Madison Central School District History
Compiled by: Mr. Jim Ford
HISTORY OF THE MADISON CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
The history of our school district begins on June 19, 1812 when the government of the State of New York passed legislation that each township of the state was to be divided into common school districts.
On November 1,1813 a meeting was held and the Town of Madison was divided into seventeen such districts. This followed the state plan for the maximum number of schools allowed in the township and the recommended distance for children to travel to their local school. These schools were generally one-room schools and students were instructed by one teacher. Usually students attended from grade one through grade eight and then entered the work force.
The residents of the Madison Center area organized their school district on November 1, 1813 immediately following the township meeting. Their district became known as District # 7. This was later changed to District # 17 and still later changed to District # 3. Buildings were constructed beginning in 1814, with Madison Center again leading the way. The Madison Center School was on Center Rd. and later became the home of the William Bigelis family. The land for this school had been purchased for $20.
Bouckville was the next to organize. It was known as District # 10. The Bouckville School was originally a cobblestone building on the corner of what is currently Route 20 and Maple St. The location of this original school is now a portion of Henry Uhlig’s front lawn.
Eventually 13 schools would be established in the Town of Madison. The first State aid to the Madison schools occurred in 1816. The amount was $137.49. This was divided among all of the township schools!
The schools of the Town of Madison which became part of the Madison Central system were as follows:
-- District # 1 – Union School – South Street in Madison. Today the site of the Bush home.
-- District # 2 – Red School – Corner of Rt. 20 and Center Rd.
-- District # 3 – Madison Center School – Center Rd. in Madison Center across from the cemetery.
-- District # 5 – Durfee or Robinson Hill School – Near corner of Quarterline and Robinson Hill Rd.
-- District # 8 – West Hill School – Near the intersection of West Hill
-- District # 10 – Bouckville School – Maple St. in Bouckville. The first school in Bouckville was on the corner of Rt. 20 and Maple St.
-- District # 11 – Solsville School – One quarter mile north of Solsville on the Solsville-Augusta Rd.
-- District # 12 – Byrd Rd. School – Corner of Byrd Rd. and Stratford St.
-- District # 13 – White School – Corner of Rt. 12B and Water St.
This information is taken from the – Program of Dedication and Inspection – 4-22-1932. Since our township is currently in a number of school districts, not all of the original districts ended up as part of the Madison Central School district.
In the Town of Augusta the same process was happening. It is believed that as early as 1805 a log schoolhouse was built in Augusta Center. Soon after, one-room schools were set up in various locations in the township. Some of these would become part of the Madison Central School system as well. Schools in the Knoxboro-Augusta area ranged in style from traditional wood frame construction to dressed stone. In both the Town of Madison and the Town of Augusta some of those one-room schools are still standing and have been converted into homes for area residents.
The schools of the Town of Augusta which would become part of the Madison Central system are as follows:
-- Augusta Union Free District – On the Solsville-Augusta Rd., south of Augusta Center – District #1.
-- Knoxboro Union Free School – On the four-cornered intersection of Knoxboro – District #4.
-- The Stone School on Burns Rd.
-- Wooden frame school on the corner of Glynn Rd. and Sayer-Huth Rd.
-- Newell’s Corners School – Corner of McLaughlin Rd. and the Solsville-Augusta Rd. – District #8.
-- Stone School at Corner of Hill Rd. and Hatalla Rd.
In 1834 the residents of the Augusta Center area raised the sum of $2100 “to establish an academy on land now across Rt. 26 from the Presbyterian Church.” The building was constructed of dressed stone and had a semi-circular front and a flat back wall. The academy was incorporated in 1840 and continued until 1878. Several graduates of the school furthered their education at Hamilton College, in Clinton.
In Knoxboro, during the time period c.1850, a private school was established by the Knox family on Main St. How long it operated is not known. However, the Knox family was known to be very supportive of education.
The community of Madison was designated as District # 1 and built a school on the main road (Cherry Valley Turnpike) west of the current location of the Madison Town Hall. Prior to the Civil War, a building that had been used by the Madison County Agricultural Society for the purpose of holding County Fairs, was moved to Madison Village and used as an Armory. The location was on Hamilton Street, which is now South Street in Madison. It was known as Military Hall. Today the location is the site of the Bush home.
In 1871 the Armory building was purchased by District # 1 for $500 and renovated to house a school on the first floor and a town hall and community meeting place on the second. The renovated building and school later came to be known as the Madison Academy.
