A Catskill Catalog: June 3, 2009
In 1847, William Stoddard established the Andes Collegiate Institute, an academy. In them-there days, an eighth-grade education was the norm for rural and urban New Yorkers. In the Catskills, literally hundreds of local Common School Districts provided that elementary education to thousands of local students.
A handful of private academies charged tuition to provide secondary education, often preparing older students for college. Delaware Academy in Delhi was established in 1820 and the Delaware Literary Institute in Franklin was founded in 1835. Both continue today as public schools.
The Delaware Literary Institute was incorporated by the state legislature on the traditional birthday of William Shakespeare, April 23, a fact, perhaps, not lost on the 24 men named as the first trustees of the Literary Institute. Its countywide support and appeal is evidenced by Daniel Waterbury’s inclusion on that founding board.
A Town of Middletown minister, Rev. Waterbury, was the son of an Andes pioneer, the first of three prominent Daniel Waterburys, who came to Andes from Connecticut around the time of that town’s founding. The second Daniel, the reverend and academy co-founder, married Mary Lewis Grant, heir to the original Grant homestead, one of the first places in the Town of Middletown. It was there they settled.
A glimpse at the academic offerings of the Delaware Literary Institute gives us an idea of what secondary education meant in the 19th Century. There were separate male and female departments. The English education program included surveying and the mathematics of measuring geometric lengths, magnitudes, areas, and volumes. The “English” program was designed for the practical secondary education of students who would not go on to college.
Latin, Greek, algebra, and geometry were the core subjects for those preparing for higher education. The school charged extra for French, a frill. The female department offered young women physics, geometry, and algebra, along with evidences of Christianity, and moral and intellectual philosophy.
William Stoddard operated the Andes Collegiate Institute for 10 years before selling it to Henry Davie, who enlarged the school and reincorporated it as a stock company. By 1863, six teachers taught 121 students in the academy. That year, the school sent John Taylor to Monmouth College, J.J. Dean to Union College, and R.T. Doig to Westminster College. W.R. Gladstone also graduated from the academy and went on to higher education.
Sometime after the Civil War, the Andes Collegiate Institute died. Perhaps, the death, in an academy building, of the principal, Rev. Peter Smeallie, hastened the school’s demise. Its buildings stood vacant for years, perhaps decades.
Meanwhile, under the authority of the state’s Union Free School Act, several common school districts united to form larger districts, which established graded schools with an academic department, the beginning of today’s high schools. By 1891, graded schools had been established in Roxbury, Griffin’s Corners, Margaretville, Andes, Downsville, Delhi, Hobart, and Walton.
In 1906, Manetha Hilton of St. Louis, owner of the vacant academy property, presented the buildings and grounds to the Andes Union Free Board of Education for the establishment of a high school. Hilton required that the high school be a continuing memorial to his father, so it was called The Hilton Memorial School from its establishment until centralization in 1934.
Manetha Hilton was, no doubt, a descendant of Silas Hilton, a prominent leader in the 1840s Anti-Rent movement, active in politics as an anti-rent candidate for the state assembly and as a two-year Andes Town Supervisor, and seven-year justice of the peace. His grandfather had settled in Bovina, trekking to the Catskills from Connecticut in the years after the Revolutionary War.
Alternately, Catskill Mountain youth might seek further education through appointment to one of the two state normal schools located just outside the mountains. In 1891, the State Normal & Training School at Oneonta had 501 students and a faculty of 13. The State Normal & Training School at New Paltz educated 417 students that same year.
The purpose of the Normal Schools was to train teachers for the common schools, the vast majority of which were still one-room schools in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Appointment was made by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, upon recommendation of the local school commissioner.
The appointee must be at least 16 years old, and present evidence of ability to “read readily and intelligently, spell correctly, write legibly and neatly.” He or she must express a willingness “to enter honorable obligation” to teach in the public schools of the state. I believe tuition was free. Appointment was to the Normal School closest to one’s home.
The Normal Course was for two terms. First term, a student took Philosophy of Education, School Economy, Drawing, Methods of Teaching common branch subjects, and a Course of Reading connected to a teacher’s professional work.
The second term included History of Education, School Law, Kindergarten Methods (very progressive, for the day) Methods of Teaching yet other common branch subjects, a Course of Reading connected to professional work, and Discussion of Educational Themes.
Upon successful completion, graduates received a diploma, but no college degree. Today, all New York State public school teachers must hold both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree to remain certified.