A HISTORY of
the TOWN of AMHERST, NEW YORK
SUE MILLER YOUNG
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The Schools of Williamsville
Many locations have been given as the site of the first school
in Williamsville, probably due to the facts that deeds have been mislaid or lost
and that private schools were held in homes and other buildings at various
times. No teaching license was required and anyone who could read, write and
"cipher" could set up a class and charge for instruction.
It is believed that Caleb Rogers conducted a private school in a wooden
structure at Main Street and Garrison Road as early as 1812 on one of the two
-sites deeded by Jonas Williams to Benjamin Caryl and Isaac Bowman as trustees
of School District No. 6.
The other site was a narrow, triangular plot on Main Street just west of
Grove Street where a school was erected in 1817.
It is believed that Caleb Rogers, who lived only a few doors to the east of
the site, constructed the school and also became its first teacher.
THE EAGLE STREET SCHOOL
Another deed, known to have been conveyed to School District No. 3 by Jonas
Williams but since mislaid or lost, was for property at 70 Eagle Street,
adjacent to what is now the Lutheran Church. A school house was erected
and served for about 50 years until 1875 when the trustees, Philip Zent, Henry
Long and Christian Wolf, sold the buildings and property to Esther and John
Hershey for one dollar.
Subsequent owners were John Sider of Canada, Franklin Luce and William
Bitterman who made molds for sculptors and did much of the statuary work for
the Pan American Ex- position in Buffalo in 1930.
THE CAYUGA STREET STONE SCHOOL
The third school building in Williamsville was constructed in 1840 by
Timothy S. Hopkins at a cost of $1,000 and is still standing at 72 Cayuga
Street. The exterior retains its simple lines but the interior has been
modernized to house a Senior Citizen's Center and the offices of the
Amherst Historical Society.
Shaded by trees as old as itself, the school is one of the village's famous
landmarks. A Mr. Johnson was its first teacher but the school came to be known
as "Miss Spaulding's School" in tribute to "Little Miss
Bertha" Spaulding who taught in its one classroom for 25 years.
At a long table in the center of the room, divided into squares by strips of
red tape, "number work" was taught with the use of colored pegs
manipulated to fit the directions of the teacher.
Friday afternoons were used for "speaking pieces" and singing to
the accompaniment of a pump organ played by Miss Spaulding. According to a
former student, "another nice thing about Friday afternoon was that school
was dismissed early." During "recess" and before school the girls
played on one side of the walk leading to the building and the boys played on
the other side. On stormy days, the pupils were sent home early, the older
children being held responsible for the safety of the younger.
Some years later the single room was partitioned to make two class rooms and
a second teacher was hired to accommodate the school's 40 pupils.
After the school was discontinued, the taxpayers of School District No. 3,
around 1950, voted to deed the building to the
Bachelor Arms Club, a group who served the youth of the village
and the town, with the understanding that the property would revert to the
district if it were no longer needed for that , purpose.
In 1962 the property reverted and was contributed by the School District to
the Town of Amherst. The Town Board remodeled and refurbished the building as a
second center for the activities of the Senior Citizen's and the Historical
At one time (dates undetermined), children were taught in the front part of
the store that occupied what is now the Ronecker Building and the east portion
of the Widler (Coe) Building across the street. (The Widler building was razed
in 1963 for the construction of the present Police Station and Courthouse.)
The latter school was conducted by Miss Mary Beach, who had retired from
teaching in eastern schools. Children attended
only in the morning and adults attended in the evening and it is
suspected that rivalry existed between the public and the private school.
Until 1853, however, there was no provision for education beyond the
elementary grades. Higher education had to be obtained away from home and was
generally limited to children of affluent families. Some attended the Seminary
at Lima, New York.
In 1853 a group of citizens under the auspices of the Christian Church met to
discuss the possibility of having a private school in Williamsville beyond the
WILLIAMSVILLE CLASSICAL INSTITUTE (Academy Street School)
At the formative meeting for the Williamsville Classical Institute, members
pledged from $100 to $300 but the cumulative total was insufficient to develop
the school. Benjamin Miller then pledged $1500 besides contributing chairs,
desks, and benches from his factory and the brick building was planned.
The property on Academy Street was purchased from David Hershey for $700 and
a warranty deed was issued to the following trustees: David Greibiel, John
Frick, Isaac Hershey, George Gross, Christian Rutt, John Hershey, Timothy A.
