Tuesday , August 14 2018
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A Look Back: The Springville Academy

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By Jolene Hawkins

With graduation just around the corner and kids getting ready to get out and away from school, I thought I would share with you some local information that all local school kids should know, or at least I think so. Have you ever wondered how Good Ole Griffith Institute get its name?  I can hear all the people saying.. yeah, yeah, we know because of Archibald Griffith.  Well yes, that is true; however, what did he do to get the schools named after him? Now that is where you will need a little history of the school at the time and what he did.  So here goes:

The raising or building of Springville Academy was dated Dec. 14, 1825. It was a serious matter for the people of Springville and vicinity to undertake building the school as the country was new and the people were poor. In 1825, there was no large city or good markets within hundreds of miles of this place and people could get but very little money for their products. Remember that at the time, this was still considered wild country. That being said, the desire for there to be a school was so strong that there were over 100 people in the area who bought shares at $15 each to raise the money to build the school.

The walls were put up in 1827, and the first term of the school was in the fall of 1830. The first principal was Hiram Barney and the first Preceptress was Miss Mary Elliot. Over 90 students attended that year, either for the whole term or part of the school year.

In 1845, the number of students attending Springville Academy was up to 130.  Tuition starting in January, per term of fifteen weeks ran as follows: Languages, including Greek, Latin, French and Italian was $5. Higher branches, English was $4; Common $4, Changes for incidental expenses about the building was 25 cents.

There was a notice in the paper on April 5, 1845 stating that the summer term of the Institution will commence on the 1st day of May, the year will be divided into three terms of 15 weeks each, with an examination at the close of each term, which all students were requested to attend. Mr. E C Hall was the Principal and teacher of Greek, Latin, German and Italian, Natural sciences, Ethics; Miss Silena Johnson was the Preceptress and teacher of French, Drawing, Painting, Botany, Plain and Ornamental needle work. Also included in this ad was that Board for any number of students may be obtained in respectable families near the Academy for $1 to $1.25 per week.  So, not only did you have to pay for the classes you took, but also for a place to stay while you were attending school if you did not live nearby.

The building itself had a furnished room for the Ladies’ Department, a room for the Gentlemen’s’ Department, three recitations rooms, a library and Apparatus room and a large hall for public exercises.

By 1847, there were four teachers, with students coming whose homes were in Freedom, Portage, Ashford, Centerville, Mansfield, Pavilion, Yorkshire, Otto, Boston, Franklinville, Hume, China (now known as Arcade), Great Valley, Groveland, Harmony, Machias, Collins and some from out of state.  Now you see the reason why some of the students had to board with families in town as going back and forth each day was impossible, especially in the winter months.

The examinations were given at the end of the term with readings of compositions and test of classes in Latin, Algebra, Arithmetic, and Orthography, interspersed with vocal music. Then examinations in phonography (I had to look this one up… it is phonetic spelling, writing or shorthand), history, grammar and the branches of science. Music on the Piano while you looked at the exhibits of drawings and paintings, along with examinations in French and physiology.  Who said our forefathers only learned reading, writing and arithmetic!  Next week, you will learn all about Archibald Griffith, and why the schools are named after him.

Be sure to stop by the Lucy Bensley Center on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and learn more about the town history… share your history with us! Email me at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com.

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