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1782 Caleb and Joseph Davis exchanged for the quarter
acre a new half-acre lot at the corner of the Newtown
Road. On this new site was placed, at about 1782,
a log school-house, which was there in 1801, when
Alexander Wilson taught school, but was later burned
and a small stone structure took its place. It may
be seen back of the church in the engraving in
the article on Bloomfield in Barber and Howe's "New
Jersey Historical Collections," 1844, and also as
reproduced in this book. After sixty-seven years
the half -acre lot was enlarged by additional purchases
on the east side. The little stone school-house
gave way in 1849 to a substantial brick building
located on the recently acquired addition, and the
school-house site of 1782 became a portion of the
present school playground behind the Presbyterian
Church.

The Union School was situated at the comer of Mor-
ris Place and Franklin Avenue in the Morris neighbor-
hood. A deed, given in 1845 by Stephen Morris to
James Morris, Albert Morris, James Ball, Charles Os-
born and Warren S. Baldwin, describes this property as
already having the Union School-house upon it. Joshua
C. Brokaw was the last teacher employed at this school
previous to the enactment in 1849 of the free-school
law, when it was merged with the Central School. Later
Mrs. Isaac H. Day and Mrs. Pearson taught there a
tew scholars, using the building as a private school and
charging a small fee. Town elections were afterward
held there, and also religious services and occasional



BLOOMFIELD, OLD AND NEW 81

public gatherings of a political or social nature. The
building was finally torn down.

The only pupil of whom we have definite knowledge
as connected with the Bloomfield schools before 1790
was the boy, Stephen Dodd, then eleven years of age,
who went to school at Watsessing Hill, or, as it was
then probably called, the Franklin School-house. One
of his teachers was, no doubt, Isaac Sergeant, whose
name as schoolmaster at Wardsesson appears fis a sub-
scriber for twelve copies of "Newton on the Prophe-
cies," published in 1787, at Elizabeth Town. Probably
he re-sold the books in the neighborhood. Alexander
Wilson, the celebrated ornithologist, was for about six
months in 1801 the teacher in the upper school-house
near the Presbyterian Church. Amzi Armstrong, a
young man seventeen years of age, taught on Watses-
sing Hill in 1788 or 1789. He came from Florida,
New York, and twenty years later, as Dr. Amzi Arm-
strong, became the successful principal of the academy.
He studied theology under the Rev. Jedediah Chapman
of Orange, while he was teaching in the Frankhn
School-house, and was called to be pastor of the Mend-
ham Presbyterian Church in 1796. One of his success-
ors was the son of Mr. Armstrong's former pastor at
Florida, Amzi Lewis, Jr., who was teaching here in
1810; with him was associated Amos Holbrook. These
taught in the two school-houses, alternating a month
or so at a time. Other teachers in the Stone School by
the church were M. D. Thomas, from Connecticut, who
married a daughter of Mrs. Jane Dodd ; Philander Sey-
mour, who married Eliza Cadmus ; D. Lathrop, and
James Shields, who later became United States Senator
from Illinois.



82 BLOOMFIELD, OLD AND NEW

Soon after the beginning of the nineteenth century
and long before the pubHc school system came into
operation, there opened in Bloomfield what is now known
as the academy period. A number of these educational
institutions, and they were of the best character, were
maintained in the village.

The Academy (now the German Theological Semi-
nary) was projected in 1807, and sufficiently furnished
in 1810 for the reception of students. It was an un-
usual enterprise among the academies of the day. Its
object was the education of young men for the min-
istry, and it was closely identified with the interests of
the Old First Church. It seems in its day quite to have
surpassed in reputation the academies of Newark and
Orange, whose organizations preceded it. It absorbed
the attention of the town, and as all schools then were
conducted on the plan of the payment of a tuition fee,
the Academy at first and afterward the Academy and
Madame Cooke's school for girls quite overshadowed
the common pay schools. It was built by "a society
for the promotion of literature," and "for the purpose
of building an academy," upon joint stock subscrip-
tions in shares of twenty-five dollars each. Its mas-
sive brick walls have since been adorned with a mansard
roof, and its color made more pleasing to the eye.
Amzi Lewis, Jr., became the first principal, and was
followed by Rev. Humphrey Mount Ferine and Rev.
John Ford. The students of the classical department
were from thirty to forty in number, young men of
mature age who assisted in conducting the morning
devotions. The primary department in the front base-
ment numbered at that time about seventy-five pupils.
Its graduates included many who afterward became



BLOOMFIELD, OLD AND NEW 83

ministers, doctors of medicine, lawyers, and teachers.
The Academy as thus conducted had a successful course
of twenty-two years, when, because of two attacks of
smallpox among the students, and certain other compK-
cations, it was closed. It was afterward conducted as a
private school until 1866, the latter part of the time
under the management of James H. Rundall as prin-
cipal. From him it was purchased by the Board of
Directors of the German Theological School. It is
now occupied as a seminary for students of various
nationalities, with academic and theological depart-
ments.

