YAPHANK'S 8 Sided School

Thomas Bayles
June, 1947

YAPHANK'S 8 Sided School
Photo from the Longwood Public Library, Thomas R. Bayles collection

Yaphank's 8- sided School

When Brookhaven Town was divided into school districts in 1813, "Number 12 is to embrace the inhabitants of the lower part of Middle Island as far west as Isaac Howells, north to James Dayton's and James Barnaby's." This locality was known as "Down the River," and later Millville. The name Yaphank was given to this settlement in 1845 when the post office was established, as there was already another Millville in New York State.

Yaphank is an old Indian name given to a small river running into the Connecticut or Carman's River near Brookhaven.

Through the village winds the picturesque river, which was originally known as the Connecticut river meaning the long river, and having no connection with the Connecticut river of New England. The name Carman's river in later years was used in connection with it on account of Carman's mills and tavern at South Haven where the Montauk highway crosses the river.

Just when the first schoolhouse was built is not known but it was probably shortly after the district was formed in 1813, and was located a short distance north of the corner on the road to Middle Island.

This was a typical school building of those early days, a small boxlike structure with a fireplace for heating in one end of the room, and later a stove. Desks ran around the sides of the room and the seats were slabs from the local saw mill with pieces of wood stuck in them for legs. This school took in part of Middle Island and what is now Yaphank until 1835 when the district lines were changed and the East Middle Island School district was formed as district 17.

About 1818 the school district reported 71 pupils of school age with 65 attending school, which was taught three months of the year. All the pupils never attended at one time as it was the custom in those days for the older boys and girls to attend during the winter when the farm work was slack, and for the younger ones to attend during the spring and fall when the roads were open and the roads good.

Beecher Homan in his book published in 1875 "Yaphank as it is" has the following to say about the Yaphank school:

For many years the young ideas of the past generations struggled to master the rustic classics in a little red painted, boxed up shanty, bearing the half admissible name of a school house, that stood in alone in an old field in the most extreme upper part of Upper Yaphank. There 'Squire Homan' once 'ruled up' the pupils and William C. Booth and Brewster Saxton explained the mysteries of the half-explored globe. In 1856 the dear old ship that had borne so many minds out of the breakers of ignorance into the sea of knowledge was abandoned as a landmark of old times and a new and very convenient building erected in Central Yaphank."

About 1854 the present site was purchased from John and Betsy Owen for $100, comprising about two acres, a new schoolhouse built shortly afterward with William J. Weeks a prime mover in its erection. A certain eccentricity of Mr. Weeks was reflected in the style of the building, which was octagonal in shape with a cupola for light and ventilation. Mr. Weeks own residence down the road near the Episcopal church was of similar design.

This building served the needs of Yaphank until 1926, when the present school building was built on the same site (now a district storage facility), and in front of the old one. The old building was sold to the Yaphank Fire department and moved a short distance down the street.
Survey done by Richard M. Bayles

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