Early Schools of Macedon

Wayne County, NY

By Nora E. Hoag
October 14, 1895


During the Colonial period of New York State there was no general system of education, but the subject began to be agitated immediately after the organization of the state. Governor George Clinton in his message to the Legislature in 1787 urged the consideration of the subject, and a law was passed providing for the Regents of the University. Two years later certain of the public lands were appropriated to gospel and school purposes. In 1793 the Regents in their report recommended the establishment of a general system of common schools, and in 1795 Governor Clinton in his message strongly recommended the same, and on April 9, 1795, the law was enacted for the establishment of our common school system, the one hundredth anniversary of which was celebrated last April.

By this act $50,000 was annually appropriated for five years for the benefit of the schools. This act provided only for schools in the cities and larger towns; the rural communities were not included in its benefit. The advantageous effects of this system, imperfect though it was, became at once apparent, and from time to time measures were taken to increase the fund and improve the system. One of these efforts was the raising of $137,000 by lotteries. The successive governors, nearly all, urged new legislation for the encouragement and support of the schools, but nothing definite was accomplished until 1811, when five commissioners were appointed to report a complete system for common schools.

This report, accompanied by the draft of a bill, was made Feb. 14, 1812: it was accepted and the bill became a law. under this act Gideon Hawley was appointed superintendent and continued in office from 1813 to 1821. The system met with great success, and the firm hold which it speedily attained is chiefly due to the administrative ability and indefatigable exertions of Mr. Hawley. It is impossible for me to say just when the work of district organization was done, though it seems to have been during 1813 and 1814.

The earliest record I have found in the town of Macedon is of a school meeting, in what is now known as the tannery district, on the seventh day of the first month, 1815.

For a period of about forty years the district school system was supplemented by numerous private and select schools. In many of the district the schools were too small to support a teacher of more than one term in the year, and in these cases there generally was a select school in some place in the district to which parents who could or would sent their children for instruction. A complete list of these schools would be interesting, but I have been able to learn of but a few of them. It seems to be impossible to get any information back of the memories of persons now living.

During a period of years extending well into the "forties" there were, at irregular intervals, schools of this character taught in the house that was then the Hoag homestead, on the road going north from the N.Y. Central station at Macedon and just south of the town line. Benjamin Hoag had ten children to educate, and after these children were grown and gone the select school was continued for the benefit of the grandchildren. Hiram C. Hoag remembers attending a school taught there one or two winters previous to 1840. During the winter of 1840-41, and probably the winter before that, Huldah Dawes had a school in the Hoag homestead. Sally Ann Hoag taught a school in the cellar kitchen of this house in the winter of 1845-46. It is surprising how many interesting things that are foreign to the subject may be found when investigating historical topics. We are all familiar with the expression, "To sit down on a person." One instance of its literal application in the school of the last-mentioned teacher is told by one who saw it. One of the pupils, who was a nephew of the teacher, being particularly persistent in the pursuit of some forbidden action during school hours, the teacher calmly laid the boy on the floor face downward and sat upon him while she continued the recitation as though no interruption had occurred.

Another house in which there were private schools was the home of Edward Birdsall, now owned by Richard Sutton, and across the road from the residence of Elias Barnes. Joanna Eddy taught a school there, and it was probably in the winter of 1838-39. About that time there were schools for two or three winters in the home of Daniel Birdsall, on the farm now owned by John Wilson. Ann Dorland kept school there in 1840-41. A select school was kept in the house of Philander Packard, between 1832 and 1835, by Betsey Porter Noble. She at another date taught a school in the house now owned by Henry Knapp on the county line road, then occupied by Abraham Lapham, Jr. This is only a partial record of the select schools of two districts, there must have been many more that cannot be remembered.

Many changes have been made in the district boundaries; new districts have been made and some have been absorbed by surrounding districts, but the joint districts have been changed more than the others. At the time of the organization of the town of Macedon there were eight joint districts, now there are five. In 1852 the Talbott district, as it is known, was thought to be too small to support a teacher and the district was dissolved. The farms composing it were divided among the neighboring districts, but this arrangement caused so much dissatisfaction that in a few years the district was restored.

The district then known as No. 15 was annulled in 1866. The school was small and the school house unfit for use. The larger part of the land was added to the Tannery district. In some cases there have been so many changes that a brief description is impossible,and a full account is equally difficult. The school houses also have been changed. The greater part of those now in use had two, and in some cases, three predecessors, and nearly every time a new house was built, the location was changed and in some instances the site was changed without building a new house.

The old stone school house south of the Center was built in the "twenties," and succeeded one a half mile further north, which was, I think, built of logs. The stone building in time gave place to a modern frame structure, with a bell on the roof over the door and furnished with patent desks.

