Yaphank As It Is and Was

from: Yaphank As It Is and Was
Beecher Homan

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



This neat little octagonal building, with its pretty observatory as an apex, stands lonely and unadorned in an open, unenclosed lot, opposite the residence of Doc. James I. Baker.

Around and within it are the indelible marks of the ruthless propensities of Young America.

The village school- house! How meagre and unsensational seems the name of those thousands of isolated repositories of learning that sparkle in the quiet valleys, on the wooded hill-sides, and on the plains of our boundless Home of the Free! How many shouts of genuine happiness, and peals of healthy laughter, have echoed form those cabins of youthful struggles.

How fondly we all- but boys and girls of larger growth- cherish the memories of our school days! How the heart is stirred when the recollections of those pleasant hours bring back to us the merry voices of playmates who now are sleeping the long, long sleep; and whose paths of pleasure, an school-book torn and defaced, are forever forgotten in that golden Mansion of harps and sweet rewards!

How the unbidden tears trickle down our cheeks as we stand, the memory, by the little grave of fear playmate, who laid down his books to die! And how silently the tears are vanished by the recollections of the many boyish battles of those pugnacious followers of the "elementary" Webster!

How we smile as we again " stand at the head of the class," or sullenly walk down the narrow aisle, and shudder at the stern command to "hold out your hand, sir!"

How clearly the roguish faces we saw on the "last day of school" are transformed into a panorama of intermingled joy and sorrow! And how distinctly we saw in the boy and girl the coming man and women.

Why should one speak on scornful depreciation of a country schoolhouse? Do we ever stop to think, in these times of costly colleges and institutions of classical refinement, that men whose appellations are written in letters of living fire, and whose names will never be forgotten, once carved with traditional jack-knife the rude outlines of those self-same names upon rough walls of a log school-house?

Do we ever stop to consider, in these days of Yale honors and Harvard laurels, whether the edifice makes the man or the college course the true gentleman?

Will my friends in Yaphank accept the flattery, when I assure them, that the noble father of their country---Gen. General Washington-never threw spit-balls within as" grand a room," or stole kisses from the attending belles of as "nice" a school as we have in Yaphank?

It is a false conception the lads and lassies of modern times, maintain, when they believe that architectural grandeur is the favored producer of superior intellect; and as everything-ever so humble may it be-has a history, I shall endeavor to give the one coherent with the

For many, 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 alone in an old field in the almost extreme upper part of Upper Yaphank.

There old "Squire Mordecai Homan once "ruled up" the aggravating delinquencies of his home-spun pupils, and there William C. Booth and Brewster Saxton explained the mysteries of the half-explored globe. There William J. Weeks left the head-lights of his boyish propensities. There J. P. Mills, the acknowledged Governor and pompous potentate, engraved the transplendent star of his dry-goods and hardware fame, in the outlines of the din one his father carved before him. There Richard S. Homan and Noah T. Sweezy, the former now dead, but both once prominent New York merchants jumped the whirling rope and kissed the village belles. Indeed, nearly every old gentleman now living in Yaphank, and many that have gone down in the sunset-way, and many that have made bright names in the world, took their initiatory step in education in that old school house.

Generations grew up, and the advance of railroads and science advanced the tastes of the people. In 1856 the dear old ship that had borne so many minds out of the breakers of ignorance into the sea knowledge was abandoned as a landmark of old times, and a new and very convenient building was erected in Central Yaphank.

A prime mover in its erection was William J. Weeks, Esq., who, although he suffered much opposition in the movement, at last achieved his praiseworthy object. The busts of Washington, Franklin, Webster and Clay embellish the walls of the school -room, and were presented by Mr. Weeks.

Mr. Weeks has in his possession a vast amount of manuscript matter pertaining to the district affairs, written and complied during the school war of 1854,'55 and '56. The children were getting education under difficulties. Mr.Weeks took more interest in their welfare than did their parents. He suffered abuse because he wished the district to abandon the old shell of a house that stood " conveniently out of the way," and build the neat and attractive one that hard work, and plenty of it on his part, at last erected for them. Who thanks him? 

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