Standing, left to right: Frederick VanDyne, Helena DeWitt, John Butler, Emily Long, Robert G Weigester
Many and interesting are the facts recalled in the following History of Troy Schools, read by Mrs. Sarah Ballard Willett before a special meeting in Troy of the Bradford County Historical Society:
(July 14, 1911)
This paper makes no pretense to thoroughness of investigation. It is an attempt to give merely an impression of the school history of Troy, especially of the old Academy. So brief a narrative is mainly a work of selection, and perhaps no two persons would agree upon what to put in and what to leave out. I have laid emphasis on those teachers, whose achievements seem most important, judging by the clearness with which they are recalled after so long a lapse of time. It is not possible for anyone without experience to realize how difficult it is to obtain satisfactory data upon which to base an authentic history. The records of Troy’s past are few and meager, and furnish but little information. Files of old newspapers have been searched, pages of old journals have been diligently scanned, and while they give much information concerning the social and business life of the town they contain little of a purely historical nature. Old friends have been questioned, but many of those who could have given important data concerning the early history of our town have ended their earthly labors. Some will probably be disappointed that names have been omitted from this history, but I trust that they will believe that as honest an effort has been made to prepare a complete record as was possible under the circumstances.
In nearly all the early settlements of this country the church and the school were the earliest established institutions, built in the clearings as soon as the population warranted their rude construction. Troy was no exception to this rule. Probably the oldest institution of learning in this vicinity was the Old Shad schoolhouse, situated west of the Burlington road about half way between Major Long’s and Esquire Allen’s. It took its name from the weathervane in the form of a fish which surmounted the building. One of the earliest existing documents relating to our town is the following, dated November 5, 1823: “At a meeting of a number of inhabitants of the vicinity of Lansingburgh at the school house, to devise or fix some plan for finishing the said school house, thereby making it more comfortable for our children, and we, the proprietors, the more applauded by foriners. Voted unanimous that we finish off the school house, Proceeded to sine for the purpose above mentioned, and then voted that after the subscription is expended to proceed in finishing off the same, and we are bound to pay in proportion to what we have already sined. To be superintended by Almerin Herrick. (Signed) Laban Landon, Chairman: Elihu Case, Secretary.”
The accompanying subscription is signed by A Herrick, Churchill Barnes, John Dobbins, Elihu Newberry, Doraster Porter, Benjamin Oviatt, Isaac N Pomeroy, Vine Baldwin, Elihu Case, Ansel Williams, Abraham Case, James Lucas, Daniel Gregory and several others. Opposite each signature there were placed three columns—one for the number of days’ work subscribed, another for the number of bushels of wheat and a third for the number of feet of lumber. There is also a column for subscription in money, but all the contributions were in the other columns. Dr. Almerin Herrick’s subscription takes the lead, with eight days’ work, two bushels of wheat and ten pounds of iron. Elihu Case’s subscription is one day’s work, 200 feet boards and ten pounds of iron. Vine Baldwin’s twenty pounds of 4-penny and 8-penny nails, and twenty pounds of iron. The old school house stood on the present site of the meat market. Forty years after its erection it was bought by Bryan Hanaway and moved to the lower end of Elmira street, to make room for the new school house, which, converted into a meat market, still stands on the old site.
The McKean Female Seminary was founded about 1838. It was situated on West Main Street, on the site of the double house now owned by Mr. N M Pomeroy. The building served the double purpose of school and church, and is now used by Mr. Lyman Oliver as a barn. It was named from Gen. Samuel McKean, by whom it was endowed in his will. How much, if anything, was realized from this fund is uncertain. In the year 1839 Miss Mary Sayer was principal, and the following men composed the board of trustees: Reuben Wilbur, I P Ballard, O P Ballard, C Barnes, I N Pomeroy, Charles Orwin and Elihu Newberry.
The Troy Academy was built in 1840. This date is fixed positively by Mr. N M Pomeroy, who remembers, as a boy, the spirited political campaign of that year. He remembers one political meeting, in particular, held in the Academy, which had so nearly reached completion as to lack nothing but the seats. At this meeting the audience was worked to a high pitch of enthusiasm by the cry “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too”. The famous singers, the Bird brothers, of Smithfield, helped too, to augment the popular enthusiasm. When finally a procession was formed, headed by a band, which marched to the old Eagle hotel, where more speeches were made and more songs sung. Nothing was lacking, so thought that small boy, to make it the most glorious occasion ever known.
