10 August 2017

Montgomery School

On the occasion of her 100th birthday in 1967, Mrs. Anna Van Fleet Huff Cronin sat down with one of her many relatives and answered questions about her life that had been written out for the hard-of-hearing centenarian. Of interest to us are her reminiscences of growing up in Montgomery, New Jersey.


Detail from the 1873 Hillsborough map

I know what you're thinking - what does Montgomery Township have to do with our survey of Hillsborough Township schools? The answer: Montgomery, NJ is not in Montgomery Township! Don't believe me? Go to Bing Maps right now by clicking here and you will find that the village of Montgomery lies at the crossroads of Montgomery and Wertsville Roads in Hillsborough.

Montgomery Blacksmith Shop 1970s
One of Hillsborough's two covered bridges spanned the Neshanic River just north of the settlement where a saw mill and grist mill were in operation from at least 1850. By 1870, when the three-year-old Anna Huff watched her father - prominent farmer Thomas Peter Huff - build their home northeast of the intersection, the hamlet included on the other corners the blacksmith shop of Jacob Wyckoff, the home of Constable Garret Docherty, and the C.N. Allen and Bros. General Store. 


T.P. Huff House photographed in 2009 
The one-room Montgomery Schoolhouse was located on a little knoll behind the store on Montgomery Road. It is present on the 1850 map, and was probably in use from an early time. By 1873, the school served the students of Pleasant Valley District 51 - but it seems that the school never went by the Pleasant Valley name, and the district was both officially and unofficially called the Montgomery district.


8 May 1929 Courier News
The school was very successful, winning many Somerset County awards in the teens and twenties, and graduated many 8th grade students, including Anna Huff, who went on to successful high school, college, and business careers. In 1919 the school was lauded for its innovative use of "project teaching." Here is how this was described in the November 14, 1919 Courier News:

In the Montgomery School, Hillsborough Township, project teaching is effectively carried out. For instance, the larger pupils have calculated the contents of two silos in the vicinity by measurements made themselves. In the same way they are working out other local problems, such as the cost of plastering the school room, painting the school house, etc. All these problems are worked out in exactly the same way as would be done by men actually engaged in doing the work.
In April 1929, as the new Hillsborough Consolidated School (Bloomingdale) was being constructed, the school board decided to close Montgomery and other one-room schoolhouses. A major factor in the decision was that at that time the state paid 75% of transportation costs to bus the 15 remaining area students to the Clover hill School. Despite parents' protests, the school was closed and sold in February 1930.



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