CM Pupils Sat Around Stove

Footnotes to Long Island History

Center Moriches Pupils Sat Around Stove


Thomas R. Bayles


Nineteenth century schools serving the Moriches were a far cry from today’s modern buildings.

            According to an article in the Brooklyn Eagle of February 23, 1897, the dedication of a fine new school in Center Moriches took place on that day.  This was a building costing $7,000, and was considered a decided asset to the village.  It contained four large rooms heated by steam, and also a reading room, library, principal’s room, teacher’s room and a bicycle room.  The basement was finished off as a play room.

            The first school in Center Moriches of which there is any record was built in 1820 and occupied the site of the Methodist church.  When the Methodists purchased the ground, the little schoolhouse was moved to East Moriches.

            The next schoolhouse was built in 1830 on a site at the southwest corner of Main Street and Union avenue.  This was a small building 16 by 25 feet and the furniture in the room was very crude.  Long boards fastened to the wall in slanting position around the sides of the room served as desks at which the older pupils of the school worked.  The stove was placed in the center of the room and benches were arranged around it for the smaller children.  This school registered 35 pupils, more than half of whom left in the spring to work on the bay or to engage in farm work.

            Union Avenue, at that time, was a one track lane passing through the fields from Main Street to the bay.  To reach the bay, one had to “lower the bars” as he went from one field to another.

            The salary of the teacher was paid by the parents of the children who sent children to school; according to the number sent.  The teacher was expected to “board around” with each family who sent pupils, and this was considered part of his pay.

            This building soon became too small as the community grew.  In 1838, a new one was built on the southwest corner of the ground belonging to the Presbyterian Church.  This was a better-built structure, but the furniture was much the same.  In 1870, a building costing $900 was built by Joshua Penney and John Bishop.  It contained the latest improvements up to that time and served until the new one was built in 1897.

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