Our First School* and First Church
COW BAY SCHOOL HOUSE, 1840
AND THE FREE CHURCH OF MANHASSET, LONG ISLAND, 1859,
MILL POND, PORT WASHINGTON, NEW YORK.
Little data is now available on the old Cow Bay School House other than the fact that it was built prior to 1840. Some local old timers, whose parents were born about that time, recall that their parents attended this school which was first located on the site where the church stands in the picture. It was referred to in the church records as the schoolhouse at Cow Bay Free School.
The church property was donated by Henry Cocks, whose grandson, Martin Cocks, now has authentic historical data concerning the church in the form of the original constitution, by-laws, and minutes of the Trustees' meetings.
The property to which the schoolhouse was moved was donated by one Silas Mott to make room for the church on the Cocks property. Before the church was built, the Board of Trustees met in the old schoolhouse to write their constitution and discuss plans for the church building.
Part of the original Constitution follows:
"Whereas we, the inhabitants of School Districts Nos. 4 and 5, in the Town of North-Hempstead feeling the want of a place of Public Worship to Almighty God and being desirous of providing a building to be used for that purpose do hereby resolve:
That we will unite our energies to effect the procurement of a building suitable to assemble for the said purpose under the Constitution."
The following news item appeared in the "Long Island Farmer and Advertiser", Tuesday, May 31, 1859:
"FREE CHURCH OF MANHASSET—We hear that this church is in the way of being speedily built. The ground selected for the site is that whereon the schoolhouse formerly stood in the valley at the head of the Mill Pond. The ground was given by Mr. Henry Cocks for a 'Free church', and although the Methodists predominate, or are the most energetic there, yet this house will be open to the ministers of any denomination that may wish to preach the everlasting gospel. There is already a large and growing Sabbath School regularly conducted; and it may be hoped that the people of that neighborhood will make their religious influence felt."
Text compiled from a Christmas card sent by the Lewis Coal & Oil Company, Inc.
*But was it our first school? Perhaps not, in spite of what the postcards say:
In 1748, the first school teacher arrived in Cow Neck, which the Port Washington peninsula was called prior to 1859, . He answered an ad placed in the New York Mercury which read, “Thomas Dodge and Petrus Onderdonk want a man well qualified to teach school in Cow Neck.” As there was not yet a formal school house, Cow Neck’s first teacher would travel and teach in the local settlers’ homes. As the area population grew, a second teacher was added in 1813. The salary was raised to $12 per month, a substantial increase over the 25 pounds per year that the teacher was paid in 1763.
The first school house in Cow Neck was the Flower Hill School, a one-room school house built in 1757. It was located on the Onderdonk farm at the corner of what is now Bogart Avenue and Port Washington Boulevard.
- Glen DeSalvo, trustee, CNPHS,
Journal of the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society, 1962-2012, 50th Anniversary issue,
writing about The Lost Schoolhouse