SEYMOUR SMITH ACADEMY

AND PINE PLAINS UNION FREE SCHOOL

Taken from the book "History of Little Nine Partners" of North East Precinct, and Pine Plains, New York, Duchess County. By Isaac Huntting, Pine Plains, N.Y. Copyright 1897, By Isaac Huntting. Vol. 1. Amenia, New York: Chas. Walsh & Co., Printers. 1897. And Thank you to the Pine Plains Library for having many orignal copies of books.

The Seymour Smith Academy came into being by the bequest in his will which reads "I bequeath my entire estate to the town of Pine Plains for the especial purpose of aiding said town in establishing an academy for the promotion of science and useful knowledg." The will bears date March 12, 1861. He was a son of Peter Smith and Sarah Winans, who about 1760 settled in Charlotte Precinct, on the lands adjoining the present boundary of Stanford and Pine Plains, the farm known later as the Tripp-Hicks farm on Huntting Hill in the town of Stanford.  A few years later they moved to a farm in the present limits of Pine Plains, near the south boundary of the town, where Nelson Bathrick now lives, and there August 7, 1779, Seymour Smith was born. His great grandfather, Daniel Smith, came from England and was among the earliest settlers in Connecticut.

Seymour Smith spent his early life in this town, in his youth attending the district school of that time, limited in its means and manner of education, finishing his education by a short term in a Po'keepsie school with Walter Cunningham, Thomas L. Davies, Harry Conklin, Stephen Thorne and Jacob VanBenthuysen associate pupils. He returned to Pine Plaiins and in the war of 1812 raised a company of volunteers for a year's service, and was stationed at Staten Island. At the expiration of his service he returned to this town and soon after leased the now Henry Knickerbocker farm about three miles east of the village. Here he was an industrious and energetic farmer, and a successful grower of barley and wheat. At the close of the lease he purchased a farm on the east bank of the Hudson River, near the boundary line of Clermont and Germantown in Columbia county about twelve miles from Hudson. This was his first and only home. His taste and inclination was to produce the best of all products. He had the best breeds of cattle and the choicest varieties of fruit. He took more premiums on his farm products than any one exhibitor at the agricultural societies where he exhibited. "Excelsior" was his motto. On this farm he deceased a bachelor on Nov. 26, 1863. Adjoining the southern driveway in the Evergreen Cemetery at Pine Plains stands a marble shaft surmounted by an urn erected to his memory. On one side of it we read, "Seymour Smith, born August 7, 1779, died Nov. 26, 1863. He was a soldier in the American army in the war with Great Britain in 1812. He bequeathed his entire estate to the town of Pine Plains to establish an Academy for the promotion of knowledge."

To carry out this provision of his will an act was passed by the legislature Feb. 19, 1864, "authorizing the town of Pine Plains, Dutchess County, to take the bequest given it by the will of Seymour Smith, deceased, and to carry into execution the object for which said bequest was given."

In accordance with this act a board of trustees was chosen to receive and invest the money, the amount being about six thousand dollars, which was allowed to accumulate until 1877, when the building was erected. Hezekiah Andrews, of Hillsdale, was the carpenter builder. The building is of wood, forty by sixty eight, two stories and a mansard, resting on a high basement wall of brick, making in all four stories, tastefully trimmed with mouldings, scrolls and brackets, is warmed throughout by steam, and has hot and cold water on every floor. All the rooms are commodious and pleasant and well arranged for the purposes designed. Forty boarding pupils can be accommodated. The board of Trustees at the time of its erection were Walter W. Husted, Frank Eno, Jonas Knickerbocker, Phenix Deuel, John A. Herrick, William S. Eno, Henry Myers, John A. Thompson, Harmon W. Pulver, John Righter, Leander Smith, Ury Hicks. Walter W. Husted was president of the board, Frank Eno secretary, and John A. Thompson treasurer. The Academy was incorporated in 1874.

The Academy opened May 8, 1879. Rev. Abraham Mattice, A.M., principal. He was from Fort Plain, Montgomery County, N.Y., where for several years he had been principal of Fort plain seminary. He brought about twenty pupils with him. The Academy opened with about fifty pupils, and numbered fifty-eight before the end of May. It was a school for ladies and gentlemen, and Mrs. Smeallie was preceptress. The graduating exercises for this year were held in the Methodist church on the first and second of July, 879. The graduates were Vedder Yates, Harry B. Conkling, H. Judd Ward, Helen A. Thorne, Louise C. Garner, Lettie B. Letson, Margaret V.D. Seen and Anna B. VanDeusen, eight in all. The church was crowded and the exercises were very interesting; new in their nature, to the people of Pine Plains. In 1880 there was one graduate, in '81 four, in '82 seven, in '83 six, in '84 three, in '85 seven, in '86 eight, in '87 six, in '88 three, in '89 ten, in '90 two, in '91 five, in '93 eight, '94 none, '95 four. Down to May, 1896, six of the graduates have deceased, six are clergymen, six are physicians, and three are lawyers. Total number of pupils 1002, and average of fifty-nine a year. The largest number of pupils was during 1881-2, and '94. it has given instruction to a large number in music, having some years forty music pupils and keeping five pianos in use. Twenty-five or more have been prepared for college. From the first it has turned out many successful teachers. With such a record its influence as an educator has been and is far reaching and incalculable. It continued until March 1896, seventeen years, Mr. Mattice being the only principal. The grading and progression to a higher standard in our union free schools has done away with the old time academy. But few now exist, and these are in the nature of a select school, and even these few are becoming less annually. The building being closed as an academy, it was placed by the trustees under charge of the state board of regents. The Pine Plains Union Free School was organized in March, 1896, and an Academic Department established in June of that year, the whole being under a board of education constituted of Frank Eno, William Bostwick and Leander J. Wilbur. Frank Eno Secretay, J. Huntting Bostwick treasurer, Richard T. Hoctor truant officer, J.H. Forrester principal. In April, 1896, they leased the Academy building and opened the Union Free School. They made some internal repairs to the building, and gave it otherwise a thorough renovation. "The school rooms are well lighted and ventilated, and are heated by the most modern steam plant obtainable," they say in the first circular of the "Pine Plains Union Free School." Prof. Forrester and family reside in the building where there are smple and convenient accommodations. The following synopsis in part from the circular gives the status of its management. Fall term commences September 1st, 1896. It has a neatly furnished library comprising the best selection of standard authors, and in addition the pupils have free access to the town library of about two thousand volumes. Non-resident pupils can obtain good board at reasonable rates. Pupils driving to the school will be provided with stabling accommodations free of charge, and a rack for bicycles is also provided. Pupils residing in the district receive instruction free. Residents outside the district pay a fee of three dollars for fall and spring terms respectively, each three months in length, and four dollars for the winter term of four months. Pupils outside the town pay six dollars for fall and spring terms each and eight dollars for winter term. All school fees for pupils outside the district payable in advance. This embodies substantially the management of the Pine Plains Union Free School at its organization in 1896.

This page belongs to Nettie (Hill) Stickles, and is offered free of charge. Sept. 2000

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