From Stephentown Genealogy: Roots & More

Written by Tina Ordone

"The area around Black river was one of the early areas settled in Stephentown. Immigrants from Rhode Island and Connecticut settled in Little Mechanicville (Stephentown Center). Church records indicate that before building their meeting house the Baptists held their meetings in a schoolhouse. This log cabin school was apparently built before settlers built their sawmill and may have been the first school in Stephentown. My grandmother, Doris Moon Sweener attended this school, which was located about 2 miles north of Little Mechanicville and is shown on the map as School #10.

According to Sylvester's History of Rensselaer County, another candidate for the first school is the one on Presbyterian Hill. This school was built before 1788 according to the Presbyterian Church Annals. It was a frame structure located at the top of Presbyterian Hill at the junction of an old road that ran south over Hatch Hill. Miss Caroline Rollo, who was born in 1836, taught at this school, so it was probably in use as late as 1860. When school districts were created, this school was abandoned, and the students transferred to School District #6, the Belle School District. About 1865 Elizabeth Malon's grandfather bought the building, added to it, and used it for a residence. The long, red one-story building met a tragic end in the early 20th Century. The last occupants of the building were two Silk brothers, one of whom killed the other February 3, 1921. The murderer was sentenced to 9 to 15 years in prison, where he died and the building was destroyed by fire November 12, 1921.

There is also some evidence of single schools in the "Brown" and "Carpenter" School Districts but no means of locating them. There was also a school in Stephentown Village north of today's Town Hall near the former railroad crossing. According to Mrs. Helen (Newton) Lapp, Duane Newton attended a school in a meadow south of Stephentown Center, where the present Route 43 crosses Black River.

By 1799 there were enough schools in Stephentown to require three trustees, Hosea Moffitt, David Goold, and Jonathan Niles. The Stephentown Common School Commission in a report of the State Common School (manuscript in the New York State Library) identified as 16 schools. School Districts #11 and #12 were identified as annexed from Nassau and School District #1 was identified as annexed from Berlin.

Each town elected school commissioners until 1812. From 1812 until 1844 inspectors were appointed annually by the townspeople. From 1844 until 1856 a single school supervisor served. In 1856 the supervision of schools passed to the District Commissioners, and town supervision of schools ceased. School districts were established that crossed town, village, and, in a few cases, county lines.

In 1865, Dr. Frederick A. Carpenter died, leaving in his will a fund of $5000, the income of which was to be used in the district schools of Stephentown.

At least two private schools operated in Stephentown over the years. Maple Grove Seminary had its own building on South Stephentown Road in Stephentown Flats (Garfield). The Reverend Eber Myers Rollo ran the Seminary with the help of his two daughters and several assistants until 1874. The building served as a residence for over a century. In 1981 it became the Mountain Road School and operated for 2 years, moving out of town in 1983. Mt. Whitney Institute held classes in private homes during its first three years. Then a two-story building was built on Route 43 in Stephentown Village. Spearheading this step were Walter Goold, the railroad station agent; Rufus Sweet, farmer; and Spencer Brown, storekeeper. Two sisters, Anna and Clara mason, ran the school. Mt. Whitney Institute ceased operation in 1892. The building was used as a meeting hall for several years and became known as Burdick Hall. The Taconic Valley Grange bought the building and met there for a number of years. The building eventually became a private residence, the home of Mrs. Theda Elwell.

In 1880 there were still 15 1/2 district schools, as the District School #16 served both Nassau and Stephentown students.

The Educational Law of 1910 authorized the formation of consolidated school districts from the many small districts. It was not until the late 1920's, however, that local school districts began to centralize. The Averill Park and East Nassau Central School Districts were established in 1928 and began operation in 1929. The New Lebanon Central School District was established in 1929 and began operation in 1931. The Berlin Central School District was established in 1935. Construction of the Berlin Central High School began in 1936 and was completed in 1937.

On May 22, 1947 a special school district meeting was held in Berlin to authorize the building of a six-grade elementary school in Stephentown. The Stephentown Elementary School opened for classes in the fall of 1948. It accommodated classes K-6 until 1980 and K-5 thereafter.

many elder citizens fondly recall the personal attention, discipline, and good times of the one-room school. These schools included:

DISTRICT #1(North Stephentown) - The district centralized witht he Berlin Central School District November 3, 1939. The school continured to operate until 1947, when it was discontinued and sold.

DISTRICT #2(Moore Hill) - This school was located about a mile west of the North Stephentown railroad station. The school was closed in 1877. Students were divided between School #1 and School #10 and later School #4.

