Having published Mr. Bush’s article, “The ‘Oregon’ and Other Schools,” and then a follow-up on Duck’s Flat, I thought I was done with this neighborhood for now. But I recently found another article by Mr. Bush continuing the story of Ducks’ Flat school. This article has allowed me to identify the mystery school I referred to previously, located down the road from the Ducks’ Flat school that Mr. Bush was familiar with. But I’ll wait until Mr. Bush has concluded before explaining.

Supreme School District Minutes Reveal History

Better Known as Duck’s Flat School Many Years Ago
A List of the Pupils Given

by Egbert T. Bush, Stockton, N. J.
published by the Hunterdon Co. Democrat, September 7, 1933

Theodore L. Cullen recently brought in for my inspection a book of minutes covering, for 13 years, the annual school meetings of the “Supreme School District.” That school was not wholly unknown to me, but the name given by local people was always “Duck’s Flat School.” Supposing that to have been the official name of this defunct institution, I was surprised to find myself all wrong. The minutes before me clearly show that it really had a name far superior to the prosaic localism, however appropriate that may have been—a name so high-sounding that parents, teachers and pupils must have found it hard to make the school approach a justification of its name.

The heading over the first entry is, “Property of the Supreme School District,” and the minutes say:

“Agreeably to public notice given by the School Superintendent of Public Schools of the township of Delaware, the inhabitants of said district met at their new School house on Wednesday the 1st day of June A. D. 1853. The meeting was organized by calling Levi Williamson in the chair and Thomas Robinson Secretary.” The trustees chosen were: Thomas Robinson for 1 year, John B. Case for 2 years, and Elias Barcroft for 3 years.

Receipts and Expenditures

Then follow receipts and expenditures. But these items appear not for the year past, but as jotted down during the current year, a practice evidently kept up thruout the years covered by these minutes.

“Received from the Superintendent twenty-six dollars for the year 1852.” This shows that, for some reason, the district was entitled to that sum from the preceding year; but it is not at all likely that any school had been opened before the formal organization and the election of the first board of trustees. However, that may be, we have these additional receipts: “October 6, 1853, of Asa Snyder $30; April 4, 1854, of Asa Snyder $36.24; of Hamilton Barcroft on subscription, $2; of Alexander Grant an subscription, $10, of Matthias Williamson on subscription, $10.

“Paid out for lumber $25; for making shingles $5.50; for ax and handle $1.12 ½; for 100 brick $1; for lumber $7.90; for sawing to James Salter $2.27; masoning to Samuel Carver $1.44; for carpenter to Daniel Bird $21.50, for carpenter to Samuel Hartpence $7.50.”

Together with various small items, these foot up $85.85, The reference to “making shingles” indicates that the house was covered with shingles riven from the log with frow and maul by a local mechanic, and then shaven to proper form and thickness by that worthy worker, whom you may envisage bestriding his wooden “horse” and laboriously pulling at his long, two-handled drawing knife. In 1857, I watched with great interest while my father slowly worked out in this way the shingles for an addition to his barn. Perhaps not many others can now say, “I have seen that done.”

Following, the first minutes, these entries are found without dates: “Elias Barcroft received $20 from John J. Sutphin and paid Miss Lair $20.” The natural inference is that Miss Lair was a teacher of the Supreme School, probably the first. Next under this is found: “Henry P. Cullen received of John J. Sutphin $34.62 & paid Mary J. Cook for teaching school $40, it being her demands.”

We find no minutes of a meeting in 1854 and no evidence that a leaf has been torn out. The minutes of the meeting held April 2, 1855, say: “E. Barcroft removed” (doubtless meaning left the district), “Samuel Brink elected to fill his unexpired term of 1 year. John B. Case, his time being expired, James Salter was elected for 3 years.”

