Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Night, 1923

On the morning of November 1, 1923, the seven pupils at the Yankeetown School District trudged their way up Cape Horn Road to find that during the night their schoolhouse had burned down - maybe a kid's dream.

The Yankeetown School District was Bovina Common School District number 9. It was created in the 1830s. The schoolhouse likely was built around the same time but by the 1850s, it was reported that the building was in poor condition. At some point, it probably was replaced or rebuilt. The student population for district 9 hit its peak in the 1850s with 42 pupils. It began dropping steadily so that by the start of the 20th century only about 10 students were enrolled. In 1909, district 9 began sending its students to the Maynard District (district 1), which was about two miles away from the Yankeetown school building. In 1918, the district reopened its school, but after a couple of years was once again sending their students elsewhere.

In 1923, the distrct made one last attempt to run a school, only to have the building burn down on Halloween night. Was it just a coincidence that it happened that night, or was it a Halloween prank that went awry? The reason for the fire was never discussed in the local press. The Catskill Mountain News reported:

Last Thursday morning the schoolhouse at Yankeetown, Bovina, was destroyed by fire of unknown origin. The blaze was discovered about 12:30 by Mrs. Eli Felton, the roof and windows already being gone when discovered. Nothing was saved from the building. The loss was covered by Insurance. It is expected that steps will soon be taken to replace the burned structure.

The district held a box social on November 13 for the benefit of the school. Students finished the school year in the McCumber home on Cape Horn. The district operated a school for one more school year (likely at McCumber's) then again contracted out to District 1 for subsequent years. A replacement school was never built, though the district officially existed until 1967, when the remaining Bovina Common School districts were merged with the Delhi Central School District. And whether it was a poorly extinguished stove, a disgruntled student, a Halloween prankster or something supernatural that led to the destruction of the Yankeetown School will never be known.

This picture was provided by the late Anna Hobbie Lounsbury. She was told that it is a picture of the Yankeetown Schoolhouse. It is believed to be the only photograph in existence of this Bovina school.

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