History of Education in Freehold Township
Mattisonia Grammar School
The earliest recorded school was the Mattisonia Grammar School, which was established on July 23, 1767. An unrecorded deed, dated May 25, 1753, which is said to be in the possession of the Old Tennent Church, states that Aaron Mattison of Freehold gave to the Trustees of the Presbyterian Church of Monmouth County a plot of ground "for a consideration of 2 shillings, 6 pence current lawful money of the Province of New York." An original deed for a "great deal of land sold" is recorded in the Courthouse in Freehold in Book E of Deeds on page 55, and was apparently sold to Arrie Marteson by John Reid on November 25, 1707, for 10 pounds, 4 shillings. It adjoined land belonging to Benjamin Allen and Captain Anderson known as Clear Brook, which ran through a meadow near the church during the Revolution. John Reid had purchased the land from the Indians on July 25, 1696. Some of this same land came into the hands of David Rhea, John Henderson, and Samuel Ker, together they gave the land for a consideration of 1 shilling to the Trustees of the Presbyterian Church.
The site of the Mattisonia Grammar School was somewhere in the vicinity of Old Tennent Church - probably on church property. It is not known how long the school was in operation; however, the Rev. Charles McKnight's sons, Charles and Richard, were educated there. They, with others from the area, became prominent in the War for Independence.
Dr. Nathaniel Scudder
Also noted was that Dr. Nathaniel Scudder was one of the 3 men responsible for the school. Dr. Scudder was born in Freehold Township in 1733 and lived in Freehold most of his life. He was a graduate of Princeton College in 1751. He later became one of the trustees of the college. He became a physician and settled at Monmouth Courthouse. It is said his house, which was of 18th-century architecture, stood where the Freehold Borough Municipal Building and the Railroad Station are today. He was an ardent patriot, writing many articles against the tyranny of England. He gave up his practice and became a colonel in the First Regiment of Monmouth during the Revolution. He was a member of the Legislature for several years, and in 1776 was speaker of the House. In 1777 he was chosen a member of Congress. He designed the Articles of Confederation. In June 1778, during a short recess in Congress, he came home and was present at the Battle of Monmouth. He was shot in 1781 near Shrewsbury while helping General David Forman repel one of the many incursions by the enemy. He was buried with honors in Old Tennent Churchyard.
The Latin School
During the same time period, there was another school that was announced by Joseph Rue. It was called the Latin School and was held in the house of Henry Perrine. It was advertised in Collins' Gazette dated March 14, 1778, and was "where scholars can be accommodated in the best manner and at the lowest expense."
It is also reported that there was an English and Classical School taught by the Rev. Andrew Fowler, the rector of St. Peter's Church. However, additional information could not be found. The next reference to a school at this time was known as the Old Log Schoolhouse.
The Old Log Schoolhouse
It stood on the byroad (now Barkalow Avenue) leading from the main road to the Old Baptist Cemetery, south of the mansion on the Covenhoven Farm (Clinton House-Moreau Farmstead). General David Forman of Revolutionary War fame built the schoolhouse. He was also known as Black David because of his swarthy looks and to distinguish him from Sheriff David Forman. General Forman gave General George Washington one of his own horses when Washington's was shot from under him during the Battle of Monmouth. This school was maintained by General Forman as a select school for the education of his own children and neighbors who chose to avail themselves of this privilege. It operated for many years. Judge Charles A. Bennett attended it between 1825 and 1830, when it was the only public school in the vicinity of Freehold. Scholars from Blue Ball (now Adelphia), Mounts Corners (now West Freehold), and other neighborhoods also attended this school. The school has also been known as the Ancient Baptist Burying Ground Schoolhouse.
