Yates County, New York
Schools for the Town of Benton
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History & Directoryof Yates County, Volume 1
Pub1873 by Stafford C. Cleveland, pg 359
SCHOOLS & SCHOOL TEACHERS
Incidentally, some mention hasalready been made of the earlier teachers, and little more remains that can beadded. Schools have been permanently and generally well sustained, but schoolteachers have been mostly transient, and not well remembered. EliphaletHALL was the first teacher. The old log school house which stood on thehighway 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 housesfor two miles or more around, the young people and little ones gathered to betaught to read and write and spell and "cypher". Perhaps no logstructure of its kind performed a grader service in its day, than did thisunpretending school house. It was dedicated to its beneficentpurpose by "grandfather HULL", whose children's children were amongits pupils. The same building, with its four little windows, one door andhuge fireplace, was also a house of worship for many years, for the Methodists,the Baptists, the Universalists and others though private houses were much usedfor religious meetings. The second teacher was John COATS; the third,Titus V. MUNSON; the fourth, Ezra RICE, the worthy son in law of LeviBENTON. The first summer school was taught by Ruth PRITCHARD of theFriend's Society. She was brought to the house of Cyrus BUELL, where sheboarded, 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 taughta school the same season in the Tubbs district, the first one there. Thenfollowed 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 notremembered. Mrs. Sarah KNAPP taught man years at her own house, where thelate Samuel G. GAGE afterwards resided. James WILKINS, James WINKLER,Gurdon BADGER and others followed. The most distinguished among these wasJohn L. LEWIS. Some of the incidents of his career in that locality are sowell described by David H. BUELL, that we quote from him: " I willrecall one other reminiscence of the olden times, for I love to dwell upon thescenes of my youth, with the friends of my youth, in those happy, primitivedays, as it seems to be identified with the old Benton home. In the springof 1802, a young may by the name of John L. LEWIS, some 20 years of age, came toSquire BENTON'S in company with and recommended by Capt. Thomas HOWARD, from theGore, as a good school teacher. The young man proposed to teach the Centreschool. 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 manwas employed, and commenced his school, April 19, 1802. I well recollectthat day. I was in my seventh year. I sat on the little boy's benchin the northeast corner of the house, north of the fireplace, which extendednearly across the east end of the old log school house that stood in the roadabout 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 thelogs, and began picking at the dry mortar between them. Master LEWISgently reversed my position with the remark that I "would appear betterfacing the company". The school was successful and continued threeyears. We lived together night and day the whole time, after which MasterLEWIS commenced teaching on Flat street, near the pine tree on the PATTERSONplace.
"The ordinary routine of theschool was spiced up with many little pleasantries not found in the text booksof 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 1802to 1805. There was one rich passage that occurred during the school that Iwill allude to, as it formed a marked epoch in the history of those early, happyyears. Master LEWIS "got up" a play, a comedy brim full oforiginal character, humor and fun, with many a well pointed moral. Itembraced a good many characters, and carried the evenings into the large houseto complete the rehearsals, which frequently occurred at Squire BENTON'S. Joseph BENTON was the "Mother Fret" of the play. I can se hernow with her plain, close cap, her sleeves rolled above the elbows, with herscissors and thimbles jingling in her huge pocket, as she storms about thehouse, ordering 'Silas' to 'tumble the swill barrel up against the door, prop itup at the bottom with the liver, and make it tight as Bunker Hill - do youhear - budge." The play finally culminated in a grand exhibition, infull 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 andfoot in the form of a white stocking, enclosed in neat pumps of the samematerial. The exhibition came off at Uncle COLE'S new ballroom, not yetquite 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 thefirst theatrical exhibition that had ever occurred in Ontario county, andpossibly west of Albany. The audience were delighted and Master LEWIS'exhibition was often quoted, and once or twice re-enacted before the firstelephant was exhibited at Zachariah WHEELER'S barn, Head street, Penn Yan, andprior to the War of 1812.
Many of these scholars have beenprominent actors filling useful positions on the stage of life. Among thescholars of that period were the BENTONS, WOODWORTHS, COLES, BUELLS, HULLS,SPENCERS, WOLCOTTS, BROWNS, DEANS, WHEELERS, RIGGSES, HILTONS, GILBERTS, VANCAMPENS, 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 joyousfaces, but one remains within the large bounds of the old Centre schooldistrict. "Like the last member of the annual banquet, the brokensilence is only answered by the echoing walls." "Like the lastleaf on the tree in the spring." Many rest in early graves that have beenlost for more than a half a century. A few yet remain in the wide world,bending, furrowed wrecks, seeking rest.
"Backon the misty track of time by memory's flickering light,
Isee the scenes of other days light meteors in the night."
Thefirst 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 northeastcorner of the present farm of Firman RAPELYEA. The names of subsequentteachers have not been given to the writer. Among other notes in Bentonfrom time to time, may be mentioned Thomas J. NEVINS, David H. BUELL, DanielGILBERT, Hallet DEAN, Erastus B. WOLCOTT, Heman CHAPMAN, Luther WINANTS, HoraceKIDDER, 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 isstill engaged in that calling.
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