The History of New York State
Book 12, Chapter 14, Part 1

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam



The educational history of the State of New York may be conceived as dividing itself into four periods: the Dutch period from the settlement of New Netherland to 1664; the English period from 1664 to the beginning of the Revolution; the period of the Revolution; and that from the close of the Revolution to the present time. It has been customary among writers on education to contrast the development of education in New York with the development of education in Massachusetts in the early period. While this is not an unnatural procedure, it has several pitfalls, and it is a task that is difficult to perform while doing justice to both these sections of the country. Conditions were not similar in the various colonies. In the case of the two provinces to which we have referred it has to be noted that the population of Massachusetts was at that time in the main homogeneous; that of contemporary New York as cosmopolitan. The remarkable fact has to be recalled that when New Amsterdam had only a thousand inhabitants there were, nevertheless, in all something like sixteen languages and dialects spoken within its limits. On the other hand an ingrained parochialism led Massachusetts largely to cut itself off from the rest of the world in the ambition of its leaders to try an experiment in self-government in which a sort of theocracy was the ideal element. Meanwhile, the Dutch people of New Netherland followed the laws and customs they had been accustomed to follow at home. The people of Massachusetts left England because, in the country of their birth, they were unable to enjoy either civil or religious liberty. The Dutch came to this country in the main in the pursuit of trade. The heads of several of the settlements in Massachusetts were men who had had the advantages of the higher education of that time, and some of them were graduates of Cambridge University. Commerce rather than politico-theological theories inspired the Dutch pioneers, who were, nevertheless, moderately well-educated, while they came from a land where schools were plentiful and where a moderate education was available for rich and poor alike, while in England it was the set policy that education was for the favored few and not for the many. The pioneer settlers in Massachusetts and the pioneer settlers in New York arrived in this country with a different set of educational ideals, drawn each of them from the respective counties from which they came. It may be said, therefore, that the Dutch ideal was for universal education and that the people who ruled Massachusetts were at the outset, chiefly concerned in educating people for the professions, more especially for the ministry.

Education Under the Dutch.--it is easier to ascertain the facts regarding public education in the early history of Massachusetts than in New York. There were educated men in Massachusetts who kept voluminous diaries. The proceedings of the town meetings, the church records, and the acts of the Legislature in Massachusetts were all recorded in the English tongue and might be known to anyone.

The government of New Netherland was largely in the hands of the officials of the West India Company, and when acts were recorded, which was not always the case, the records were in Dutch. The government of the colony was to some extent in the hands of the States-General, but in part in the Classis of Amsterdam, and, in the latter case, the records were not only in Dutch but for the most part were kept in Holland only. The general condition is pretty well known as far as education was concerned, but a certain dubiety lies over the details. When the directors of the West India Company in 1629 changed their policy from one of trade to one of trade and colonization, and held out inducements to settlers by promises of extensive land grants, they made it a condition that the grantees of large tracts of land should particularly exert themselves to find speedy means for the maintenance of a clergyman and schoolmaster on their patents, in order that divine service and zeal of religion might be planted in New Netherland. At fist the patroons were to send comforters of the sick, hence we see that what has been said about a minister going to the newly settled country on the Hudson River also applies to a schoolmaster, who, however, did not accompany the first settlers, but came as soon as there was need of instruction for pupils. Up to that time, which was almost coeval with the arrival of the first regularly ordained minister, the various duties of minister, comforter of the sick, or lay reader, and schoolmaster, had rested on the shoulders of one person, so that, knowing that Sebastian Crol and Jan Huyck served the little village of New Amsterdam, with probably fewer then 100 souls, as lay readers up to 1628, we can safely presume that the children who needed instruction found no difficulty in obtaining it. this was provided by a clause in the marriage settlement made between Ariaentje Cuvilly, a widow with children, and Jan Jansen Damen, April 30, 1632, in which the contracting parties bind themselves to be the guardians of the children, that they will make them go to school, "a good parents are bound to do."

