yaphank Common School

Our English Day School

By Karen Mouzakes

Joseph Tuthill was nineteen years old when he traveled from his home in Wading River to be interviewed for a teaching position at Millville. The 20’x24’ one room school had been built in 1813, when The Town of Brookhaven created its’ thirteen school districts. Millville was School District #12. The schoolhouse was located just north of Swezey’s Corner. A log constructed house now stands on that site.

When Tuthill met with the fifteen subscribers, or heads of families, who would be sending their children to school, he carried with him letters of recommendation. The first was written by his former teacher at the Wading River School who wrote that Joseph Tuthill had “Reviewed English grammar and Gibson’s Surveying. He had studied Bowditch and navigation along with Latin grammar and half of Esop’s (sic) Fables.”

Tuthill also provided letters of recommendation from the Inspectors of Common Schools in Brookhaven and Islip Towns. Both found him to be of “good moral character and of sufficient learning and ability.”

He must have made a good impression as a teaching contract was signed on August 3, 1818.

“The contract is between the proprietors of the 12thSchool District and Joseph Tuthill. The said Joseph is to teach an English Day School in said District. Each subscriber is to pay him $1 for every scholar.” The subscribers would also “do his equal proportion in boarding and washing for said teacher.”

Of interest is the contract’s signed list of subscribers. These were the heads of families who would provide the scholars. Listed were Mordecai Homan, Christopher Swezey, , Samuel Glover, Robert Hawkins, Simmons Laws, Wm Homan, Thomas Homan, Shepherd Robinson, Silas, Davis Overton, Daniel Homan, William Saxton, David Hammond, Amos Sell and Issac Mills. These men, a veritable “Who’s Who” of Millville, also agreed to supply cord wood to keep the school heated.

All went well at Millville’s English Day School. Joseph Tuthill had his contract renewed in 1819 and again in 1820. Many teachers were to follow him, including the father of Mary Louise Booth. The villagers of Millville seemed satisfied with their little school until the early 1850s. Millville by then had become Yaphank. Many believed that their thriving village deserved a schoolhouse where the roof didn’t leak! Others felt that the little school was too far out of the village. They wanted the new school to be more centrally located, on land somewhere between the two mill sites. It was School Superintendent William Weeks, who persuaded Betsy Downs to sell a piece of property. The land was almost equidistant from both mill sites and on the south side of Main Street. Weeks proposed that an octagon shaped schoolhouse should be built. In 1854, the new octagon schoolhouse came to be. The old, English Day School was now obsolete!

A thank you to David Randall who posted the teacher contracts to this page. The contracts were sent to Karen Mouzakes who wrote the story from those contracts.

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