"Some history of the old Newark Union Free School and Academy"

Old Newark Academy Building


School in the Old Building No More. -
A Little History.

"Good bye old school house," sang the school children as they wended their way homeward Friday afternoon. They had gathered within the old familiar walls for the last time, and were not wholly untouched by that fact. A great variety of memories and associations cluster about the old building, which at this point awaken tender sentiments and passing recollections in many minds. Saturday evening, at the call of some young ladies of the school, a goodly company, mostly students, assembled in the old academic rooms, and remarks were made by Prof. Robinson, Trustee Hamm, Revs. Burgess and Kneeland, and a parody on Shakespeare's soliloquy skillfully interweaving many names, was read by Mrs. Prof. Robinson, which elicited hearty applause, and some young ladies furnished music.

This is fitting time to recall briefly the history of the venerable old structure, from whose walls so many have gone out, to the broader tuition of life.

Going back to 1844, we find that our village had within its present limits four school districts and house. One at Nimham, or Groat's Corners, where Hamer's furnace is now located, one at the New York Central as now, one at East Newark, and one on the site occupied by the present building about to be replaced. This latter was of cobble-stone, two stories high. The ground around it was low, marshy and disagreeable, and the accommodations were very inadequate. In the fall of 1845 the subject of a new building began to be discussed. There was however much opposition. Several complications as to boundaries arose, a proposed consolidation of districts was taken into consideration, and the matter hung fire till 1847. The questions of boundaries and of location for the new building continued to agitate and divide the people, and it was not until 1850, after various steps had been taken and rescinded, that the present district was founded, and the site for the new house fixed on that of the old stone building. It had been a warm contest running through several years. Among the active leaders of the enterprize were Joel H. Prescott, Solon Taylor, E. T. Grant, senior, Daniel Kenyon, Wm. O. Hayes, Orville Hurd, Abel T. Blackmar, Stephen Culver, Clark Mason, Dr. Coventry and Dr. Rockwood. Of this number Prescott and Rockwood alone are living.

In October, 1850, plans were matured for a new house. The building committee consisted of the trustees, Aldrich Taylor, and Kenyon, supplemented by G. H. Middletown E. T. Grant, B. F. Wright, S. Culver, John Daggett and Ruel Taylor. It was voted to raise by tax $3,500, which amount was at a subsequent meeting increased by $2,000. The old bell was sold, and the proceeds, with those of an oyster supper, amounting to $137, went into a new bell, which has done service during all the intervening years. The contract for the building was let to O. Bostwick for $5,250. The building was completed in 1851, and in December of that year school was opened in it, with George Franklin, afterward Judge Franklin, as principal. Two persons are now living in Newark, Mrs. Elizabeth Chapman and Mrs. A. D. Soverhill, who were students there the first day of the term.

Before the term commenced on December 3, the building had been formally opened and dedicated. Of the dedication R. G. Pardee of Palmyra gave a glowing account in the Palmyra Sentinel, speaking of the building as "a graceful specimen of modern architecture." At this dedication exercise speeches were made by Mr. Franklyn, Principal Clark of Lyons, Stephen Culver, Rev. Mr. Shumway and Mr. Pardee, and the music, "of a high order," was under direction of Mr. Hawley. In the evening of that day occured the oyster supper already referred to, for the bell fund, which was patronized by from 600 to 700 persons. In 1854 an additional strip of land, eight rods wide, was purchased on the south side, of Horace Blackmar, for $600. In 1857 the Union Free School was formed, under the law of 1853. The academic department was formed in 1863, constituting the Newark Union Free School and Academy, and it came thus under the visitation of the regents of the university.

The men who have successively been employed as principals of the school have been George Franklin, C. M. Crittenden, C. P. Head, F. D. Hodgson, H. Vosburgh, B. C. Rude, E. V. DeGraff, J. Dorman Steele, Jacob Wilson, O. B. Seagrave, W. I. Norton, Prof. Peake, Dr. W. S. Aumock, P. I. Bugbee, J. W. Robinson. Among lady principals have been Mrs. Franklin, Miss Mary Johnson, Mrs. Justin, Miss Susie Riggs, Miss Helen Prescott, Miss H. B. Clark, Miss Frank Benton, Miss Mary S. Eaton, Miss A. E. Gifford, Mrs. Robinson.

The school has been uniformly prosperous, and has steadily grown. Since 1870 the question of larger accommodations has been frequently under discussion. In 1849 the number of pupils of school age in the district was 302. Now there are considerably more than twice this number; and the wealthy of the village has doubled several times over since that date.

Looking over Mr. Prescott's scrap book, from which the information here given has mostly been gleaned, we find two programs of Union School exhibitions, one on March 25th, 1859, and the other March 29, 1860. In the former, students taking part were Frank Ellis, Anna Price, C. R. Robinson, Laura Hurd, Henry Gardner, Emma Husted, A. G. Bebee, Henry Tracy, Ruth Prescott, Thompson Grant. In the latter, Wm. Sutherland, Ester Palmer, Anna Eddy, E. T. Grant, Reeves Welcher, John Alston (who committed suicide in New Orleans a few months ago,) Sarah Grant, Charlotte Trowbridge, E. W. Tracy, G. Church, Aldrich, D. D. Gardner, Wm. Mickle, P. G. Hedding, Laura Keller, Mattie Allen, Mattie Pulver, Hannah Grant, Mary Owen, M. E. Phillips, Fannie Plamer, S. Prescott, Kittle Weaver, Josie Parks, H. D. Smith, Henry Prescott, Willie Sherman, Marsh Mills, Frank Ellis, Ernest Tabor, Nettie Mani, Mary Parks, Helen Vosburgh, James Dingnan, Anna Culver, Mary Taylor, Nettie Mayer, Mary Palmer, H. S. Clark, Geo. W. Church, R. Parks, Olivia Greenwood, Mary Bryant, Bessie Plympton, Laura Wadsworth. In 1864, under Prof. Steele, the literary exercises were participated in by J. H. Prescott, C. Mason, Annie Reed, Stephen Sherman, Byron Thomas, Mary A. Parks, Wm. H. Sherman, Kittie Weaver, Jeff. W. Hoag. These glimpses are suggestive of the numbers of youth who have gone out from our school to make their earthly fortunes here and there, and of the long story the old walls could tell, if they were endowed with the gift of speech.

NOTE: In the 1900 Village of Newark Directory, the address of the Newark Union School was 4 Jefferson St.

Source: Arcadian Weekly Gazette, Newark, N.Y, page 5, 18 March 1891. Article contributed by Lisa Slaski.

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Created: 11/30/15
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