Back to School, a History Lesson

In the Southampton Town records, it is evident that a school system had been in place since the time of settlement in 1640. However, It wasn’t until 1813 that New York State proposed a legislative act to encourage the establishment of schools. Following this initiative, Abraham Rose, Rufus Foster, and William Herrick, school commissioners, met to lay out several school districts in the town. Districts 1 through 15 were designated starting from Speonk and proceeding east along the south shore to Hayground (#8), Bridgehampton (#9), Sagaponack (#10), and then to the north through Sag Harbor and along the bay to North Sea.

The first schoolhouses were little more than simple one-room buildings with a wood-burning stove in the center and usually doubled as meeting houses. Students were required to bring cord wood for heat during the colder months. The schoolmaster taught all ages and kept a tally of how many days a child was present and the parents were required to pay based on attendance. The school year usually ran from October until April, allowing children to work on the farm from spring planting until harvest.

It didn’t take long before the districts were divided to accommodate the growing population throughout the town in the mid 19th century. District #18, the North End School, was created at the intersection of Butter Lane and Scuttlehole Road in Bridgehampton for that purpose. Many districts quickly outgrew their buildings. In Bridgehampton proper, the district has gone through six buildings since the 1750s.
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