Knox School District No. 5

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Students study at the school, 1929
Photo courtesy of Daniel A. Driscoll

STUDENTS, from left, Marshall Warner, Beulah Ketcham and David Sagendorf study at the school on May 10, 1929.

History

From the booklet, Booklet Knox, New York Sesquicentennial, 1822-1972

District No. 5 had 31 school age children of whom 27 were enrolled and recorded an average daily attendance of 8.5. In 1886, the school was valued at $500, and the value of its 25 volume library was placed at $25. The schoolhouse is located on Ketcham Lane and The Boys Club Lane, in the Thompsons Lake area. This building was kept in its original state until 1971, and is now being used as a dwelling. In 1912, Margaret Clickman and Miss McCormick taught in the district. During the years 1916 to 1918, Mrs. Earl Warner was the teacher, and she was succeeded by Millard Whipple. Fanny Ellis taught in 1926-27.

For ten years, 1940-1950, the children of the district were driven to the Altamont School by Alta Salisbury. In 1951, District No. 5 became part of the Berne-Knox Central School system. District No. 6 had 67 children of school age. During the year, 54 actually attended school and their daily attendance average was 25.7. In 1886, the school was valued at $1200, and its library of 100 volumes was judged to be worth $20.

Recollections of students

  • Bernice White Swimmer: "I attended 1st. and 2nd. grade there about 1932 or 3. Edith Ketcham was the teacher. Some of the boys were older than the teacher. They were pranksters, once locking Edith in the wood shed for close to half a day. There may have been a dozen or so kids in all eight grades. There was no electric or plumbing or central heating. Some of the older boys would get to school early, carry kindling and wood from the woodshed, build a fire in a pot belly stove,and maintain the fire throughout the day. Carried in a couple of buckets of water for drinking which was kept in the cloak room, all drinking from the same dipper. I remember that if the water bucket wasn't emptied, it would be frozen solid in the morning. Unlike today classes were small, it was one on one, teacher and student. The only people I remember from then are Bill and Pauline Salisbury; [now Pauline Williman] I believe they still live in the area."
  • Pauline Williman recalled how two bullies tormented the little kids when they tried use the outhouses. "It was very embarrassing," Williman said. "They would open the door and make funny remarks and what not." She said her mother took care of the problem for good by talking to an older girl, who threatened to tell the boys' parents. Williman also recalled the cold winter morning that she and her brother showed up at school in their brand-new sheepskin coats and found no one there. They stayed at the empty school as long as they could, their toes freezing, and then finally trudged back home to report to their father that not even the teacher had shown up. "At least you tried," he said.
  • Bill Salisbury [Pauline Williman's brother] reminisced about a doctor who used to visit the school. "He would tell us how bad it was to eat candy," Salisbury said. Then he would give the children candy as he departed.
  • David Sagendorf: "I don't want to know nothing about that school no more," "I don't even want to hear about it now. I hated it."

Restoration

Initial Proposal

Altamont Enterprise Thursday, July 1,1999

Knox Board

Other business:

In other business, the board: — Listened as Pauline Williman suggested that the small, one-room school house on Ketchum ad should be preserved and designated as historically significant;



Kiwanis to restore one-room Hill schoolhouse

By William Marley Leight

KNOX — Will the footsteps of children once again echo in a long-deserted one-room schoolhouse? They will if Dan Driscoll and the Helderberg Kiwanis Club are successful in their plans to restore Knox School Number Five.

The decaying wooden structure is located next to the entrance of the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center on Thompson's Lake.

It has been over 60 years since students studied inside the schoolhouse.

Today, the school is hidden in a tangle of brush and thick groundcover. Daylight shines through the woodshed's roof and the fieldstone foundation of the school is crumbling.

Driscoll, a member of the Kiwanis Club, is asking for volunteers to help club members begin the restoration of the site. The club has received a $750 grant from Selkirk Cogen Partners, the company which owns an electric plant in Selkirk. The funding will help pay for the initial cost of restoring the roof on the woodshed and early work on the schoolhouse.

The club hopes to repair the roof and tear up the flooring of the school this year, Driscoll said. The restoration of the school foundation, floor and siding is slated for 2004. The replacement of the mid-20th century metal roof should be completed in 2005, he said.

Since the schoolhouse is located on state land, Driscoll is enlisting the support and expertise of the state's park administration.

As part of the research into the school, Driscoll has learned of three local residents who attended the school. He videotaped one of them, Bill Salsbury, this week.

