A unique anti- bullying method at Temple Hill Academy
He would not graduate with honors!
Mathematics professor James Treat has disciplined a teenage boy the previous day, a young man who tended to have a bullying disposition. Yes, there were bullies back in 1836 too.
The troublemaker schemed further turmoil the following day but was afraid to challenge Treat single-handed. Instead the bully fittingly brought his vicious bulldog into the Temple Hill Academy classroom.
Without hesitation, Treat kicked the dog out the door before applying severe physical discipline to the unruly student.
Treat’s Geneseo Temple Hill Academy brought 250-300 students tot he village annually, perhaps corresponding to a 10,000 enrollment today. Village merchants prospered because of the students. Harvard and Yale Universities enrolled only a few hundred more.
Most Temple Hillers were serious scholars willing to undergo long class-days, worship and homework. The school year ran from November tot he following September, divided into four quarters.
As an historic sidebar, Professor Treat was a friend of Oliver Wendall Holmes who worked the bulldog story into his novel “Elsie Venner.”
Temple Hill Academy opened two brick buildings in October 1827. The school building and dormitory cost $9,500 comparable to the administration was Harvard University-oriented. At the top were professors Sweetzer, Felton and Cleveland. Felton would move to the presidency of Harvard.
From its beginning, Temple Hill had a Livingston County aura, an academy where the brightest young people as Daniel H. Fitzhugh, James Faulkner, Orlando Hastings, Moses Hayden and Charles Carroll as examples.
The students needed to be bright. Their parents sacrificed financially. The tuition averaged $27 a quarter in the 1830’s, depending on lower or upper schools. A curriculum of rhetoric, natural sciences, algebra and the classics challenged scholars from one-room schoolhouses. Music and drawing were extra. A French professor was imported from Paris.
An 1842 newspaper advertisement explained the “Ladies Department”- with a philosophy of combining the ornamental with the useful. The “useful” was anything but refined housekeeping as it was in other female academies of the era. The ladies enjoyed the same advantages as the men, mathematics, science, and classical studies.
Finally after 80-plus years and the school’s demise, came the week-long reunion of 1913. Well-known women from Livingston County converged on Geneseo-Helen Doty, Mrs. Helen Stevens, York’s Emma Shipman and Jennie Hunter, Luna Perrin from Conesus. These were women graduates from 40 years before.
Florence Van Allen, newspaper editor from Avon, was a Temple Hill graduate. He was given credit for planning and publicizing this outstanding event.
As with all school reunions stories abounded. Japan’s students Kakujari Sugo and Oyama were particularly remembered. All agreed there was no racial prejudice. But the students were “boys” in typical ways. With three other students, they successfully raided the Wadsworth peach orchard. Suddenly they were faced by a burly farmer with a large rifle. The T.H. raiders disappeared over the fence but Oyama, the last one, felt salt wounds on his backside.
Oyama went on to become a Japanese general in the Sino-Soviet War of 1904-05. Lower-ranking Sugo lost his life fighting for the Mikado.
In common with one-room schoolhouses, public examinations were held each spring. A “Livingston Register” observer reported the orators were outstanding with several exhibiting “genius.”
There seemed no notice of a future American president who attended in the 1840’s, Chester A. Arthur from York. No doubt a schedule beginning at dawn with worship, classes from 8 a.m. until noon, more classes until 5 p.m., then evening prayers kept Chester busy.
With the school’s closing in 1870, Abraham Goodman lived in the former dormitory until 1911 when it was torn down. Henry Colt remodeled the school building, today a Bed and Breakfast.
Another student prank, a donkey once roamed the dormitory halls more importantly, future American leaders trod those same hallways.