The Old Coram Schoolhouse

Footnotes to Long Island History


MAR. 2, 1950


Thomas R. Bayles

       It was on November. 3, 1813, that the Town of Brookhaven laid out School District 10 "to embrace the inhabitants of Coram as far west as James Norton's." On October 24, 1842, the District number was changed to 14.

       Coram, one of the early settlements in Brookhaven town, was the town Capital for many years. Here was held the annual town meetings until 1884, which was the date of the last town meeting. They were held in the house which is now the home of Justice of the Peace Lester H. Davis, and presented a scene of colorful activity each April.

       It was at Coram that the first division of the town into school Districts took place on Tuesday, November. 3, 1813. The boundaries were fixed for the most part, by the distance a boy was able to walk to and from school, and have been generally followed ever since.

       The Coram district went as far west as James Norton's, but no description of the eastern limits was given. The next district to the east included Swezeytown, so the eastern line of Coram must have been about as it is today.

       The first record of a school in Coram is found in 1811, when Dr. Samuel Norton purchased the "meeting house used for a schoolhouse." It stood in the triangle in front of what was then the Baptist Church, now the site of the Methodist Church. The structure was taken apart and some of the material converted into a dwelling which has long since disappeared.

       The building then erected to serve as a school house was located not far from where the present school house stands, and served the needs of the community until 1900, when the present building was erected. A beautiful wooded knoll, known as Mount Tabor, forms the background of the school property.

       The old school house, like those in neighboring country hamlets was furnished with a high slanting desk attached to the wall, which extended all around the room. The pupils had to stand in order to use the desks and backless benches made on sawed slabs from local mills served as seats. Heat was furnished in the early years by a fireplace at the end of the room and in later years by a stove with a long fireplace that could burn a large log of wood and throw out lots of heat. Plenty of heat was needed to offset the cold air coming in through the cracks on the sides of the building.

       In 1852, the Coram school had an enrollment of 44 pupils, ranging in age from 4 to 21, and an average of 36 pupils attending school. In 1872, the number in attendance was 39, and the money raised for the teacher's wages was $224.

       The following recommendation suggests the qualifications required of school teachers in those days.

School Certificates.

       "The subscribers certify that Caleb H. Hammond possesses a good moral character and has kept steady school since he has been engaged in this place. Coram January 15th 1833.

 (signed) Mathusala Overton,
Richard W. Smith,
Samuel F. Norton.

       The Rev. Balcom Shaw, D. D, was one of the early teachers in the school. In later years, he lived in Chicago, where he was recognized as an eminent minister. Mrs. James F. Robertson was the first teacher to be employed in the building built in 1900.

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