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Middle Island School History Unique

Footnotes to Long Island History

Middle Island School History Unique

by

Thomas R. Bayles

 


 

            With the opening of the new $325,000 school in District 16, Middle Island, last week, a brief summary of the history of the school in this district may be of interest to our readers.

            The earliest educational movement in Middle Island is reported in 1800 when a Mr. Hubbard “frequently taught social and business meetings.”  This is supposed to have been the beginning of the first school.  A few years later the Rev. Ezra King, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, taught pupils at his home on the corner across from the church.

            When Brookhaven town was divided into school districts in 1813 this district was formed as No. 11 to take in the residents of the “north part of Middletown and Swezeytown.”  Middle Island was Middletown in those days and was not named Middle Island until about 1820, according to the post office records in the National Archives in Washington.  Middle Island has the oldest post office in Brookhaven town and was first established in 1796.  During the early years, this school district was known as “Middle Island Church District No. 11.”  On October 24, 1842, it was changed to District 16, and has been so known since that time.

 

73 Students

The school census of 1818 reported 73 children of school age, which was then 5 to 15 years.  The first school shown in the picture, located just east of the Presbyterian Church, was built around that time and was a box like building about 20 by 24 feet in size, with a fireplace in one end.  In later years it had a stove with a long fire box that took in a big chunk of wood and threw out lots of heats.  A high, slanting desk ran around the sides of the room, at which the pupils had to stand.  The seats were sawed slabs with two legs at each end without backs.

Votes to Close School

About 1943, the district voted to close the school, as the number of pupils had dwindled to about a dozen, and send the students to the Port Jefferson school by bus, which has been done ever since.  During the summer of 1947, the schoolhouse and land were sold by auction to Christian Krabbe of Yaphank for $3,200.  He in turn sold it to Theodore Swezey, who has made it into a home for his family.

The school report for 1915 in the new school house showed total expenses for operating the school that year of $610, which included $100 for the land on which the building was built.  The teacher’s salary was $12 a week for 32 weeks or a total of $408.  Wood for fuel was $15.50; clearing school grounds, $16.39; janitor, $15 for the year; and building a wood shed, $45.  Taxes collected in the district were $273.50; state money received, $119.36; and money received from county treasurer, $69.27.  They started that year with a balance of $433.26 and finished the year with a balance of $248.20.  Quite a contrast from the budget of last year of over $100,000.

School was usually held eight or nine months a year, and the monthly pay of the teacher was about eight dollars, which also included boards, as the custom of “boarding around” prevailed at that time.  The older boys and girls went to school during the winter, when the farm work was slack, and the younger children in the fall and spring when the weather was good, as they had to walk, some of them long distances.

A special school meeting was held in January, 1914 and it was voted to raise $1,000 to build a new school house, and pay $225 for an acre and a half of land from Thomas Dixon, a short distance up the Half Mile Pond road.  This school house was paid for by taxes raised in that one year.  The old school house, after having served its purpose for nearly 100 year, was sold to Daniel R. Davis of Coram and moved to his farm there for a tenant house.  The new schoolhouse was an up-to-date building for those years and contained one classroom, which was sufficient at that time.  Assessed valuation of district that year was $70,000.

 

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