Old Bergen

Chapter XLII.

Daniel Van Winkle

Published 1902

Web version, edited by GET NJ
Copyright 2002

A5 has been stated, the education of the young was considered by the early settlers as of equal importance with instruction in and observance of their religious doctrines. Accordingly, in very early times efforts were made to secure suitable instructors.

The first schoolmaster was Engelbert Stuynhuysen, who was licensed October 6, 1662. He was engaged as voorleser, or clerk, with the express stipulation that he, besides this function, was to act as school master. He was a tailor by trade, and came from Soest, the second city in Westphalia, arriving at New Amsterdam April 25, 1659, in the Moesman, Capt. Jacob Jansen. He also represented Bergen in the Landtag, in 1664, and signed the oath of allegiance to Charles II, with other inhabitants of Bergen, on November 22, 1665.

E. Stuynhuysen received a deed of sundry parcels of land in and about the town of Bergen, from Philip Carteret, July 22, 1670. The land comprised seven lots, amounting to about one hundred and fifty acres. So that we may rightly understand what was required of the cleric, it may be well to refer to a resolution passed by consistory in later years. Disputes having arisen concerning the duties of the clerk, it was decided:

He is to perform the services in the congregation both in the church and at funerals, as has been usual among us. That is to say, he is to read a chapter in the Holy Bible, the Law, and the Creed, and to sing on the Sabbath, and also when divine service is performed on week days; also, in case of any death in the congregation, he is to deliver the invitations, and shall also provide the gauze at the expense of the consistory, and put it on the chandelier, as soon as the evening service is discontinued every year. (For which he is to be paid fifteen guilders yearly and to charge F4.5o for funeral of each grown person, and proportionately for children.)
As Stuynhuysen owned his house and lot and double farm, he was required "to act well in his capacity as clerk, not only, but even to look out, and procure himself, a proper and convenient place in which to keep school." To this he objected, and likewise to paying tax of any kind, on the ground that, as schoolmaster and clerk, he was exempt, and that the community should provide a place suitable for such purpose. The matter was submitted to the Schout and Schepens, constituting the government of Bergen, who decreed that he should serve out his contract.

A memorial dated December 17, 1663, was presented to the Governor General and Council at New Netherlands as follows:

Shew reverently, the Sheriff and your Commission of the Village of Bergen, which they presume is known to your Honors, that before the election of the new Commissioners, ye were solicited by Michael Jansen, deceased, to be favored with the appointment of a clerk (voorleser), who should at the same time keep school to instruct the youth, the person of Engelbert Stuynhuysen, who possessed the required abilities, so is, that the Sheriff and Commission now a year past proposed it to the Community; who then approved it, and resolved to engage him, not only as Clerk, but with the express stipulation, that he besides this function, was to keep school, which the aforesaid Stuynhuysen agreed to do, and did so, during five quarters of a year, for which, was allowed him two hundred and fifty florins in seawant annually, besides some other stipulation, the school money so as reason and equity shall demand.

Now so is, that the aforesaid E. Stuynhuysen, whereas he has a lot and house and a double farm, situated in the jurisdiction of the Village of Bergen, is, by which the aforesaid E. Stuynhuysen considers himself highly aggrieved, and so resigned his office, pretending that a Schoolmaster and Clerk ought to be exempt from all taxes and burthens of the Village, which he says is the common practice through the whole Christian world, which by the Sheriff and Commission, is understood, that only can take place when such clerk, or schoolmaster, does not possess anything else but the school warf, but by no means, when the schoolmaster is in possession of a house and lot and double farm ; that he in such a case, should pay nothing from his lot and lands, and the Community at large is of the same opinion, as he receives his salary as Clerk, and not only is obliged to act well in his capacity as Clerk, but even to look out and procure a convenient place to keep school, which he has thus far neglected, and pretends that the Community must effect this, so that he may keep his school in it.

They cannot perceive how E. Stuynhuysen can be permitted to resign his office, when he neglected to notify his intention one-half year before. Wherefore the supplicants address themselves to your Honors, humbly soliciting them to insinuate to the aforesaid Engelbert Stuynhuysen, to continue in the service the second year, and to declare if the aforesaid Engelbert Stuynhuysen is not obliged by his possession of lot and farm, to provide for the mainte nance of a soldier as well as other inhabitants.

The petition was granted and Stuynhuysen admonished to continue to the end of his term. As his term of engagement was for two years, it is safe to say that the first school-house was built shortly after its termination, in 1664.