First Schoolmasters.--the first schoolmasters at New Amsterdam whose name we know was Adam Roelantsen. He is mentioned as such in a list of the salaried officials of the West India Company in 1637, and taught a school which continues in the city of New York as the School of the Collegiate Reformed Church. But where did Adam, this schoolmaster, teach the alphabet and flourish his ferrule? The records of the period are defective and what we have of them is silent on this point; but an utterance of Stuyvesant seems to indicate that there had been erected a building for that purpose. He says of the Nine Men, on November 14, 1647: "It is very necessary that a new schoolhouse and a dwelling house for the schoolmaster should be built. We are willing to make a fair contribution personally and on behalf of the Company. In the meantime the school may be kept in the kitchen of the Fiscal, or in such other place as the Church Wardens approve."

The school of 1637 #1 was soon found to be inadequate for the accommodation of the number of children swarming in Dutch families. Cornelius Van Tierhoven, the secretary of New Netherland, in reply to the remonstrance of the province, said, in 1650: "Other teachers keep school in hired houses, so that the youth are provided with the means of education." Still the remonstrance had the effect that the new provisional order to government directed that at least two schoolmasters should be appointed for the population of New Amsterdam, numbering then between 700 and 800, while the number of children had increased in proportion following 1637.

This second public school was held at the City Tavern, later the City hall, on the corner of Pearl Street and Coentis Slip, but is not mentioned after 1864. The directors of the company write to Stuyvesant, February 16, 1650:

"At you request we have engaged a schoolmaster, who will also perform the duties of a comforter of the sick. He is recommended as an honest and pious man, and will follow this letter by the first opportunity."

This schoolmaster sailed for his new field of duty on April 15, 1650, but his name is not given. The immediate successor of Adam Roelantsen seems to have been Jan Stevensen, called by Dominie Backerus a "faithful schoolmaster and reader, who has served the Company here for six or seven years, and is now (September, 1648) going home." His place was temporarily filled by Pieter van der Linde, who was appointed October 126, 1648, at a salary of 150 florins (sixty dollars) "until another proper person can be send from Holland." The proper person from Holland was apparently William Verstius, who asks, January 26, 1655, for his discharge "as schoolmaster and precentor in this city, as he has done the duty for which he was engaged, and as there are other fit people here who can take his place, he desiring to return to Holland." This desire to return is explained by a passage in dominie Megpolensis' letter of March 18, 1655:

As to Willem Verstius who has been schoolmaster and sexton here, I could neither do much nor say much anything to the Council, because for some years past they were not satisfied or pleased with his services, and therefore when he asked for an increase of salary last year, he was told that if the service did not suit him he might ask for his discharge.

Meanwhile some private schools had come into being, kept in "hired homes," according to Van Tienhoven. Jan Cornelissen and Arian Jansen are mentioned as teachers of such schools; in September, 1652, Haans Stegn received permission to open one; David Provoost had a school at the home, "where the Selectmen usually met"; #2 Andries Hudde asks, in December, 1654, #3 for a license to keep a school in the city, but is told that the Dominie and his consistory have to be consulted about it; Evert Pieter taught pupils in Brouwer (now Stone) Street; and Carel Beauvois from Leyden, schoolmaster, received the small burghherright June 27 1659. Adrian Jansen van Ilpendam, a native of Leyden or vicinity, is mentioned as schoolmaster in New Amsterdam in 1649, and was later a notary public at Fort Orange or Albany. Jan Lubberts received a license to keep a school for teaching to read, write and cipher, August 13, 1658; and a similar licensee was granted to Jan Juriaensen Becker in 1660, and to Johannes van Gelder in 1662.

In December, 1663, the magistrates of Harlem petitioned for the appointment of Jan de la Montagne as a schoolmaster in the village, and the request was speedily granted, but trouble was assured to the man who did not ask permission to teach from Stuyvesant. Thus Jacob van Corlaer was ordered, February 19, 1658, to desist from keeping school; and when burgomasters and schepens interceded for him they were told that the keeping of schools and the appointment of schoolmasters absolutely depended on the jus Patronatur, and as Jacob van Corlaer had undertaken to act as teacher without proper license, he was now altogether forbidden to do so. therefore, when the unfortunate Jacob applied for a license a month later, no action, whatever was taken on his petition, or, as the record has it, "nihil actum."