The Academy was built by James Riddle, under the direction of Colonel Pomeroy. Among those who originated and aided in this undertaking were Colonel Pomeroy, V M Long, Francis Smith and S W Paine. In 1842 it was incorporated, and for some time received aid from the state, but this was not its only means of support. Its chief revenue was derived from the tuition –bills of students paid in the good coin of government. This old building was long the center of culture for a wide extent of territory. Occupied now as a dwelling house, it still stands in its original position on Paine’s Hill, overlooking the village from the east.
The Academy was opened in 1842. The first principal was Rev. Freeman Lane, an Episcopal clergyman. From the pages of the Democrat Analyzer, published by O P Ballard, May 26, 1842, the following notice is taken: “preparations are being made for the opening of the Troy Academy on the second Monday of next month. Rev. F Lane of Montrose, is engaged as principal, a gentleman highly recommended as a teacher. If the patronage of the school depended upon the rates of tuition, we should fear it would be quite too liberal. We hope to see it flourish, and all that is now wanting is scholars, and there are plenty of them who need these advantages.” Mr. Charles C Paine was the second principal, who had for his assistant a Miss Greenough, afterwards Mrs. Charles Lamb, who died only a few years ago.
The third principal was Mr. Ezra Osden Long. The curriculum was, for that day, an unusually liberal one. For quoting from the journal of Mr. Long, we have this record: Commenced the second term in the Troy Academy, August 18, 1845. Miss Margaret Eglin, assistant teacher, takes charge of the primary department, hears a class in botany and gives lessons to a small class in drawing and painting. That Mr. Long took an interest in all matters pertaining to the general culture of the community is proved by another extract. After spending a short time perusing Guizot’s History of Civilization, went to the Academy, where I found a small audience assembled for the purpose of listening to a discussion of the following question: “Does Civilization Conduce to the happiness of mankind?” and an address from J M Shepard and S Alvord, on the side of the negative. The question was discussed by E O Long and F Smith upon the side of the affirmative; J M Shepard and S E Alvord, on the side of the negative. The question was decided in favor of the affirmative. Mr. Shepard’s address-subject, “Progress of the Human Race” -was very good. He received a vote of thanks from the audience. We are indebted to the pages of Mr. Long’s journal for a little glimpse into the political agitations of the times. He writes: attended the Whig caucus. Alonzo Long and T B Baldwin were appointed delegates, and were instructed to go to Dobbins for sheriff. Caucus held at Eagle Hotel. The Loco caucus held at the Troy House, appointed S E Shepard and A Pierce delegates, with a resolution to use all excusable means to procure the election of E Aspinwall to the office of sheriff, provided Chester Thomas was not nominated for that office.
I regret that he does not give a complete list of the students, but that the school continued to grow in prosperity and, consequently, in numbers. I gather from the following entry: Had an increase of four scholars in the forenoon—S Freeman, Augustus Pomeroy, Marshall Hazard and Edwin Williams. The Journal closes with the date October 10, 1845, when he writes: John A Liddell arrived this afternoon for the purpose of going into the Troy Academy. Mr. Long then began the study of law with the Hon David Wilmot of Towanda, and just as he was about to be admitted to the Bar he suddenly died. He was graduated from Union College, and was made during the first year of his course a member of the Kappa Alpha Society, a fraternity founded in 1825 at Union College, and the parent of the present great system of college fraternities. A paper still preserved in the Long family certifies that Ezra O Long had been admitted to the K. A. fraternity on account of his literary attainments and his moral character. There are still residents of our village who distinctly remember Mr. Long, and recall those qualities which strongly endeared him to all his friends. Miss Eglin continued as assistant to Mr. Liddell, and also for a time was associated with Ambrose Axtell, who succeeded Mr. Liddell. An advertisement of the Academy appearing in the Troy Banner for the year 1845 states that Miss Eglin was chosen for this position, because strongly recommended by the Athens Academy. Miss Eglin was succeeded by Miss Ripley of Owego.
(July 21, 1911)
The following is an advertisement of the Troy Academy, which appeared in the Troy Banner, for the year 1846:
“R Ambrose Axtell, Principal.
