1994 Town of Knox Comprehensive Plan: Schools

From Knox, NY - a Helderberg Hilltown
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Specific knowledge concerning the early schools in the Town, and the teachers and pup ils who went to them, is fragmentary. It seems probable that the children who could be spared from necessary chores were assembled in one of the homes of an area, where they were taught by transient teachers. When a schoolmaster left, doubtless the lessons were suspended until another arrived. Many of those early teachers were clergymen or farmers; some had only a little more education than their older students.

In 1789, the New York State legislature authorized that two lots in each township of the publi c state land be set apart for gospel and school purposes. The Common School Act of 1812 authorized the establishment of common, or public schools. In Amasa Parker's Landmarks of Albany County , it is reported that the Town of Berne (of which Knox was then a part) passed a resolution to raise $500 for the support of the common schools. Tenney and Howell's History of the County of Albany , cites a report that one of those pioneer schools was located in Knoxville (the present Hamlet of Knox), and another stood in the vicinity of Township.

The first buildings specifically erected for schools were crude structures of unpeeled logs, topped with a lean - to roof that was sealed against the weather with sheets of bark laid over pole rafters. The floor was packed dirt and the hard benches upon which the children sat were split 1ogs. A fieldstone fireplace stood at one end for warmth. Later, when the press of other work permitted, the dirt floor was covered with puncheons of white pine, and the bark roof was replaced w ith shakes.

The children in those schools ranged from six to sixteen years; they recited their lessons aloud and consequently the schools became known as "Blab Schools". Schoolmasters were paid by the parents according to the number of children they sent and the periods for which they sent them; payment consisted of whatever commodity the parents had on hand, such as deerskins, grain, or vegetables.

As the Town of Knox grew, so did the schools, and the log "Blab Schools" gave way to small frame buildings . In 1886, Knox had thirteen school districts, each of which elected its own trustee, clerk, and tax collector. The trustee was charged with the hiring of the teacher, supervision of the school, and providing for the supply and maintenance of the building and its equipment. By that time, the schools were supported by a local tax that varied according to the value of an individual's taxable property.

Teachers were then paid thirty dollars per month and for that sum they were required not only to teach a wid e variety of subjects to pupils of various ages and abilities within a single room, but also to clean the room, and to build and maintain fires in the wood - burning stove.

Many senior citizens of Knox recall those one - room schools in rich detail: the drin king water supply, carried in a pail from the well of a neighboring house, and the common dipper that hung above the pail; the immovable desks with the attached seats, especially if those seats were anchored too close to the stove; the heat of the room in the late spring and the incessant droning of innumerable flies, which came in freely through the open, unscreened windows; when winter winds rocked the building and drove the snow against the windows, how cold it was for all except the envied few who sat w ithin the narrow radius of the stove. Those who did sit by the stove remember how their flesh slowly roasted on the side nearest the stove, while on the opposite side they froze.

District No. 1 was located on what is now Rock Road. In 1932, the children w ere transferred to the Berne - Knox Central School and the schoolhouse was sold; it was subsequently converted to a dwelling.

The schoolhouse of District No. 2, located at the intersection of Route 146 and Witter Road, is presently owned by the Knox Volunte er Fire Company and used as the Township firehouse. An old, handwritten ledger, containing 100 years of school records (1849 - 1949), states that no funds were voted for the school in 1850, and in October 1851, it was voted to change the site of the school to its present location. According to the ledger, District No. 9 was consolidated with District No. 2 in 1866 - 67, and the combined district was designated as No. 2.

Among the interesting items in the ledger is the first mention, in 1913, of a teacher's re tirement fund and an entry of $3.58 for that fund. The first individual drinking cups were furnished in 1925, and during that year it is noted that older children of the district were sent to Altamont High School. Electric lights were installed in 1935. Th e minutes of 1946 record a decision to petition the Commissioner of Education to dissolve District No. 2, and to transfer the district to the Berne - Knox Central School System. The schoolhouse remained empty until it was purchased by the Knox Fire Company.

