The following article was printed in the Springville Journal on October 25, 1934.

All paragraph indentations were kept the same. Nothing was altered.


The History of Our School


The first settlers here had a desire for their children to have an education. Although then only three families in this locality, they wanted a school. If there was an extra room it was held in part of their log cabin, if not in their log barn.

Later the first schoolhouse, also of logs, was built on a lot situated now between the Presbyterian Church and Odd Fellows Hall.

In 1831 came the division of this district, No. 8 of town of Concord, into the North and South Districts. The north, which is the building on Franklin Street, now occupied by Ms. Martin. It was divided into four rooms, town on each floor, with the hall on the center. The school clerk’s records of the South District now show that the school was located in Mr. Bushman’s cornfield and a certain maple stump as the center—the lot cost $5—the building $200. This is the one story brick building near the end of Pearl Street. It is not known if these are the original buildings. The yearly expenses were defrayed by a tax upon each family attending school according to the number attending and days of attendance.

In December 1825 the first subscription paper was circulated to raise funds to erect the Academy building but the building was not completed until the fall of 1830.

At that time to raise money for an Academy was a great undertaking but the entire community took hold of the project with a determination to succeed. The country was new, the citizens of the village and the country around were comparatively poor but all gave a helping hand and contributed of their mite, evidently conscious that they would be amply remunerated through great advantages which would flow from the location of an Academy of learning in their midst.

Rufus Eaton, one of the earliest settlers in the village, donated the site or lot for the Academy building and in addition subscribed liberally toward the building, $45.

On December 22, 1829 the stockholders elected their first board of trustees, twelve in umber. Their duties were mostly confined to raising and collecting subscriptions and urging forward the finishing of the Academy.

The original subscription called for $2,000. With the cheapness of material and labor the sums seems sufficient. Eighty-five individuals became stockholders by subscriptions ranging from $90 to $15. Fifteen dollars was a share. Two thousand three hundred dollars was pledged. The stockholder Samuel Lake, then a merchant in this village, was the person who was most active and influential in founding the Academy. A young man, interested in education, in public-spirited and of the high toned moral sentiment, he took hold of the project of rearing the Academy in Springville with the determination to succeed and his energy and his zeal were essential to success.

For several miles around every citizen of sufficient ability was personally applied to and with the scarcely an exception became stockholders. There were at that early day few citizens of wealth in or around Springville. There was no idle capital seeking investment.

Each tiller of the soil was owing for the land he occupied and subscriptions were necessarily small. Of the 85 subscribers they subscribed as follows: one for six shares $90, 7 for 4 shares $60, 6 for 3 $45, 25 for 2 shares at $15, $30: 48 for one share $15.

Four descendants of the original subscribers are today attending G.I. They are Wm. Bensley Jr., great grandson of Eaton Bensley; Scott McCoy, great grandson of Phineas Scott; Lowell and Lillian Childs, great grand children of Lewis Childs. If others I could not trace them.

According to the original subscriptions payments were of material and in the future as we notice payments of $30 in grain, one year from the first day of February next, another of $60 in boots and shoes the one half the first day of February and the remainder the first day of the June next. Fifteen dollars in lumber one year from this date. During the winter and the spring of 1830 the trustees found their subscription of $2,300 exhausted and their building not entirely completed. Several measures were proposed and resorted to. A loan was solicited. A proposition made to the Presbyterian Society, then without a church building, to use the Academy Hall services on the Sabbath for eight years for $160. This failed. The trustees expended $222 in finishing the building and must expend $108 to finish and furnish it so as to commence school in the fall. The sum was raised by signatures of eight names signing from $5.00 to $30.00, besides cash some of it had to be paid in grain next winter and some in joiner work. Again in 1830 thirty signed to meet any deficiency during the first year of school. Great was the rejoicing of the citizens— the struggle was over. What had been considered almost a hopeless task was accomplished and without assistance from abroad or the State. Springville was to be distinguished from other villages for it’s educational advantages. School opened in fall of 1830 with Mr. Barney, the first principal who remained for nearly three years. Later in his life he was Superintendent of Schools in Ohio. Records do not show the number of pupils but it drew $220 from the literature fund from the state in 1934. This was similar to our public money. On referring to the distribution of public moneys it appears that those academies which have well regulated female departments under charge of female assistants were in the most prosperous condition ad share largely in the distribution of State funds. Anxious to have their Academy on as good footing as any in the country and to employ a female to take charge of the female department 31 signers agreed to subscribe not more than $4 each. Five years later 34 persons signed to pay in cash or work sums from $5 to $15 so that the woodhouse shall be removed from the front of the Academy and a porch built over the front door and to fence and improve Academy Square, etc.

In 1836 any expense was still sustained by contributions.

1841—Eleven persons agreed to subscribe amounts $25 to $50 to pay the debts on the Academy. A mortgage was given on the Academy lot to secure the one whom the money was loaned.  All loans to be paid in three years.

