About Delaware Academy

District History pic

Tucked away in the southern Catskills in the early 19th century, there was a little village called Delhi. It was then and there that the community decided that it was very necessary to start a school district in town so that the youth in the area could get a plentiful education without having to walk in several different directions. America was not even one hundred years old, yet Delhi was growing old and big enough to have a school. Land for the new school was escheated, or ownership of the land reverted back to the state, as "original and ultimate proprietor."


On April 12, 1819, the plan was passed for the building to begin, and the first entry in the trustee's book was recorded on February 28, 1820. The school dimensions were set at 40' by 25' by 22' and the cost of construction was $6,000, which, though not much by today's standards, was a pretty penny back then. It was well worth it. Under the direction of John A. Savage, A.B., principal, the institution opened for scholars.

Latin, Greek, Astronomy, Natural Philosophy, Natural History, Chemistry, and Mathematics were taught for a fee of 37 and ½ cents per week per student, and the other sciences were taught for 25 cents per week. Absence was not accepted, hence there were no deductions if a student did not attend school the entire week. Room and board were supplied for $1.25, which was necessary for students not living in the village. Mr. Savage earned $300-350 per year, and Miss Fuller, the main teacher of the school at the time, earned $2.50 per week. Miss Wells was also employed by the school to aid the teaching effort. Unlike today, vacations consisted of four weeks starting in late May, two weeks in late August, two weeks in late November, and two weeks in late February.

Between 1824 and 1836, there were seven different principals: Mr. Fenn, Thomas Ferrington, Stephen C. Johnson, Robert Telford, W.J. Monthieth, Rev. Orange Clark, and Ebenezer H. Cressey. For the next ten years, the Rev. Daniel Shepard took the position of principal. Under his leadership, a department was opened for young children in 1838, and, in 1840, a department of common school teachers was started. In 1839, an excellent teacher, who taught Spanish and his own native language of French, came to Delaware Academy. He went by the name of Monsieur Laurent La Costa of France. In 1841, an addition was authorized, and the school was well on its way to expanding. A contract was made with builder Clinton Thompson and trustees Adam K. Wheeler, Ebenezer Steele, and Anthony N. Paine. In 1857, there were four teachers at the Academy and 212 students.

By 1865, Rev. Silas Fitch had been principal for a year, and the faculty had doubled since the school had first opened. Three hundred fifty-three pupils were attending were now attending this learning institution. What was known as the "gentleman's boarding hall," or "Academy Hall," to Delhi residents consisted of a kitchen, dining room and laundry on the first floor. The second floor or the main floor housed the principal's family, administrative offices, and a reception parlor, with a Chickering piano. The third floor was where the scholars resided. These boys were divided up into two dormitory rooms. The building was heated by a hot air furnace and had primitive plumbing, and only two or three bathtubs. If a student were to stay up late studying, it was by the light of an oil lamp.

In the 1880's, Delaware Academy had in residence perhaps it's most famous teacher: the Honorable Charles Evans Hughes. Hughes, who was working on his law degree while teaching at DA, went on to become Associate Justice of The Supreme Court (1910-1916), presidential nominee of the Republican party (1916), US Secretary of State (1921-25), and Chief Justice of The Supreme Court (1930-1941).

Delaware Academy was leased to the Board of Education of Union Free School District number 16 on December 4, 1902, by the Regents of the University on the State of New York in Albany. Part of the Delhi village's grammar classes were taken to DA. The Academy became part of the public education system of New York in 1910, under Professor Wood. DA was officially given the name "Union Free School," but it continued to be recognized by Delhi residents as "Delaware Academy." During this time, a playful battle grew between the senior and junior classes with a "capture the flag" game. One class hid a flag in the belfry and the other class would have to retrieve it. At one point, however, the seniors boarded up the door and the juniors chopped down the staircase, which made the game no longer amusing but destructive. In 1914 $50,000 was needed to be raised to build a new school and $44,000 of it came from a bid made in July, 1915. A yellow-brick was raised later that year and it is believed to have been where the post office now stands.

On November 11, 1918, the bell at what is now the State University of New York-College at Delhi rang for 24 hours straight in honor of the end of World War I. In 1919, the first Kalends was printed as a monthly update of the school and was sold at one dollar for a years subscription of fifteen cents a piece. Kalends was named by the class of 1920 and means "the first of the month" or "calendar." Eventually, Kalends became the yearbook as it is today. The monthly magazine was then given the name "The Mountain Ear."

Hamilton J. Hewitt and Roland P. Wirths strongly supported centralization, and, in 1936, it was passed. Twenty-seven districts in Delhi, Hamden, Bovina, Meridith, Franklin, and Kortright united. On the Board of Education for High School and Junior High were Dr. G. P. Schlofer, Amasa J. Seamen, H. Kenneth Adair, and Dr. W. M. Thomson. In September of 1936 seventh and eighth grades were brought to DA from outlying districts. On March 25, 1937, three hundred acres referred to the Sheldon property were purchased by the tax payers for $15,000. On June 21, 1938, plans were presented in preparation for construction on the recently bought Sheldon Plot. The total cost of the school was $808,000, and the government contributed $304,335 toward the cause. Under the guidance of architect A. F. Gilbert, landscaper Leonard W. Wheeler and the Andrew Weston Company, demolition of the Sheldon mansion began in August of 1938. On June 24, 1939, a ceremony was held during which the cornerstone of the new school was laid in its spot. In the cornerstone was placed a time capsule, which was a box that contained several items, including a copy of Kalends, mementos from each of the school districts in the area, photos of the Sheldon mansion, photos of the original DA and progress photos of the new school and pieces of wood from each of the schools that led up to it. The Delaware Academy band opened, for 1,500 people, the first public event to be held at DA. They gave a Spring Concert on Tuesday, May 28, 1940. They had also won the national competition that was held that year. The first official day of school was September 9, 1940. At that time, the athletic field consisted of a playground and four tennis courts. A parking lot was made to hold 250 cars. The building itself had 56 rooms downstairs and 29 rooms upstairs.

Nineteen ninety-four marked not only the 175th anniversary of Delaware Academy but also 175 years of hard work, maturation, respectability and pride. For fifty-eight years now, the latest incarnation of Delaware Academy continues to grow. In fact, the second 175 years of Delaware Academy will be getting off to an exciting start with the addition of a middle school, renovations to the high school and elementary school and the replacement of the A.L. Kellogg School in Treadwell. DA has touched the lives of thousands of people and will continue to do so with the support and guidance of the residents of Delhi and its surrounding communities. We think it best to follow the motto of an earlier graduating class-"Not in Number but in Influence!"-and continue to promote the spirit of Delaware Academy. It does not matter how small or large Delhi may be, it just matters that the people of this little town can make a difference to somebody, something, somewhere.

In 2003 and 2004 Delaware Academy received a number of well needed renovations. The Delaware Academy building was out fitted a number of upgrades. Some of the upgrade were all new windows, electrical system, telephone system, PA System, network infrastucture, heating & ventalation.


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