Hon.] George Woodruff class of 1829, from November, 1827, to January 30, 1828; Mr. R. D. H. Yeckley, class of 1834, from January, 1828, to February, 1829; [the Rev.] Seth Davis, class of 1827, from February, 1829, to November of the same year; from November, 1829, to May, 1830, Mr. Alfred Hall, tutor in the college, 1828-30, with Mr. Walter T. Taylor as assistant; from May. to November of 1830, Mr. Taylor remaining as assistant, the Rev. Levi H. Corson; from January, 1832, to July of the same year, Mr. Festus Fowler, class of 1830.

*1 is given entire in the “Historical and Statistical Record of the University of the State of New York,” issued 1885.

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