Driscoll replayed the tape in the viewfinder of his camcorder on Tuesday as he stood in the overgrown schoolyard. Salsbury reminisced about a doctor who used to visit the school. "He would tell us how bad it was to eat candy," Salsbury said. Then he would give the children candy as he departed.

Salsbury showed Driscoll the original site of the boys' and girls' outhouses. When the brush is cleared, Driscoll is hoping to discover evidence of their placement. Lou Buckman, a local engineer and club member, will help map out the area if any artifacts are uncovered, Driscoll said.

When work is complete, the state will determine what the schoolhouse will be used for. "We didn't propose any specific use," said Driscoll.

Since it is linked to the nature center by a trail, it may be used for school programs, he said. The state has found that the building qualifies for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, Driscoll said. This may help the schoolhouse qualify for future grants, he said.

Dan Driscoll is asking for people with memories of the old schoolhouse to come forward.

He is also collecting furniture, books, and any other items that were connected to the school.

The Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District has offered to donate several old blackboard slates, said Driscoll.

The New Scotland Historical Society discovered a book of minutes noting that School District Number Five included portions of both Knox and New Scotland. The earliest entries date from the 1830's.

Driscoll does not know when the present schoolhouse was built. According to Salsbury, the school closed in 1939, Driscoll said. Students could progress through their studies as quickly as they could pass the tests, Salsbury said. His sister, Pauline Williman, completed studies so early that she had to wait two years to be admitted to college, he said. She was 14.

The first workday will be held on June 22 from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Volunteers should bring gloves and the tools required to cut brush. Volunteers can contact Driscoll at 872-0602.

Past echoes in one-room school

By MARC PARRY Staff writer

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2005 Albany, New York

TIMES UNION

KNOX — From the road, you're more likely to notice the thin maple tree with its fiery streak of orange leaves than the boarded-up, one-room schoolhouse behind it with its dull, gray cedar siding.

Its metal roof is ugly. Its door is kept shut with a rusty padlock. But to local resident Dan Driscoll, the late-1890s state-owned building on Ketcham Road is a historical treasure chest whose rich past he hopes to one day share with the public.

Driscoll is helping lead an effort by local Kiwanis Club members to renovate the old schoolhouse, known simply as Knox School 5. He is also writing a book about the place.

The 20-by-24-foot wood-frame building, set atop the Helderberg Escarpment in western Albany County, is the only one of the town's 13 former one-room school- houses still viable within Knox's borders.

It is also the only building in Knox to be honored with a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The school closed in the 1930s.

"It's very closely tied to the history of this area," said Driscoll, a 67-year-old retired state worker who wears a white chin-strap beard in the style of Abraham Lincoln.

When Driscoll first saw the building a couple of years ago, he had this thought: What a perfect project for the Kiwanis club.

But what he didn't realize at the time was that the New Scotland Historical Association had a leather-spined book of school board minutes that opened a window on the area's history from 1824 to 1905.

The book's 148 pages of surviving board minutes are filled with colorful characters, like Isaac Hungerford.

Hungerford took a stand in the Anti-Rent Rebellion when, as author Henry Christman wrote, "the people of the hilltowns determined to throw off the yoke of bondage to lifelong servitude under the patroon system."

The undersheriff who came to evict the Knox School 5 trustee from his land in 1839 found himself staring at Hungerford's long knife.

"You'd better get home and be in some other business — I warn you as a friend to go no further," Hungerford said, Christman wrote. "You can't go through this country with patroon papers and get home a live man."

Over the years, the schoolhouse has gone through several incarnations since its closing.

It was used as a private home. It was also once the meeting spot of a local raccoon-hunting club. The building was sitting there abandoned when the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation acquired the property in 1999. It's now on the grounds of the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center.

Driscoll and others from the Kiwanis club and the community have since reroofed the school's shed and are now at work installing new hemlock sills on the main structure and rebuilding its stone foundation.

Driscoll estimates that about $1,000 has been spent on renovations thus far. By the time the group replaces the flooring with yellow pine, they'll probably spend another $1,500. Driscoll hopes the former school building will eventually serve as an educational tool for children who visit the nature center.

A few surviving alumni of Knox 5 still live in the area. But some had some not-so-fond memories of attending the school.

"I don't want to know nothing about that school no more," alumnus David Sagendorf told Driscoll in a bedside interview at Sagendorfs nursing home. "I don't even want to hear about it now. I hated it."

Pauline Williman, a 79-year old court reporter who still lives about a quarter-mile from the school she attended as a child, recalled how two bullies tormented the little kids when they tried use the outhouses.

"It was very embarrassing," Williman said. "They would open the door and make funny remarks and what not."

She said her mother took care of the problem for good by talking to an older girl, who threatened to tell the boys' parents.