During the latter part of the academic period the
Bloomfield Female Seminary was organized. A build-
ing facing the Common, near where the residence of
Hon. Amzi Dodd now stands, was erected in 1836 for
$6,000 by an association of gentlemen. Madame
Cooke's School, as it was familiarly called, was expected
to do for the young ladies of the town what the Acad-
emy had been doing for the young men. Mrs. Harriet
Cooke had taught in Vermont, and in Augusta, Georgia.
For eighteen years her seminary in Bloomfield was the
center of a powerful intellectual and religious influ-
ence. Being a woman of strong and penetrating mind,
and possessing great decision of character, together
with quick insight, profound sympathy and deep piety,
Mrs. Cooke had a strong influence over teachers,
scholars and families. The celebrity of her school be-
came established. Her rooms were filled with incomers,
and her day desks with the girls and young ladies of
the vicinity.

In Mrs. Cooke's "Memories of My Lifework," writ-
ten by her late in life, she states that 1850 pupils had



84 BLOOMFIELD, OLD AND NEW

attended her school, sixteen of the teachers and students
had become foreign missionaries, and many others had
become teachers and home missionaries. During the
period extending from 1847 to 1861, Rev. Ebenezer
Seymour conducted a boarding and day school for boys
and girls upon Beach Street, at the corner of Spruce,
the location of which was later changed to a building
on Belleville Avenue. This building was afterwards
used for the Erie Railroad depot, and stood just west
of the railroad.

A school for boys, under the management of Charles
M. Davis, was situated on Liberty Street, comer of
Spruce Street, from 1851 to 1868. Here many of the
sons of wealthy New York families, sons of missionaries,
as well as young men from the town, received their edu-
cation. The growing efficiency of the public schools
making it difficult to conduct a private school with
profit, caused the closing of this school as well as other
private schools which had flourished up to this time in
Bloomfield.

The beginning of the free school system which we
shall now consider is distinctly marked by the enact-
ment of a special school law for the Township of Bloom-
field. This law was enacted in 1849, and with it began a
period of concentration and more thorough graduation.
There had previously been four school districts in the
township: The Central, the Union, the Franklin, and
the Stone House Plains district. The Central and Union
were now united in a strong organization, later known
as the Central Union school district number seven. The
Franklin district was absorbed.

The Stone House Plains district, comprising all that
part of the township about five hundred feet north of



BLOOMFIELD, OLD AND NEW 85

Bay Avenue, conducted its own school. It was known
as school district number six.

The first school known to exist in Brookdale, then
called Stone House Plains, was erected during the last
quarter of the eighteenth century. It was a frame struc-
ture and stood on the lot opposite the present home of
Alexander Parsons. The furnishings of this building
were of the crudest sort, such as were to be found in
all of the schools of that day. They consisted of pine
desks, ranged on the sides of the room and running the
entire length, with benches made of rough boards, with
holes bored in them at each end for the insertion of the
legs. Other benches, with backboards, were provided
for the use of the smaller children. These had no desks
attached to them, and were placed in the middle of the
room. A big Franklin stove for burning wood was
used for heating. The school at that time was open
only three or four months of the year, and was a pay
school. The ground had been given by Peter Garra-
brant, who owned considerable property in this section.
The first teacher in this school was a Mr. Schermerhorn.
Starr Parsons also taught for some time, being followed
by Silas Merchant — who taught until the building was
burned in 1835, when he moved to the Center School,
near where the old High School building now stands.
As the location of the Stone House Plains school was not
central, another plot was acquired where the old Brook-
dale school building is now situated. This was also
a frame structure and was plainly furnished. It was
continued as a pay school until about 1849, J. William
E. Davidson being the last instructor.

Moses W. Wisewell was one of the first to have
charge of Brookdale after it became a free school.



