Early Patchogue Schools

Footnotes to Long Island History

Early Patchogue Schools


Thomas R. Bayles


            When Brookhaven Town was divided into school districts in 1813, Patchogue District 21 “is to embrace the inhabitants west of Patchogue Stream as far west as the Islip line.”  District 20 “is to embrace the inhabitants west of Austin Roe’s as far as the Patchogue Stream.”

            The first school district of what is now Patchogue was established November 3, 1813 as a common school district.  Eventually, four districts served what is now the school district of Patchogue, each having its own school house.  There was a small settlement on West Main Street near what is now Waverly Avenue, and one near the center of the present village, which consisted of one street, Main Street.  Ocean Avenue was then a lane, having a fence at the end of it a short distance below Main Street.

            In the early years the schools appear to have made few reports, and in 1852 the school census showed 609 of school age, 4 years to 21, with an average of 519 in attendance.

            Shortly after the Civil War the matter of consolidating the four districts came up and a meeting was held March 2, 1869, at which time it was voted to consolidate, and the district became No.24.  At this meeting, William L. Preston was chairman and Justus Roe, secretary.  One of the first things to be considered was the choosing of a site and the erection of a central school building.  The site on the east side of Ocean Avenue at Academy Street was purchased from Austin Roe for $2,000.  A short time later a part of this site was sold to the Long Island Rail Road for $600.  Plans for the new building were prepared by J. R. Smith and the committee visited several schools to get ideas for the building, and the one at Huntington seemed to suit them best.  The four old schools were sold for a total of $2,200.  The assessed value of the district was $264,000 on June 2, 1871, the year in which the new building was completed.  The new school and equipment cost $15,824, including fencing of the site.  The school board met for the first time in the new building Sept. 26, 1871, and the new school was dedicated October 16, 1871.

            The reception and board room was in the west room on the first floor.  An early resolution of the board provided that the room should be carpeted and furnished with a center table, lamps, ink stands, pens and paper, spit boxes , and a stove.

            A resolution was adopted in 1871 that the pupils purchase their own text books, which stood until 1925, when the district voted to provide free test books for the first six grades.

            An early resolution imposed a fine of 50 cents upon a board member for absence from a meeting without a good excuse.  At one meeting two members were fined for tardiness and two for absence.

            A. M. Drummond was the first principal from 1871 to 1875, and Davis Baker was janitor at a salary of $100 a year.  Levi Seeley was the second principal from 1875 to 1881.  He was succeeded by Wellington E. Gordon, and he continued until he had completed 38 years of service in the Patchogue schools.  He retired in 1919 with Sheridan Linn as his successor.

            In 1878 it was resolved that the pupil who ranked highest in each graduating class should be offered a position as assistant teacher in the school at a salary of $100 per annum, no person to hold the position for more than one year.  Miss Annie Mulford was the first chosen to this position.

            The new high school, located on a seven-acre plot acquired by gift and purchase was opened in September 1924 with a capacity of over 800 students.

            Among the men who have figured in the history of the schools of this locality perhaps none stood with more force of character than Brewster H. Saxton.  He was one of “the old school,” and taught the school for some time on Ocean Avenue, then called “Slippery Lane.”  This school was composed in part of boys who worked on the oyster boats in the bay during the open season and attended school in the bad weather.  Mr. Saxton did not believe in “moral suasion,” and at one time said, “You may go to the southern slaveholder and convince him of the injustice of human slavery, but don’t waste your breath talking moral suasion to the Bay boys of “Slippery Lane.” 

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