In 1849 of the fourteen trustees, were Secretary Pliny Smith., grandfather of F.O. Smith; C.C. Severance, father of Henry Severance. These men were for many years connected with the Institution. At this time the Academy was nineteen years old and there were five instructors. Total attendance during the year 110 gentlemen, 100 ladies— each term varies 89 to 125. They had three terms of 15 weeks each. No long summer vacations but vacations of four and two weeks between the terms.  When one entered at the beginning of the term he must continue for the term unless excused. He did not have to go for a year. Pupils often went a term and stopped and taught and then went another term. The building consisted of a room for the Ladies’ Department, one for the Gentlemen’s Department, recitation room, a drawing room, a library and apparatus room, and a large hall for public exercises. As the gentlemen and ladies each had separate departments while in the Academy they were required to confine themselves to these departments, except for necessary recitations and exercises of the Academy. No assembly of students in each other’s rooms in the evening allowed. School hour’s 8:30 to 12—3 ½ hours in the afternoon. Tuition from $4 to $5.75 a term. For drawing, music, and painting there was an extra tuition.

In 1849 and some time previous there was connected with the Institute a Seminary for the young ladies and to such as completed the course a diploma was given. Margaret Watkins was the first to receive a diploma. Her oration was on the “Labors and Rewards of Study.” The school motto was Onward and Upward.

During the first 37 years the Academy had it’s ups and downs. Frequently were appeals made to the citizens to save it from financial embarrassments?

In advertisements made of the school it stressed a daily stage from here to Cattaraugus and from here to Buffalo.

In 1860 fifteen by laws were given. Some were made at the beginning of the Academy but they were not printed. I’ll mention a few of the bylaws of 1860.

  1. Hallowing, running, whistling, or any disturbances in the halls, not allowed
  2. Profanity, games of chance. Liquors or tobacco totally forbidden
  3. Students not permitted to attend balls, public amusements, or parties without permission of parents, previously presented to the Principal
  4. Loitering around the streets, stores strictly forbidden.
  5. Students rise at 5 o’clock and retire at 9:30
  6. Attend church at least once each Sabbath
  7. No student allowed to pleasure to visit, walk or ride with or otherwise entertain another of the opposite sex at any time or any place.

At the most critical period of it’s existence Archibald Griffith raised a seminary from a position of uncertainty to one of proud equality with any in the land. In 1867 the name of the Academy was changed to Griffith Institute, in consideration of his liberal donation. Later he gave $10,000 to the Institute.  In 1867 an addition was built, making the building three stories, also a bell- tower— and facing of the building on Franklin Street. Eight instructors were employed.

The first examinations were oral and public lasting all day for two days. They were conducted by out of town examiners in presence of the Trustees. They were interspersed with declamations, sometimes original, composition and music.

For fifteen years the Academy although not sectarian was under the supervision if the Genesee Conference. In 1868 G.I. shared some of its teachers with Arcade Academy which was also under Genesee Conference.

In 1867 a union graded free school was agitated, that is, uniting the North and South districts with the Academy. This would be the cheapest and most efficient plan for carrying forward the educational interests. A teacher could as well teach more pupils in one class and the pupils could learn as well and money saved. This was accomplished in 1875 and is where the word Union comes from. Then there were four academic teachers and five in the grades.

During the years 1867 to 1869 Chapel exercises were held every day (Sabbath excepted) at 8 o’clock. Students were required to attend. The order of the service was roll call each name called— when they came to Smith all the Smith’s responded— Scripture reading, in a part of which the entire school joined the concert. Singing by the school led the music teacher who also played melodeon, and they listened to a ten minute lecture. Classes were one hour long. At this time the school was proud to have C.J. Shuttleworth (one of the trustees) father of the Postmaster L.J. Shuttleworth, buy for the chapel at his own expense of $300 or $400, a set of side lamps, chandelier and several settees which made it very attractive in appearance.

At this time the school prayer meeting for the students was held every Tuesday evening from 7 to 8. Also Sunday afternoons from 3 to 4. The students were expected to attend. Also on the other evenings prayer meetings were held in students rooms—five or six getting together. Students must either write an essay or recite a piece every two weeks. These exercises were public and held at first on Saturday mornings and later each Friday evening from 7:30 to 9:30, so as not to detract from the studies. They were opened with prayer by the principal, congregation led by music teacher and with voice and melodeon sang a noble hymn. On one occasion— one appeared on the stage whose heart was too full for words— she left the stage without even saying a word. Some did themselves credit.

At this time Regents exams were held— one out of four passing. It was said “the Great Judgment day will scarcely reveal more surprising short comings than Regents examinations.”

The closing exercises of the school was held in the Presbyterian Church and lasted five hours— from 7 o’clock until midnight.

