The Schools of Saratoga.


"I consider a human soul without education like marble in the quarry, which shows none of its inherent beauties until the skill of the polisher fetches out the colors." – Spectator .

"Education is to the mind what cultivation is to the soil. If fruit and flowers are not produced, weeds and nettles will spring up. Bishop Taylor once said to a lady, ‘Madam, if you don’t fill your child’s head with something, the devil will."


DIOGENES once ridiculed the laziness and inattention of the Megarensians, who instructed their children in nothing, but paid chief care to their flocks, for he said that he "would rather be the ram of any Megarensian than his son." The people of Saratoga certainly never erred in this respect to the extent thus mentioned by the old cynic. Still, it must be admitted that the pioneers in the settlement of this village seem to have lacked appreciation for learning and sound culture; hence the early schools were of small account.

The most prominent, if not the only teacher of those days, was "Lawyer Blake," as he was called. He was a man of liberal education; and was the first to establish himself as a lawyer in the village. His success in his profession appears not to have been great, and he afterwards opened a school in the Upper Village. He died many years since at the Osborn House. Mr. Smith, commonly known as "Deacon Smith," was a graduate of an Eastern College, and taught, off and on, for a number of years. He was a man of great peculiarities and of great excellences. Then came Mr. Marshall, a Quaker – the author of Marshall’s Spelling Book , a work much used in its day. After that, from year to year, school was taught in the "Old School-house," in Church Street, just north of the old Presbyterian Meeting-house – since known as the Commercial Hotel. This school-house was burned down long since, but there are many yet who have not forgotten it. Students from Union and other colleges would try their skill as pedagogues till a wider field was opened to them. Neither would we fail to mention Miss Dolly Abel, who taught their "A, B, C’s" to generation after generation. She was emphatically the "Village School-Mistress" – a woman of substantial excellence. Miss Pearce, too, was a veteran teacher, who began and finished her course in her own house in Federal Street. Time would fail us to name the multitude of worthy persons who have begun and remained a longer or shorter time in this vocation – Rev. Mr. Duncan, Miss Day, Mrs. Streeter, Miss Ashman, and, latterly, Miss Carrie Carpenter and Mrs. Frederick Root, both of whom have conducted a popular school successfully for many years.

The first boarding and day school for young ladies was opened by the Misses Wayland, on the south corner of Broadway and Washington Streets. The school-house on Washington Street, having undergone various transformations, has at last (1875) been removed to Putnam Street, in the rear of the Congress Hall. It was a very simple and unpretending structure, but it was the scene of many pleasant memories, and was, and is, dear to many hearts on account of cherished associations there formed. There are matrons now presiding over households in all parts of the Union who look back with glad happiness to their school-days passed there. Nor was the WAYLAND SEMINARY without advantage to the town itself. During its continuance it was the custom for weekly "conversations" to be held in the parlors of the school, to which the young gentlemen of the village were admitted. On these occasions, the characters of a play of Shakspere, for example, would be taken by different individuals, and after it had been read, criticism, analysis, and discussion would follow. To the pupils, but especially to the young men, these reunions were of the highest benefit. Nothing is better adapted to give the last polish to the education of a young man than conversation with virtuous and accomplished women. Their society serves to smooth the rough edges of his character and to mellow his temper. In short, the man who has never been acquainted with females of the better class is not only deprived of many of the purest pleasures, but will have very little success in social life. Nor should I like to be connected in the bonds of friendship with the man who has a bad opinion and speaks ill of the female sex. Thus it happened that the Wayland Seminary left an impress on the society of that day which has never been effaced.

Miss Williams afterward opened a school for young ladies in the north part of the village, and she was followed by Miss Martha Thompson. Mr. Carter, in 1854, opened a school for young ladies, which was the beginning of the Temple Grove Seminary – long time in charge of Rev. Luther F. Beecher and now (1875) presided over by Rev. C.F. Dowd.

The first prominent school for boys was opened, in 1836, by Mr. Elijah K. Bangs in the old Methodist Meeting-House – now the "Broadway House" – which he purchased and transformed into a building suitable for his purpose. He resided in the village until 1838, when he removed to Hempstead, L.I., but returned in 1839, and continued to teach in Saratoga until the spring of 1845. {Mr. Bangs’ first wife was a sister of Mrs. William L. Griswold, and a daughter of James G. Watts, for seven years editor and proprietor of the United States Gazette of Philadelphia. She died at Saratoga Springs, June 21, 1843, at the early age of twenty-three. One of her brothers, James C. Watts, edited the Saratoga Whig in 1839. He also died at an early age. Mr. Bangs is still living in New York City, the senior member of the firm of Bangs, Merwin & Co.}

In the spring of 1849, Mr. Paoli Durkee opened a classical school for boys, and continued to teach until the summer of 1858. On first coming to the village he taught in Washington Hall, since occupied by Mrs. Charles Mason and others, but at that time owned by the late Joel Root. {Joe Root died in New Haven, Conn., April 7, aged eighty-four years. He early settled in Galway, but, about thirty years since, purchased Washington Hall, and kept it for a series of years. He then removed to Hartford, where he resided until his decease. Mr. Root retained his vigor of mind and body to the close of a long life, studded with many charitable acts. He was strictly temperate in every sense of the word, and this is owing the hardiness of his later years.} Afterward he purchased the lot adjoining the Hall on the north, and erected on it a dwelling and school-house, into the latter of which he removed his school in 1851. This school has turned out many persons eminent in their several walks of life, having worthy representatives in the mechanical, mercantile, legal, medical, and military professions. Among the latter may be mentioned the late Lieutenant Gouverneur Morris, whose early death, after he had made a brilliant record in the late civil war, excited poignant sorrow throughout a wide circle of friends {Gouverneur Morris was never a robust boy, but, when the Rebellion broke out, his patriotic spirit could not be restrained, and reluctantly his father, General Morris, consented to his entering the volunteer army. Here his health gave way, and he all but lost his life by the hardships of the Shenandoah Valley campaign; after which he was transferred and commissioned a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, still continuing very delicate. He accompanied his father’s remains from Fort McHenry to one of the family vaults at Morrisania, N.Y., in the bitter weather of December; came back to Baltimore with a heavy cold, which terminated in inflammation of the brain, and died in that city on Christmas day, 1865, in his twenty-fourth year. He lies beside his beloved and honored father at his own request. The great-grandmother of Lieutenant Morris was the wife of Lewis Morris, signer of the Declaration of Independence, who is known in history as the beautiful Mary Walton. Lieut. Morris, or "Govy" as he was called by his playfellows, was a favorite with the entire school. He was a boy of the most amiable and winning manners, gentle and kind, yet firm as adamant in maintaining the right. I, as one of his mates, take a mournful pleasure in paying this feeble tribute to his memory.} One great cause, undoubtedly, of the high character and success of this school was, that Mr. Durkee aimed to render study attractive by cheerful surroundings rather than by stern and harsh discipline. Many a delightful summer day has witnessed his entire school reclining on the mossy carpet of the woods at the back of the school-house diligently conning their lessons. Thus invigorated by fresh, wholesome air, the mind was able frequently to grasp problems that, in the vitiated air of the recitation-room, would have been given up in despair. Often, moreover, this kind preceptor, believing that book-learning alone was not all of education, would accompany his pupils in many a pleasant ramble, where they would find

"Tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,

Sermons in stones, and good in everything."

Rev. Mr. Proudfit succeeded Mr. Durkee; then Mr. Robb, now of Oswego. Within a few years Rev. Mr. Crocker has opened a private school, which still (1875) continues under his charge.



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