District No. 3 was located at what is now the corner of Pleasant Valley Road and Taber Road. The district was annexed to the Berne - Knox Central School system in 1932; the schoolhouse was moved to Township and was converted to a private dwelling.

District No. 4 was located on Rt. 156. The district became a part of the Guilderland Central School system and the schoolhouse was used as a farm tenant house.

District No. 5, at Ketcham Lane and Boys Club Lane, in the Thompsons Lake area, became part of the Bern e - Knox Central School system in 1951; for ten years, 1940 - 50, the children of the district were driven to the Altamont School. The schoolhouse was kept in its original state until 1971, when it was converted into a dwelling.

The schoolhouse of District N o. 6 was located in the center of the Hamlet of Knox. It was owned by the Knox Volunteer Fire Company and used as their firehouse from 1950 until 1988, when the building was replaced. The district was centralized into the Berne - Knox School system in 1931, although the actual transfer was not accomplished until 1933.

The District No. 7 schoolhouse was located on the Knox - Gallupville Road; it is now used as a farm building.

The schoolhouse of District No. 8, located at the intersection of Beebee and Middle Roads, was torn down and rebuilt in 1910. It was subsequently converted into a dwelling.

District No. 9 was combined with District No. 2 in 1866 since, as reported by Tenney and Howell, "District No. 9 is a joint district most of which lies within the t own of Wright, Schoharie County, only 2 children of school age living in the portion lying in Knox and the schoolhouse being located in Wright."

The schoolhouse of District No. 10 is located on the Bozenkill Road on a site probably donated to the district by the Snyder family. The Snyder School, as it was known, remains in its original condition except for the addition of double doors.

District No. 11 was located on the Knox - Delanson Road, near the intersection of West Wind Road. In 1930, high school students of the district were sent to Delanson Union Free School, now part of the Duanesburg Central School System. The school was bought and converted into a dwelling.

The school of District No. 12 was known as the Van Benschoten School because the sit e, located on Quay Road near the junction with Bell Road, was donated by John Van Benschoten. After the district was incorporated into the Berne - Knox School system, the schoolhouse was moved to the Altamont Fairgrounds as an example of the one - room school. � The building of District No. 13 was originally located on the old Zimmer farm but was moved to the Bradt farm to provide a more central location, where it still stands. In 1949 the school could no longer meet the expenses of a teacher's salary and bus t ransportation and the district was consolidated with the Berne - Knox system.

District No. 14 was taken into the Town of Wright school system and was known as the Shingle Town School. School No. 15 was located at West Berne.

The Berne - Knox School system was established in 1932, and had a junior high school; in 1933 it was expanded to include grades 9 through 12. It included all of the districts of Knox excepting 4, 10 and 14.

Knoxville Academy

Knoxville Academy was organized under the general laws of the State of New York for the establishment of academies around 1820 - 30. It was incorporated by the New York State Legislature in 1837, and admitted by the Regents in 1842. It was one of the finest educational facilities in Albany County. Tenney and Howel l report that it "once stood high among similar educational establishments." The Academy prepared its students for entrance to college, and also qualified them to enter teaching or to go into business. Students came to the Academy not only from Albany, Sch enectady, and the surrounding areas, but also from abroad.

Ray Mowers, in the Albany Evening News of October 15, 1936, reported that " . . . in 1826 the Masonic brethren of the Helderbergs erected a temple in Knox hamlet which later became the celebrated Knox Academy." He also mentions that Knox had the oldest Masonic Chapter, and that after the temple became the Knoxville Academy, the chapter went to East Berne and then to Berne.

Eventually, following the establishment of the State Normal Schools , the Knoxville Academy went into a decline. For a time, an attempt was made to continue the Academy as a private school, but this did not succeed. The Academy was in session during the years 1840 through 1869. The building served as a public school for a number of years after the Academy closed down. Later it was converted into three separate apartments and today it is a one - family home(9).