In 1779 Ellis records show another school that was opened by Rev. John Woodhull, pastor of Old Tennent Church. It was billed as a classical school. This was the only school of its kind in this part of the state and became quite popular. Many important men were trained here. Garret A. Hobart, 26th Vice President of the United States; S. Berien, who later became Attorney General of the United States; and George Ord, biographer of the life of Alexander Wilson, the Ornithologist, attended this school. Alexander Wilson was a friend of John A. Audubon and published several volumes of his "American Ornithology" between 1766 and 1813. After Wilson's death, his friend, George Ord, edited 2 additional volumes of his works.
The Georgia Schoolhouse
The Georgia Schoolhouse is 1 of 2 still standing today. It is located on the corner of Georgia Road and Jackson Mill Road and is owned by Freehold Township and maintained by the Freehold Township Historic Preservation Commission. The Georgia Schoolhouse was originally located on 40 acres of land. The land was a grant from King George III of England to the Board of Proprietors of East New Jersey for education purposes. This area of Freehold Township was known as 'Georgia' at that time. According to the late Andrew J. Conover, Esq., a teacher for Freehold Township, the land was then deeded by the Board of Proprietors of East New Jersey to James Parker on April 17, 1795, for the erection of a school for the inhabitants of Georgia.
There were 2 other school buildings that preceded the present structure. The 1st school was erected about 1808, the 2nd in 1842, and the 3rd in 1862 after a fire destroyed the structure. This building was last used in 1935 as a full-time school. Laura Southern Barkalow Donovan taught special classes here until the 1950s. Mrs. Donovan was a student at the school starting in 1901. She finished her 8th-grade education here and advanced to Normal School to receive her teaching certificate. She then returned to the school and remained its teacher until 1935, when the school districts of Freehold Township were consolidated and all teaching was done from the new West Freehold School on Route 537.
East Freehold School
The East Freehold School was built in 1843 on Denise's Corner on Dutch Lane Road. We now know this area as the East Freehold and Dutch Lane Road intersection. The original schoolhouse was moved across the street in 1843 and a 2nd floor was added. It is now privately owned. It accommodated 70 pupils. A 2nd school was built and was formerly known as the Dutch Lane school; it became known as the East Freehold School in 1878. It served the population of the eastern end of the Township. Most students that graduated from this school went into teaching. The school had 50 different teachers and was closed in 1936.
Paradise Grove School
The Paradise Grove School was built in 1825. It was sometimes called the school at Clayton's Corner. It is now owned by the Township and houses the headquarters for the Municipal Alliance. It was located on the Strickland Farm at the intersection of Elton-Adelphia and Jackson Mill Road (Clayton's Corner).
The Out Lot
Another school now vacated was The Out Lot on the Hendrickson farm. The farm was located on the road leading from Stillwells Corner to West Freehold. The year was 1850, and many inhabitants of Freehold and their descendants were educated here.
Thompson's Grove school
In the same area of the Township was the Thompson's Grove School, which was located on the Burlington Path. Built in 1847, some of its students were Miss Lydia Parker, Edmund Parker, Elizabeth and James A. Parker, Mrs. Leslie McClurg, Mrs. Henry Hance, Mrs. William Lykes, Viola Ely and Mrs. Edward McChesney. Teachers included William Mount, Julia Nevius and a Mr. Carpenter.
The West Freehold School
The only other schoolhouse that still stands today is The West Freehold School. Erected in 1847, it is located on Wemrock Road. The acre of land on which it stands was originally part of the 143-acre Walker-Combs-Hartshorne farm. Ownership of the farm and land can be dated as far back as 1686. In 1832, the chain of title came to Rulif R. Schanck. It is written that Mr. Schanck conveyed 1 acre of his land for the school to the Trustees, Samuel Conover, John H. Mount, and William N. Thompson for a fee of $25. The original name of the school was The West Freehold Seminary and Collegiate Institute. It was also called the Old Schanck School. The current and lasting name was The West Freehold School. It was in continuous use from 1847 to 1936, when it was closed for the consolidation of the school districts of Freehold Township.
