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  • Sue Tryforos, Borough Historian

From the Civil War to District School #44

For this year's Quasquicentennial Celebration, The Rock Recorder Blog will post a chronological (as much as possible) history of Glen Rock, NJ. My main source for framing this series is an unpublished manuscript in the Glen Rock Historical & Preservation Society's archive, which was written by George Hubschmitt. This is Part #5 of the series.

Almost exactly 158 years ago today, in April 1861, Fort Sumter, South Carolina, fell after a heavy bombardment and the Civil War began. This great, costly and bloody war affected the lives of everyone in the United States. After four years of attrition, only the question of secession and the abolition of slavery in the seceding states was settled.

Men from the Glen Rock area who served in the Union forces were John Andrew and Christian Z. Marinus, cousins; Anthony Thurston (who lived on the farm pictured below); James H. Terwilliger; John L. and George Wallraven, brothers; and John A. Hopper. Two other Wallraven brothers from Passaic County also served; the surname would later morph into Waldron for some branches of the family. Terwiliiger and Hopper both died during the conflict, both as a result of typhoid fever. [For a history of John A. Hopper and the Bergen County Regiment in which he served, please read this earlier Rock Recorder Blog Post: JOHN-A-HOPPER-AND-THE-CIVIL-WAR ].

[The Thurston Farm on Harristown Road, future site of the Glen Rock Middle & High Schools]

Schools have been a point of pride for Glen Rockers while also being the bane of officials and taxpayers for years. Early schools were those connected with the old Dutch churches. Each home was assessed for its support whether or not any children from the family attended. Books were few and creature comfort almost nil in these schools.

Later, so-called public schools came into being. The pupil paid tuition and bought whatever books he or she could afford. Writing material was the slate and slate pencil. Attendance was spotty, many times depending on the need to work at home (especially during planting and harvesting seasons on the family farm).

The first school in the Glen Rock area was near the Saddle River-Franklin Township line south of Garrit I. Hopper's place. It was destroyed by a gale in 1824. Another was almost immediately built on the land of Paul Vanderbeck. The third was the Ridgewood-Grove School #44, aka The Little Red Schoolhouse located at the intersection of Rock Road and Ackerman Avenue. School #44 was the district school that served the majority of the Glen Rock area's children; it was built around 1865 (the historic sign, purchased in 1964 with donations collected by Glen Rock students, lists an incorrect date; that 1846 date belongs to another one-room school house, destroyed before #44 was constructed, that also stood in Saddle River Township).

[Ridgewood-Grove School #44, aka The Little Red Schoolhouse]

The land on which the Ridgewood-Grove School #44 stood was loaned for the purpose by Henry I. Hopper, with the stipulation that the property would return to private hands once it was no longer used as a school. This is exactly what happened when Glen Rock's wooden School #1 was built on Maple Avenue (where the Central School parking lot is now situated) in 1900.

In 1876 the capacity of School #44 was rated at 50 pupils. However, attendance varied from 55 to 75 on any given day. Among those who taught in School #44 were George A. Doremus, Edward W. Murphy (who later became superintendent of Jersey City schools), John Ackerman, and John R. Lepper. When the Borough of Glen Rock was formed in 1894, Mr. Lepper was the teacher at School #44. He continued in that role until August 1895, when John J. Ackerman was hired to replace him. Mr. Ackerman was himself replaced in June 1896 by Charles P. Carter. Mr. Carter was joined by Miss Maude Christopher as a second teacher in September 1899, when there were about 90 students being taught in the single-room school. Married females were not allowed to teach children at the time.

Entrance to School #44 was on the Ackerman Avenue front, through a lobby. The water pail and dippers were kept in the lobby. In warm weather, the floor was pretty wet from spilled water. Water was carried from either the John Ackerman place at Paterson Road (now Maple Avenue) and Ackerman Avenue or from Peter Hopper's place at Ackerman Avenue and Harristown Road. A well was finally dug in the front yard of the school in the 1890s. Heating was by a pot-bellied stove in the center of the room. Privies were outside. Across the front of the room was a narrow raised platform for the teacher's desk. On the wall above the platform was a slate blackboard. Seats were desk and seat units, mostly two-seaters, some three seaters. At times there were three pupils in a two-seater and four in a three-seater. In the 1890s, paper and pencil were replacing the slate and slate pencil. Prior to the forming of the Borough, the large boys had the chore of sweeping the floor and in cool weather keeping the fire going, while the girls had the task of dusting. After the Borough was formed, a janitor was hired (sometimes the teacher handled these tasks as well).

[The front door was moved to the Rock Road side after the school became a

private home in 1900]

Mr. Carter brought baseball to Glen Rock. He arranged to field a Glen Rock team to play against the Eastwood School of Westwood, where he formerly taught. Games were played on the rear of the Montress property, about where the Central Avenue extension is located. Before and after baseball, tag, duck-on-the-rock, marbles, spinning tops and the larger boys lassoing the smaller ones had been some of the games played at noon and recess. At noon a game of hare and hounds might be run through the adjacent woods. The girls were more decorous.

Under Mr. Carter's guidance, school grading was introduced. In 1899, the first class of graduates completed the eighth grade course prescribed by the County. The graduates were Peter Hoekstra, Effah Montress and Mary A. Eagan.

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