Williman also recalled the cold winter morning that she and her brother showed up at school in their brand-new sheepskin coats and found no one there. They stayed at the empty school as long as they could, their toes freezing, and then finally trudged back home to report to their father that not even the teacher had shown up.

"At least you tried," he said.

Marc Parry can be reached at 454-5057 or by e-mail at mparry@timesunion.com.


Come to see and help with schoolhouse

Kiwanis Club of the Helderbergs - Come to see and help with schoolhouse - Altamont Enterprise, June 29, 2006

To the Editor:

Would you like to help restore the Knox School District #5 one-room schoolhouse?

The school is located on Ketcham Road in front of the Thacher Nature Center. The Helderberg Kiwanis and the Berne-Knox community have been working on the schoolhouse for three summers.

We have cleaned up the grounds, looked for (and found) artifacts, replaced the cedar shake roof on the woodshed, removed the old flooring from the school, and replaced the rotted sill plates.

Our next step, for this summer, will be to install new floor joists and replace the yellow pine flooring. We will also continue improving the appearance of the grounds, indentifying desirable plants and removing weeds, and we will keep looking for artifacts.

Work days this year are on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.: June 24; July 23; Aug. 20; Sept. 24; Oct. 22; and maybe Nov 19.

Please come to the schoolhouse and join us. And bring your friends.

Even if you just want to look around and see the inside of the schoolhouse, please come.

Even if you only have an hour to help, please come.

This is a community project, and it’s fun

Dan Driscoll
Project Chairman
Helderberg Kiwanis

Picture Caption: Under Renovation: This one-room schoolhouse on Ketcham Road is being restored. Volunteers are needed to help with the project.

Altamont Enterprise, June 29, 2006

Dan Driscoll's Report from June 30, 2008

Thanks to John Elberfeld, Homer Warner, Homer's friend Tim, Pauline Williman and two young fellows from Parks (thanks to Chris Fallon) we got a lot done Sunday, June 22nd. Homer finished the final schoolhouse window; John painted window and door trim and then helped Pauline wash and paint the small storage room. The two fellows from Parks removed some rotted siding from over the front door and began repairing one of the doors.

Meanwhile, Tim, who is experienced with laying flooring, showed us how to install the dcuglas fir flooring. The floor is about 20% done; it looks great!

Next month, Sunday, July 27, we should be able to finish flooring the classroom and install the doors. A friend, Ken Malcolm is going to help by spraypainting the exterior before then.


Schoolhouse #5 Reopens!

Friends of Thacher and Thompsons Lake State Parks

Emma T Thacher Nature Center, 87 Nature Center Way, Voorheesville, NY 12186

September-October 2009 • Vol.13 No.5

By John Kilroy

Photo Collections

All photos by John Elberfeld

If you have driven to the park or nature center going east on Ketcham Road, you may have noticed a small, unremarkable building on the right just before Nature Center Way. Over the last few years, you may also have noticed that it was looking better and better and no longer would be considered "run down." This small building is Knox Schoolhouse #5 and has been renovated by a small group of volunteers. (Helderberg Kiwanis)

On July 11, the park had an opening ceremony to celebrate the completed project. There was a small, but interested crowd at the nature center which included two former students of the school. Park Manager Chris Fallon gave a great synopsis of how the project was started and eventually brought to fruition under the leadership of Dan Driscoll. Dan spoke for a few minutes on the history of the schoolhouse and of the school district(s) and boards under whose jurisdiction the schoolhouse existed. He also covered the local history of the area including the rent wars. When I say he did his homework, it's a vast understatement. This was truly amazing research into local history.

We then made our way up to the schoolhouse for a look at the restoration, the interpretive panels and some light refreshments. Fortunately, it stayed dry for the entire time while people roamed inside and out, kids rang the school bell and everyone was duly impressed. The old CCC gong from the campground has been moved next to the school and is a great addition to the area.

You have to see the inside to believe it. Everything is beautiful! The floors are brand new (almost a shame to walk on them), the desks that were in disrepair were disassembled and reassembled by Dan and left unfinished. This way, students' carvings and scratchings could be seen clearly. These were mostly initials and dates ('26 and '29 are two that I remember). In the center of the room is a HUGE pot belly stove which was donated by Wally Quay of Knox. According to the pictures, this stove looks very similar to the one that was in the schoolhouse originally.

It's taken many years to bring this old building back from the brink, but I can say, as an observer, that it was well worth it. Thacher Park is well known as a place to explore the state's natural history but thanks to Dan and his hardworking crew, we now have an authentic look at our local history as well.