Request of Verstius to be discharged from his duties as schoolmaster was granted March 23, 1655, and on the same day Harman van Hoboocken was appointed in his place, with the advice and consent of the consistory, during the first two years of whose incumbency not only "the number of children in public school have greatly increased, further accommodation was allowed to the schoolmaster; #4 but also the schoolhouse was partly burned down, so that the teacher applied to the magistrates of the city for the use of the hall and side chamber in the City hall for the school and as a family residence. As the rooms asked for were out of repair and wanted for other uses, the burgomasters could not allow the request, but "the youth of the town doing so uncommonly well, it is thought proper to find a convenient place for their accommodation, and for that purpose the petitioner is grated 100 Fl. ($40) yearly."

Latin School.--While Van Hoboocken was master of the "trivial" school, Dominie Drisius suggested the establishment of a Latin temple of learning to the directors of the company, who, in May, 1658, consequently wrote to Stuyvesant.

"De. Drisius has often expressed to us his opinion about the necessity of establishing a Latin school, and has offered his services for this purpose. We approve of the plan, and if you are on the same opinion you may take the initiatory steps." The result of the reference to Stuyvesant was a consultation with the burgomasters and schepens, and a representation of the latter to the directors in September, 1658. "That the youth of this place and neighborhood are increasing in number gradually, and that most of them can read and write; but that some of the people would like to send their children to a school where Latin is taught, but are not able to do so without sending them to New England, nor can they afford to hire a Latin schoolmaster from there, therefore, they ask the Company to send out a fit person, as such master, while we shall endeavor to find a fir place in which he shall keep school."

The answer to this municipal representation came to Stuyvesant the following spring, the directors writing: "How much trouble we have taken in finding a Latin schoolmaster is shown by Alexander Carolus Curtius, late Professor in Lithuania, now coming over, whom we have engaged at a yearly salary of 500 fl ($200)." The new schoolmaster entered upon his duties in July 4, 1659, and being present at a meeting of the magistrates, he was tendered a present of 100 florins in goods, told that a house and garden would be provided for him, that every pupil would have to pay him per quarter six florins, and that he had permission to practice medicine. A few years were sufficient to prove that he lacked the sine qua non of a schoolmaster, and the parents complained of the want of proper discipline among his pupils, "who beat each other and tore the clothes from each other's back." he retorted that "his hands were tied, as some of the parents forbade him punishing their children." The result was that he had to surrender the mastership of the high school to the Rev. Aegidius Luyck in 1662. Dominie Luyck had apparently not looked after the temporalities of his new charge, for in July, 1663, he says to Stuyvesant and the council, that having at first been specially engaged as teacher of the director's children, some inhabitants had seen that he was successful as such, and that the director was satisfied with his good methods of teaching the "foundations of Latin and bonorum norum praxis," so that they had asked for his appointment to the rectorate in the city. This was done, and "I have now twenty pupils, among whom two are from Virginia, and two from Fort Orange, and I expect ten to twelve more from these and other places. The question of salary was to be settledby the Directors of the Company, but nothing has as yet been done, and now I need my salary."

After voting with the council to refer the mater to the directors, Stuyvesant added: "I have agreed with you of the council to the reference, but believe that the instruction of the young people, the school service, is not less necessary than the church service, and as the mater's fitness has been shown by his pupils' learning in five quarters of a year as much as in one year and a half under Curtius, I shall recommend to the Directors to give De. Luyck the same salary as his predecessor had." As a reference did not put money in the teacher's pocket nor bread in his mouth, the burgomasters were authorized to settle the questions without waiting for an answer from Holland, and on August 16 agreed upon a yearly salary of 1,000 florins ($400). At the time of the surrender, in 1661, he lived in Winckel Street, and an order of the Governor and council of January 26, 1675, directing him to be examined in regard to Governor Lovelace's property left in his hands, calls him "Myn Heer, Dominie, Burghemeester and Captain." Dominie Luyck, "S. S. Min. Candidatus," and family left America in the ship "Providence" (Andrew Bowne, master) for London, May 19, 1676. No mention is found in the records of his Latin school after the return of Dutch government in 1673, unless we assume that the order made the Governor Anthony Colve and council, December 24, 1673, applies to it. The order said: "All persons, no matter what their religious persuasion, are bound to contribute to the support of the precentor and schoolmaster."

