Eternal Vigilance by Paul Martin
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Thomas Jefferson once said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, which inspired Paul R. Martin’s title of his latest work, "Eternal Vigilance." This exciting new piece of art on the revolutionary history of Yorktown celebrates the 225th anniversary of the American Revolution and the 25th anniversary of the Yorktown Historical Society, which commissioned the print.


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What’s in a name?

Telephone Company AdIn 1946, the New York Telephone Company needed to establish a new central office district to meet the growing needs of customers living in northern Yorktown, Putnam Valley and Cortlandt. While the business heart of Yorktown still centered around the New York Central railroad station (old Put), the many lakes in communities along the route six corridor attracted vacationers who were choosing to live permanently in the bucolic setting.

The telephone company’s manager at Peekskill, Herbert G. Childs, stated, “The new central office district would include the communities of Mohegan Lake, Shrub Oak, Jefferson Valley, Oregon, Lake Peekskill, Adams Corners, Tompkins Corners, Oscawanna Lake and Roaring Brook Lake.” The name chosen for the district was Lakeland. Mr. Childs stated, “Lakeland is pleasantly and broadly descriptive of this general region, which abounds in lakes and water courses.”

Jefferson Valley Varsity Basketball circa 1940In 1951, three northern school districts of Toddville, Van Cortlandtville and Shrub Oak voted to merge and became Central School District #1. The new district included parts of Yorktown, Somers, Cortlandt, Putnam Valley and Carmel, with Phillipstown joining in 1953. Two years later, a contest was held to name the new high school being built for the district. One hundred and eighty entries resulted in a tie for first place. According to Ken Herst, a former Shrub Oak resident, “I was one of the ones who won the essay contest to name the brand new school ‘Lakeland’ Junior/Senior high school…I didn’t win the $50 bond, first prize, but did name it Lakeland…after our telephone exchange at the time, LAkeland 8.”

Jefferson Valley School 1920From the earliest entries of the York Town* School Commissioners' Minute Book, the northwest corner of Yorktown was designated School District #1. When the Shrub Oak School was built in 1928 (now the Lakeland District Administration building), it merged the small school districts of Jefferson Valley, Mohegan and Shrub Oak into Central Rural School District #1. This formed the core of the Lakeland Central School District, which officially adopted its name in 1973. Spanning six towns (and two counties), it is still the largest suburban school district in Westchester County.

Early History

District #4 Class circa 1900According to the York Town School Commissioners Minutes, in September of 1813 eight school districts were formed, beginning with District #3 “by an Act for the Establishment of Common Schools, passed June 19, 1812”. One month later an alteration was made to District #8. The minutes are recorded initially in haphazard fashion, leading one to believe they were re-copied from another source. Districts #1 and #2 were formed at some earlier time. The Rev. Silas Constant wrote in his diary about building a school in Crompond (the heart of Yorktown before and after the Revolutionary War until the coming of the railroad) sometime before 1805. The Crompond School later became District #4.

Production of Tom Thumb's wedding -- Shrub Oak School Miss Marshall's class, District #4, 10/6/1911 School District #4 class

1846 Receipt for BooksBy 1821, there were eleven districts, all within the borders of York Town. The district boundaries changed regularly, depending on the changing demographics of the residents. The New York State legislature passed at least two more Acts, in 1819 and 1827, which were ordered for the support of common schools. These dealt with, among other things, monetary issues and guidelines for teachers. They no doubt had an effect on shifting boundaries. Florenceville School However, the most important factor for a farmer being included in a certain district was his proximity to the schoolhouse. There was only one schoolhouse per district; a one-room building in which ages five through twenty-one were taught. Most students attended school in winter. In late spring, summer and early fall, they were needed to help on the farm. Travel was by dirt roads covered by snow and mud in winter. It was important to be located as close as possible to the schoolhouse.

Teacher's Report Side 1
Teacher's Report Front Side

Teacher's Report Side 2
Teacher's Report Reverse Side 




Students at Florenceville SchoolAs early as 1815, there are records of residents being moved to school districts in other towns, no doubt to be closer to a schoolhouse. In 1829, a schoolhouse was moved from York Town to the land of a Phillips Town resident, probably to better centralize the schoolhouse.

