20 July 2017

The Neshanic School

The area around the Neshanic Dutch Reformed Church was one of the earliest settled sections of Hillsborough Township and likely possessed a village schoolhouse from an early time. The only one to survive into the modern era is the one-room school pictured below.


The Neshanic School circa 1900

The mid-19th century school was built on church property just behind the church, as can be seen in the postcard view below. In fact, the school is still there today, but has been nearly completely absorbed by a modern building. 


Circa 1905 postcard view of the Neshanic Dutch Reformed Church
 showing the Neshanic Schoolhouse


It is presumed that the one-room school was in use until 1913 when a new school was opened further east on Amwell Road. The new modern Neshanic School was larger and used the same plan as the Liberty School. This school was active until the end of the 1949-50 school year when it was auctioned off along with the Clover Hill and Pleasantview schools. According to an article from the August 10, 1950 Courier News, the O'Brien Brothers who owned the Neshanic [Station] Printing Company bought the building with a bid of $4,750. Lawrence Lane purchased the school bell for $21.

The Neshanic School in its current incarnation
 as home to the Somerset Valley Players

The Neshanic Printing Company operated out of the school until the 1980s when it was acquired by the current owners, The Somerset Valley Players. And that would be the end of the story for me if not for the photo below which was included in the 1979 nomination documents for the Neshanic National Historic District.


Neshanic Mystery School?

The house is properly described as a former school building with some additions. Indeed, in 1940 on the occasion of his 92nd birthday, life-long Hillsborough resident John K. Saums recounted how he had been living in the old schoolhouse for 68 years! The school portion of the house was converted to a kitchen and dining area and an addition was built for other rooms. After Mr. Saums passed away that same year, the house passed to his step-daughter, and if I am not mistaken had a few owners well-known to Hillsborough people - and was used as a branch of the Somerset County Library for a time. The house is just a bit east of the church and is still a private residence today, but where does it fit in as a school? Was it one of the Neshanic Schools? Or was it moved from another site? 

Perhaps the answer is lost to time.

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