Then as now picnics were held at Cattaraugus High Banks (now Country Club). They consisted of speeches, music, and dinner. Levees were held in the Opera house— now we have Proms. Then it was walking, now it is dancing. The school had it’s societies and debating, Adelphian (I think a literary club), baseball club and a friendly game with village nine.

In 1868 the law was every child not attending school draws 65 cents public money and those who attend draw $2.50. In 1868 two hundred students were at GI.

In 1868 was received the portrait of Archibald Griffith painted by Miss Doland of Rushford and procured by L. Killom.

In 1870 the school system required students to spend 8 specified study hours at their own rooms and 3 recitation hours at the Academy. The bell rang for each class. Each student must agree as a condition of joining school to keep this arrangement and other rules.

September 1 and 2, 1880, this semi-centennial of the school was celebrated. Invitations were sent to all former pupils and many came hundreds of miles to this celebration which was held on the Franklin Street grounds and was a great success.

In 1885 at an expense of $10,000 the building was again enlarged. The entire north of the building was erected which made the building twice the size.

In the old days it was the custom of the Principal to preach, if the occasion came. I think Prof. Hughes was the last professor who acted substitute of a minister.

About 1898 the Gaylord & Utrich property between G.I. and Main street was purchased. The Utrich property contained a hotel. As the Institute was crowed the first grade moved there— later also the second and the third grades to the Public library. This was called G.I. Annex. The football squad used the basement for a dressing room.

In 1909 at the beginning of the eightieth year of our school the Springville Model new school edifice was opened and the pupils enjoyed conveniences and advantages unexcelled by any village in the State. It cost $75,000. When school opened there was something lacking— that which had remained the same throughout the various remodelings of the buildings. Senators, Judges, Govenors, Educators, Missionaries, prominent business men all over the country had hurried their footsteps at its call. The old academy bell which rang for 79 years, what a tale it could tell— now it was gone. There was a plea for a place for the old bell on special occasions the thousands who had answered the summons could hear its cheerful tones but it was never granted—except in 1930 during Centennial week it was brought out and called G.I. students to it’s exercises, and on one occasion the auditorium had it’s capacity nearly doubled, perhaps twelve to fifteen hundred. Again the bell was put in the basement. If it could use it’s tongue in talking I am sure it would say “Give me a chance to ring 79 years more.”

At the time the new building was opened they thought they was ample room for everything ever connected with the school. Several distinguishing features were gym and shower baths, auditorium of 800 seating capacity. Although the building was wired for electricity and clocks, for several years lights were not installed in the grades and recitation rooms and then gradually.

In 1929 the clocks were installed by the will of F.D. Smith. Gradually the once empty rooms were used for classrooms. About 1925 a cloakroom was made into a kindergarten room. About 1913 a domestic science course was offered and a room equipped. This teacher taught the essentials of domestic science to both boys and girls in grades as well as high school girls. The old saying “History Repeats itself,” again as several times before in the history of the school, a commercial department was opened. Instead of telegraphy as in the olden days, we have shorthand and typewriting. At the time of the World War the school cut out all the nonessentials. The school paper “The Echo” was discontinued. The activities of the Debating Society nearly ceased and later died. The Sigma Mu went into oblivion. When the victory was won on G.I. was slow in resuming her usual curriculum.

Basket ball had its first game about 1906 both boys and girls played, and very interesting and close games have existed especially between the rivals of Hamburg and Springville. Often they advertised a double header basket ball game (two games for the price of one) and dancing after the game. At the close of each basket ball season was the athletic banquet which was the great event of the season.

Inter class track meets were held at the athletic field.

Gymnasium exhibitions were yearly held. These were under supervision of gym and music teachers. In 1920, for the first time in several years G.I. put out a base ball team.

The first Parents’ Night was held about 1920, which was similar to those of today except refreshments were served. One of the results of this was the Parents Teachers Association. The purpose to bring about a better understanding between parents, teachers, and students and to back the Board of Education in their efforts. After a few years there was a lack of interest and it was discontinued.

G.I. is proud to have two fraternities one for boys and the other girls, also several clubs.

In June 1930 G.I. celebrated it’s Centennial. Nearly every living graduate was located and notified. They returned from both sides of the continent. As near as possible the nature of the programs was similar to the Semi Centennial. A special feature was a banquet at Cascade Park where about 800 gathered to honor old G.I. The success of this Centennial will always live in the minds of the G.I. students, old and young as the greatest event ever held in Springville.

About 1927 a band instructor was engaged and G.I. had become noted for it’s music. It has a senior band of sixty pieces and also a junior band.

The orchestra was organized in 1918 and has grown from six members to our present orchestra of forty- two.

In 1933 for the first time in several years G.I. organized a football squad.

If the pupils of G.I. could have had what they wanted ten or fifteen years ago, they would have had what the boys are now enjoying that is Agriculture and Industrial Arts which are taught in our new G.I. Annex.