86 BLOOMFIELD, OLD AND NEW

Mrs. Margaret B. Jones, mother of Theodore Jones of
Upper Broad Street, then known as Margaret Anna
Burgess, also taught in this school about this time.
Among those who served as trustees were Simeon Brown,
Sylvanus Cockefair, Tunis Garrabrant, James G. Van
Winkle, and Charles E. Davidson. About 1857 the
frame structure was torn down, and one of brick erected
at a cost of eleven hundred dollars. In 1885 an addition
was made which doubled the capacity of the school.
The whole building was better equipped, and a more
satisfactory heating plant was installed. When the dis-
trict in 1901 was merged in the town by an act of the
Legislature, further improvements were made. It con-
tinued in use as a school until the new building was com-
pleted in 1910. It is now being used temporarily as a
hose-house for the Brookdale Fire Department.

Coming back to the Central-Union district we find
that after the enactment of the State School Law of
1849 the two school-houses in this district, the Frank-
lin and the Central, were respectively sold and removed,
the Central's lot in the rear of the Presbyterian Church
doubled in size, the enlarged space appropriated for a
playground, an adjoining lot on Belleville Avenue se-
cured for a new school site, and a building erected at
once.

"During this year (1849)," writ^ one who was then
trustee, "the authorities set to work earnestly to build
a school-house. The dimensions of this building were
to be 32 by 64 feet. It was to be two stories high and
built of brick, at a cost of twenty-five hundred dollars,
which in those days appeared to many a great waste
of money. They had never seen a common school with
more than thirty or forty scholars, and why should so



BLOOMFIELD, OLD AND NEW 87

many seats be provided to be left empty? But one year
was enough to convince the most incredulous that the
building was none too large, for soon additions had to
be made." The vote, as appears by the record, to build
this building at the large cost of $2,500, was a very
creditable one, standing thirty-six in favor to seven
against. It is interesting to notice that the year be-
fore the free school law was obtained, the whole num-
ber of scholars in attendance was thirty-five at a cost of
tuition for each scholar of two dollars per quarter;
while the number in attendance the year after the free
school law went into operation was one hundred and
ninety-six, at a cost to the district of one dollar and
thirty cents per quarter for each scholar.

The new Central Building was afterward enlarged,
and stood for twenty-one years, until rebuilt in 1871.
According to records left by Lewis B. Hardcastle, these
schools were divided into a "Male Department," "Fe-
male Department," and the "Primary Department."
The latter two were on the first floor, the former on the
second floor, Mr. Hardcastle was the first principal
of the male department, with James Stevens as assist-
ant. There is also a record that in August, 1850,
George A. Oakes, then fifteen years old, was dismissed
from school to enter upon the duties of an assistant
teacher. This department had an attendance of one
hundred and fifteen boys from six to fifteen years of



Miss Dean was principal of the Female Department,
for a few months assisted by Miss Virginia McCracken.
On November 4, 1850, Miss Ann E. Sturdivant took
charge. Although but nineteen years of age, she is
remembered as a bright and competent teacher, who



88 BLOOMFIELD, OLD AND NEW

did much for the school, training the pupils especially
in reading, declamation, singing and mathematics. This
school numbered eighty-seven girls, their ages ranging
from six to fifteen years.

Miss Lydia Neal was the first principal of the pri-
mary department. She was assisted by Miss Caroline
Morris, daughter of James Morris, and later wife of
Uzal T. Hayes. Miss Caroline Ball, afterward Mrs.
Walter Freeman, also taught in this school. Other teach-
ers were Miss Caroline Sanford, and Miss Mary Hulin,
now Mrs. James M. Walker. During the first year
the pupils of five to nine years of age numbered one
hundred and forty-one, the various departments total-
ing three hundred and forty-three. The average at-
tendance was about two hundred.

At the time this free school was established, as indi-
cated above, there were four large boarding schools in
Bloomfield. The boys and girls of the village had been
accustomed to attend these "select" schools as day
pupils, paying a small sum each quarter for tuition ;
therefore they spoke disparagingly of the new public
school as a "free" school. Previous to this time also
the common schools of this town, as elsewhere through-
out the State except in the large cities, were pay schools ;
each scholar paying two dollars per quarter tuition, the
school being principally supported by this fee. School-
houses were entirely built, and largely kept in repair,
by private or individual subscriptions. The laws of the
State permitted the raising of a tax on the property
of the district for fuel and incidental expenses, the
amount not to exceed double the amount raised each
year for the support of the poor of the town. If in
any township, therefore, the inhabitants were not liberal



BLOOMFIELD, OLD AND NEW 89

enough to subscribe a suiBcIent amount to build a
school-house, the only alternative was to do without
one, and such was the sad condition of many towns in
our State.