The Enrolled Pupils

At this meeting the taking of the school census appears to have been a poser. Various proposals were rejected. Then Asa Smith was empowered to canvass the district, with salary fixed at $2. Asa declined, and Henry P. Cullen was chosen in his stead. He made the canvass and reported 45 children of school age. Believing that this list will be of interest to many, I give it below, together with names of parents or guardians, omitting the family name of pupils except in case of guardians:
John Lowe, children—Amy, Ely, Sarah, Anne, David, Everitt.
Joseph Reading, Sen.—Joseph, Albert.
Adam Williamson—Mary Dilts.
Amy Heath—Asher, James.
James Salter—Hannah, John, Ann, Emma.
Samuel Bishop—Jacob W., Rachel J., John H.
Hugh Rooks—Wilda, Elijah.
Frank Rooks—Andrew.
William Thatcher—William, Catharine.
H. P. Cullen—William Coffy, David Ronny.
John P. Hampton—Harriet Slack.
John B. Case—Charles.
Samuel Brink—Mary, Anchor.
Thomas Robinson—William, Samuel, Fanny, George, Mary.
James Robinson—Hannah A.
Matthias Williamson—Joseph P., Margaret.
David Bond—George, Susan, Charles, Franklin.
Joseph Opdyke—Asher, George R.
David Morgan—Uriah Sutton, Catharine Sutton.

The George Robinson found in the family of Thomas Robinson was the old Raven Rock storekeeper and postmaster, who died recently, leaving the Thomas Robinson farm here as a part of his estate. Henry P. Cullen, father of Theodore L. and Susan Cullen, owned the farm which is now the nucleus of Julius E. Ward’s extensive dairying establishment, and later became Lay Judge of the Hunterdon County Court.

The next entry says: “Proceedings of the Last School meeting,” and then proceeds as follows: “Agreeably to Public Notice * * * the inhabitants of the Supreme District met at their School house on Tuesday Evening April 1st A. D. 1856. The meeting was organized by calling Thomas Robinson to the chair and W. H. Barcraft Secretary. Trustees elected Henry P. Cullen 1 year, James Salter 2 years, David Bond 3 years. District being canvassed reports fifty children * * * School taught by W. Evans in said year. School taught by Martha Salter.”

45 Pupils in 1857

From the minutes of 1857, we find that John B. Case canvassed the district and found 45 children of school age. For the first time, the district is now numbered as well as named, being called No. 12 of the township of Delaware. The total money reported for school purposes is $101.36. From this Henrietta Case received $45.77 “for teaching one quarter.” Stacy Fisher received $50.84, presumably for teaching another quarter. The balance went for sundry purposes.

This is intriguing. The only district numbers I am aware of run in the 80’s and 90’s. No.12 must have been a part of a different numbering system that faded away along with the 19th century township superintendent. In the 1873 Beers Atlas, this school was in District 97.

In 1858 “John Kline, Esq.” was elected trustee, and the total costs for the year were $113.77. Sarah A. Eisenberg received $45, and Samuel Snyder received $60. Both no doubt for teaching.

The minutes show that in 1859 the total receipts were $175.70, also that Henrietta Case received $75 and A. C. Smith (Asa R.?) $74.09. Alas! How expensive the schools were becoming!

For 1860, however, we find what seems like a sudden relief. In that year Israel C. Sherman, Thomas Robinson and Asa Larue were the trustees; and no expenditure for teaching is recorded except $22 paid to Charles Moore for teaching.’’ The trustees were to canvass the district and to receive $1 in all for their services. Nothing is said about any other teacher or other financial matter.

The records made at the meeting held April 1, 1861, show total receipts of $102.55, with expenditures reaching $101.01. Lambert Rockafellow received $48 and Samuel Snyder $46.09, both evidently for teaching.

In the minutes of 1862, E. Wolverton is twice charged with payment for teaching; one charge being for $10 and another for $5. The records for 1863 make no changes and give no idea [of] teachers or expenditure. At a meeting held April 4, 1864, Albert Hartpence was called to the chair and A. B. Wolverton was elected trustee for 3 years. Miss Barcroft received $41.70, presumably for teaching. No other light is thrown upon such matters. April 3, 1865, Thomas Robinson again presided, and H. P. Cullen served as secretary. Westley Bray was elected trustee, Miss Naylor, probably the teacher, received $45, $30 and $14.32.

