The Old Mt. Sinai School

Footnotes to Long Island History

The Old Mount Sinai Church School

Thomas R. Bayles



Something of the history of the Mt. Sinai school may be of interest now that the school house is being torn down after the site was taken over by the fire department, and the district merged with Port Jefferson.

 The Commissioners of Common Schools for the Town of Brookhaven met at Coram (which was then the center of the town government) on Nov. 3, 1813, and divided the town into school districts, and "No. 5 is to embrace the neighborhood of Old Mans and adjoining inhabitants." The school commissioners at that time were John Rose, Franklin B. Thompson and Mordecai Homan. In 1842, the district number was changed to No. 7.

 Since the early name of the Mt. Sinai was "Old Mans," supposed to have been because an "old man" kept a tavern there, the reference in the town record as given above leaves no doubt of establishment of the school district in 1813.

 The first record of a school district meeting held at "Old Man's" is dated July 3, 1820, although there is some evidence that there was a school previous to that time and the school expenses were paid from three sources, "free money, taxes and tuition of children." The tax per child at that time was 2 1/2 cents per day.

 Noah Gillett taught from Nov. 5, 1821, to Jan. 2, 1822 and received as his pay for that time, $14.72. In the winter of 1823, Sheldrin Overton taught the first quarter. In 1839, at a special school meeting it was voted that $18 be appropriated for a library.

 The first school house we can find any record of was located on the North Country road on a piece of land which in 1929, was owned by Robert Griffiths. In 1869, "one half acre on the corner of two roads," the North Country road and the Lane was bought from Charles Phillips for a site on which to build a school house.

 The old school house was sold at public auction to George Davis in 1871, and moved to his property on the "Lane," and used as a barn. A new school house was built on the new site and used until 1908 when an addition was added and and two teachers employed.

 The first school houses built were small one room buildings about twenty by twenty four feet. A stove in one end or the middle of the building was used for heating and a high slanting desk ran around the sides of the room, at which the scholars had to stand. In the center were seats made of slabs from the local saw mill with pegs in the ends of them for legs and with no backs. All of the students registered did not go to school at one time, as the younger children went when the weather was good and the older ones in the winter after the farm work was finished. Many of them had to walk a distance of two miles or more as there were no buses in those days. The teacher's pay was small, about ten dollars a month and "boarding round," as that was the custom in those days for the teacher to board at the home of the pupils as part of his pay.

 The tax rate in the Mt. Sinai district in 1914 was 32 cents and the assessed valuation was $310,095. T. J. Davis was sole trustee F. B Randall was clerk, C. W. Wells, collector, Nathaniel Tuthill, attendance officer. In 1960, the rate in this district was $5.43 and the assessed valuation one million four hundred and seventy thousand dollars.

 This is quite a contrast to the cost of running the school back in 1914. Time marches on and surely the children of today have far superior school advantages than those of a century ago.


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