When the colony on the South River had been turned over by the West India Company to the city of Amsterdam, Evert Pietersen Keteltas had been appointed schoolmaster there, but the population decreasing through a sickness and emigration, he cam to New Amsterdam, where "he was employed by Stuyvesant either as a colleague of Harman van Hoboocken, or as his locum tenens when Harman was sick." He returned to Holland in 1660, and applied to the directors for an appointment as master, which was given him, vice Van Hoboocken, in May, 1661. The discharged man was taken care of by Stuyvesant and council, who on October 27 decided: "Whereas, Harman Van Hoboocken, lately schoolmaster and precentor, was removed because another man was sent out to replace him, and as he asks to be employed again in some way or the other in the Company's service--

"Therefore he is appointed Adelborst (Cadet), and as De. Selyns arrived about this time, had, as stated above, established church service at Stuyvesant's Bouwery, which always carried school service with it, it was further decreed: Whereas, the aforesaid Harman is a person of ireproachable life and conduct, therefore he shall be employed in the Director-General's Bouwery as schoolmaster and reader, with the condition that whenever his services as Adelborst are required by the Company, the director shall replace him by another fit person." #5 When the West India Company lost all political interest in the New Netherlands through the English conquest, Evert Pietersen applied to the burgomasters and schepens for a salary, and was told, September 19, 1665, that as they were considering about the salary of the ministers of the city, under which head also his application came, he should wait for the results of their deliberations.

Various indications lead to the belief that this question of salary was not settled then. In February, 1668-9, "Evert Pietersen, Schoolmaster and Precentor, requests the payment of his salary earned and further allowance for future services,' and a few months later Dominie Megapolensis writes to the Classis: "nothing is done for our salary." Evert, however, hoes not seem to have been absolutely dependent on the salary, for in 1674 he is reported as owning 2,000 florins worth of real property, probably the house and lot on Brouwer (now Stone ) Street. After Dominie Megapolensis' death, and during Dominie Drisius' continued illness, he read in the church every Sunday forenoon and afternoon prayers, being occasionally relieved by Dominie Polhemus, of Long Island (the seventy years old) and by Dominie Luyck. Schoolmaster Keteeltas is mentioned as still office in 1686, when the consistory of the Reformed church, considering his advanced age, appointed Abraham de la Noy to relieve the master of his duties as reader, precentor, and comforter of the sick. But we do not know who his immediate successor was, as the minutes of the deacons from 1687 to 1726 are missing. That the school was not closed during this period is proved by the action of the consistory when a new vacancy in the post of schoolmaster occurred, and the governor claimed the right to make the appointment.

Increase in Schools.--We have the first knowledge of how this school of the Collegiate church was conducted from the contract made with Barent de Foreest, January 5, 1725-26, to give "instruction not only in the Low Dutch language, but also in the elements of Christian piety." The school hours were to be in the morning from 9 to 11 in summer, and from 9:30 to 12 in winter, the afternoon session from 1 to 5 throughout the year. Prayer and singing were to open every day's school term, and the pupils were to be taught to spell, read, write, cipher, and the usual prayers in the catechism. "If ten of the scholars or less (of seven years of age and upwards) were unable to pay for this instruction, the Consistory guaranteed to pay the schoolmaster annually £9 N. Y. ($22.50), if more in proportion." Either the scanty pay or the improvidence of the man, brought De Foreest into the debtors' prison in 1732, which seems to have so scandalized the fathers of the Church that on march 21, 1733, they invited Gerrit van Wegenen, master of a similar school at Kingston to become their foresinger, schoolmaster, and visitor of the sick, with the additional duties of keeping the records of the consistory, at a fixed salary of £34 6s, and four cords of wood. Gerrit van Wagenen, died in 1743, and was succeeded by his son, Huybert, who resigned in April 1749.

