Welcome to the History Corner!
Celebrating the rich history of Port Byron, New York, an old Erie Canal village in the Town of Mentz. This site is dedicated to the legacy and heritage of our community as well as a variety of regional historical tidbits. I hope you enjoy your visit and will stop by again.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Port Byron High School 1899-1935

The Port Byron High School was dedicated on Tuesday, January 16, 1900.  It replaced the Port Byron Free Academy that was lost to fire in November 1898 at this same location.  The architect was C. E. Crandall of Rochester, NY.  The building was heated and ventilated with a Smeed-Norcot heating system and had running water on both floors.  The Smeed Heating System was widely used in schools and other public buildings, its furnace generated heat by heating air.  The building cost "nearly $16,500.00" (equivalent to "nearly" $440,000.00 based on 2009 CPI).  The structure was described as housing 450 pupils, consisting of two floors with basement, six large study rooms, a laboratory, library and multiple recitation rooms. 

Many will be surprised to learn that some pupils from Brutus attended our school here.  In our early history, we were a progressive place.  Woman started to serve on our Board of Education in the year 1890, before woman even had the right to vote.  Helen Hadger Root was a teacher and among the first woman to serve on the school board.  Her husband William H. Root a past Board of Education Member was present when both the Free Academy as well as the High School was dedicated.  

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meet The Press

Many can recall The Port Byron Chronicle but did you know there were other newspapers produced at Port Byron?

The Port Byron Herald was started in 1844 by Frederick Prince.  (He already owned another paper called The Weedsport Advertiser, later known as the Northern Phoenix which was produced at Weedsport.)

The Port Byron Gazette was founded in 1849 by Charles T. White which was continued with the help of his brother until the year 1860.  The paper was then sold to B. W. Thompson who in turn sold out to William Hosford in 1861.  Hosford then sold to Cyrus Marsh in 1862 who then changed the name of the paper to the Northern Cayuga Times.

Note: Some sources indicate the Port Byron Gazette was founded in 1851 by Oliver T. Beard.

The Port Byron Times was published by C. Marsh 186_-1870.
There is one additional paper that appears in the business directory on the 1859 village map of Port Byron, being the Citizen operated by N. Marble.  It is interesting that this paper is not listed in the article by the Auburn Morning News on Dec. 15, 1877, which was in tribute to the history of the press in Cayuga County from 1798-1877.  Perhaps this paper was produced elsewhere and simply sold here and did not make the list because it was not produced here.  I will make mention, as this paper was available.  

The paper with the most interesting history is the Port Byron Chronicle.  That is partly due to it being the longest surviving paper associated with our community, but also due to the folklore attached to it.  The Weedsport Cayuga Chief - Port Byron Chronicle issued on Dec. 10, 1964 had an article honoring the 90th anniversary of our paper.  It stated that L. H. King established the paper on January 1, 1875.  After Editor King's death, his son Richard T. King is listed as continuing the paper who later sold the paper to Mr. G. Welton Fickeisen.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Port Byron Free Academy 1859-1898

Early primary or grammar education consisted of a series of one room school houses, dating back to the year 1800.  They were the standard for children to learn the needed skills to ensure their success to adulthood.  The first teaching certificate issued at Port Byron was issued to Celestia King in 1854, a granddaughter of Philip King.  She boarded at various homes to teach for $1.50 a week. 

An article by Richard T King in 1952 indicates that within the village, there were two separate school districts, one located at the corner of Rochester and King Streets, and the second at Pine Street.  His article indicates the Port Byron Free and Academy opened in 1852, with Ceylon Otis as its first Principal and academic departments under the management of T. K. Fuller.   The first Board of Education included Dr. James D. Button-President, William A. Halsey- Secretary, Alfred Mead, George Randall, A.K. King, William D. Osborn, Finlay M. King, George Hayden, and John C. Foster.

The district was chartered on April 7, 1857 and would be called the The Port Byron Free School District.  The following year, a lot was purchased on Church Street.  The cost of the lot and building amounted to $10,850.00, which has the purchase power of about $292,000.00 today (based on 2009 Consumer Price Index).  The building would be called the Port Byron Free & Academy.  They were established with the State Board of Regents under Chapter 298, Laws of 1859.

The building was three stories, and measured sixty feet long and fifty feet wide to accommodate 400 students.  The building was heated by coal stoves.

There were two entrances, one for boys and the other to be used by the girls with genders separated inside the class room.

The first floor held classes for grades 1-4; the second floor was used for grades 5-8 and the high school occupied the third floor.  The faculty consisted of six teachers.

Despite the name Free in the school district name, enrollment was not free for all students.  Pupils outside the village had to pay tuition of $4.00 per term (would be about $108.00 today) with extra fees for classes in Latin, Greek, German, French and Bookkeeping.  Tuition increased to $5.00 per term by the 1890's.