The old school on the Turnpike was sold. An article from the Waterville Times on 6-29-1871 stated that “the trustees of Madison Village District # 1 have sold the old schoolhouse and site (on the turnpike) to James Dennet, for $500, to be converted into a dwelling; and have purchased the Military Hall and lot for the same sum, and intend to fit the lower story for school rooms, with the latest improved seats and desks. The district has voted $1000 for that purpose.” Before construction got underway, an additional one-half acre was purchased for $200 to be used as a playground. As the project progressed, it was necessary to expend another $500 to “complete the fences and put the grounds in good order.” Many projects seem to have overruns in costs. The renovated school was opened in early November of 1871.
In 1875, a new school was built in Bouckville on Norwich Street. (Today’s Maple St.) Lots 4 & 5 were purchased from S.E. Scranton for $250. Additional land was purchased from J.W. Forward for $300. It was resolved to “construct a school building containing two rooms of sufficient capacity, for a sum not to exceed $2500. The total cost was a huge expenditure for a community at that time. After the closing of the Bouckville School in 1939, the structure was used for many years as the site for the Rural Electrification Administration. (R.E.A.) Today, Hall’s Garage occupies the site.
Many of our schools at this time featured only one room. Let’s look at what it was like to attend a one-room school from an article written by Mrs. Glenice Jones Roberts for the “Retirement of Miss Helen Snell” and a second article by Mrs. Roberts using “Information Written by Elsie Carpenter Decker.” Both articles deal with events from the Madison Center School District #3 and items from the two sources have been combined into one listing. The two ladies featured in the stories were teachers at the school.
-- Hours for a school day were often 9:00-4:00.
-- Grades 1-8 were taught in the same classroom by one teacher hired by the district. The older students assisted the younger ones with their lessons.
-- It was not unusual for the total enrollment of a school to be a dozen.
-- Discipline was very strict. Disorderly conduct was dealt with quickly.
-- Subjects taught included Mathematics, Writing, Spelling and Geography.
-- Most students walked to school. Meals were brought by them in a lunch pail.
-- A pail of water was brought by a neighbor to be used for washing hands before the noon meal. Another pail of water and dipper were used by all for drinking.
-- A coal or wood stove provided the heat for the school. Students were sometimes assigned to start the fire in the morning before the day’s school session began. In later years, a custodian was hired to do that job.
-- A school year consisted of 32 weeks of instruction, divided into two 16 week semesters.
-- School opened in September for the first semester and in March for the second. A lengthy mid-winter break was given when the snow was at its worst.
-- The teacher often stayed with one of the families in the area for a nominal fee.
-- In the years before 1900, a teacher often earned $6.00 per week. By 1910 it had risen to $8.00 per week.
-- Teachers were usually female and unmarried. If they married, they resigned from their job to take care of their family.
-- Noon hour provided students with a chance to play ball or use the swings and teeter-tauter.
-- A flag pole was near the school and proudly displayed the American flag.
-- It is the opinion of many Americans that the education given in the one-room schools allowed them to be highly successful in life.
Some one-room schoolhouse trivia from the Town of Madison includes –
-- The Madison Center School – District # 3, had originally been # 7 and then became # 17 before it became # 3. Why the changes took place no one knows.
-- The school on the corner of what is now Rt. 20 and Center Rd. was known as the “Red Schoolhouse.”
-- A homicide took place at the original cobblestone schoolhouse in Bouckville School District # 10. When Phineas Williams was attending a public meeting at the school he had tobacco juice spit into his eye by one of the boys there. He drew out a fishing knife and lunged at the culprit. A friend of the boy jumped in to intervene and was struck with the blade through his heart.
-- The school on the corner of Water St. and Rt. 12B was called the White School after the prominent White family of the area.
-- School District # 11 in Solsville burned in 1872. It was rebuilt and opened in 1873 at a cost of $1000. A bonus of $25 was presented to the builder, Mr. Adelbert Lyon, for his faithfulness on the project.
In 1876 a Union School was formed in Knoxboro in a stone building next to the Grange Hall. Two years later, in 1878, a one-story building was moved from East Hill and placed on the four corner intersection, affectionately known as “Community Square.” The former Kennett’s Garage is near this site. This building was later remodeled and another story added. A high school was added to the offerings of the school, but due to high taxes was ended after only two years.
On December 7, 1878 the Madison Union Free School and Academy was formed. The building used was the same one on South Street. From a booklet printed in 1886, we find that the tuition was $3.00 per semester in the Primary Department and $6.00 per semester in the Academic (High School) Department. During the school year of 1886-87 there were 128 students, of which 96 students were from District # 1 and 32 students came from outside the district. The Class of 1894 was the first to graduate with a Regents diploma.
