Town of Pompey

Submitted by Kathy Crowell

Source:  Dwight H. Bruce (ed.), Onondaga's Centennial.  Boston History Co., 1896, Vol. I, pp. 608-611.

Among the deeds that reflect the most honor upon the town of Pompey was the founding of its celebrated academy within a few years of the first settlement made in the town.  As early as January, 1800, a petition of the inhabitants of the town and vicinity for the incorporation of an academy at Pompey was addressed and sent to the Regents of the University.  The petitioners requested that the institution should be called the Franklin Academy, and should have the following persons as its first Board of Trustees:  Ebenezer Butler, jr., Timothy Jerome, William Stevens, Jeremiah Gould, Phineas Howell, Elihu Lewis, Dan Bradley, Comfort Tyler, James Knapp, John Lamb, Elijah Rust, Deodatus Clark, Hezekiah Olcott, David Williams, Walter Colton, Joseph Smith, James Beebee, and John Kidder.  The petitioners evinced their determination to provide the best facilities possible for the education of their children in the liberality with which they subscribed for the establishment of the institution.  A movement of this character, inaugurated so early in the century, endorsed by so large a proportion of the prominent men of the community, and backed up by such generous contributions, considering the scarcity of money at that time, may be considered wonderful in its every aspect.  The signers of the petition with the amount of their subscriptions follow:

Eben Butler, jr., $100; Asa L. Smith, $125; John Kidder, $100; Freeman Lewis, $50; George Catlin, $50; Walter Colton, $100; Hezekiah Olcott, $50; Chauncey Jerome, $50; Joseph H. Smith, $30; Timothy Jerome, $75; John Jerome, $50; Josiah Moore, $25; Joseph Strong, $25; Daniel C. Judd, $25; Gad Loveland, $25; James Beebee, $25; Solomon Owen, $50; Reuben Pixley, jr., $50; Isaiah Olcott, $40; Jonathan Eastman, $30; John Fowler, $30; Daid Williams, $30; Thomas Mighells, $30; Jesse Butler, $50; Salmon Butler, $50.  The total of these subscriptions was $1,315.

The petition came before the Regents at a meeting on March 17, 1800, and was referred to a committee of the board, consisting of Judge Benson and Simeon De Witt, who reported at a meeting held March 31, 1800.  There was then probably no academy in Onondaga county, and there seemed to be some doubt as to the propriety of locating the only one in the county in this town.  At the meeting just mentioned a resolution was adopted referring the question of location of the academy to the Board of Supervisors of the county.  They met on the first Tuesday in October, 1800, and reported favorably upon Pompey Hill as a proper place for the institution.  In the spring of 1801 the regents resolved to make the granting of a charter to the academy conditional upon the erection of a suitable building.  A committee consisting of Manoah Pratt, Henry Seymour and Samuel S. Baldwin was appointed to have charge of the erection of the building, and they made an agreement dated July 20, 1807, under which William Lathrop and George W. Wood agreed to do the work on the building.  The contract price for the labor was $200.  On the 2d of March, 1810, William Lathrop, one of the builders, signed the following:  Agreed this 2d of March, 1810, to relinquish the unfinished part of the within-mentioned job, and to accept of one hundred and forty dollars in full of what has been done.

The details of the work which Wood and Lathrop agreed to do indicate that the building itself was already erected, and as far as known it was commenced in about the year 1803 by Mr. Lathrop.  In July, 1810, a new subscription was raised, the committee agreeing in the paper to procure the completion of the academy for $450.  In the fall of that year the building was finished and paid for, and there remained $1,450 to serve as an endowment to provide for a net annual revenue of $100, which was required to secure the charter.

In February, 1811, the final steps for the incorporation of the school were taken, and a petition, numerously signed, from which the following extract is taken, was sent to the Regents:

Your petitioners have at great expense procured a suitable site, consisting of two acres of land, near the center of said town, and erected a large and commodious building, 40 by 50 feet on the ground, two stories high and completely finished and painted inside and out, and paid for.

