Public Schools Here by 1795

Footnotes to Long Island History

Public School Here By 1795


Thomas R. Bayles

      According to Osborn Shaw, official town historian, Patchogue had a school district of its own as early as 1795, and the document to prove this is preserved among the paper of the Town trustees in the town hall at Patchogue. This paper shows that Isaac Overton, John Bun and Jacob Baker were appointed trustees of the Patchogue school district in 1795, and also bears the signatures of 11 residents living in or near the village in that year.

       In 1813, when Brookhaven town as divided into school districts, Patchogue contained three, each of which had a small one room schoolhouse. In that year Ocean avenue was a  lane with a fence at the end of it not far below Main Street, and was called "Slippery Lane".

       Eventually four school districts served the village, each with its own schoolhouse. In 1852, the school census showed 609 children of school age. In 1869, the four districts were consolidated and the Patchogue Union school was purchased from Austin Roe for $2,000 on South Ocean avenue at Academy street.

       Here a building 62 by 66 feet in size with two stories was erected at a cost of 15,824. The four old school houses were sold for about $2,500. The new building was dedicated on October 16, 1871, and the first trustees of the consolidated district were Oliver P. Smith, William L. Preston, George F.  Carman, Edward T. Moore, Alfred E. Mott, Edwin Bailey and Smith L. Newins.

       The reception and board room was in the west room on the first floor, and an early resolution of the board provided that such room be furnished with center table, lamps, ink stands, pens, and  paper, spit boxes and a stove. Another resolution  adopted was that the pupil should furnish their own books which was in effect until 1925.

       The first principal in the new school was Professor A. M.. Drummond, an excellent teacher and a good organizer. Under his influence, the school at once took a high rank in the county. He had five teachers and there were about 400 pupils registered.

         After four years, Professor Drummond left for another position and professor Levi Seeley was appointed principal and continued the work until 1881, when W. E. Gordon was appointed to succeed him. 1905 the district was changed to a village superintendency and Dr. Gordon was appointed superintendent. He continued in this capacity until he had completed 38 years of service, in the Patchogue schools retiring in 1919.

       In 1883, the number of pupils had become so large that increased facilities were necessary to accommodate them. A rear addition of two rooms was added but, by 1887 it was again necessary to add more room.

        In 1888 a kindergarten department was added with Miss Lucretia Titterton in charge. It was the first organized in connection with a public school in Suffolk county. In 1892, the academic department was admitted to the supervision of the regents with a full high school course. In 1893, additional room was needed and a branch primary school was built on River avenue to accommodate the first and second year pupils in that section.

       Among the men who have figured in the history of the schools this locality perhaps none has stood out with more unique and striking originality than Brewster H. Saxton.

       He taught the school on Ocean avenue, then called Slippery lane, and his pupils were composed in part of boys in their teens who worked on the bay during the open season and came to school during the bad weather.

       At one time a conference of county teachers were discussing methods of preserving school discipline and were in favor of "moral suasion" instead of using the "rod". Mr. Saxton held to the old-fashioned way and wound up his argument by saying "don't waste your breath talking moral suasion to the bay boys of Slippery lane."


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