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School Days

A few years ago we wrote a two-part article on the history  of the Ticonderoga Schools as recorded by George Burroughs.  Both of those articles were well received.  For nearly 225 years there has been some form of organized education in the Town of Ticonderoga.  That is a long timeline!   As the new school year is about one month into its first term we thought our readers would enjoy seeing some “snapshots”  from that timeline.  We offer a few of the donated items received in recent months along with material from our archival collections.

In our 2nd floor exhibit room here at the Hancock House there is a school exhibit.  In one of the display cabinets is a page copied from the Diary of  John Hetherington, Ticonderoga’s first school teacher.  It shows a list of students and the amount of wood required  from each student as part of a fee for attendance.  Below  we add a few more pages from that journal.

(Mr. Hetherington was originally hired to be a lay preacher for the area Episcopalians.  Because of his education he was also hired to be a teacher.  He was not here long.  An early map of the Lower Falls area shows that school house to be in the vicinity of today’s location of the Cornerstone Alliance Meeting House which  is located on the eastern side of the old Wood Lot used by the  paper mills that were once  located along the LaChute River at that place.)

168 years later ~ June 1960  exactly, four veteran teachers retired from the Ticonderoga Schools with a combined record of nearly two centuries of dedicated service to our town.   Can you named them? (Gift of William Bolton)

Flavius (Joseph) J. Cook in his “Home Sketches” writes that “the first school houses, built between 1790 and 1800, were warmed by large open fireplaces.”  As he wrote in 1857 ~~ “children of the present generation would be somewhat startled to be sent to school in the morning with a large dog to keep off the bears, to study all day by the crackle of great back-stacks and fore-sticks and the nibbling of snow against the narrow window-panes, to hear the howling of wolves as the mistress called the roll at dusk, and to see her take down a heavy rifle or old musket, perched all day above the door, to guard the way home.

Adirondack Black Bear

Adirondack Black Bear

In early 1858, that young nineteen year student, Joseph  Cook,  initiated a movement to advance the education in Ticonderoga via the premise:  “that it needed a good High School and that town had the ability to support it.”   The evolution from idea to action plan and subsequent  implementation is presented in detail that  same year in his published book  “Sketches of Essex County – Ticonderoga. (Available in our Gift Shop.)


“Joseph Cook”

“Formation Paper for A High School or Academy in Ticonderoga, NY.” “…I.  – The number of young men and women in our district schools; the amount spent yearly in sending children from our town to other places for instruction; the uncertain and inferior privileges offered by our present Select Schools; the desire of parents for some institution near home, less expensive and yet permanent and worthy in which their children can receive that education fitted to the growing demands of the age, are among the considerations which show the need of the proposed High School, not to mention how much such an institution would restrain social evils, strengthen moral reforms, elevate courteous tastes, invigorate public sentiment, and favor the financial interest of the town.”


Site of the original Ticonderoga Academy – Here shown the expanded building before removal to make way for the construction of the more familiar “Central School.”

Memories of Karen Leonard by Jessi Frasier & Yvonne Scoville – “Trout Brook: Truth and Tales”

(A two year project –  researched and presented by Ticonderoga’s Fourth/Fifth  Graders of Mrs.  S. O’Bryan and Mrs. J. Vickers Classes, undated publication. Began as a study in the value of our natural resource of one waterway (Trout Brook) in the Champlain Basin and continued into the second year with the remembrances of those who lived in the valley.)


Mrs. Karen Leonard’s full name is Karen Sue Ross Leonard.  She has lived in the Trout Brook area for thirty six years.  She has lived there since 1958.  She stilllives in the Trout Brook area on New Hague Road.  Other family members who live in Trout Brook Valley are Darlene Dorsett whois her sister and Holly Montville, her neighbor.  Also,  John Smith (deceased) was her neighbor.  The house has been in her family for 27 years. Before July 20th, 1967, Mrs. Leonard’s family lived next to Gordon Cameron.


Track Meet at Silver Bay – Hague & Ticonderoga

Mrs. Karen Ross Leonard’s father worked at International Paper Mill. She went to Hague School.  The house she lived in was small. Before she was born, her living room was a one-room school house.  They used to play hide-and-go-seek.  They used to go in orchards that aren’t there anymore.  Mrs. Leonard’s family used to go to Vermont to buy clothes.  They used to go to Pearl’s Department Store in Ticonderoga to shoes, and they used to go the movies on Sunday afternoons.  Her favorite holiday was Thanksgiving because her whole family was together.  Mrs. Leonard said she notices that there are a lot more houses on this road.  She said there were a lot fewer neighbors when she was younger.  Money doesn’t last as long.  People have smaller families than they used to have.  “The places where we used to play are all grown up.  Our school is gone. I drive by Trout Brook every day.  Each day there are trash bags, a refrigerator, a washer, and mattresses,” said Karen.  She also said people in the summer time have parties and camp all night with bonfires, leaving all their garbage there.

