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A Look Back: School Days

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Looking Back in our historical records and we find that as soon as the settlers arrived and acquired land, they had their homes built, a church founded and schools established.
The first known school was located on Buffalo Street in a log barn owned by John Albro. Fourteen students attended the school that was taught by Anna Richmond.
In 1814, Mr. Eaton taught a school that had 70 students. By 1816, a log Schoolhouse was built near the greens. Widon Gardner taught on East Hill and Ychia Russell taught in her father’s Chamber.
By 1829, many one-room school houses were being built and the teacher’s pay might have been so many cords of wood to be used to heat the schoolhouse. A common school for all students was held in the upper rooms.
In 1831, the town of Concord was divided into north and south districts. The brick building on Smith and Franklin streets was the North District school. It had four rooms, two upstairs and two downstairs with a hall in the center.
The South district was to have its own school. The lot cost five dollars, and the building was to cost two-hundred dollars. It was to be in the center of Mr. Bushman’s cornfield. It was a one-story brick building and stood on the corner of Pearl and Cattaraugus streets.
The first term of Springville Academy began in the fall of 1830. Hiram Barney was the principal and Mary Elliott the preceptress — a woman who is an instructor, teacher or tutor. Hiram Barney went on to become the school superintendent.
Female Schools under female supervision seemed most prosperous and for some time previous to 1849, a young ladies seminary was connected with the Academy. In 1849, the Academy was 19 years old, had five teachers, 110 gentlemen and 100 ladies enrolled.
There were ups and downs in the first 37 years with frequent appeals for aid. At the most critical period of its existence, Archibald Griffith raised the Academy to the equal of any in the country period of its existence, with financial donations.
In 1867, the name was changed to Griffith Institute. Mr. Griffith afterward gave $10,000 for a permanent fund, mainly for free education of orphans and the poor.
His will read in part:
“Leaving $10,000 that the interest and income of these funds shall be appropriated annually by the board of trustees as follows:
“One third of the payments to be used of the term, bills and incidental expenses attending upon the instructions or tuition of such students attending the Academy as are actual residents of the Town of Concord. In the selection of the students, the Trustees will give preference to orphans, and the children of widows in comparatively needy circumstances.
“One fourth will be used to purchase additions to the Academy Library and apparatus as shall be selected by the Board of Trustees. The remaining will be put into a general purpose both inside and outside of the Academy.”
Many students had to pay for room and board themselves, thus reducing the expense to a very low figure. The Institute, by liberal endowment of the late Griffith, enabled to provide free tuition for a number of deserving students from the town of Concord.
By 1867, there were additions to the building making it three stories high, facing on Franklin Street and having a bell tower. It now could boast of having eight teachers. Even though it was a non-sectarian, the Genesee Conference of the Methodist Church ran it for fifteen years from 1858-1873.
Also in 1867, there was a desire for a union grade free school. This was accomplished in 1875 by uniting districts 6 and 8 to form the Union Free School District No. 1. That is why the Union Free School was used in the name with Griffith Institute.
Regent’s exams came to replace orals and were said to reveal more shortcomings of the students learning. In 1885, at the cost of $10,000, the school was enlarged again. The entire north wing being erected making the Academy twice as large.
Centralization came in 1941, gradually uniting 34 school districts in nine surrounding towns. By 1949, a new high school on Buffalo Street was built. An elementary school was later built on North Street.
And what about the one-room school houses? In 1815, there was one on Townsend Hill. Wheeler Hollow had a framed school building, later a private residence. School No. 18 was on the corner of Genesee Road and Sharp Street. Morton Corner was No. 12, and Fowlersville was No. 2 .Come down to the Lucy Bensley Center to research the rest of them.
Did you know that here at the Lucy Bensley Center, located at 23 North Buffalo St., we have a large number of old school annuals? They are so fun to look through and see what the students and teachers look like.
Every week in the local newspaper, the Springville Academy, later the Griffith Institute, had an article that would list when the term started, what they were doing and even the students grades! You can read those when you stop by here as well.
We are open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and the second and fourth Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. Send us an email at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com or call us at 592-0094.

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