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Earlville, New York
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Earlville - Past, Present, Future.
Historical and Prophetic Sketch Being Prepared by Mr. John R. Parsons.
John R. Parsons Historical Writings Revisited
School History - Part I
"And don't you remember the school, Ben Bolt,
With the teacher so kind and true,
And the shaded nook by the running brook
Where the fairest wild flowers grew?
Grass grows on the master's grave, Ben Bolt,
The spring of the brook is dry,
And of all the boys who were schoolmates then,
There are only you and I."
--Thomas Dunn English.
The first school was a log building upon the tableland west of A. M. Tefft farm house. (In present day, this would be
about 2 miles southwest of the Village of Earlville, on Chenango County Rt. 32, Town of Smyrna). It was in existence
about one hundred years ago (1826). My father, Alfred Parsons, received al the "book larnin" he ever had in that
building. If phonetic spelling was not taught there it must have originated there because in my father's diaries I find
many words spelled as they sounded to him when pronounced. The schools of those days were supported by those
who sent children. The man sending five children paid five times as much as did he who sent one. Families were large
and those who preferred to stay home and work were not urged to attend school. They (schools) were only run during
the winter months. The teacher was some person in the neighborhood and the pay was about fifty cents a day. Books
were scarce and expensive and attention was centered largely upon "readin, writin and cipherin." But very few ever
went to school after they were fifteen years of age. There were no graduating days, no diplomas, no Washington trips
but there was a wonderful development of character. I could full the pages with names of men who lived in this valley
in the half century ending with the civil war who were four square in every transaction. Their word was as good as a
bond because they were simply ostracized if they attempted any trickery or double dealing of any kind.
There was at one time a little red school on Dwight Felt's farm near the present highway river bridge. That district was
consolidated with Earlville and the building is now a work shop in Mr. Felt's yard. (This is now the Nower farm at the
junction of Madison County Rte. 14 and Lebanon Road.) Frank Coye's West Main Street home was the first
schoolhouse in Earlville. After it was abandoned a select school was kept there, during the winter months for
advanced students only. The teacher received a stated amount from each pupil and admitted only such as he cared to
About 1854 or 1855 the big four-room school was built on the new road now called Fayette street. It is part of the old
abandoned school building still standing on that street. Mrs. J. H. Collier distinctly remembers the community heat that
was created when this project was carried to completion. I think in the early sixties the late Henry G. Green came as
teacher. His associate was a Miss Pease. When the children came out of the first day's school they were shouting to
each other on the street, "How do you like green peas?" After this he was teacher in the Henry Wilcox district then
came again into the Earlville School. A. M. Tefft, Jesse Wilcox, Norman M. Congdon and myself were boys in his
school in old district No. 1 and we followed him into the Earlville school. This quartet is unanimous in naming him as
the best teacher we ever had. I think none of Mr. Green's old pupils carry in their memories a more vivid recollection of
the man than perhaps does Mr. William Henry of this village.
I am unable to find the date when this old school building was enlarged and remodeled into its present shape but
believe it was done about the year 1900. Whenever it was done it was a penny wise policy because the several
thousand dollars spent on it was practically thrown away. ("Penny-wise and Pound Foolish") It did not meet the
requirements of the Department of Education and the district was almost driven to build the present high school.
At a special school meeting, Dec. 20, 1912, two propositions were submitted: One for a $25,000 bond issue for a new
school and another for $19,000 to remodel the old building. The $25,000 plan was carried, 62 favoring and 44 opposing.
Then came the selection of the site. Two special meetings were held to decide upon on of five sites proposed. It is said
this was the hottest voting contest Earlville ever endured. March 22, 1913, the vote stood 214 to 51 in favor of the
The Board of Education was composed R.E. Barnett, D. B. Hall, C.I. Burch, S. S. Hall and Dr. Frank Stradling. Contract
for the building was awarded J. H. Wert, Tupper Lake, N.Y. for $19,610. He went broke on the job and it cost the
bonding company $5,000 to complete the work. The entire $25,000 was used on the building and its furnishings and
really the district got for their money a $30,000 building. It looked like a heavy burden when taken on but it was done
before the augmented prices of the World War and was built for less than half what it would cost at present. The
bonds were made payable $1,000 each year and $13,000 are still unpaid. (In 1926) The assessed valuation of the district
is $700,000, $200,000 of which lies outside the limits of the village corporation.
Earlville High School,
Fayette Street, Earlville
(To be continued)
The New Earlville School
Former Frank Coye's Home
West Main Street, Earlville
– Photo Sept. 2006