The first Alumni Reunion of the graduates of the Union School and Academy was held on June 22, 1900. The reunions continued on an annual basis until 1945.
The Union Free School and Academy was replaced in 1902 by the new Union School built on the same site on South St. A new school had been voted on and approved on June 21, 1901. The vote was 81 to 46. The cost for the new structure was to be $4,500. The old school was torn down by August of that year and some of the lumber was used in the construction of the new school. “Waste not, want not” was a real theme in those days.
The school opened in January of 1902. With extra costs incurred, the final total for the project was $5,085. (Not all of the proposals for school changes went smoothly as found in an article from the Hamilton Republican newspaper discussing the proposal for the new school building. The article reported the vote on the proposal and said “It is to be regretted that much bad blood has been shown in this question, but we are in hopes that peace will eventually reign in the hearts of the people.”
Graduations for the new school were held in Knights of Pythias Hall (K-P Hall) which had been the former Congregational Church. Today the building houses Taylor’s Auction Service.
An interesting side note was that a school nurse was hired as early as 1929. This was on a part time basis at the South St. School to help with vaccinations and outbreaks of childhood diseases such as measles, mumps and scarlet fever.
On December 20, 1930, voting took place for a new “central rural school” and passed by a margin of 265 to 53. The new school was to include nine districts from the Town of Madison. Included would be districts # 1,2,3,5,8,10,11,12,13. Districts14 and 15, which had consolidated at an earlier time, would also be included. On April 16, 1931 the Hinman site was chosen as the site for the new central school by a vote of 141 for the Hinman site to 64 for the alternate Morgan site. The Hinman site is where the current Madison Central School is now located. The purchase price for the site was approximately $7,000. The chosen location provided a panoramic view from the Cherry Valley Turnpike (Rt. 20) and would afford the children a safe hill for play in the front of the school. The hill and “bowl” were the result of glacial action which formed a kettle hole.
On July 21, 1931 the district voted on a bond issue of $98,000 to build the new school. It was passed by a margin of 192 to 13. Five of the nine districts cast no negative votes at all. The new school would house the junior-senior high students. The schools in Madison Center and Bouckville, plus the South St. School in Madison, would house the elementary students.
School was held in the new building for the first time on March 21, 1932. The junior and senior high students from the South St. School had moved materials to the new school in the days previous to the 21st. The Program of Dedication and Inspection was held on April 22, 1932.
Some unique features of the new school were:
-- The building was of red brick with white trim. The architectural style was Greek with the corner columns being a distinct feature.
-- Curriculum additions included Commercial (which included the purchase of nine typewriters,) Homemaking, Agriculture and increased science offerings and laboratories.
-- An Auditorium/Gymnasium was constructed to accommodate 550 people. This facility also had a stage 59 x 22 feet and a picture screen.
-- The gymnasium was to be used as the basketball court also.
-- A Library and Cafeteria were included in the plans. The cafeteria was operated by the Homemaking classes.
-- The woodwork of the building was of oak and tiles were used on the floors.
-- The school grounds included nine acres.
-- A home next to the Cherry Valley Turnpike was purchased with the property to serve as a Principal’s home. Mr. John Gannon used it as his home in 1946. This home was later known as the Home Economics house.
-- Four extra busses, for a total of five, were purchased to bring the students to school.
-- The faculty parking lot was in the front of the school with the cars facing toward the building. Loading for the busses was also in the front of the school, right behind the faculty cars.
-- Placed on the top front corners of the school are the mottos: The End Crowns The Work and Let Today Decide Tomorrow.
-- A baseball field was created behind the school on the site of the current playground apparatus.
On July 19, 1938 the district voters approved a new wing to the school in order to bring in all students from the remaining small school settings. This meant the closing of the Madison Center School, Bouckville School and the Madison School on South St. during 1939.
The addition was called the north wing and was built for a cost of $45,593.93. Of this total, $20,454 came from the Federal government’s W.P.A. funds. (Works Progress Administration) The remainder came from local funding -- $25,139.93. The addition was two-story and was built of red brick to match the 1932 structure. You can see where the addition was connected to the original part of the school by going to the east side of the building and looking up at the second floor. Count from left to right 13 windows on the second floor and the portion beyond the 13 is the 1938 addition.
The old school building on South St. was sold and torn down. A little remembered side note is that the bell from the school on South St. was rung in Solsville during “blackouts” during the years of World War 11.
Some interesting happenings during the first years in our new school were:
-- In 1933 the bandstand was removed from the corner in Madison and placed at the new school so that summer concerts could be held there.
-- Madison students did well in area Public Speaking contests.