Hopkins, Samuel L. Bestow, Benjamin Miller, John Witmer, Alexander Gotwalt,
Arthur H. Moulton, John Gotwalt, John B. Campbell and James Stevens.
In 1857 the first catalog was issued, containing the names of the officers,
teachers and students, some of whom came from as far as the Canadian Northwest
Territories, Washington, D. C. and Michigan. (Traveling preachers of the
Christian Church publicized the school.)
The faculty consisted of Thomas Munell, Principal, Professor Modern Languages
and Belles Lettres; Joseph King, A.B., Professor of Mathematics and Ancient
Languages; Miss Julia Abbott, Preceptress; Josie W. Emmons, teacher of
Instrumental Music; and Tobias Witmer, teacher of Vocal Music.
Yearly tuition was charged per each course. English cost $12; Mathematics
$15; incidental expense "per session," 50 cents; and "board and
wash," per week, cost $2.25.
The course of study was divided into 3 years and 3 terms each
("tri-semester"-100 years ahead of its time). Subjects listed were
philosophy, astronomy, theology, trigonometry, botany, rhetoric, political
economy, moral science, geology, chemistry and the languages-Greek, Latin,
French and German. Special courses were organized for those intending to teach.
Each student was expected to attend some place of worship every Lord's Day and
to join one of the two literary societies- one for men and one for women.
Literary debates involved deep study over such topics as (for the Ladies
Society) : "Our future husbands should never be allowed to criticize our
cooking or say 'Mother made a better pie' " and (for the Men's Society) -
"It is more beneficial to saw wood before breakfast than to wait until next
The Williamsville Classical Institute, which had become known as the
"Academy" closed its doors in 1869. Two men whose names are not
recorded, came to Williamsville to rent the building and operate a private
school, but the venture was unsuccessful.
For a while the school stood empty except when the congregation of the Church
of Christ Disciples worshipped there during the construction of their church on
In 1874, School District No. 3 rented the Academy for use as an elementary
school and, in 1892, purchased the building and property from the Institute for
$250, naming it Union Free School No. 3 and added a high school program.
The first Regents examinations were held there in 1892 and its first
graduates, in 1895, were Gertrude Metz (Joslyn) , Mary Long, Harriet Dodge (Lehn),
Lena Snyder (Grove) and Grace Beach (Trotter) who won the first Chalmers Gold
Medal for scholarship.
By 1902 the school had 65 students in the high school departments and 143 in
the elementary program.
ACADEMY STREET SCHOOL
In 1921, the red brick building that was originally the Williamsville
Classical Institute was inadequate for School District No. 3. Condemned by the
State Department of Education as antiquated and unsanitary, it was demolished
after a bitter battle at the polls when, in 1921, it was voted to build a new
school on the same site at a cost of $122,000.
The members of the Board of Education who "fought a good fight" for
the new school were Dr. William H. Baker, Ernest B. Walker, Howard G. Britting,
George J. Measer, Sr., George W. Walters and Henry Longnecker.
The contractor agreed to complete the school in 200 days but it was not
opened until 1924-2-1/2 years later; although the auditorium was completed in
time for graduation exercises of the class of 1923. The class officers were:
George Helfter, Ursula Senf, Virginia Britting and Kathryn Wolf. Other members
of the class were Harry Calvert, Virgil Widler, Evelyn Kunkle, Arlene Scully,
Elizabeth Bates, T. James Brennan and Adelaide Feist.
The first principal of the school was Burt G. Brennan who was followed, in
1924, by Walter J. Harrington. In 1931 a large addition to the high school
department of the Academy school was built and the curriculum was enlarged. Now
art, manual training, music, domestic science were being offered. Patrick J.
Murray became Assistant Principal.
'Where "Cap" Harrington awarded 9 diplomas in 1925, his first year
at the Academy School, 66 graduated in 1950, his 25th Anniversary as
principal-and the last year that Williamsville's high school was located at that
Rapid residential growth in the area had forced the referendum for
centralization and, upon approval of the taxpayers, Williamsville Central School
District was formed, to include eleven districts with a registration of 1603
The Board of Education in 1950 included: J. Robert Chalmers, President; Mrs.
Marguerite H. Lapp, Mrs. Elsie Bohnhoff, Fred H. Buddenhagen, John J. Reick,
Robert C. Thompson and Laurence E. Garrow.