When Mrs. Leonard was a child, Trout Brook was cleaner, it was deeper, and ran faster.  “To me, when I was a child, Trout Brook was bigger, now, it seems smaller and wider.”

Mrs. Leonard had the smallest class in Hague School.  There were only five students in her class.  “I think the teaches had more time to spend with each student.  We used to go Christmas caroling on the bus.  We used to go from door to door,” said Karen.

Mrs. Leonard’s favorite teacher was Mrs. Barnette because she was the kindest and most helpful. Mrs. Cobb always helped them, she gave them a lot of extra help, and Mr. Streeter always brought them home if they stayed after.


West Hague School

For wildlife around Trout Brook there are bears.  Mrs. Leonard has seen fox, deer, porcupines, snakes, raccoons, black squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, and pheasant.

Mrs. Leonard has vivid memories of this area:  There was a sawmill across the road called Hayford Sawmill. They used to bury saws and old cars up in the woods.  There was an old fence line that’s all rusted.  There used to be a lot of trout in Trout Brook.  Mrs. Leonard’s brothers used to go fishing and when they came back there was plenty of fish for a family of ten.  Mrs. Leonard remembers that they used to dam up the brook to make it deeper and on hot summer days they all went swimming.  “In the winter I used to walk up the brook like a trail and there was a pond where we used to snowmobile.”  When Mrs. Leonard went to school one spring day, Smith Flats was flooded.  The bus could not get to school because the road was flooded.

Population shifts, state mandates, building re-use, abandonment and decay, and fires have been some of the factors in the evolution of our schools.

St. Mary’s School temporary class rooms at the Methodist Church, Wicker St., Ticonderoga – 2014/2015

When the new Junior Senior High School on Calkins Place was dedicated in March, 1930 (built at a cost of $500,00) it was written in a newspaper article:  “pronounced by the state educational department one of the finest and most complete school building in the state.”

The ceremonies took place in the school auditorium that had a seating capacity of 1,000, and it was filled to capacity.

Ticonderoga High School - Calkins Place - Re-built in style after the 1930s fire.

Ticonderoga High School, Oct, 2016 – Calkins Place – Re-built in style after the 1930s fire.

The article continues – “the ground and first floor lobby walls are trimmed with Ignore, giving a marble effect and adding to the general beauty of the structure.  Every corridor has a cement wainscoting seven feet high.  The floors in the main lobbies are of terrazzo with marble base and borders, while asphalt tile are installed in all corridors and in the aisles of the auditorium, the laboratories, study hall, library, board of education office, physical director’s rooms and other rooms.  The class room floors are of two-inch maple.

There is a room in the new building for practically every branch of study in the curriculum. Besides the regular class rooms, there is a completely equipped cooking laboratory, kitchen, cafeteria, sewing room, library, biology laboratory, physics and chemistry laboratories, shower and locker rooms for boys and girls, clinic room, rest rooms for teachers and pupils and offices for the superintendent and principal and other school officials.”

High School Auditorium - 1940s - Band

High School Auditorium – 1940s – Band (Gift of Toni O’Bryan)

  1. The Ticonderoga Central School Budget adopted for 2013-14 was:   $18,608,671

  2. In 1925 there were about 59 teachers and staff in the district.  Salaries ranged  –  $1,250 to $3,800

  3. The 1934 student census was 1075

“The auditorium of the new building is declared to be the most beautiful one of its kind in the state.  Luxurious seats, permanently installed, will provide room for a large gathering.  All kinds of stage equipment have been provided and it will be possible to present any type of entertainment.  The doors of the auditorium are covered with leather to add to the richness. The aisle floors are so cosntructe4d that they absorb the noise of footsteps and the acoustics are excellent.

Beneath the auditorium is a large gymnasium with a seating capacity of about 500.  Off the gymnasium are the  boys and girls locker and shower rooms.  The school playgrounds and adjoin the building, offering the children of Ticonderoga plenty of opportunity for recreation.”

Athletic Fields

School Playground  – Alexandria Avenue Schools


Donations welcomed.  Help us preserve our heritage, become a member ~~


10/10/16  wgd

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