-- The school band traveled the region for competitions and appeared at Central New York fairs and field days.
-- The cafeteria was originally operated by the Home Economics classes.
-- A school newspaper was started in February of 1935. It was called the “Daze.”
-- Dancing and adult education classes were offered at the school.
-- A Parent-Teacher Organization was formed soon after the new school opened.
-- The Senior Class presented a play annually on the new stage.
-- Roller skating was enjoyed by students and adults in the auditorium.
-- Christmas parties were given by the faculty during the years of the “Great Depression” to help the needy children of the district.
-- During World War 11, War Council films on First Aid and Fire Protection were shown in the auditorium.
-- The Madison American Legion Post sponsored dances at the school.
-- Summer swimming classes were held at Taylor’s Grove on Lake Moraine.
-- A yearbook was initiated in 1947 and was called the MADKA for MADison, Knoxboro and Augusta.
-- The annual Agricultural Cattle Show was held in the gymnasium, which is now our cafeteria/auditorium.
-- In order to safeguard the health of the students, a towel service was offered to all students at the end of gymnasium classes.
In the years following World War 11, the school district and the school building continued to grow. In 1945 District # 5 of the Town of Augusta was annexed. In 1946 the Union Free District # 1 of Augusta and the Knoxboro Union Free District # 4 were also annexed and in 1947, Common District #’s 13 and 14 of the Town of Augusta were added as well. Other districts from the Town of Augusta were added during later years.
On April 28, 1948 the voters of the school district approved a $195,000 project by a vote of 198-26. It provided for a new school building in Knoxboro which would house students in grades 1-6 (until recently it housed the A.R.C.), a new wing on the main school in Madison, and a bus garage to house the seven busses in the fleet. The component parts of the project were built in 1949. The new addition to the main school was known as the “West Wing.”
Renovations have continued over the years as changing enrollment and changing state curriculum dictated. In 1985 a renovation project included roof repairs, changes in the heating system of the school, exterior work on the building and changes to the flooring. All of these modifications helped to bring M.C.S. into compliance with changing state codes.
As with any older structure, the windows of the past compared with those which are highly insulated today, led to window as well as door replacement. Those changes have been ongoing and have led to drastic cost savings in fuel expenses.
Meetings with State Education Department officials in November of 1986, and the formulation of a local plan for expansion voted on by the Board of Education in January of 1987, led to a vote of the taxpayers in July of 1987. The new building proposal called for a $1,200,000 capital improvement project. Eight new classrooms would be added to the elementary wing of the school and modifications would be made to the existing bus garage for the benefit of Technology and Agriculture classes.
The voters of the district passed the proposal and work began in the summer of 1988 and was completed in November of 1989. The Knoxboro school building was sold for $85,000 for use by A.R.C. Work was also done in the main Madison building to remove asbestos. The original portions of the building had asbestos enclosing pipes and duct work.
A new bus garage was the next project to win the approval of the voters. Voted on in early 2001, work was done from June to December of 2001. The building was placed on the west side of the school driveway and currently houses not only bus bays but also the office of the bus maintenance director, and bathroom facilities for parents and students attending athletic contests on the nearby fields.
Our most recent capital project was the $8,600,000 expansion to the school from January of 2002 to August of 2003. This was to be a combination of additions as well as modifications to the existing building. Many people wondered where the money could possibly come from. However, we took advantage of state building funds whereby we qualified for 95 per cent aid for the project. The remaining 5 per cent was generated from area revenues such as monies from the local windmill project. It was an opportunity that the district could not pass up. The proposal was passed by the voters in December of 1999. Because of the scope of the project, extensive architectural planning and approval from the state were needed before construction could begin.
The project would include:
-- New Science rooms and labs
-- A new Library/Multi-media center
-- New classrooms for Agriculture and Technology
-- An elementary Gymnasium
-- A new Nurse’s office
-- Administration offices
-- Offices for Guidance and Special Education
-- Renovation of the Cafeteria and Stage
-- New Band, Chorus and Art rooms
-- An elevator system for handicapped use
-- Hallway remodeling
-- Parking lot renovations and curbing
-- The addition of extra computer centers
The old bus garage was demolished in January of 2002 to make room for the new addition. Construction of the new components of the project soon followed and the project was completed by August 29, 2003. A formal dedication of the building was held on October 23, 2003. At that time a pancake breakfast was held and tours of the newly-remodeled school were given. The new look of Madison Central School gives a sense of pride to all who have attended in the past and are currently attending this fine school system.
We hope that you enjoy this history of our school system. We encourage you to submit more items and photos to the site to make a more complete look at Madison Central.