There were 8 school districts in the Township. They were:
- East Freehold District, Number 6
- Freehold District, Number 7
- Paradise District, Number 8
- Georgia District, Number 9 (later named Pleasant Grove)
- Siloam District, Number 10
- West Freehold District, Number 11
- Thompson's Grove District, Number 12
- Aumock District, Number 13
We find evidence that these districts were educating approximately 500 students per year toward the end of the 1800s.
Schools in New Jersey were all private until 1816, when legislation establishing the "public" school concept was adopted. This legislation directed the State Treasurer to invest $15,000 in United States bonds, the income from which was to be used in furthering the cause of education. By 1830 the school fund amounted to $228,611. The Legislature then began to plan for a regular school system. It took until 1867 to get the school system established.
Teachers were accepted by certificate of scholarship, signed by a principal or committee of a school, or the leading man of a town or pastor of a church. There was no formal examination given. About the year 1847, teaching licenses began to be granted by town superintendents of education. The Superintendent for Monmouth County was Dr. Samuel Lockwood.
Teachers were engaged for 1 year. Their pay would depend upon the number of pupils, and somewhat on the teacher's popularity in the town. They usually lived in someone's home in the area. Their board was $2.50 per week. Parents had to pay for each pupil, depending on what subjects were taken. In 1836 the cost of tuition would be from $2 up to $6.50 per quarter. In the early days of education, most girls received very little education. There was a misconception by parents that girls were incapable of "book learning." Instead, they were taught embroidery and home skills. This concept began to change by the mid-1800s. According to an article in the Red Bank Register dated June 4, 1914, the average cost of educating one pupil was $29.57.
Ages & Subjects
As in all 1-room schoolhouses, the teacher taught all 8 grades. Students ranged in age from 4 to 25. As time went on, even night school was taught so that parents could benefit from education. Subjects taught and used for grading purposes were:
Ages 4 to 10
- Time (attendance)
- Deportment (behavior)
Ages 11 and Up
- English Grammar
- Modern History
- Natural Philosophy
Some schools also taught Latin and French.
All subjects were used in the final grade for each student. Attendance and deportment were a very important part of the student's final grade. However, in the attendance records there was a column labeled "weather" for consideration of students' attendance. Some students had to travel miles to school and had no transportation. Therefore, if weather conditions were too bad they would have been given special consideration for their attendance or lack thereof. Also listed on attendance records was the occupation of the father of each child. Some of these were:
- Ship's Carpenter
Students went to school for the whole year. They were only allowed time off to help with the harvest. The school year started in September and ended in August of the following year. The children had to bring their own books from home for studying until the public schools supplied some materials. They used slates to write on, as paper was not supplied and was not readily available until the 20th century. Lessons were written on the blackboards positioned around the classroom.
Schoolroom & Activities
The classrooms were set up with the very young children sitting in front of the classroom and the older students in the back. The older children helped the teacher educate the younger ones. Spelling matches were popular, as were the repeating of mathematical and geographical tables. The school day opened with a daily reading from the Bible and a prayer. Every pupil was expected to have a Bible, and it was used for the 1st reading exercise of the morning. One of the older boys was responsible for starting a fire in the stove during cold weather. The boys carried the wood in for the stove each day. They also fetched the water from a neighbor's house. The school day was 8 hours long. The boys went outside at recess while the girls remained inside doing embroidery or cleaning.
At the end of their schooling, students were given a certificate, similar to the diplomas issued today. If they wanted to continue their education, they would go to a "Normal School," which was the equivalent of high school, and then on to college if they could afford it.
- "Recollections" by Rev. George W Clark, D.D., from Pamphlet File "Schools" in Monmouth County Historical Association Library and Archives.
- "Schools in Early Days" article from Red Bank Register, August 5, 1903.
- "The Early Schools of Freehold, NJ and Vicinity, 1667 to 1928," written by Lillian Lauler Wilbur, circa 1969, Schuyler Press.
- "A Century's Progress in Educational Values in Freehold": lecture given before the Woman's Club (under the auspices of the Education Department of Freehold High School) by Lillian F. Lauler, March 15, 1944.