This school history was written by George F. Burroughs, long time school teacher and principal within the Ticonderoga School system. It was written as a featured article for the Ticonderoga’s Two Hundredth Anniversary celebrated in 1964.
Clayton H. DeLano
“The story of the early schools of Ticonderoga is best described in excerpts from the address of The Honorable Clayton H. Delano delivered to The Monday Club on February 12, 1908.
“……Public schools in this region were first established in the last decade of the 18th century. The region was not then Ticonderoga, but a part of Crown Point, from which this town was not set off until March 2, 1804. These early schoolhouses were located where most convenient for the scholars…it was not until 1813 that the town was divided into school districts with regular boundaries…the old log schools were supplanted many years later by frame buildings…often the wood was hauled to the school house in sled lengths, cutup from day to day and carried in by the big boys of the school…..these primitive conditions did not materially change until after 1850…I can remember going with larger boys with sleds to the fields to get pine stumps and haul them on the snow crust to the school house to mix with the green hard wood before we could make a fire that would heat the school room…
“…the school in the district now known as South Ticonderoga, but then called “Tuffertown,” was composed of the farmers’ sons and daughters, many of them men and women grown, but their only means of getting any education was in their district school; as a whole, they were an intelligent class of boys and girls, and young men and women, and shrewd enough to know when they were imposed upon by an incompetent teacher, and independent enough to resent it. “The winter term before, a young man of the town had been engaged to teach school. The term had hardly begun before he demonstrated his total incapacity to either teach, or control the scholars, many of whom were further advanced in their studies than he. It was a fine part of the town for growing the small, white field bean, the soil being especially adapted to their abundant growth. The boys used to fill their pockets with beans, take them to school, and among other was of annoying the teacher, such as stealing his Key to the Arithmetic, etc., would pelt him first on one side and then on the other with beans, he being never able to discover the real culprit; finally it ended about the middle of the term in the scholars expelling the teacher from the building, and to the music of horns, cow-bells and tinpans, escorting him on the run, half way to the village. “The trustees were discouraged, but the next winter they asked me to try the school, William H. Cook, one of the trustees, saying, “Bring along a crow bar and knock down anyone that makes trouble.” So I started with the trustees on my side. I opened the school with a little talk about its reputation, but that I knew they were capable of better things, yet if they were impelled to bring beans to school, I would advise them to bring them cooked as I was more fond of them in that way.
“…It was about such a school that the young man I mentioned, who was Joseph Cook, was teaching at the Street, (Street Road) and it was here that he saw, if not for the first time, yet more clearly than ever the great need of better advantages for securing a higher education in the town such as an Academy would gie. He says he first consulted his father and also Edward Downs, both of whom approved of his project. He drew up a paper embodying his ideas which was as follows: “Formation Paper for a High School or Academy in Ticonderoga, N.Y. It is believed that Ticonderoga (1) needs a good High School and (2) that the town is able to support one….. Therefore, it is proposed by the favor of Providence to take measures for founding and sustaining a permanent and worthy High School or Academy in “Ticonderoga, N.Y., after the following plan: citizens of the town shall be stockholders of the institution to incur first all expenses of starting the school and to receive in return all the proceeds, arising from tuition, or board furnished by the establishment from which teachers’ salaries and all other outgoes necessary for the worthiest support of the school shall be paid….. Armed with this document, with a subscription paper attached, he, cook, took his father’s horse and cutter and started out for subscriptions. He first called on Russell Bly at the Street, a retired lumberman and farmer, a man with little education, but of strong convictions and the courage to stand by them, he subscribed one hundred dollars, a large sum for those days, but with the understanding as Mr. cook has recorded, that there should be “no sham nor failure.” Next he called on all farmers at the north part of the town and down the Center road to the village and that night he rested with one thousand dollars pledge ledged to the enterprise and success in sight.
” A public meeting was called at a hotel kept by Major Tefft, the first hotel in the lower village, and which stood opposite the American Graphite office, (approximate area today across from Champlain Legacy Park)…The question of a site for the proposed Academy was discussed, some favoring a site near Mount Hope and others some locality between the Upper and Lower Falls, as the two villages were then called; considerable feeling on the question was manifested, but finally a Committee on Site was appointed with Col. William E. Calkins as chairman, and the meeting adjourned until February 18th, at the same place…Finally a vote was carried “appointing Joseph Cook and myself a committee to visit the different proposed sites on the south side and report. …… The next meeting of the Academy Association was held on the first day of April, and on that day Mr. Cook for the committee appointed to select a site, made the following motion: “In view of the failure to obtain a site on Mount Hope; in view of the preference of districts containing a majority of the scholars of the town; in view of the cost of any other location: in view of the fact that this land is a free gift to the association by Mr. Ellice, through his agent, that the stockholders do fix upon Lot No. 6 and a part of the Lot No. 8 of block No. 6 as represented on the donor’s map, these lots containing about one acre and lying in the woods between the residence of H. G. Burleigh and William E. Calkins, for the location of the proposed Academy….This motion led to a very warm debate between the advocates of a site on the north and south sides of the stream (today called LaChute River)…The residents of the south side would not go in, or help in any way if the Ellice site was not chosen. The proposed Academy could not be built or maintained without their assistance, so the majority yielded to the minority and active operations at once begun for the erection of an Academy.”
George D. Clark, George C. Weed and William E. Calkins were appointed a Building Committee. They let the contract for a building 36×50 feet, two stories in height to cost $2,300. including the seats. The corner stone was laid on the 21st day of August, 1858, and the building occupied early in December. Dr. Samuel Abbott, who afterwards became a prominent physician in Boston, was its first principal…”
(Ed. Notes -(1) The first documentation of a school was located on the old fort garrison grounds in 1792, John Hetherington, first teacher. He served two years. (2) “Samuel Warren Abbott,” principal at the Ticonderoga Academy (1858-59) went on to become a well know leader in the public health movement, helping to establish vital statistics as a field of study. He graduated by Brown University in 1858 and Harvard University Medical School in 1862. At the beginning of the Civil War joined the US Navy as an assistant surgeon and served until 1864, later transferring to the US Army and was appointed as surgeon to the First Massachusetts Calvary. He died on October 22, 1904 in Newton, MA. (3) Ticonderoga Academy was located (today) just north of new Ticonderoga Emergency Building. It was in operation from 1859 to 1871. In 1871 the Ticonderoga Union Free School District was organized and continued to 1954 when a Central School District was formed. (4) “Home Sketches of Essex County – Ticonderoga” written by the twenty year old Flavius J. Cook (1858) has an extensive documentation of the formation of the Ticonderoga Academy. A reprint is available in our Gift Shop. (5) “Mr. (Edward) Ellice” was an English absentee landlord and purchased large acreage in the Town of Ticonderoga from original land grantees and land speculators. (6) 1976 Graduate, Beth Jordan (Iuliano) is a trustee of THS and 1986 Ticonderoga High School Valedictorian (1986 Newsletter) is the daughter of trustee Tina (Phillip) Huestis.