The school house east of the Center, on the Clark Johnstone hill, more recently called the Hoag hill, was originally on the northeast corner. The first official records of this district date from 1827, when a clerk's book was purchased. The records of this meeting and many subsequent ones until 1849, state that each family sending children to the school should furnish a half cord of wood per scholar. In 1833 a site two rods east of the old school house was leased of Dexter Kingman and a new house was built costing $180. In 1845 the present site on the northwest corner was purchased of Mrs. Tucker and the school house was moved upon the new lot.

In 1865 the house was thoroughly repaired and a room was built on the north side to be used for an entry and wood-house. Everything about the building was made new except the frame. Stephen Harris did the work and was paid $340.00. In 1884 the school house was again remodeled, repainted, and furnished with patent desks. The building remained in good condition until it was burned during the blizzard of Feb. 6,1895. The fire occurred in the early morning. The school was held the remainder of that term, and the following spring in the home of Harriet Coville. A new school house was built the following summer on the old site. it is a modest frame building, clapboarded on the outside, ceiled with Georgia pine on the inside, and besides the school room, has an entry and two cloak rooms. It is furnished with single desks, is heated by a furnace in the cellar, and has a bell and belfry. The builder was Fred Jennings. The school opened in the new building Sept. 2nd, 1895, with Miss Lilian Pilcher as teacher.

When the first school house was built at Macedon Center is uncertain, but about 1832, one stood on a road along the south side of the property of Daniel T. Burton and nearly opposite his dwelling house. When it was built, or whether it was the first school building of the district, has not been learned. Mr. Burton sold to Hezekiah Post in 1832, and the building was soon after known as the Post school house. Owing to changes made in other roads the road along Mr. Post's farm was closed as a public highway and the school house was left standing in a field, with no means of approach except across the fields, or Mr. Post's lane. After awhile a new site was obtained, and the building was removed to the present school house grounds. It was doubtless repaired occasionally but the ravages of time and usage at length caused it to be thought unfit for school purposes, and in 1884 it was removed to the lot of Henry Pilcher and became a part of his barn, and the present school house was erected by Stephen Harris.

The first school house in what is now No. 15 Macedon and Walworth, stood on the west side of the road just north of Richard Lapham's house, where Hiram C. Durfee's tenant house now stands. This was a log house with desks and benches running around three sides of the room, a fire place and teacher's desk on the fourth, and a second row of benches inside the first row, for the smaller children. About 1839 Joanna Eddy, who was the teacher, introduced a blackboard, much to the terror and disgust of the children who were obliged to use it. This board was about three feet long, and two feet high. It was not fastened to the wall, but stood on legs and was moved about the room as was desired. George Howig, son of E. K. Howig of Macedon, made the board for Miss Eddy. A blackboard being a luxury, the district permitted the teacher to furnish her own.

This school house was burned in February, 1852. When it came to building again, a controversy arose over the site. The people of the east part of the district wanted the new building on the old site, while the people on the next road west contended that it was their privilege to have it on their road. To settle the matter, Henry J. Barringer gave a plot of ground in the woods half way between the roads. There the new building was erected, and there it stands. For about a year the children climbed the fences and went across the fields, before the road was laid out form the site of the old building to meet the next road going west.

In the district west of the Center that is now No. 10, but is better known as the Tannery district, the citizens were methodical, and were helpful to the historians of the present day, for they kept a clerk's book which was begun January, 1815. The first school house was built in the summer of that year on a site nearly opposite the residence on the farm of B.S. Durfee. There is a record of the purchase of a piece of land of Wm. Birdsall, and of an unsuccessful attempt to build a school house upon it about 1833. It is known that about the same time a school house stood on land owned by Johnathan Ramsdell, but the records are silent as to how the house came to be there, or how long it remained.

In 1835 the house at the Tannery was built on land bought of Elijah Hill. In 1880 the present school house was built on land purchased of Gideon Ramsdell. In the early records of this district for many years is found this motion, "Resolved, that the trustees have power to exonerate the poor and indigent persons from the payment of school tax."

This is but a partial account of the schools of Macedon in the early period of its history. The schools of the northern part of the town have been described because of a better acquaintance with the sources from which information could be obtained. Other schools have probably had as many changes, and as much of interest, but the difficulty of obtaining knowledge concerning them has hindered further search. The efforts of those throughout our town who planned for the education of the children are bringing results that cannot be estimated, they can only be accepted and used, and were it possible the historian would gladly preserve the records of all.

Oct. 14, 1895                                          NORA E. HOAG

Source: Pioneers of Macedon, and other papers of the Macedon Center Historical Society, compiled by Mary Louise Eldredge. Fairport, N.Y.: The Mail Printing House. 1912.

IMPORTANT: This article was written almost 110 years ago. The site coordinators and site volunteers have no information about the schools discussed above, or persons mentioned in the article. We thank you in advance for not emailing us, but directing ALL requests for information to the Office of the County Historian.

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