This moving across town borders eventually led to the formation of joint districts. Schoolhouse on Rte. 129 opposite Hanover Road Joint District #13 was formed March 19, 1839, out of a portion of Cortlandt Town and York Town. Class of 1910 In June of 1839, the school commissioners of the towns of Quincy, York and Cortlandt, attempted to form Joint District #1 from parts of those three towns (Joint District #1 already existed between Quincy Town and York Town). This proposal was defeated. However, in 1845, Joint District #19 was formed out Schoolhouse Interior of the towns of Putnam Valley (formerly Quincy), York, Somers and Carmel. On the 1872 map of Yorktown, thirteen districts can be counted with thirteen schoolhouses well centered within each district. One district even crossed Croton Lake at Pines Bridge, with the schoolhouse situated on the south side of the lake.

Grades 6, 7, 8 Yorktown Heights circa 1913District schools went up to the 8th grade, or age twenty-one, whichever came first! Only the wealthier families sent their children on to secondary school. Northern Yorktowners went to Peekskill (Oakside school), while the rest generally went to Tarrytown. Others attended private academies such as Lake Mohegan Military School.

Yorktown students circa 1911This continual shifting, combining, and re-grouping of school districts continued right up to 1927. Out of twelve school districts in and around Yorktown, three became Central Rural School District #1 (Lakeland) and nine became Central Rural School District #2 (Yorktown). Finally, a school for grades K-12 in District #2 was built in 1923, followed by the Shrub Oak school in 1928 for School District #1.

Lakeland History

Central School Dist. #2Prior to merging with Shrub Oak in 1951, Toddville and Van Cortlandtville were small regional schools. The Toddville School was built in 1920. It is now rented to BOCES. The Van Cortlandtville School was originally a mid-1800s one-room schoolhouse, which was abandoned in 1935 when the new school was built. It served as a kindergarten for Central School District #1 until 1972. It now is a living history museum known as the Little Red Schoolhouse. The second Van Cortlandtville School was opened in 1935 and now serves as the Cortlandt Town Hall. Today, the Van Cortlandtville School is located at the former Lakeland High School building on Route 6 in Mohegan Lake, which was built in 1954.

Shrub Oak circa 1910The Shrub Oak school, now serving the Lakeland administration, was the third one in the hamlet. The first was built prior to 1842 and was located next to the old Methodist church, across from the cemetery. By 1890, it was in deplorable condition. It was sold to a local farmer as a barn and a new school was built. According to a 1972 interview with the late Charlotte Martens Lee, who began school in Shrub Oak in 1903, some children came from as far away as Barger Street. By 1905, the school had become overcrowded. It was a one-room building with approximately fifty registered students. To relieve the overcrowding, the lower four grades (including Charlotte’s) were moved to the basement of the Odd Fellows Hall (later Stark Hardware) for one year. According to Charlotte, it was a miserable, dark, small place. The following year they attended school above Darrow’s store, which was a store and Post Office on Old Route 6. By that time they had enlarged the schoolhouse to two rooms, and added a large entryway and boys and girls coatrooms. This school remained in use until 1928 when it was sold to Irene Rich as a private residence.

Yorktown High School Class of 39 at Grade 4In 1958, Central School District #1 opened three additional elementary schools: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson (the third school building located on Gomer Street in Jefferson Valley) and Abraham Lincoln, now Lincoln-Titus. In 1965, the current Lakeland High School opened in Shrub Oak. Copper Beech Middle School opened in 1966 where the prior Copper Beech Camp was located. Benjamin Franklin Elementary School followed in 1968. Walter Panas High School was built in Cortlandt in 1972 to alleviate overcrowding in the high school. It was named for the first principal of the district, Walter Panas, who retired in 1969. Finally, in 1973 the district was named “Lakeland”.

Shrub Oak Students 1913As demographics change, the Lakeland Central School District continues to change with it, just as the earliest school districts had to change, in order to provide the best education possible for the children of northern Westchester and southern Putnam Counties.

* The name “York Town” was used in early records.

Written by Linda L. Kiederer
Photos and York Town School Commissioners' Minute Book records courtesy of the Town Clerk
Information on the Lakeland School District history was taken from its 50th Anniversary calendar.

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