|Riders Mills Historical Association | Riders Mills Historical Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.|
|Riders Mills Schoolhouse • Town of Chatham, NY
The Riders Mills Schoolhouse was built in the late 1790s, and it is one of our nation’s oldest public school buildings still in existence. It was also one of America’s last single-room schoolhouses in operation; classes were held every school year until its closing in 1953. It was acquired by the Riders Mills Historical Association in 1966 and is listed on both the State and National Registry of Historic Sites.
The Riders Mills Schoolhouse is located in the Hudson Valley area of upstate New York in the town of Chatham. The Riders Mills area of Chatham and its surrounding hamlets of Rayville and Malden Bridge were originally settled by Quaker families in the early 1760s. Largely due to the water power supplied by the Kinderhook Creek, several paper mills, along with farming, flourished in the area. The most notable of the new mills was established in 1815 by Horace Peaslee and operated until 1898. During its peak in the mid to late 1800s, Riders Mills boasted 14 houses, a shoemaker, wagon maker, gristmill, grocery, meat market and blacksmith shop.
Although schools and schooling existed in 18th century New York, it was not until “The Act for the Encouragement of Schools” was passed by the New York State Senate and Assembly on April 19, 1795, that public funds were made available. A process for the distribution, management, use and accountability of these funds was clearly defined. Because this process required meticulous documentation and imposed a weighty responsibility on local communities, some of the earliest records and papers have survived. A document dated April 29, 1796, speaks to a sum of 12 shillings and twopence due Amos Brown from the public funds allotted to Chatham.
These documents and historical photographs are featured in a display in the schoolhouse that offers a timeline of the more than 160-year history of the school.