Old Bergen

Chapter XLIV.

Daniel Van Winkle

Published 1902

Web version, edited by GET NJ
Copyright 2002

IN the course of time, increased school facilities were demanded, and private enterprises instituted several small schools in different sections of the town, which met with varying success. One was held in the early days, in the old parsonage that stood on the site of the present Bergen Reformed Church. Another school was opened by Sylvester Van Buren in the Van Riper homestead, which stood west of Bergen Avenue and south of Montgomery Street. He taught the boys, while the instruction of the girls came under the direct supervision of his wife and daughter.

John Welsh and his son James shortly after started a school in a small building, formerly used as a carpenter shop, that stood near the corner of Bergen and Harrison Avenues. This increased in numbers to such an extent that a long, low, one-story building was erected on Harrison Avenue west of what is now Monticello, for its accommodation. After his father's death, James Welsh became sole proprietor. His method of instruction was to a great extent of the muscular sort, and he controlled and disciplined his little flock through their fears. He was of a somewhat nervous, irritable temperament, and was oftentimes so unjust in the treatment of his scholars that open rebellion was frequent, in several cases resulting in their withdrawal from the school. Frequently the parents of the rebels, recognizing the justice of their active protests, sustained them, and either allowed them to finish their education at home, or sent them elsewhere for that purpose. Notwithstanding this severity and lack of discretion in school government, however, Schoolmaster Welsh was well versed in the requirements of the age, and there are those still living who recognize that the foundations of their intellectual acquirements were firmly planted by him.

This building in later years was followed by another, which was erected on the corner of Harrison and Monticello Avenues. This was afterward enlarged, and under the present municipal government is known in the school system of Jersey City as School No. 16.

The first school building for upper or North Bergen section, was in the territory of old Hudson City. It was a small, one-story frame structure, located about the corner of Bergenwood and Beacon Avenues, and was the forerunner of School No. 6. During the continuance of the school in this building, a financial report was read, which ignored a balance of six cents remaining on hand at the end of the previous fiscal year; whereupon an explanation was demanded, and it was found that at the meeting at which such previous report was submitted, after the report had been prepared, it was discovered that artificial light would be needed, and that amount was expended for tallow dips. At this time, the teachers were obliged to depend upon whatever could be collected from the scholars, which was supposed to amount to an annual contribution of about $2 per pupil, although this was by no means certain.

For lower Jersey City, the first school was started in a building located on Sussex Street, in the rear of the present U.S. Post Office. It was erected in 1809 on ground donated by the Jersey Associates, and was used as a town hall, lock-up and school. Several years after, the first public school, sustained by subscription, was held in this same building, and soon became quite flourishing, in evidence of which fact we have the following extract from the message of Mayor Peter Martin in April, 1840

"A Public School has been established on such liberal principles that any resident of the City, however poor he may be, may avail himself of its benefits. The highest price for tuition per quarter, demanded of any pupil, is $1.00 -- the lowest 50, but children whose Parents or Guardians are not able to pay for their tuition are not on that account debarred from the privileges of the school. It is in a flourishing condition, nearly 300 pupils having availed themselves of its benefits the past year.
July 23, 1843, an ordinance was adopted by the Council of Jersey City, which recites:
That all monies that may hereafter be received from tavern licenses, the city quota of the surplus revenue, the interest of the city proportion of the Bergen Corporation fund, be, and the same are hereby appropriated, to the support of Public School No. 1, kept in the Town Hall, and such other Public Schools as the Common Council may from time to time erect and establish.
The school was to be open quarterly, under the direction of the township school committee, and the general supervision of the Mayor and Common Council. The pupils were to reside in Jersey City, and pay fifty cents per quarter for spelling and reading, or one dollar when writing, arithmetic and other branches were included. This school was continued until 1847, and was under the charge of Albert T. Smith. February 8, of that year, Mr. Smith became the principal of the first public free school in Jersey City, with Geo. H. Linsley as first assistant. This building was located on the site now occupied by Public School No. 1.

In 1851 Mr. Smith resigned, and Mr. Linsley succeeded him as principal, which position he has held continuously to the present time. Mr. Linsley is a born teacherand a close student of human nature. He inspires the love and confidence of his pupils to a remarkable degree through his sympathetic nature and conscientious performance of the duties pertaining to his position. Recognizing the individuality of every pupil, he implants within each one the desire for better and higher things, and teaches them that without self-exertion no success.can be achieved. It was the exercise of these qualities that made him the successful instructor of over half a century, loved and revered by the whole community.
Geo. H. Linsley

Wm. L. Dickinson
From these small beginnings in different parts of the territory, our present magnificent school system has grown and developed. Other individual educational enterprises were instituted, and had much to do with moulding and influencing the sentiment and policy of the whole community. In 1839 Wm. L. Dickinson, who became so favorably known in the educational world, opened the Lyceum School on Grand Street, and continued there for many years. He afterward became a member of the School Board, and was elected City and County Superintendent. As such, by his wise and judicious action, he inaugurated many reforms and gave a decided impetus to the work of education.

Messrs. Dickinson and Linsley were near neighbors, and possessing similar tastes and congenial dispositions, they became close and sincere friends. They counselled and cooperated in all matters pertaining to educational advancement, and to them was due the early organization and development of our school system.

Other notable instances were "The Misses Graves' Seminary for Young Ladies," located at the corner of Summit Avenue and Cottage Street, adjoining the present Baptist Church; "The Miss Chadeayne's Seminary," at the corner of Green and Grand Streets ; and "Hasbrouck Institute," founded as a preparatory collegiate institute for boys. Of these notable institutions, only "Hasbrouck Institute"survives. It was founded by Doctor Washington Hasbrouck in 1856, and the school then occupied a small building on Mercer Street, near Wayne. Dr. Hasbrouck conducted this school for ten years, and many of its graduates are now occupying positions of prominence and responsibility in the city. It has since then greatly developed, and is recognized in educational circles as an institution second to none in its facilities for and methods of instruction.

It is curious to note in an examination of the old records, how frequently lotteries were resorted to as a means of obtaining funds for many enterprises. The moneys needed for the support of educational institutions, and even for the repairing and building of churches and parsonages, were procured in this way. The advertisements in the daily prints of 1759 to 1773 give abundant evidence of the universal practice of this method of obtaining funds.