The last meeting recorded in this book was held April 2, 1866; A. B. Wolverton presiding. No secretary is mentioned. The receipts mentioned are $32.86. Under this is a notation, “Paid James Harle $32, leaving a balance due District 86.

On the same page, is found this entry: “Fifty-Four Dollars & six cents H. P. Cullen. Due district April 17, 1867.”

Two of the teachers in the Supreme School are not noted in the records. One was Miss Nora Barras, later the wife of Joseph Rittenhouse Bennett—always “Joe Hooker” to his comrades in arms—and mother of Eldridge Bennett, who recently died near Rosemont; the other was Joseph Williamson, father of Frank P., who now owns and occupies the Williamson homestead farm.

The Township Superintendent, whose duty it appears was to advertise the annual school meeting, passed out with the advent of the School Law of 1867. Among his other duties was to handle certain funds, paying them over to the board of trustees. I know of but one source from which he derived said funds, and that was from interest on the surplus revenue. This amounted to something over $3,000 a year for the county, to be divided among the townships, for the use of the schools of such townships as voted that their shares should be so used. This was decided at the Town Meeting in the spring of each year. The Township Superintendent was supposed to examine all candidates for appointment in the schools of his township, and to issue permits to such as he found satisfactory. I never had anything to do with one of those officials. No doubt they were, as a rule, good and honorable men. But if the reports were to be relied upon, the examination was perfunctory, and actual fitness often had little to do with the certification. Perhaps that functionary gave way to the County Superintendent none too soon. Certainly the schools became better organized and were soon placed on a somewhat higher basis.

The Supreme School District, of course, passed away when the township became the unit. How long that particular school survived the change if at all, is not definitely known. Certainly it was for but a short time. “Their new School house,” as the minutes so proudly designate it, stood on the westerly side of the road leading from Rosemont to Kingwood, about a half mile below the M. E. Church. Short was its life and not at all spectacular. Not a vestige of it now remains. But who shall say that it served no useful purpose? Let us prefer to say: Sacred be the grounds whereon such feeble monuments to intellectual awakening once reared their flimsy walls.

Two Separate School Houses for One School District

Asa Snyder was listed above as one of the men subscribing to this school in 1853. Interestingly, on March 30, 1852, a tract of land was sold that had once belonged to Snyder, and the description stated that it bordered “the Supreme bridge.” The land was 45 acres bordering the Lockatong Creek.1

Detail of the 1851 Cornell Map showing the vicinity of Ducks' Flat
Detail of the 1851 Cornell Map showing the vicinity of Ducks’ Flat

The 1851 Cornell Map of Hunterdon County shows a school house on Strimples Mill Road not far from the Lockatong Creek. I suspect that the Supreme School was this school on Strimples Mill road. The only problem with that theory is that the school’s minute book states that the building was constructed in 1853. This building clearly predates that one.

I think the new school house was the one that Mr. Bush was familiar with, located at the corner of Route 519 and Strimples Mill Road, and that it replaced the older school house shown on the Cornell Map. Remember also that the Philadelphia & Environs Map of 1860 shows the Ducks’ Flat school near Rte 519, and no school at all near the Lockatong. This strongly suggests that the school house at Rte 519 replaced the one on Strimples Mill Road.

Both schools were gone by 1873 when the Beers Atlas was compiled. So where did the children of this neighborhood go for their schooling? The neighborhood was part of District 97, which meant they attended the Reading School on Raven Rock-Rosemont Road.

Correction: I originally wrote “45 Pupils in 1957.” Off by 100 years.

Addendum, 3/6/15:  In 1863, the Democratic Club of Delaware Township was created, with a president (Joshua Primmer), and vice-presidents from each of the township school districts. The 12th or “Supreme” district was represented by Joseph Williamson.

  1. Hunterdon Co. Deed 103-348.