Your petitioners have also procured a fund of $1,450, to be subscribed for the purpose of producing a net annual income for the support of the said institution, and that the same is well secured to Samuel S. Baldwin, Henry Seymour and Manoah Pratt, as trustees, for the sole use of said academy, at an annual interest of seven per cent.

Wherefore, your petitioners request that the said academy may be incorporated and be subject to the visitation of the Regents of the University of the State of New York; and they nominate for the first trustees of the said academy the following persons, to wit:  Henry Seymour, senior trustee, and Samuel S. Baldwin, Daniel Wood, Manoah Pratt, Ithamar Coe, Asa Wells, Hezekiah Clark, John Jerome, Silas Park, Jacobus De Puy, Daniel Allen, Chauncey Jerome, Daniel Tibbals, Joshua Johnson, Dirck C. Lansing; Benjamin Sanford, Charles C. Mosley, William J. Wilcox, Jonathan Stanley, jr., Levi Parsons, William Cook, Victory Birdseye, Jasper Hopper, James Geddes; which persons we pray may be incorporated by the name, style and description of "Pompey Academy," with a condition in the act of incorporation that the said principal sum of the said fund shall never be diminished or appropriated, and that the income of the said principal fund shall be applied only to the maintenance of salaries of the professors or tutors of the said academy.

This petition was signed by sixty-three leading citizens of the county; it was drawn by Victory Birdseye and sworn to by Henry Seymour before Daniel Wood, the early lawyer and justice of Pompey.  By a vote of the Regents March 11, 1811, the institution was incorporated under the name of :"the Trustees of Pompey Academy."  At a meeting held April 4, 1811, Henry Seymour was elected president, Victory Birdseye secretary and Daniel Wood treasurer.  The old academy was a yellow, wooden building, 40 by 50 feet, two stories high, with the gables fronting north and south.  A hall ten feet wide ran through the middle of the first floor, with study rooms on each side.  In the second story was the chapel, occupying nearly the whole of the upper part of the building.  After the erection of the district school house and the removal thereto of the common school, the west room of the academy became the chemical and philosophical laboratory and lecture room.  In the chapel church services were conducted many years until the erection of the Congregational church.

In 1833 the old building had become dilapidated and unsuitable for its purpose, and it was resolved to build a new structure.  Subscriptions for this purpose had been solicited during the preceding year or two, and the new building was finished and opened in the fall of 1835.  The old building was vacated in 1834, the school being taught in the mean time in the district school house.

Timothy Butterfield erected the new building, which cost about $3,000, and the preceptor's house and extras, completed in 1836, cost nearly $1,300.  As far as known the following persons taught in the common school prior to 1820:

Abraham Plaunt, three or four winters; Smith Dunham, 1813-14; Harvey Canfield, 1814; Miles Dunbar, jr., 1814-15; Orange Butler, 1815; J. J. Deming, 1816-17; Daniel Gott, 1817-18; Daniel Munson Wakely, 1818; Manoah Pratt, three winters; B. Franklin Chappell, one winter.  The first teacher employed in the academy was Ely Burchard, at a salary of $350, from December, 1811, to October, 1813.  In September, 1813, Rev. Joshua Leonard was employed to take charge of the academy as principal, at a salary of $500, and Smith Dunham at a salary of $300.  Mr. Leonard continued in his position until 1822, during most of which period he was also pastor of the Congregational church.

On the 20th of May, 1811, Henry Seymour, Daniel Tibbals and Victory Birdseye were elected a prudential committee of the institution.  One of their acts of October, 1815, was to order the treasurer to pay "the bearer, the captain of the band of musick, thirty-four dollars for the services of said band at the exhibition of said institution."  This order was receipted by John Hoar, who must therefore have been the captain of the band.  Another recorded item was the payment for "horse bate," for the musicians.

During the long life of this locally celebrated institution there studied within its walls and went out from it to the active duties of life many men who afterwards became eminent in public and private professions and industries...

Submitted 7 August 1998