Because of the sentiment against the new free schools,
public exercises were held October, 1850, in the "Old
Church on the Green" to exhibit the work of this local
school. The large audience was entertained by sing-
ing and recitations, and by motion songs by the primary
children. The pupils also sang for the first time pub-
licly "The Star Spangled Banner."

Dr. Joseph Austin Davis was the first Town Super-
intendent of Schools. The first trustees were David
Oakes, Warren S. Baldwin, Albert M. Matthews, Jr„
and John L. Cooke, son of Madame Cooke. The fol-
lowing superintendents and principals have been em-
ployed :

Dr. Joseph Austin Davis 1850

Lewis B. Hardcastle 1850-1852

Warren Holden 1852

E. H. Hallock 1852-1854

Mr. Pennington 1854

Mr. Ward 1855

Henry Austin Ventres 1855-1865

John R. McDevitt 1865-1868

John W. West 1868-1870

Frank H. Morrell 1870-1871

J. Henry Root 1871-1880

Benjamin INIason 1880-1881

John R. Dunbar 1881-1897

William E. Chancellor 1897-1904

George Morris 1904

Of the principals, Mr. Morrell is now Supervising



90 BLOOMFIELD, OLD AND NEW

Principal in Irvington. Mr. Root, formerly principal
of Greenwich Academy in Connecticut, is residing in
Bloomfield. Mr. Dunbar, after teaching in one of the
Brookh'n high schools for a number of years, is also
living here. Superintendent Chancellor, who came to
Bloomfield from a position as head of the history de-
partment in Erasmus Hall High School, Brooklyn, has
since filled the position of Superintendent of Schools in
Paterson, N. J,, and Washington, D. C. He is now
filling a similar position in South Norwalk, Conn.

Five of the former teachers of the High School have
reached positions of considerable prominence in educa-
tional work. Everett S. Stackpole became President of
the American Theological Seminary in Florence, Italy;
John F. Woodhull, Professor in the Teachers College
in New York City ; Herbert C. Hamilton, Professor
of English in Amherst College ; Clarence F. Perkins,
Professor of History, University of Missouri; and
George C. Clancy, Professor of English in the Uni-
versity of Syracuse.

The longest term of service of any teacher has been
that of Miss Samantha Wheeler, who was retired in
1900 on a pension from the State Teachers' Retirement
Fund, after forty-two years of service. Since that time
the following teachers have been retired on pensions
after long years of service, viz. : Mrs. Mary L. Ellen-
wood, Miss Kate F. Hubbard, Miss Edith E. Hulin,
Miss Anna Baird, Miss Jennie Baird and Miss Mary M.
Draper. Many teachers are still in service whose names
are enrolled in the grateful memory of their pupils.

Among the trustees have been David Oakes, Warren
S. Baldwin (who served twenty-three years), Artemus
N. Baldwin, James Morris, Robert L. Cook, Dr. Joseph



BLOOMFIELD, OLD AND NEW 91

A. Davis, Eliphalet Hall, Abraham H. Cadmus, Cha-
brier Peloubet (who served thirty-three years), Albert
Matthews, Samuel Carl, Daniel H. Temple, E. W.
Page, Edmund Smith, Dr. William H. White, John
Sherman (who served fifteen years), Joseph Hague,
J. W. Snedeker, Rev. Dr. A. C. Frissell, A. T. Morris,
V. G. Thomas, M. W. Dodd, W. J. Williamson, C. W.
Maxfield, Andrew Ellor, S. Morris Hulin, F. C. Bliss,
Henry Russell, Thomas Oakes (who has served thirty-
two years and is still in office), William A. Baldwin
(elected in 1880 and still on the Board), Frederick H.
Pilch, A. H, Edgerley, Samuel Peloubet, J. Banks
Reford, Edward G. Ward, Charles L. Seibert, Frederick
R. Pilch, George W. Pancoast, A. J. Lockwood, Dr.
John E. Wilson, Dr. J. S. Wolfe, Charles F. Kocher,
Dr. William R. Broughton, Frank B. Stone, G. E.
Bedell, C. H. Madole, Samuel Ellor, and Joseph F.
Vogelius. The present Board of Education is organ-
ized with the following members and committees :

President — Thomas Oakes,

Vice-President — Frederic M. Davis.