A new central high school, at a cost of $2,500,000, to be located on Main
Street just east of the boundary of Williamsville, was also
approved and it was expected that it would be ready for occupancy in September
Where the construction of the first high school on Academy Street was delayed
by shortages following World War 1, the high school in Main Street was delayed
by shortages following World War 11, by strikes and by a practically
unbelievable general demand for construction materials.
United States was "on the move," the Niagara Frontier with its
skilled artisans and facilities for power development and research was expanding
rapidly and the Town of Amherst became a preferred residential area. School
registration increased fantastically and has continued at a record-breaking pace
WILLIAMSVILLE CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
Where six students graduated from Union Free School District No. 3 high
school in 1892, 400 graduated from Williamsville Central High School in 1965. A
faculty staff of 6 has grown to a staff of 385.
Where the total enrollment in public elementary and high school was less than
100 in a single building in the village of Williamsville in 1892, the school
district, now centralized, has expanded to nearly 40 square miles and includes 4
elementary schools, 2 junior high schools and a senior high school with a total
enrollment of 6977. The operating budget for 1965-66 is over $6,000,000.
The voters of the district have approved the construction of a new high
school, two elementary schools and plans are being completed for a referendum
for the purchase of 10 additional sites, some to include "campus
schools" including elementary, junior and senior high schools on one
location ... to provide for anticipated expansion of school enrollment within
the next 10 years.
The current Superintendent of Schools, Dr. William E. Keller, and the members
of the Board of Education of Williamsville Central School District are Mrs.
Marguerite H. Lapp;President; L. Donald Morris, Vice President; Paul D. Clark,
Clerk; J. Robert Chalmers, who has served for more than a quarter of a century;
Joseph C. Tisdale, Donald R. Spink and Robert T. Bronkie.
NEUMANN HIGH SCHOOL
A parochial school was established in Saints Peter and Paul parish in 1837.
The first sessions were held in the home of Philip Jacob Wirtz, where the
Reverend John N. Neumann was living.
There is no record of where the first school was held, but undoubtedly it was
in a small rented, or contributed, building. Its first teacher, a layman, apparently
was either unsuccessful or unsatisfactory, so the pastor assumed the duty.
When the present church was built in 1866 to serve the needs of the
post Civil War Niagara Frontier, school classes were held in the nearby convent.
In 1893, a school, which served the parish through the pastorates
of the Reverend Phillips and the Reverend Adolph, was erected on the church
grounds. Sisters of St. Joseph taught the school from 1886 to 1893, when the
members of the Sisters of St. Francis, who are still supervising the curriculum,
In 1920, under the inspiration of the Reverend Walter F. Fornes,
the building was enlarged and courses at the high school level were
introduced. Members of the first graduating class in 1924 were: Howard Tatu,
Albert Anstett, Henry Lenz, Mildred Hafner, Margaret Berger, Amelia Beiter,
Estella Fruehauf and Olga Cragin.
In 1929 the enrollments were about 385 in the grade school, 140 in the
high school, with a graduating class of 30 and registration was rapidly
In 1962 the Educational Department of the Buffalo Diocese felt it
advisable to open a diocesan school in the Williamsville area and constructed
the present school on Park Club Lane near the Youngmann
Expressway, just west of the limits of the Village of Williamsville-honoring the
beloved Reverend byits name, the Bishop Neumann High School. It is
now attended by students throughout the large Buffalo Diocese and its current
enrollment exceeds 1200.
The former Neumann High School now houses the Sts. Peter and Paul grade
school with its more than 600 students.
MARTIN LUTHER SCHOOL
The first Lutheran School was established in Buffalo in 1948. In 1955 the
school was moved to 1085 Eggert Road, Eggertsville and became known as the
Martin Luther School.
The first school had an enrollment of 78 children in grades kindergarten
through 4, with 3 teachers.
It now has an enrollment of 220 children in grades kindergarten through 8,
with a staff of 8 teachers.
The school stands for the rights of every child to be fulfilled in a happy,
Christian start on the path of learning, and feels that his program should stir
his abilities, mature his judgment and guide his sense of moral and social
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Click Here to see more pictures
A picture of The Williamsville Classical Institute Was referred to as the "Academy" . click here to see a bigger picture.
A picture of The Cayuga Street Stone School The Third School building erected in 1840 by Timothy S. Hopkins, still stands today at 72 Cayuga St. click here to see a bigger picture.