District #3(Sweet) - This school was located east of Stephentown Village near the Massachusetts border. It joined the Berlin Central School District September 1, 1942.

District #4(Stepentown) - This school was originally a one-room school in Stephentown Village. As other districts closed or centralized, District #4 absorbed additional students. In 1899 an extension made the building a two-room school. District #4 joined the Berlin Central School District September 4, 1940. After the Stephentown Elementary School opened in 1948, the building stood idle until it was converted into the Town Hall. When the town acquired the Taconic Valley Grange Building in 1972, the old school building became the home of the Stephentown Memorial Library.

DISTRICT #5(Black River) - Located near the Berlin town line, School #5 was closed in 1925 for want of students and a teacher. The students transferred to School #10, and the property reverted to the original owner. The building was torn down in 1930 and the lumber used for a house in Stephentown Center.

DISTRICT #6(Bell) - School #6 was a two-story building intended as both a school (first floor) and a church (second floor). The building had a steeple and a church bell, which gave the school and the district their name. By 1930, School #6 had deteriorated so badly that the building was condemned. District #6 joined the New Lebanon Central School District in 1931. The property was sold in 1932, and the building was torn down.

DISTRICT #7(Garfield) - district #7 was the last district to centralize, operating independently until 1951, when it joined the New Lebanon Central School District. Today is the home of Joseph Rieger.

DISTRICT 8(South Stephentown) - district #8 joined the Berlin Central School District September 1, 1941. Lower grades attended School #4 and older students attended Berlin Central High School. The building was sold and converted into a home.

DISTRICT #9(Whitman) - Located on Sutherland Road, School #9 was condemned about 1920. Thereafter Mrs. Mary Ward taught classes in a private home for 10 years. The schoolhouse on Sutherland Road burned, and a new one was built on Garfield Road. By 1941 attendance had dropped to seven or eight pupils, so District #9 joined the Berlin Central School District September 1, 1941. School #9 was sold in 1942 to Mr. and Mrs. Jay Lind.

DISTRICT #10(Stephentown Center) - In 1914 the eastern part of District #15 joined District #10, and District #5 also joined it in 1925. These districts joined the Berlin Central School District November 3, 1939, but School #10 remained in operation until the Stephentown Elementary School opened.

DISTRICT #11(Greenman) - When attendance fell to three or four pupils, District #11 joined the Averill Park Central School District December 12, 1941. The property reverted to the original owner, and the building was converted into a home.

DISTRICT #12(Strait) - District #12 joined the East Nassau Central School district in 1928. The school property was sold, and the new owners added wings on each side and a two-story extension in the rear to convert it into a home. It became the home on Mr. and Mrs. Edward Bunting. (I had both Mr. and Mrs. Bunting as teachers in high school at New Lebanon Central School. Mr. Bunting was my senior history teacher and Mrs. Bunting was our gym teacher. She has since passed away, but Mr. Bunting joined the Class of 1968 in the summer of 2003 to help us celebrate our 35th Reunion.)

DISTRICT #13(Thomas) - District #13 joined the East Nassau Central School District in 1928. Sold and used for a hunting and fishing lodge, the building feel into disrepair and collapsed. Mrs. Adolphres Face was and early trustee of District #13 and Mr. and Mrs. Donald Sutherland both taught there.

DISTRICT #14(Goold) - The district number changed to #5 in 1926, as the original district had been consolidated. The district was centralized with the Berlin Central School District September 1, 1941, the school closed and the property reverted to the original owners. Mrs. Carrie Sykes first attended this school as a student and then as a teacher.

DISTRICT #15(Stone Bridge) - #15 was changed to #2 when the original was closed in 1877. It remained #2 until it closed in 1914 and the property reverted to the original owners.

District #15 in West Stephentown

This is the Goold School as of March 13, 2005. Mike Dirac would like to restore it, as money permits. Mike contributed this photo. Mike Dirac 

In the picture above, on the bottom left is my grandmother, Doris Moon, at the age of 7; her brother, Roy and her sister Adelaide.

Inside class room of Scool #9 (Whitman District) on Sutherland Road. Teacher was Martha Frye. Left row: Shelden Sutherland, Walter Cure, Frank Hunt, Harold Rathbun. Right row: Forrest Rathbun, Casper Rathbun, Don Sutherland, and Lloyd Houghtling.


Photographs on this page were found in several of the Stephentown Historical Society's albums that they have published. Please visit their website where they have all of their albums for sale. Full of great memories and information.