Schools of the Past: McDonough District #8 – Beckwith/Hayden

The district school house route this week takes us to County Road #7 and just above the Beckwith Road for a glimpse of the district so named above. The photograph with this article was in 1976 and documented as being Great Lot #28 in the township. For this article it will be quoted verbatim as was researched first by the late Elinor Troicke - historian and for the documentation researched by Mrs. Jennie Preston. Without this information these articles would not be possible. Additionally credit must be given to Donna Robb for allowing this information to be copied for this series on McDonough’s district schools. As a note of interest, this writer was asked the other evening, how many district schools in Chenango County and when it was related 315, to say they were surprised is a mild statement.

Mrs. Troicke noted on the photograph the following information: ‘“The Haydens and Beckwith’ are family names often associated with School District #8. The photo was the second schoolhouse on this site (the first was built around 1840) and was voted on successfully at a special school meeting on December 21,18569. It had dimensions slightly expanded to 26 x 20 feet. Now it stands empty, though it has been refurbished into family living quarters for some time.”

Mrs. Preston’s research is as follows; “The information obtained about this schoolhouse was taken from a ledger containing the minutes of the district’s annual school meeting. This ledger is presently the property of the McDonough Town Historian, Mr. William Hayden III (1970’s). Schooling done under this district as a whole began in 1839. In each annual meeting, trustees, a collector, a moderator, and a librarian were voted on. The cost of schooling for each school was one-half cord of wood (this has appeared numerous times in this series). $27.28 was given by the School Commissioners for the teacher’s salary and $3.96 was allocated for the library monies at the first meeting. On April 6, 1840, it was resolved by those present to build a schoolhouse with the dimensions of 18 feet by 24 feet. Specifications were made as to the exact location of the school, the locations of the seats, how many lighted windows there were to be, where the stove would stand, and how the floors were to be laid. The school was originally located on the property of Liman Beckwith (a family still found in McDonough.) In 1839 the money to build the schoolhouse was raised on the inhabitants’ taxable property; it came to the grand total of $100 to pay for the structure. The workers who built the structure were paid five shillings per day, though they had to board themselves. (A very curious thing to note is the mixed monetary units of dollars and shillings often expressed together. British influence still had a profound impact on the settlers of the McDonough wilderness. It was later resolved on October 26, 1840, that taxes overall should be raised to $106 so that a chair (presumably for the teacher), shovel, basin for the stove and a cup to drink in could be purchased for the school. The following year, things began getting organized and it was resolved to have three months of schooling that winter. Life apparently became less hectic and on October 3, 1842, they agreed to continue the three months of schooling plus using the school in the evenings for religious meetings. People in this area had their physical needs satisfied and now they needed to satiate their mental needs.

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