It is evident that Stuynhuysen ceased to act as voorleser about the same time, for the old records of later years state that "B. Van Giesen was buried May 15, 1707, after having filled the office of voorleser at Bergen, for about forty-two years." According to this, Van Giesen entered upon the duties of his office in 1665. In Carteret's Charter, dated September 22, 1668, is this stipulation:

The Freeholders shall have power to choose their own minister, for the preaching of the Word of God, and being so chosen, all persons as well as the inhabitants, are to contribute according to their estates and for the maintenance, or lay out such a proportion of land, for the minister, and the keeping of a free school, for the education of youth, as they shall think fit, which land being once laid out, is not to be alienated, but to remain and continue, from one incumbent to another, free from paying any rent, or any other rate, or taxes whatsoever.
As the population increased, new settlements were formed at inconvenient distances from Bergen, and their people rebelled against paying any taxes for the support of the school, when they were too far away to be benefited. Whereupon
The Schout and Magistrates of the Town of Bergen, requesting that the inhabitants of all the settlements dependent upon them, of what religious persuasion soever they may be, shall be bound to pay their share toward the support of the Precentor and Schoolmaster, and which, being taken into consideration by the Governor and Council, it is ordered, that all the said inhabitants, without any exception, shall, pursuant to the Resolution of the Magistrates of the Town of Bergen, dated December 18, 1672, and subsequent confirmation, pay their share for the support of said Precentor and Schoolmaster.

Dated December 24, 1673.

May 24, 1674, the Schouts complaining that some of the inhabitants still obstinately refused to pay quota for the support of the precentor and schoolmaster, the Governor General and Council ordered the Schout to proceed to immediate execution against all unwilling debtors.

Although supported by direct tax, the school was under the direct supervision and control of the church. The consistory appointed the schoolmaster, who was required, in addition to ordinary instruction in the elementary branches of education, to hear the catechism, and at stated times to receive the pastor and elders of the church, when all the pupils were to be catechised and instructed in the truths of religion ; and no person could be appointed to this office, unless he solemnly promised to instruct the children committed to his care in the Principles contained in the Church Standard. It is probable, in the very early days, that the same building served for both church and school, and was likely the one referred to before as having been erected at Tuers Avenue and Vroom Street; but it is well settled that in after years, at least one, or perhaps two, buildings were erected on the present school plot at Bergen Square.

When disputes arose concerning the titles to lands, a commission was appointed to determine the matter, who reported in 1764, that they had regard to the right and allotment due the church and free school, "as in said Charter specified and confirmed, and set off and allotted the sundry lots of land hereinafter described." One of the confirmations and allotments made as stated, was the plot located on Bergen Square where School No. 11 now stands. It would seem from the recent translation of Veerstag, that the second schoolhouse was located on this plot as early as May 11, 1708.

The Records state:

On Tuesday, May i1, 1708, Matheus Bensum has made a beginning with the new schoolhouse, and commenced with the foundation, and Andrien Vermeulen laid the corner stone;
and the following entry would indicate that many of the citizens of Bergen aided the good work by donating materials:
Johannis Michielse, 10 loads stone,
Cornelis Blinkerhof, 10 loads stone,
Maritje Hartmans, 10 loads stone,
Johannis Thomasse, 5 loads stone,
Fredrick Thomasse, 1 load clay,
Uldrich Brouwer, 4 loads stone,
Johannis Pouwelsie, 8 loads stone,
Johannis Pouwelsie, 3 loads clay,
Matheus De Mott, 1 load stone,
Matheus De Mott, 10 loads clay,
Jacob Jacobse Van Winkle, 5 loads stone,
Jacob Jacobse Van Winkle, 5 loads stone,
Robert Seggelse, 1 load clay,
Jan Lubberse, 5 loads sand,
Jan Lubberse, 1 load clay,
Jan Lubberse, 1 load lime.
This building was probably occupied until the erection of the Columbian Academy, in 1790. On October 30, 1793, an act was passed called, "An Act for the establishing of Schoolmasters within the Province." Its preamble recites, that "the cultivation of learning and good manners tends greatly to the good and benefit of mankind." The act authorized the inhabitants of each township to meet together and choose three men, whose duty it should be to make a rate for the salary and maintaining of a schoolmaster within the said township, for as long a time as they should think fit; and it provided that the consent and agreement of the major part of the inhabitants should bind and oblige the remaining part to satisfy and pay their share of said rate, and that the goods and chattels of persons refusing or neglecting to pay were to be distrained and sold. This seems to have been the beginning of the school trustee system, and it may mark the time when the School passed from under the government of the Church.