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Early Ridge School Tiny

Footnotes to Long Island History

First Ridge School Tiny

by

Thomas R. Bayles

 


         When Brookhaven town was divided into school districts in 1813, the Ridge school was organized as District 22, according to town records. "No. 22 is to Embrace the Inhabitants east of Thomas Aldrich in Middletown extending east to the Wading River Line.”

         The first schoolhouse built in this district shortly after 1813 was a small boxlike building about 20 feet square, located in the hollow on the south side of Middle Country road, opposite the State Game farm.  In 1872 another schoolhouse was built, just up the hill to the west of the old one. This was in use until the new school building was built a few years ago. For many years this building was also used for conducting religious services in connection with the Middle Island Presbyterian church and services were held Sunday afternoons.

         The territory covered by this school district was mostly forests when it was settled by Stephen Randall about 1738 and for many years the cutting and shipping of cordwood was an important industry in this area. Thousands of cords were cut every winter and hauled to the Sound shore where it was loaded on sloops and shipped to New York and up the Hudson River to the brick yards at Haverstraw for curing bricks.

         The early settlers in this isolated section were mostly of the Randall families; and a few of the men who received their early education in this school, and who in later years made their mark in the world included Captain Sylvester Randall, who for 33  years ran a sailing packet line between Port Jefferson and Bridgeport, before the steamboat line was put into operation.

         There was another Sylvester Randall who made a strike in the gold fields of California during the “forty nine" gold rush.  There also were Josiah B. Randall, who for years was manager of a large general store in Port Jefferson; and Jason Randall who took a load of supplies up the Yukon during the Klondike gold rush to the miners who were in danger of starving in the frozen north.

         Other prominent men were Captain Henry M. Randall, who was a sea captain for many years and afterward became president of the Bank of Port Jefferson; Elbert Smith who managed a sheep ranch in the Cascade mountains of California; J. Sturgis Randall, who helped build the city of Norwalk, Conn.; Stephen M. Randall a contractor and builder who helped develop the Greenpoint section of Brooklyn; William G. Miller, who was a bank president and representative in the State Legislature from Queens-Nassau counties for several years; and John G. Randall called the "Father of Freeport” and who was influential in the development and building of Freeport.

         The first schoolteacher in the school house built in 1872 was Miss Cynthia Hutchinson, who was postmaster of Middle Island for many years.

         This school district is a large one and covers Lake Panamoka and the north part of Shirley. It also includes “Longwood,” with its famous old Manor house built around 1790.

         The old homestead is now the home of Elbert C. Smith and his family who inherited it from Miss Helen T. Smith, a direct descendant of Colonel William Smith who settled in Setauket in 1686.  He acquired a vast tract of land from the Indians extending along Middle Country road eastward from the Connecticut River in Middle Island to Horn Tavern, and then south to the ocean. This territory was known as the Manor of St. George and was not annexed to Brookhaven town until1788.

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