KINDERHOOK, COLUMBIA COUNTY, NEW YORK
By Capt. Franklin Ellis61
Hendrick Abelsen was the first schoolmaster in Kinderhook of whom any account has reached us. He combined with his duties the office of church prescentor. The time of his service was before 1700. Paulus Van Vleck was his successor, but how long he remained, or who followed him, we have no means of determining. Most likely the pastors of the Dutch church also instructed the youth of the members of that body; and the early schools of the town were undoubtedly controlled by the church officials.
In 1778, Andrew Mayfield Carshore opened an English school at Kinderhook, which he conducted successfully ten or twelve years. David B. Warden followed, although perhaps not immediately after Mr. Carshore's leaving, as the principal of what was then known as the Kinderhook Academy. He was at the head of the school in 1799. A few years after, Elijah Garfield, an excellent scholar and linguist, became the principal, but was succeeded, in 1813, by Joseph Montague.
We have learned nothing that assures us that the Kinderhook Academy, so called, was more than a well-conducted select school, which gave place, in 1823, to the present academy.
The loss of the town records prevents an account of the early public schools. There are at present ten districts, maintaining excellent schools. In Valatie and Kinderhook villages these take unusually high rank, and are taught in buildings whose appearance and convenience of arrangement are not excelled in the county. It is said that Washington Irving taught the school in district No. 6, while a youth, and that his acquaintance with the early settlers and their traditions, there acquired, enabled him to write his "Knickerbocker's History of New York" with such fidelity to the Dutch character.
THE KINDERHOOK ACADEMY*
The preliminary meeting which led to the formation of this school was held March 13, 1823, and was composed of the leading citizens of the place. The measures which they adopted secured the use of the second story of the public school-house, which was in the immediate neighborhood of the Reformed church. A guarantee fund of one thousand and fifty dollars, to secure the salary of a principal, was subscribed, and the academy regularly organized by electing a board of trustees, composed of Dr. Henry L. Van Dyck, president; Peter Van Schaack, Jr., secretary and treasurer; Peter I. Hoes, John I. Pruyn, James Clark, John L. Van Alen, John G. Philip, Francis Silvester, and John P. Beekman.
Professor John Glezen, formerly principal of Lenox (Massachusetts) Academy, was installed principal of the new institution, and remained connected with it four years. He was succeeded by his assistant, Silas Metclaf, a graduate of Williams College, who watched over the school with the greatest fidelity for twenty years. During his régime a female department was added to the school, and also a department for normal instruction. In 1836 the school outgrew its quarters, and a new academy building, the one now in use, was erected. The records give an account of quite an extended programme of its dedication, including an oration by Hon. Francis Silvester.
In 1847 Mr. Metcalf resigned his position, and Mr. Alexander Watson, a graduate of Edinborough University, assumed the charge of the school, and this, traditionally, is the highest point which the academy reached in its past history. Mr. Watson was a man of ripe scholarship, of rare literary attainments, remarkable skill in inspiring his pupils with his own enthusiasm, and in addition, a peculiar ability in managing a school. He retained the charge of the institution until 1852, when he resigned, and was succeeded by Mr. Poucher, who remained but three years, when Mr. Watson returned, and continued his connection until 1857. Since then the history of the academy has been checkered. The succeeding principals have been Messrs. Edgar H. Perkins, ------Bisbee, J. S. Fancher, -----Calkins, John B. Steel, Walter Scott, M. Van Schaack, and George F. Cole.
The present principal, George H. Taylor, A. M., has been for many years a teacher of classics at Phillips Academy, and proposes and expects to place the school again in the enviable position which it held more than twenty years ago. He has a full corps of efficient assistants, and is already fitting several pupils for college. The academy has a library and philosophical apparatus. The number of pupils for the present year numbered over sixty, and the prospects are very much brighter the coming year.
The academy building is very pleasantly situated on a spacious lot on Albany avenue; is a two-story frame building, with a good basement, well furnished with recitation-rooms and chapel and hall. It commands a fine prospect of the Catskills, and is well adapted for the purposes for which it was erected.
Among the more noted of the long roll of alumni, we find the names of Hon. Samuel J. Tilden; Rev. Dr. C. V. A. Van Dyck, the most prominent living Arabic scholar; Hon. H. N. Van Dyck, his brother, the late United States sub-treasurer at New York city, and superintendent of public instruction for the State of New York; William Allen Butler, Esq., of New York city (author of "Nothing to Wear"); Hon. George Van Santvoord (author of "Equity Jurisprudence"); Aaron J. Vanderpoel, Esq., one of the foremost practitioners at the New York bar; Dr. S. O. Vanderpoel (for many years health officer of the port of New York); Judge Verplanck; Hon. P. H. Sylvester, M. C.; Hon. Guy V. Pelton, M. C.; Hon. Francis Silvester, and many others who cannot be mentioned in this limited space.
We cannot close this account without one word in regard to the trustees who have so carefully watched over the interests of this institution. Until May 15 there had been but three presidents: Dr. Van Dyck, Dr. Beekman, and Hon. W. H. Tobey, who passed to his rest so lately. To the last named the present existence of the academy is due. For its interest he labored at all times, and those best acquainted with the history of the school give to him the credit of preserving this ancient school; and so long as it stands, so long will his name in connection therewith be remembered with the greatest honor.
The present board of trustees is as follows:
President, Peter V. S. Pruyn, A.M., M.D.; Secretary and Treasurer, Aug. W. Wynkoop; C. H. Wendover, W. R. Mesick, W. H. Rainey, John Bray, Charles Palmer, B. Van Alstyne, F. Silvester, H. Van Alstyne, C. Wild, and J. A. Reynolds.
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