Yates County, New York
Schools for the Town of Benton
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History & Directory of Yates County, Volume 1
Pub 1873 by Stafford C. Cleveland, pg 359
SCHOOLS & SCHOOL TEACHERS
Incidentally some mention has already been made of the earlier teachers, and little more remains that can be added. Schools have been permanently and generally well sustained, but school teachers have been mostly transient, and not well remembered. Eliphalet HALL was the first teacher. The old log school house which stood on the highway near the present Baptist church, was first opened for a winter school; in just what year, no one remembers, but before 1800. From the log houses for two miles or more around, the young people and little ones gathered to be taught to read and write and spell and "cypher". Perhaps no log structure of its kind performed a grader service in its day, than did this unpretending school house. It was dedicated to its beneficent purpose by "grandfather HULL", whose children's children were among its pupils. The same building, with its four little windows, one door and huge fireplace, was also a house of worship for many years, for the Methodists, the Baptists, the Universalists and others though private houses were much used for religious meetings. The second teacher was John COATS; the third, Titus V. MUNSON; the fourth, Ezra RICE, the worthy son in law of Levi BENTON. The first summer school was taught by Ruth PRITCHARD of the Friend's Society. She was brought to the house of Cyrus BUELL, where she boarded, by Richard SMITH. She was a teacher of no little note in her day, and continued to teach for years after she became the wife of Justus P. SPENCER. Olivia SMITH taught a summer school in 1801 and her sister Clara taught a school the same season in the Tubbs district, the first one there. Then followed John L. LEWIS, and after him Nathan P. COLE, Ezra RICE, Walter WOLCOTT, Elisha WOODWORTH, Calvin FARGO, Joseph BENTON and an Irishman whose name is not remembered. Mrs. Sarah KNAPP taught man years at her own house, where the late Samuel G. GAGE afterwards resided. James WILKINS, James WINKLER, Gurdon BADGER and others followed. The most distinguished among these was John L. LEWIS. Some of the incidents of his career in that locality are so well described by David H. BUELL, that we quote from him: " I will recall one other reminiscence of the olden times, for I love to dwell upon the scenes of my youth, with the friends of my youth, in those happy, primitive days, as it seems to be identified with the old Benton home. In the spring of 1802, a young may by the name of John L. LEWIS, some 20 years of age, came to Squire BENTON'S in company with and recommended by Capt. Thomas HOWARD, from the Gore, as a good school teacher. The young man proposed to teach the Centre school. He begin a graduate of Yale, it seemed a good show of ability. Squire BENTON introduced him to my father, Uncle Ezra COLE, Uncle Perley DEAN, Uncle Daniel BROWN, Squire WOODWORTH, and other neighbors. The young man was employed, and commenced his school, April 19, 1802. I well recollect that day. I was in my seventh year. I sat on the little boy's bench in the northeast corner of the house, north of the fireplace, which extended nearly across the east end of the old log school house that stood in the road about opposite the west end of the Baptist church shed at Benton Centre. After sitting awhile, my nerves became restless and I turned my face to the logs, and began picking at the dry mortar between them. Master LEWIS gently reversed my position with the remark that I "would appear better facing the company". The school was successful and continued three years. We lived together night and day the whole time, after which Master LEWIS commenced teaching on Flat street, near the pine tree on the PATTERSON place.
"The ordinary routine of the school was spiced up with many little pleasantries not found in the text books of Dilworth, Dwight or Webster. They were both pleasing and profitable, giving a zest to the whole never to be forgotten by Master LEWIS' pupils of 1802 to 1805. There was one rich passage that occurred during the school that I will allude to, as it formed a marked epoch in the history of those early, happy years. Master LEWIS "got up" a play, a comedy brim full of original character, humor and fun, with many a well pointed moral. It embraced a good many characters, and carried the evenings into the large house to complete the rehearsals, which frequently occurred at Squire BENTON'S. Joseph BENTON was the "Mother Fret" of the play. I can se her now with her plain, close cap, her sleeves rolled above the elbows, with her scissors and thimbles jingling in her huge pocket, as she storms about the house, ordering 'Silas' to 'tumble the swill barrel up against the door, prop it up at the bottom with the liver, and make it tight as Bunker Hill - do you hear - budge." The play finally culminated in a grand exhibition, in full costume, of character all through, the manager appearing in a dress coat, vest and pants, all of pure white dimity; the pants were fitted to the ankle and foot in the form of a white stocking, enclosed in neat pumps of the same material. The exhibition came off at Uncle COLE'S new ballroom, not yet quite finished, but fitted up expressly for the occasion, with stage, curtains, rooms, seats, etc., in the fall of 1804".
This is believed to have been the first theatrical exhibition that had ever occurred in Ontario county, and possibly west of Albany. The audience were delighted and Master LEWIS' exhibition was often quoted, and once or twice re-enacted before the first elephant was exhibited at Zachariah WHEELER'S barn, Head street, Penn Yan, and prior to the War of 1812.
Many of these scholars have been prominent actors filling useful positions on the stage of life. Among the scholars of that period were the BENTONS, WOODWORTHS, COLES, BUELLS, HULLS, SPENCERS, WOLCOTTS, BROWNS, DEANS, WHEELERS, RIGGSES, HILTONS, GILBERTS, VAN CAMPENS, HOBARTS, MC MANES, KNAPPS, BENNETS, SMITHS, GRISWOLDS, COUCHES, BARDENS, PEARCHES, SPOONERS, POWERS, UTTERS, STEVENS, SWEETS, DORMANS, KELSEYS, SAFFORDS, POSTS, RICES, INGRAHAMS, TOWERS, TUBBSES, BUDDS, BOTSFORDS, HARTWELLS, FOXES, GREGORYS, JAYNES, HOWARDS, etc.
Of all that group of joyous faces, but one remains within the large bounds of the old Centre school district. "Like the last member of the annual banquet, the broken silence is only answered by the echoing walls." "Like the last leaf on the tree in the spring." Many rest in early graves that have been lost for more than a half a century. A few yet remain in the wide world, bending, furrowed wrecks, seeking rest.
"Back on the misty track of time by memory's flickering light,
I see the scenes of other days light meteors in the night."
The first school at Bellona was taught in 1805m by William WORLAN, an Englishman, whose school was in a log house a little north of Bellona, on the northeast corner of the present farm of Firman RAPELYEA. The names of subsequent teachers have not been given to the writer. Among other notes in Benton from time to time, may be mentioned Thomas J. NEVINS, David H. BUELL, Daniel GILBERT, Hallet DEAN, Erastus B. WOLCOTT, Heman CHAPMAN, Luther WINANTS, Horace KIDDER, Simeon GOSS, Coe B. SAYRE., Henry BARNES, Reuben CRAWFORD, Mr. NEWTON, Enos TUBBS, Joseph BLOOMINGDALE, Richard TAYLOR and Henry S. CHAPMAN. Herma JEWETT has been a noted lady teacher in that town for 30 years and is still engaged in that calling.
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