Miss Frances C Ripley, Assistant
The trustees take pleasure in announcing that the Academy is in successful operation under the immediate charge of Mr. Axtell who maintains the character of a popular and successful teacher. Feeling confident that the manner in which the Academy is conducted will enable it to take that rank among the institutions of the state, to which its peculiar advantages entitle it. They are happy to recommend it to all who are desirous of obtaining a thorough English education, or of pursuing the classics and more ornamental branches of Polite Literatures, as no pains will be spared on the part of the teachers to afford every facility to those who shall claim their attention as members of the Academy. They cannot but congratulate the patrons and friends of this institution upon its flourishing condition at the present time, and their reputation it sustains for thorough and strict discipline, which alone can enable any institution to be beneficial to those intrusted to its care for the purpose of instruction. The services of Miss Ripley, who enjoys the reputation of being a superior teacher, having had sufficient experience and possessing a just knowledge of the youthful mind, having been procured.
Drawing and Painting
Miss Chamberlain is connected with the Academy for the present term, as teacher of Drawing and Painting, in its several varieties, who will be happy to render all assistance in her power to those who may wish to acquire this useful accomplishment.
Tuition for Term:
Primary Branches, $1.50.
Common Branches, $2.50.
Higher English Branches, Geometry, Surveying, Chemistry, Natural Philosophy, Botany, $4.00.
Classics and Modern Languages, $5.00.
Drawing and Painting, $3.00 to $5.00.
Board can be obtained in private families from $1.00 to $1.50 per week.
F Smith, President.
S W Paine, Secretary
This brings us down to 1848, when H Boardman Smith was principal, and his sister, Grace, had charge of the primary department. Mr. Smith was noted for the strictness of his discipline. A lady of our town, who as a very young child attended his school, has told me that she stood in such awe of him that she hardly dared raise her voice above a whisper. One day, Mr. Smith, looking sternly at her, said, “Miss Emma, you are going to be a great expense to me, for I shall either have to buy a speaking trumpet for you or an ear trumpet for myself”
The Kellum family were next in succession. Mr. John H Kellum, as principal, and his sister, Augusta, as a teacher of the primary department, and Mrs. Kellum as music teacher. These were accomplished and charming people, and when Mr. Kellum removed to East Bloomfield to take charge of the Academy there, he was accompanied by Emma Pierce, Charles Paine (afterward Dr. Paine) and Clarence Williams.
The next principal was P S Ruth, who also served the congregation of the Episcopal church as rector. It has been said of Mr. Ruth that he had a withered arm, but he was generally accorded a sound head,
Next comes Dr. Pratt, who seems to have been musically inclined, as
he set all the boys and girls singing the multiplication table, and the
geography was learned in the same fascinating manner. A former member of
this school, speaking of him the other day, sang
for me this ditty:
”Erie, Adams, McKean,
Potter, Tioga, Bradford,
Mr. J H Calkins writes me: “I think that there was no school in the Academy from the spring of 1854 to the fall of 1856.”
“During the summer of 1856 the building was repaired and the school commencing that fall was conducted by Hiram C Johns, who had as his assistant the first term a Miss Seymour; for the second term his assistant was Albert C Hopkins. Miss Lydia Long was both pupil and teacher of music in the school at the time. The repairs had been made so late, that at the commencement of the school the varnish on the seats had not had time to harden; so if the scholars did not stick to their lessons, they certainly did to their seats. At these terms of school my particular chums were Robert F Redington, W H Carnochan, Ansel Williams and Benjamin F Beebe. Our especial delight was our Debating Club, with the pretentious motto, “Eloquentia mundam regit.” A rather odd character by the name of Kilburn belonged to the club. One night we were debating the slavery question, then the absorbing topic. Beebe was arguing the pro-slavery side, when Kilburn grew indignant and accused Beebe of wishing to make slaves of all poor men. Beebe, without changing a muscle of his face, turned to Kilburn and said: “I would like to ask the gentleman what right a man has to be born poor?”
Hon. Albert C Hopkins writes; “My knowledge of the schools of Troy is confined to the memories of the single winter of 1856 and ’57, during which I acted with Prof. H C Johns as teacher to the attendants of the Troy Academy during one term. If my memory serves me correctly, we had 101 students of various ages and attainments, some being quite advanced. I had been attending Alfred University and Mr. Johns was a classmate. I remained only one term, and that was the first and last of my school teaching. I have always considered that winter as one of the bright ones in my life, and have always maintained most pleasant relations with many of the students, whom I have ever counted as my friends.” Mr. Johns was succeeded by J J Crandall, with Miss Wilmot and Miss Mary Bowen as his assistants.
Retyped and submitted by Janet PETERS Ordway from Ed Ballard Resources