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Early Education in Northfield (Pittsford) District #1


Just five short years after the organization of the Town of Northfield in 1789, the pioneer settlers decided that after clearing the land, raising food for their family's needs, education of their children was of utmost importance. In 1794, the two founders of the town, Simon and Israel Stone gave three acres of land for a cemetery to be established and for a log schoolhouse to be built on the hill, a mile south of the present village. This was the first and for many years, the only school house in all of Northfield and was known then and still is as District 1. This was not a free school. It was built by subscription with the settlers taking as many shares as they had children in school. The tuition was $1.00 per child per semester - a healthy sum in those days. So much did the early settlers think of education.

Scholars came from miles around. It was unsafe to walk long distances through the woods and trees where wolves and bears were prevalent, so little Ann Agate, at 4 years of age, was boarded at Major Patterson's house because her own home was too far away and too dangerous a walk. Mr. John Barrows was the first schoolmaster. He boarded with families whose homes were nearby the schoolhouse and that board was considered as part of his salary, which was a whopping $12.00 per month - a sum which was considered extravagant by the settlers. That log building was razed in 1806 and replaced by a frame building.; that frame building was razed in 1826 when the present brick building was constructed.

According to the 1787 curriculum guide in New York State, two general programs could be offered. One was the classical which included the study of Greek, Latin, geography, history, and later mathematics and science. The second program offered English, French, writing, reading, arithmetic, bookkeeping, and elocution. I would believe that the latter would have been the course of study in District # 1 and 2.

In 1804 a second schoolhouse was built also by subscription. This building was not a log structure, but a frame one. Mr. Billinghurst and Mr. Agate were active in this endeavor and it was built on what was then Armstrong Hill - now Pittsford Mendon Road. Besides being used as a schoolhouse, it was also to be a meetinghouse. The ceiling was arched to make it better for public meetings and that added to the cost. Mr. Ball, from Bloomfield, was the teacher. That building was demolished in 1860 and the present structure was built with monies from subscribing families. Much changed, it is now a dwelling.

A member of Historic Pittsford Board attended school there until the centralization of the district in 1946, when all of the districts were closed and all school children were absorbed into the one school on Lincoln Avenue now the Spiegel Center.

In all there were 13 District schoolhouses before the Westwoods of Pittsford was established as the town of Henrietta. There were 9 districts in what is now Pittsford. Many of them were built of brick and resembled each other. Some of these will be discussed in subsequent articles.