OVERVIEW OF SCHOOLS IN MARCELLUS, NEW YORK

Submitted by John Curtin

Source: (From Heffernan, Kathryn C.  Nine Mile Country.  Published by Visual Artis Publicans, Inc. 1978. pp. 203-214.  Copyright by the Board of Trustees, Marcellus Free Library, Marcellus, NY)


 The early settlers of the Town of Marcellus were firm believers in education and found the time and energy to provide for the teaching of their children.  The first school in the community was sponsored and taught by the Hon. Dan Bradley in his own home in 1795, and the first school building, which was made of logs, was located on East Hill on the north side of the highway, at 2653 West Seneca Turnpike.  It was so located to accommodate the children from the East Hill settlement as well as those from the Village.  Later a frame building was built on the same site and occupied until the fall of 1807.  The first school in the village was opened about 1808 on the lot behind the Presbyterian Church, and later moved to the site of the powder mill north of the village.  Later a second school was erected on this same site that would serve the children of the village until 1846.  In that year, a new and larger school house, with three classrooms, was built on South (Cherry) Street directly south of the present St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.

 Schools were also built on South Hill and West Hill, and a two-story school at Marcellus Falls was probably built around 1850.  This, no doubt, replaced an earlier small school building.
 By mid-century, schools in the Town of Marcellus included: District No. 1 at Marcellus Falls; No. 2 at the village; No. 3 at Slate Hill and Seal Road; No. 5 on the State Road (now Route 20); No. 6 on Marble Road; No. 7 at Tyler Hollow; No. 8 and No. 9 on East Hill; No. 11 at Thorn Hill; and No. 18, called the Five Corners School at Marietta.   There were also schools at Howlett Hill, Amber, Shepard Settlement, Rose Hill, Spafford,  and Card’s Corners.

 In 1891, the Marcellus Union Free School District No. 2 was organized by the consolidation of District No. 8 on East Hill, and District No. 2 of Skaneateles on West Hill, with District No. 2 in the village.  In the next year a new brick building was erected on West Main Street (27 West Main Street at present), with Matthew I. Hunt as the first principal.  By 1893 the first high school course to be offered in Marcellus was completed with the graduation of six young women.  The six were Harriet T. Kennedy, Nellie E. Matteson, Gertrude C.Morton, Elizabeth C. Powell, Harriet M. Seeley and Florence L. Ward.  Prior to this time, most young people who desired a secondary education had gone to Onondaga Valley Academy or to the Munro Collegiate Institute at Elbridge.  Outside of the Union Free School District, children continued to receive their elementary education in one or two-room schools, reflecting the rural life that was Marcellus at the time.

 In those days, school attendance was not compulsory, but parents were urged to “. . . place their children in those institutions that will give them a rounded manhood and womanhood.”  With the completion of the M. & O.L. (Marcellus and Otisco Lake) Railroad and the trolley line, it was possible for students who had found it previously necessary to board in the Village of Marcellus to commute from home to school.  Students from Marietta, Amber, Rose Hill and Howlett Hill came to school via train and trolley, joining those students from the Village and Town of Marcellus to become one student body.  When the school colors, holly red and green were adopted is uncertain, but they had been the colors of the old high school as is evidenced by the Old Home Week celebration of 1914.  At an alumni dinner that year, E. O. Baker of the class of 1904 offered as a toast, “Still we fight for dear Marcellus and the holly red and green.”
 As the enrollment increased, two wings were added to the original building on West Main Street, and in 1934, the Marcellus High School became the first such school in Onondaga County to become accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.  The school would continue to serve the community until the 1930’s when New York State legislation made available financial assistance for districts which would vote to unite and build a central school large enough to offer students a more comprehensive program of studies, health services and activities.   In 1935, voters agreed to centralization and it was decided a new school building was needed as well.  The old school building was eventually sold and dismantled and a private home was built on the site, now 27 West Main Street.
 In 1934, ten acres of land were purchased from the R. M. Stone farm at the northwest side of the village by the Marcellus Central School District and in 1935 ground was broken for a new centralized school which was to accommodate students from the whole of Marcellus Township and from parts of the surrounding Townships, including parts of Skaneateles, Camillus, Onondaga, Otisco and Spafford.  Using federal funds under the Public Works Administration, a spacious new edifice was completed in 1937 and the first classes were held there in September of that year.    With a faculty of thirty-seven, and Chester S. Driver as the supervising principal, school enrollment would increase tremendously in the years to come and student activities began to add to the social life of the community as well.  In the years after World War II, increased home building and the post-war baby boom combined to make overcrowding a serious problem, and necessitate the building of additional schools.  A survey revealed that no one section had enough children to warrant the building of an elementary school in an outlying area.  Therefore, it was decided to build a primary school adjacent to the original high school.  It opened in the fall of 1954 and later was named after a former and long-time elementary administrator in the district, Kathryn C. Heffernan.  School enrollment continued to increase and by the late 1950’s necessitated the construction of another elementary school on Kasson Road.  That school opened its doors in 1961.
 These elementary pupils eventually became high school students and this created the need for a new building.  In 1964, the voters approved the purchase of additional land from the Stone farm, and a new high school was constructed next to the elementary school on a school campus that today continues to reflect the concern that Marcellus residents have for their children’s education.  It opened in the fall of 1966.

  In 1993, the Marcellus Central School District conducted its 100th Commencement Exercises.  In that 100 years, it has graduated over 7000 students and continues to remain as dedicated to education today as those early Marcellus pioneers.


Submitted 12 March 1999