Soon after Huybert van Wagenen's appointment, the deacons, in consideration of the "up-town" movement of the population, and the consequent long distance from the school, opened a branch school in Cortlandt Street, of which Abraham de la Noy was made the master, with the same salary as van Wagenen; the children of members of the Cedar Street or Middle church to be instructed at De la Noy's school, later Nos. 50 and 52 Exchange Place. Abraham de la Noy taught in the school until 1747, and was followed by William van Dalsam, who is recorded as master of this branch school until 1757. Van Wagenen's successor was Daniel Bratt, chorister of the Catskill church, who was engaged by the New York consistory for five years, from April, 1749, with the same additional duty of acting as clerk to the consistory as his predecessors, but with a change of salary. For his clerical services he was to receive £12 10s; as schoolmaster, the same mount with a dwelling house, a school room in the old church, and a load of wood, half oak, half nut, for each school, of whom twelve were not to pay any fees.

On November 18, 1751, Daniel Bratt handing in a list of free scholars taught by him, which exceeded the stipulated number by three. Requesting additional pay for these, he also asked permission to take more if they offered themselves. He received both pay and permission, but the number was limited to twenty; and in April, 1753, notice was given him "that his services as schoolmaster would end in May, 1754." Bratt had already, in December, 1751, been relieved from the duties of comforter of the sick, and catechizer, by the appointment of Adrian van der Sman to this office; but "on finding him a man of very immoral behavior, having forged the handwriting of the Rev. Johannes Rirzema, he was dismissed" in 1767.

The discharge of Brass created a vacancy not easily filled, for a man was needed who could teach in Dutch and English, and among the teachers licensed during the preceding twenty years, no Dutch name appears. The consistory, therefore, had to call a chorister, catechist, and schoolmaster from Holland, and made the following proposals; that he should not be under twenty-five years of age; that he should have a free dwelling house with a large schoolroom, s small chamber, a kitchen and a cellar, a fine kitchen-garden behind the house, and a salary of £80; for which emoluments he was expected to lead the singing in church, keep the books of the church officers, register baptisms, and teach twenty poor children gratis. He was allowed to take pay scholars, for whose tuition in reading only he could charge five shillings (62-1/2 cents) per quarter; in reading and writing, eight shillings; in ciphering, ten shillings; in singing, six shillings, pen and ink, bought from him were place at six pence--which the calls says may be expected to add £40 to the fixed salary. John Nicholas Welp, of Amsterdam, responded to the call, and arrived at New York, via New London, in the fall or early winter of 1755. The consistory, writing to the agents who had procured his services, say: "His testimonials are highly laudatory, and the proof of his work hitherto satisfactory to the congregation." During his incumbency the number of free scholars increased to thirty, and after his death, in January, 1773, the consistory showed their appreciation of his faithful and efficient service by burying him at the expense of the church, and allowing his widow a yearly pension of £20.

The introduction of the English language into the pulpit in 1764 relieved the consistory o from the absolute necessity of finding again a Dutch master, although the original language of the school was not to be relinquished. They invited Peter can Steenburgh, schoolmaster at Flatbush, Long Island, to take charge of their school, offering a salary of £81, a dwelling house with a garden, and a schoolroom for his services of teaching thirty poor children in English, or Dutch, in reading, writing, and arithmetic, in the Heidelberg catachism, and as janitor of the consistory room. The call was accepted and on August 6, 1773, Peer van Steenburgh entered upon his duties, which he continued until, upon the arrival of the British Army in 1776, the school was closed, to be reopened with the same master, September 7, 1783, while the same army was still occupying the city.

As the church buildings, however, had suffered through the war, and had to be repaired at great expense, the number of free or "charity" pupils had to be restricted to ten. By collections made in the churches for the purpose, the consistory was enabled to increase this number to thirty in 1788, and to fifty in 1790. As Mr. Van Steenburgh did not act as chorister in the church, Stanton Latham, then clerk in the North Church, was appointed to succeed Van Steenburgh in 1791, thus preserving the inherited custom of having the schoolmasters also serve as foresinger. Latham had offered to teach fifty children at seven shillings per quarter, which offer was accepted, to being on May 1--the consistory resolving that they "have a high sense of the abilities, assiduity, and faithfulness which Mr. Van Steenburgh has for many years exerted in the school under his care." During the next year,, 1792, ten more free scholars were admitted, and :ten girls, at present under the tuition of Mr. Latham, were removed, and put under the care of a female instructor," Miss Elizabeth Ten Eyck, who remained in charge of the girls' department until 1809, and was probably the first female teacher in a public school in the State of New York.

