Thursday, September 5, 2013

Old Schoolhouses of Glenville


Children outside of West Glenville School. The school closed in 1953. Glenville historian Percy Van Epps, who attended the school as a youngster in the 1860s and 1870s, remembered visits from a traveling magician, spelling bees, singing "Under The Willow She's Sleeping" accompanied by the wheezing of a melodeon, and teachers -- from the beloved Canadian "man of mystery" to the "lazy ignoramus" who stole money from the schoolchildren. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

"Countless volumes could be written telling of the many and varied occurrences of interest, sometimes laughable, often pathetic, happening in the numerous little red school houses scattered over our hills and dales . . . a highly organized and determined effort is under way to absolutely abolish these cherished, and on the whole efficient, institutions of our rural communities; an effort, however, vigorously and ably opposed, it would seem fitting if more of these odd happenings might be recorded before they pass into oblivion."
- Glenville historian Percy Van Epps (1859-1950), as part of reminiscence entitled "Our Little Red School House."

School days are upon us once again, so it's a good time to take a look back at schools of days gone by. In the rural schoolhouse, one teacher taught children from first grade through eighth grade. The group of pupils taught by the teacher might be as small as 7 or 8 or as many as 25 or 30. In the years of the nineteenth century, the class sizes would ebb and flow with the seasons; more children could attend during the winter months, as many had to work helping their families on local farms during the spring and fall. Schools had no central heating, electricity, or running water. Students had to go outdoors to use a privy if nature called during the day. A wood-burning stove, which was often tended by one or two of the older boys in the school, heated the room. In cold winter months, the students might cluster around the wood stove, trying to get warm, during the first hour of the school day. Along with "reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic," students learned history, geography, spelling, and English, and many teachers also made the time to squeeze in music, nature study, and art. The school was also a site for exhibitions, where students showed off to their parents and their community what they had learned through recitations, spelling bees, and singing.

These little schoolhouses were ubiquitous in rural parts of Schenectady County for over a century; here are images of just a few, from the town of Glenville.

School District #10 (Beukendaal) was created in 1825. This was the original school building on the site, which was demolished in 1915. It was replaced by a cobblestone schoolhouse that remained open until 1953. "I have remarked here on a former occasion, that I would do more for this school than any other, because this was the school of my youthful days," said John Hagadorn at an exhibition of singing, reading, and essays at the school in 1880. "Near this spot I have met with my school mates to study, and join in the innocent amusements of school days. The swift wings of time have broken up these pleasant associations . . . So it will be with you children, you are now passing through a period of time which will never again return. Strive to make the best use of your time, while attending school, so that when you are grown up you may look back with the pleasing satisfaction that you have not spent your time in vain." Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

A group of girls from the Hill School in 1926. Pictured are Sadie Buzinski, Helen Wronkowski, Clementina Farrone, Jennie Wronkowski, and Mabel Leffler. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.


Interior of Washout Road School, 1915. It was also called the Rabbit Hollow School. This schoolhouse, which was likely the second built on the site, was constructed in 1913 at a cost of $650.00. It was last used as a school in 1953. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

Children outside of West Glenville School, 1940-1941. Thelma P. Lally, the educator and philanthropist for whom the Lally School of Education at the College of Saint Rose in Albany is named, was the teacher at the school that year. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

School District #6 (Upper Sacandaga Road) was created in 1815 (the district number was changed to 17 in 1867). This is a photograph of the second schoolhouse on the site, which burned down in 1932 after the stovepipe and chimney caught fire. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

Teacher Della Relyea and her pupils, ca. 1910. School District #7 (Swaggertown Road) was created in 1815 (the district number was changed to 14 in the 1860s). The building at the junction of Swaggertown Road and Spring Road, known as the Little Mud School for its stucco exterior, was built around 1840. It closed in 1945 and the buildings was demolished during the 1970s. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

A horse-drawn sleigh outside of the Greens Corners School in 1908. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

Photograph of the School District #5 (Greens Corners) schoolhouse, taken in 1996. The school closed in 1946. Historian and caretaker Adrienne Karis has led the effort to restore and preserve this classic one-room schoolhouse, which is open to the public for tours. More information about the schoolhouse and about arranging a visit can be found at www.townofglenville.org/Public_Documents/GlenvilleNY_Historian/index. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

School District #13 (Johnson Road) was created in 1835. Also known as the Hill School, all that remained of the building by 1967 was the foundation. This photo dates from 1926, when Marietta (Taylor) Campbell taught at the school. Campbell remembered that her class that year numbered about 20 pupils. The boys took care of the wood stove that warmed the school. To come to work, she took the trolley from Scotia to the Waters station on the Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville Railroad, from which she walked up Waters Road and Weatherwax Road to the school on Johnson Road. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

This photo features the 1913 pupils of teacher Mildred Van Eps (standing at left) at School District #9 (Hoffmans). These children attended school in a yellow brick schoolhouse. It was torn down in the 1920s and was replaced by a two-story schoolhouse. The last group of pupils of the school, in 1953, numbered 11 students. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

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