ONE-ROOM SCHOOL

Program
NYS Historic
Subject
Education
Location
259 Rock Hill Drive, Rock Hill, NY
Lat/Long
41.623999, -74.59352
Grant Recipient
Town of Thompson
Historic Marker

ONE-ROOM SCHOOL

Inscription

ONE-ROOM SCHOOL
ROCK HILL SCHOOL 1846-1960
COMMON SCHOOL DISTRICT #14
ALVIN F. MITCHELL TRUSTEE.
LATER USED AS PARSONAGE BY
ROCK HILL METHODIST CHURCH.
WILLIAM G. POMEROY FOUNDATION 2018

Before education was mandatory in New York State, many counties and churches built school houses for primary education. The passage of the “Act to secure to children the benefits of elementary education” on May 11, 1874, required parents to enroll any children under the age of 14 in primary education under penalty of fines and possible loss of custody if they consistently refused to comply with the law. The act also prohibited the employment of children between the ages of 8 and 14 years old during any school hours. (Laws of the State of New York, 1874) This further spurred the construction of many schools. But due to the lack of infrastructure and the more basic curriculums of the time, schools did not start off as the centralized K-12 school districts we know today. Instead, one room schools with a single teacher instructing a mixed-age group of students were the norm. Sullivan County constructed a number of one room school houses beginning in the mid-19th century into the early 20th century, and in 1900 the county was one of the few in New York State that received more money from the state government for education, $24,430, than it paid towards the state. (Sullivan County Record, April, 1900) Most of these schools closed in the 1940s or ‘50s as modern school districts were consolidated.

The Rock Hill School’s property was originally purchased by the Thompson School District #14 for $10 in 1846, according to the Sullivan County Deed. Unlike many of the other one room schools in the area, which closed in the 1940s or 50s, this one continued to operate until 1960 when, according to a former student, it closed and students attended the new George L. Cooke School in Monticello the same year.

The property was later used by the local Methodist church. In 1992, it was sold by the Rock Hill United Methodist Church to private owners for a nominal $10, according to a deed from the Sullivan County Clerk’s Office.

In 1900, two residents of the Rock Hill School District, along with a resident of the Towner District, were arrested for failure to send their children to school, as required by the compulsory education act. They were discharged by Justice McMillen after being admonished and subsequently promised to comply with the law in the future. (Sullivan County Record, May, 1900)

A reportedly popular and beloved teacher of the school tragically died of alcohol poisoning in 1909. Charles M. Kerwin had taken over Rock Hill School in October of the previous year, and was immediately popular with his students. The parents and children generously gave him gifts for Christmas that year in a humble celebration at the school, for which Charles thanked them through tears of joy. On a Saturday in February of 1909, Kerwin was apparently visiting Monticello where, after depositing money at the bank, he began indulging in alcohol. He reportedly went to bed at a normal hour, but when he did not awake Sunday morning and all attempts to rouse him failed, a doctor was summoned who pronounced him dead. The doctor concluded that the cause of death was excessive alcohol consumption. Charles Kerwin was only 32 years old at the time of his death. (Republican Watchman, 1909)