The system of receiving pay scholars was continued until 1793, when the consistory, after consultation with the head master, Latham, resolved that from the first of February of that year, none but charity scholars should be admitted, whose number was to be unlimited, and that Mr. Latham's salary should be raised to £200 and a free dwelling house. Four years later, May 25, 1799, however, the number had to be again restricted to fifty, probably in consequence of the withdrawal of the funds, which, during the year 1796 and 1797 the school had received from the State.

Coming to the locality of the houses where the before-named masters taught, nothing can be said about it for the first hundred years, unless we believe that school was kept in the house of the teacher. Adam Roelentsen, the first schoolmaster, had a house near the farm of Jan Damen, the south side of which ran along Wall Street. Jan Stevenson's house and lot, granted him by the company in 1643, was on the northwest side corner of "Heere Straat" (now Broadway) and Morris Street. Stuyvesant, who took an active interest in the school question, not only in an official, but also as a private citizen, wrote to the Classis of Amsterdam soon after his arrival: "We need a pious and diligent schoolmaster here, a year having passed since we were deprived of such help"--Stevenson had left in September, 1648; and soon after a plate was sent round to collect money for a school building; "some few materials for it have been bought, but the first stone is yet to be laid."

When the question as to where the children should gather for instruction had been raised during the winter of 1647-48, Stuyvesant had recommended that the cook-house of the Fiscal might be used for the school. Nothing seems to have been done for many years, for according to a petition of the burgomasters to Stuyvesant, February 2, 1662, they intended then "to building a schoolhouse for the benefit of the inhabitants, for which they needed land, and thought the most appropriate lot would be behind the property of Master Jacob Hendricksen Varrevanger, fronting on Brouwer (now Stone) Street, opposite to Johannis de Peyster's.

The director and council, however, considered the best place to be in the corner of the church yard, a new burying place to be laid out outside of the land-gate. Where, however, Willem Verstius, kept school during his term from 1750 to 1655 does not appear, while we know that the branch school under Jean Monier de la Montagne was, by suggestion of the directors of the company, opened in the City Tavern, late the City hall, on the corner of Pearl Street and Coenties Alley. Harman Van Hoboocken was allowed 100 florins ($40) yearly to rent a house for his dwelling and school, when his house had been injured by fire in 1656. The school building recommended to be placed in a corner of the churchyard in 1662 was apparently not erected, so that continuing the before expressed belief, we must locate the school, when taught by Evert Pietersen Keteltas (1661-87) in his dwelling house in Stone street, although in 1666 Captain Stymets (Steijnmmets) asked from the municipal authorities 260 florins ($104) rent for his house, let to the city as a school. Not knowing the names of the successors of Keteltas from 1687 to 1726, and no directory of the city existing for the period from 1726 to 1743, to give the dwelling houses of the schoolmasters, it is impossible to tell where the school was then located. The branch school established in 1743 under Abraham de la Noy was, as already noted, held in Cortlandt Street. Judge Egbert Benson, who graduated from King's, later Columbia College, in 1765, declared, in an address before the New York Historical society, December 31, 1816, that in his early youth he attended school at the corner of Marketfield and Broad Streets. The lot of land on which this edifice was to stand had been bought by the church in Garden Street for $450, in 1691. In this place, which Marschalck's map of the city, made in 1755, shows to have been on the north side of the present Exchange Place, between Broad and William Streets, it remained until 1824, and after many wanderings, always in an up-town direction, it found a resting-place in Seventy-seventh street, with twelve teachers instructing 130 scholars, free scholarships being granted by the trustees in limited numbers and under certain conditions.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie Axtman

You are the Visitor to this USGenNet Safe-Site™ Since September 5, 2004.


[Index][Book Index][NY][AHGP]