Committee on Finance and Supplies — Clarence Van
Winkle, William A. Baldwin, Secretary of Board.

Committee on Instruction — Frederick R. Pilch, Mor-
gan D. Hughes, Frederic M. Davis.

Committee on Buildings — Charles Martin, James C.
Brown, Arthur A. Ellor.

In some historical notes former Superintendent Will-
iam E. Chancellor makes the following statement: "In
the history of the schools the most prominent men have
been Charles M. Davis, for twenty-five years County
Superintendent and afterward Superintendent of
Schools in Bayonne, who always stood for progress in



92 BLOOMFIELD, OLD AND NEW

Bloomfield, where five generations of his family were
born ; Chabrier and Samuel Peloubet, David and Thomas
Oakes, Warren S. and William A. Baldwin, and Fred-
erick H. and Frederick R. Pilch. During the 'panic*
years, after 1873, John Sherman, then Treasurer, did
great service to the schools by securing large loans for
the payment of the teachers' salaries in cash, rather than
in warrants, a course which nearly all schools then
adopted,"

Following the organization of the schools previously
described, the appropriations made by the district were
small and sometimes grudgingly given, while little or
no aid was received from the State. The furniture in
use was of a primitive character, consisting of old-
fashioned benches and desks, classes were not graded,
and teachers were without special training. Whips and
other instruments of punishment were freely used.

In the northeast comer of the Central School build-
ing, on the upper floor, was a room where, after school,
boys were sent for punishment ; and where the birch was
freely applied to hands and knees by the principal.
On one occasion a large boy seated near the door was
struck by the principal, at which, gathering up his
books, he took his slate and sent it skimming across the
building in the direction of the teacher. It stuck in the
wall, while he passed out of the school never to return.
Scenes like this were not of frequent occurrence. This
incident is told to show the evil passions aroused by
corporal punishment, which has now been wisely pro-
hibited by law.

Music was not a regular branch of instruction, but
was taught by the teachers, as they were able, with some
voluntary help from outsiders. Among those who gave



BLOOMFIELD, OLD AND NEW 93

occasional instructions of this kind was the popular
composer of Sunday-school music, William B. Brad-
bury. His genial manner and earnestness aroused the
scholars to unusual effort, and he was voted a great
success as a leader. He was also very popular because
of his uniform kindness to the pupils. On one occasion
he purchased and distributed to the scholars on the
green in front of the school-house large pieces of water-
melon, which treat, of course, they greatly enjoyed.

During the latter portion of this early period (1850
to 1872), the modern graded system of instruction was
developed which culminated in 1872 in a High School.
This was preceded in 1871 by the erection of the pres-
ent High School building, at a cost of thirty thousand
dollars.

The first published report of the Board of Educa-
tion was printed in 1872. It contained a full account
of the new building, which was considered well designed
and up-to-date. The ventilating system was thought
to be perfect, but it subsequently proved to be worthless.

In 1872 the first steps toward estabhshing a high
school were taken. The plan as adopted and set forth
in the printed report of 1872 was as follows:

"First. The High School is established to provide
those scholars who have completed the studies of the
Grammar School with an opportunity of pursuing more
advanced studies, and obtaining a higher Enghsh and
Classical education.

"Second. The teacher must be a graduate of some
respectable college.

"Third. Candidates for admission to the High School
must make appHcation during the week preceding the



94 BLOOIMFIELD, OLD AND NEW

close of the summer vacation. Candidates must be of
good moral character, they must pass a satisfactory ex-
amination in spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic,
English grammar, geography, and history of the United
States."

These requirements were reasonable, and if always
insisted upon, would prevent criticism of the public
schools for neglect of the fundamentals. We believe,
however, tKat the policy so early laid down has been,
in the Bloomfield High School, faithfully followed ever
since. The first class in the High School began on
January 3, 1873, with twenty-two members. At the
close of the school year the trustees reported that the
establishment of the high school class has already ex-
erted a healthful influence upon the grammar schools,
as shown in the increased diligence of the pupils and in
the care they had taken in the monthly examinations,
and in a more uniform attendance. They also added
that the high school department will undoubtedly raise
the standard of education to so great a degree that
enough pupils will be found in each graduating class
to supply the want of new teachers as the exigencies of


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Online LibraryJoseph F. (Joseph Fulford) FolsomBloomfield, old and new; an historical symposium → online text (page 6 of 13)