ONONDAGA VALLEY ACADEMY

Town of Onondaga

From Pioneer Times in the Onondaga Country, by Carroll E. Smith, LL.D., C. W. Bardeen, Publisher, Syracuse, NY, 1904, pp. 129-132.


The Onondaga academy had its inception in a meeting held at the Valley on August 15th, 1812.  The promoters were prominent citizens of the town of Onondaga, some of whom had been active in the Pompey academy.  The more active men were Joshua and Joseph Forman, Dirck C. Lansing, Thaddeus M. Wood, Jasper Hopper, Cornelius Longstreet, John Adams, Nicholas Mickles, William H. Sabine, Joseph Swan, Judson Webb and George Hall.  The Regents issued its charter April 10th, 1813.  The Rev. Caleb Alexander was made president and was its first principal.  Mr. Alexander was a great educator and a learned divine.  He organized Fairfield academy and was tendered the presidency of Hamilton college on its organization.  He and Doctor Lansing designed founding a theological seminary at the Valley, but the project took on and maintained the character of an academy.

The state school system was inaugurated in 1795, and in that year a log school-house was built in Onondaga Hollow, and the first teacher was Dr. Gordan Needham.  For twelve years this school-house was the place of religious, social and public meetings.  In the structure was the forerunner of the Onondaga academy, an institution that has greatly promoted education in a broad field.  The state in 1812 put its public school system on a definite footing, and that year saw the beginning of the academy scheme.  The academy was located in the rear of the Presbyterian church, the site of which was given by the givers of the church site, Joshua Forman and William H. Sabine.  The academy building was at once erected, the structure being of stone, 74x34 feet, three stories and a basement.  It was not completed till the spring of 1815, and not occupied till the next season.  The cost was $6,250.  In the basement were a dining hall, kitchen, pantry, cellar and laboratory.  In the second (ground) floor, were the chapel, two large rooms for the school and two bedrooms.  The third and fourth floors contained each nine rooms for the students.  In 1845 a department for girls was added and occupied the Joshua Forman residence.  This building was sold in 1850, and in 1853 an addition was made to the academy building at a cost of $5,550, and in 1890 still further additions were made.

Twenty-four principals have conducted the academy, and in this list are the names of Dr. Caleb Alexander, the Rev. Edward Fairchild, Samuel S. Stebbins and Ely Burchard (these two were before the principals of the Pompey academy), William P. Goodelle, O. W. Sturdevant, Samuel B. Woolworth and David H. Cook.  The students and graduates, numbering many hundreds, have gone out into the world well prepared to meet its responsibilities and many of them have made names of note.

Another old log school-house in the town of Onondaga was located near the Court House site at Onondaga Hill, and its first teacher was Oliver R. Strong, in 1803.

Richard R. Slocum has written a history of the Onondaga academy, which contains very full information.  The institution is now the "Onondaga Academy and Union Free school, District No. 1, town of Onondaga."

With the beginning of the new century there will commence a series of school and academy centennials in the county of Onondaga.


 

Onondaga Valley Academy, Erected in 1815.  Remodeled in 1853 and 1890.

From Pioneer Times in the Onondaga Country, by Carroll E. Smith, LL.D., C. W. Bardeen, Publisher, Syracuse, NY, 1904, pg. 131


Onondaga Valley Academy, 1905

From Postcard collection of Pamela Priest


Onondaga Valley Academy Fire, April 8, 1919

From Postcard collection of Pamela Priest, from her Great Aunt Ruth Mae COLE WILLIAMS, who was inside the academy on the top floor when the fire broke out.


Onondaga Valley Academy Fire, April 8, 1919

From Postcard collection of Pamela Priest


Onondaga Valley Academy Fire, April 8, 1919

From Postcard collection of Pamela Priest


Onondaga Valley Academy Ruins, April 8, 1919

From Postcard collection of Pamela Priest


IN OLD ONONDAGA VALLEY THE ACADEMY AND ITS EARLY ORGANIZATION by  Richard R. Slocum


First Graduating Class from new Onondaga Valley Academy - 1924


Submitted 22 August 1998
Updated 28 August 1998