Schoolhouse Museum

Old District No. 1 Schoolhouse

The New York State Legislature established a system of common schools in 1795 which empowered towns to elect school commissioners, build common schools, employ teachers, appoint trustees and raise taxes.

Four early schools have been documented in Clarksville, now the hamlet of Middlefield. The first was established about 1807, largely through the efforts of Joshua Pinney, a local tavern keeper and entrepreneur. It was located across from the present day Baptist Church. By 1870 Clarksville had become a thriving community and needed a new, larger school building. On April 1, 1871 the trustees of the district bought a parcel of land from George Clarke, of Springfield, for $300. Unfortunately, they never received a deed. When the bulk of the Clarke holdings were lost in bankruptcy, the schoolhouse parcel was acquired by a Rome, NY banker and the trustees had to re-negotiate the purchase in 1904.

The school building was constructed in 1875 on a rise of land on the east side of the Cherry Valley Creek. It is reported that the Galer brothers walked from their farms on Galer Hill (now Roscoe Jones Road) to the site and, for $.75 a day, erected the two-story frame building. It featured a large front double door with interior separate entrances to each of the two first-floor classrooms. There were double hung six-over-six pane windows, wide projecting eaves with Italianate brackets, a belfry, an attached single-story wood shed, and an outhouse.

Trustee Minute Books, now at the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown, N. Y., provide a record of changes and improvements to the building, including many which were required by the State. The trustees built a fence to separate the adjacent saw mill property, changed the front doors to have windows, and installed new toilets inside part of the wood shed. Additional windows were installed for more natural light. It was not until 1939 that the building was wired for electric lights and receptacles, even though the rest of the hamlet was electrified 10 years prior. Finally, in 1950 a well was drilled to provide water.

In 1954 the District voted to consolidate with the Cherry Valley District and the property was turned over to the new District. Students, teachers, school supplies, the bell and some furnishings went to the central school located in the village of Cherry Valley. The bell was returned after the association leased the building.

For a more detailed history of the State Public School System and the District No. 1 School, the booklet "A History and Celebration, 1974" is available in the Old School Gift Shop at the museum.