City of Syracuse

Submitted by Robert T. Bond

Source:  Dwight H. Bruce (ed.), Onondaga's Centennial.  Boston History Co., 1896, Vol. I, pp. 545-548.

The schools of early Syracuse were primitive in character, limited in number, and very little record is left of their existence. The first school taught within the present limits of the city was by Capt. Edward O’Connor, probably in 1797, in Salina or Liverpool, or both. Capt. O’Connor settled in Oswego in 1796, having been attracted thither by what he saw while serving as a Revolutionary soldier in Col. Marinus Willet’s hapless band who made a winter expedition in 1783 to capture the Oswego forts, and came near perishing in the frost. Capt. O’Connor returned to Salt Point before the winter of 1796-7. He was a well educated Irishman, and his daughter, born in Salina in 1797, married Alvin Bronson, one of the foremost citizens of Oswego.

Besides O’Connor’s Salina school, others were undoubtedly taught during the first quarter of a century in Salina, in Geddes, and possibly in Syracuse; but there is no record of the fact. Education was not neglected, but it mainly fostered in private or select schools. Beginning in 1826, Welthy Ann Lathrop, a widow, taught a select school in a building supplied by Capt. Joel Cody, in rear of the First Baptist church; this school continued many years. In 1828 a school was taught in a house on East Genesee street, within the bounds of the then village of Lodi, which became merged in the later school on East Fayette street. - This became known as the “cold water school,” through the temperance advocacy and influence of Oliver Teall. In 1830 Miss Guthrie taught a private school in a building called “The Wheeler House,” on the corner of Salina and Center streets, in what is now the First Ward. During six months of the year 1835 George F. Comstock taught a select school in the upper story of a building then standing on the site of the Bastable block. He was elected inspector of schools for the town of Salina in 1837. In early years there was in existence the Salina Institute on Turtle street, between Park and Salina streets. D. C. Leroy and Dr. James Foran were at different times teachers in this institution. Dr. Mather Williams erected a building of temporary character on Water street near Clinton, for the Misses Chamberlain in which they taught a select school for girls. The building was neither ceiled nor plastered, and on the approach of cold weather the school was removed to a room fitted by Capt. Hiram Putnam, in the upper part of his dwelling on Montgomery street. This school was soon given the name of the Montgomery Institute, thus making up in name, perhaps, what it lacked in other respects. Among the teachers of this “Institute” were Miss Richardson, Miss Alexander, the Misses Newton, Miss Fitch, Miss Collins, Miss Laurie, and Miss Gould; some of these teachers were from distant places. It is probable that Miss Amelia Bradbury also taught in this institution, or its successor on the same subject, and the standard of education was well advanced. French, Latin, drawing, music, and later the sciences were taught, and Miss Bradbury numbered among her pupils many who afterwards became heads of the leading families of the village and city.

Miss Emily Chubbuck, afterwards the wife of Adoniram Judson, a famous missionary to Burma, taught a select school at one period in a small building on the site of the McCarthy wholesale stores, corner of Clinton and Water streets. From September, 1847, to June, 1861, Madame A. J. Raoul taught a select school in the city, which gained an enviable reputation. She was an accomplished teacher of French and music and continued teaching the language to a few pupils until 1872 (she died in 1875), when growing infirmities brought her labors to a close.

Besides these there was a high school taught for several years after about 1840, which has not been noticed in any publication bearing upon the subject, as far as known. A catalogue is at hand printed upon a single sheet about nine by twelve in size, headed “Catalogue of the Church Street High School, Syracuse, N. Y., winter term, 1841-2. J. L. Mayo, Principal. J. Mayo and Marietta Dean, Assistants.” J. L. Mayo was father of Levi S. Mayo, now of Syracuse, and J. Mayo was brother of J. L. The former lived very near the site of the present Hier flats and on his house lot built a school house, where this high school was taught a number of years with a good degree of success, as will be seen by the appended list of pupils for the term mentioned. It is given space here for its historical value and for reference.

Males - D. L. Alvord, De Witt C. Adams, Spencer Ballou, Charles Baker, Nicholas Bush, Mark Bush, D. C. Bradley, Orson Barnes, Hiram Brower, Joseph Behn, John Conklin, John Carroll, J. S. Collins, Silas Church, Henry Case, Ira Clark, George Dickinson, Henry D. Dennison, Christopher Dillanback, Alexander Dillanback, Richard Driscoll, Hartwell E. Farrar, H. P. Fellows, Frederic Foreman, George Gillaspie, Martin Gallaspie, H. Henry Hess, T. J. Hall, Mark Hullin, James Hunt, B. F. Wilcox, S. r. Killmor, Edward Leverich, Alonzo R. Morgan, Charles P. Morse, D. L. Moffitt, George McBride, Wm. McDougall, Alexander R. Mackley, J. M. McGowan, Alexander McKinstry, William McKinstry, John McQuaid, J. H. Mayo, Levi Snow Mayo, Henry Noxon, Francis Olds, W. H. Peabody, Henry Pearson, I. Merritt Reynolds, Joseph L. Rhoades, A. G. Spencer, W. H. Stephens, A. H. Taylor, J. H. Walrath, Collins Wood, Stephen Whiston, John Wynkoop, Charles Wellington, De Witt C. Weiting, Dennier Whittaker. Females - Nancy A. Cook, Mary Collins, Harriet Collins, Caroline Gardner, Sarah Haggerty, Elizabeth Kelley, Rebecca E. Lowell, Sarah C. Mayo, Sophronia T. Mayo, Rosette Pryne, Sarah Sweet, Lucinda  Wales, Anna Waggoner.

The “Conditions” attached to this circular were “two to five dollars per term of 11 weeks.” Very few of this list of students are living in this vicinity; those who are have pleasant memories of the school.

In 1835 a charter was obtained for the Syracuse Academy, chiefly through the efforts of Aaron Burt, Harvey Baldwin, and Oliver Teall, who owned lands in the eastern part of the city. Mr. Baldwin donated a lot, and under many discouragements a brick building was finally erected on “Lodi Hill,” East Fayette street, which was supplied with competent teachers and supported by the benefactions of its founders. The first principal was a Mr. Kellog, of New York, who was succeeded by Orin Root, many later years a professor in Hamilton College. During one period A. G. Salisbury, who was the first clerk of the Board of Education in Syracuse, was its principal. At later periods the academy was conducted by Joseph A. Allen and Oliver T. Burt. But the institution did not prosper. Jealousies in reference to it were awakened, interest in the public schools became more active, and district school houses multiplied and to them was drawn much of the sympathy and patronage of the public. While the cause of education at large profited by the establishment of the academy, its founders lost in money and time, became discouraged, and the institution was abandoned, to eventually become the home of the helpless orphan and the abode of charity - The Onondaga County Orphan Asylum.

Submitted 1 November 1998