Schoolhouse #16



School District 16. This school replaced the first school on Middle Country Road.
Photo courtesy of Nassau County Museum.

Presbyterian Church and Schoolhouse, Photo courtesy of Longwood Public Library, Thomas Bayles Collection, CS 3-15


District 16 schoolchildren circa 1890. Names: top row, left to right, Shepard Ritch, Joseph Swezey, Leon Edwards, Richard M. Bayles, Celia Swezey, Ethel Swezey, Sadie Murthay, Gertrude Swezey. bottom row, left to right, Israel Reid, Walter Danz, Hewlett Mott, Lucy Swezey, Ida, Jessie Davis, Ines Swezey, Lilian Danz, Leroy Swezey

In the Days of the Old One- Room Schoolhouse
By Thomas Bayles, Local Historian
Patchogue Advance
March 14, 1957

A typical example of the old one room schoolhouse in which most of the boys and girls of small communities received their education during the last century is shown in the picture at right. This schoolhouse was located in the present West Middle Island District No. 16, just east of the Presbyterian Church, and was built about 1813.

The earliest educational movement in Middle Island is reported in 1800, when Mr. Hubbard "frequently taught social and business meetings." This is supposed to have been the beginning of the first school. The Rev. Ezra King also taught pupils at his home on the corner opposite the church.

When the town was divided into school districts in 1813 this district was formed as No. 11, "to embrace the Inhabitants of the North part of, Middletown and Swezeytown." During the early years this district was known as "Middle Island Church District No. 11." On October 24, 1842. it was changed to District No.16, and has been so known since that time.

The school census of 1818 reported 73 children of school age, which was then 5 to 15 years. As most of these early school buildings were not over 10 x 24 feet in size it may be wondered how so many children could he accommodated in one room. This is explained by the custom of the older pupils attending school during the winter months when the farm work was slack, and the smaller children coming during the spring and fall when the weather was good. In this way probably not more than one half the total number registered, attended at one time.

A high slanting desk was attached to the wall and extended around the sides and end of the room, at which the pupils had to stand in order to use it. For seats sawed slabs from the local mill, with two legs at each end, were used. These of course had no backs. Heat was furnished in the first years by a fireplace at one end of the room, and in later years by a stove with a long firebox that took in a large chunk of wood and threw out lots of heat. Plenty of heat was needed to offset the fresh air coming in through the cracks around the sides of the building. School was usually held eight or nine months in the year, and the monthly pay of the teacher in those days was about $8 to $9, which also probably included board, as the custom of "boarding around" prevailed at that time.

Among the heads of families residing in the present limits of this district in 1818 were the following: Albert S. Davis, Sylvanus Overton, Isaac Hulse, John Buckingham, Daniel Overton, Israel Smith, Daniel Petty, Lewis Ritch, Isaac Gerard, George Brown, Gershom Overton, Isaac Swezey, the Rev. Ezra King, Beniamirk Hallock, William Swezey, Nathaniel Hudson, John Hudson, Daniel Woodhull, James Swezey, Stephen Swezey and Jonathan Edwards.

The old schoolhouse was abandoned in 1914, after having served its purpose well for a hundred years, and a new one was built in that year a short distance north on the Swezeytown road. This was an up-to-date building containing one classroom, which was sufficient for the needs of 'the district at that time. No great bond issue was sold to finance the construction of this building, as it was built and paid for in one year. The old building was sold to Daniel R. Davis of Coram, who moved it to his farm for a tenant house. Several years later it burned down.

About five years ago the school was closed by a vote of the district and all the pupils were sent to school in Port Jefferson by bus. During the summer of 1947 the present building and land was sold at auction, and purchased by Christian Krabbe for $3, 900, which was about three times the original cost in 1914. At the present time the district has no building and owns no property, although the school population is growing rapidly, caused mainly by the growth of the Gordon Heights development.

According to a report in The Advance of April 14, 1877, the number of children of school ages in the district in that year was 46, and the daily average attendance was 17. The salary paid the teacher for that year was $112.36, and $1.55 was allowed for library purposes. In 1947 $13,710 was raised by the district for tuition and bus transportation of the pupils to the school at Port Jefferson, which is more than it cost to run all the schools in Brookhaven town in 1877.

Note- The West Middle Island School stood just east of the Presbyterian church, and was built shortly after 1813 on a small plot of ground almost in the road. This was in use until 1914, when a new one-room school was built a short distance north on Church lane at a cost of 1,000.This school was closed in the late 1940's and all the pupils sent to Port jefferson for several years until the present school was built in 1956 on Swezey lane. Until the school was completed, classes were held at the local Estonian center.

West Middle Island 1913. Top row , boys at left holding catcher's mask and bat.
Three little boys standing in front: Fred Butler, Robert Hagen, Edward Swezey.
Second Row: Ace swezey, William Butler, Edward Butler, Robert Edwards, Leroy Albin, Alice SwezeyAnn Swezey, Mary Hula,.
Third row; Rhoda Swezey, Raymond Ritch, Arden Benjamin (with the baseball bat), Harry Krause, William Hula, Richard Swezey,Nettie Benjamin, Mary Edwards

Top Row: Mrs. Hopkins, John Hula, Frank Hagen, Beatrice Ritch, Grace Edwards, Gwendolyn Miller, Mae Hagen

Ask anyone from Middle Island and they will tell you "West is Best". There was a time when the best were a bit unruly. Not to worry this group matured and went on to become members of the "greatest Generation".  There was a meeting that was held to see if the school should be closed, one of the charges included students tying a teacher to a tree outside the school house. When the school was reopened the first teacher was an ex Army Sergeant formerly stationed at Camp Upton.


WMI 1893

West Middle Island Circa 1893
Front Row-Left to Right

Shepherd (Shep) Ritch
Israiel (Izzie) Reed
Hewlett Mott
Lillian Danag
Elsie Viertel
Walter Dang
Fred Mott

Back Row:
Joseph (Sug) Swezey
Grace Westbay
(No First Name) Shaw
Leticia Randall-Teacher
Gertrude E. Swezey
Gussie Davis
Lucy Swezey
Leroy Swezey
Christine Swezey 
(No First Name) Shaw

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