September 1990

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Early Schools

in Pleasant Valley and Hammondsport


Richard G. Sherer

In the fall of 1793 Samuel Baker became the second inhabitant of the valley of Cold Brook Creek that runs into the head or southwest end of Crooked Lake. It was to him and William Read and Amos Stone that Charles Williamson, agent of the Pulteney Estate, offered 50 acres of land for school purposes in 1795. Williamson's thought was that if schools were built, communities would form and prosper, and attract more settlers, thereby providing additional land sales for him.

Col. Williamson made this offer of land to any district or section within the 1,264,000 acres for which he had control. The Pleasant Valley people were the only ones to take legal measures to secure the land.

A schoolhouse for the Pleasant Valley school was built in 1795, the first schoolhouse in the Town of Urbana. The frame, board and batten building was about 24' by 36' with but one stove for heating in the winter. The children's desks were set around the outside wall where windows provided better light but where the temperature was rather chilly on their legs on a cold winter day. The teacher, Eliphalet Norris, sat at his desk, closer to the stove in the center of the room, from where he could observe all of the students.

Perhaps, because of the close proximity of this early schoolhouse house to Cold Brook Creek, the Adirondack Park exists. Samuel Hammond, son of Lazarus Hammond, founder of Hammondsport, was one of the early students. At the first hint of spring and running trout, young Samuel would skip school to fish. His love of wildlife throughout his lifetime, and his early advocacy of preserving wild places, started the movement for state forests in northern New York.

At the annual school meeting of 1814, it was voted to enlarge the schoolhouse by adding ten feet to the east side of the building. The addition was paid for from rent money received from the 50 acres belonging to the school. Pay for the teacher in those times was $5 a month. The teacher lived with a local family.

In 1823 Edward Townsend, Franklin Baker, and William Read, commissioners of common schools, divided Urbana into school districts, of which Pleasant Valley was No. 7. In 1827 the Pleasant Valley school received $33.05 of the $59.76 of state money allocated to Urbana town. The remainder, $26.71, went to a school in the village of Hammondsport. An equal amount was raised there by taxation. The Hammondsport schoolhouse was board and batten, too. It stood along the road that is now Lake Street about where house number 54 stands, one and one half blocks from Main Street. The building was later moved to Liberty Street and exists today as part of the house at 14 Liberty. Hammondsport was school district No. 11.

In the early days it was the duty of the parent or guardian for each child enrolled in school to provide one half cord of wood cut to fit the stove. In case of failure to provide the wood the trustees could charge the delinquent at a rate of $2 a cord.

When the district school board decided to have an outhouse constructed, the project was put up for bid. The dimensions were specified: two and one half feet wide, four feet long and six feet high at the back, seven in front, with a pit underneath four feet deep. A bid of $2.50 for all materials and labor was accepted.

In March of 1843 voters in the Pleasant Valley District chose to build a new schoolhouse. Seven hundred and thirty five dollars were raised by taxation and the new schoolhouse was completed in 1844. The main part of this building was octagonal. It had a rectangular addition on the north. This building, too, is still in existence to the rear and the right of the house where Hugh Hiney lives on the Olde Bath Road.

On October 26, 1887, the voters of school district No. 7 appropriated $2,500 for the construction of a new school in the valley. It was ready for use in 1890.

In 1858 an academy opened in a stone building at the corner of Main and Lake Streets in Hammondsport. Built as a private academy, it was later taken over by the school district. This building exists as the center part of the building housing the Curtiss Museum and the Hammondsport Library. Additions were made on both sides of the original building and it was used for the Hammondsport school until 1935.

1990, Richard G. Sherer
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