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Franklin Schools and Education History

Reprinted from: Franklin Township, Somerset, NJ: A History

Jacobus Schureman, who came to America from Holland with Rev. Theodorus J. Frelinghuysen in 1720, is believed to be Franklin Township's first schoolmaster.  He was an itinerant teacher who traveled through the same territory Frelinghuysen covered in his ministry. A school at Three Mile Run probably dates from about 1720; Frelinghuysen was living in that area at the time.

In December 1722, a schoolmaster named Francis Harrison was living at Six Mile Run. He was conversant in Dutch and English. In 1730, he wrote and published a book, The English and Low-Dutch School-Master.

In his history of Somerset County, Reverend Abraham Messler said there were few schools in the area before the American Revolution. Only rudimentary reading, writing and arithmetic were taught. Geography, history and mathematics were not important.

Messler described a little red school house built around 1795 that was typical of many throughout the area. Its one room was about 24 feet square and had just one door. A fireplace was along one wall. Furniture was of the simplest kind. The younger students sat on plain wooden benches with no backs. Older students sat on benches at either side of a long table. Two square tables of different heights were near the teacher's place for little students who were learning to write. The outside walls were painted red with white casings on the door and windows.

Messler said the early schoolmaster was strict and a firm believer in the effectiveness of the birch rod when necessary. He kept one by his chair.  Students' minds were improved not by reading a wide variety of books but by reading a few good ones very well. Writing and ciphering books were models of neatness. The school-master's food was supplied by the parents of his pupils. They would take turns providing a week's provisions. The schoolmaster sometimes slept in a garret or loft at the school.

An early school bill has survived. It belonged, to David Nevius (1758-1825) of Pleasant Plains. The bill, dated, May 8, 1799, was rendered by "John F. Tunnard, school-master" for schooling David's children, (John, David Jr., and Wilhelmpie). The school was not identified, however, the bill refers to teaching in quarters (one-fourth of a year) and to "night school." The teacher's rate was approximately 1 shilling per week. Other expenses passed onto the students' father were for a broken pane of glass, "quills" (2 shillings) and a portion of the maintenance supplies: brooms, pail and an axe handle (3 shillings).

Some of the younger children of David Nevius may have acquired their education with different teachers. Margaret and a brother received their "early education" under Rev. Dr. James Spencer Cannon, who was pastor of Six Mile Run Church from 1797 to 1826. Later, Margaret attended "Eliza and Mary Harnack School" in Princeton. It was described by her daughter as, "quite a celebrated school for the time."  While at school, Margaret lived with an older married sister, Ann Nevius Bogart.

19th-Century Schools

The first public schools in New Jersey were for poor children. In 1820, the state placed the responsibility on the townships to raise taxes to provide for public schools, but only "for the education of such poor children as are paupers."  In 1828, the townships were given authority to vote at town meetings on raising funds to build and repair schoolhouses.

The following year, the state legislature granted the townships the power to create school committees to care for these funds and to provide educational facilities approved at the town meetings. It may have been around this time that many of the township's one-room schoolhouses were built.

A school committee in Franklin was first appointed in 1833. The early members were:


1833-1838      James S. Nevius

Ralph Voorhees

William Lytle

1839-1846      John Terhune

Ralph Voorhees

Willillin Lytle


In 1846, the state placed more financial responsibility on the townships to fund education by requiring them to raise local taxes at least equal to the amount the state provided. Towns were authorized to elect a superintendent of schools to replace the school committee. Also, teachers had to be licensed by the county or the township.

The Franklin school committee was replaced in 1847 by a town school superintendent. The early Franklin Township school superintendents were:


1847-1848      Rev. J. A. Van Doren

1849-1851      Ralph Voorhees

1852   Dr. Lewis Mosher

1853   Rev. George J. Van Neste

1854-1855      John N. Hoagland

1856-1858      John J. Van Nostrand

1859-1861      Ralph Voorhees

1862   Benjamin S. Totten

1863-1864      Rev. J. A. VanDoren

1865-1866      Jer R. Williamson.


The New Jersey Legislature abolished the position of town superintendent in 1866. Instead, provisions were made for a county superintendent who would be appointed by the New Jersey Board of Education.

Franklin Township's early schools were exclusively one-room structures. Many were still being used in the early 20th century. The schools were located approximately three miles apart-the distance a school child could be expected to walk or ride a horse each day.

When Snell compiled his history of Somerset County, he included a statistical report for the school year ending August 31, 1879. Franklin Township had 13 school districts, plus one outside the township: Clinton in Bound Brook, which served Franklin students.

The districts were numbered on a county system; Franklin's schools were numbered 60 through 75. Although 705 of the township's 1,090 school-age children were enrolled, slightly less than one-third (344) actually attended school.

Griggstown's one-room school had 55 students enrolled in 1879; however, it could hold only 50. Fortunately for everybody, the average number of students attending was 26. Sometimes there would be only two or three children in each grade, or as many as eight or 12. Students in the lower grades could hear what the older students were being taught. It was not unusual for a child to skip a grade and graduate earlier.  The teacher at each of the township's one-room schools taught all eight grades and was also responsible for handling janitorial chores.

Schools were made entirely tuition-free in 1871. That year, New Jersey provided for a state school tax on property. Parents no longer had to pay tuition for their children to attend public schools. Free education was no longer only for paupers. Education became compulsory with state laws passed in 1913 and 1914.

Local historian Ralph W. Thomson described school board elections during the years around World War I.  One meeting was held at the Middlebush School for the entire township; 20 to 25 people would show up, two or three names would be put in nomination, and that was it.  In 1930, additional voting places were made available.

In 1907, the state of New Jersey agreed to pay the tuition and transportation cost for rural students to get a high school education. Students purchased monthly tickets for rides. Their families would then send the bill to the state every few months for reimbursement. The state, in turn, refunded three-fourths of the cost.

Franklin Township provided the first school bus in 1911. At that time, the school board decided there were enough children in the Franklin Park area to warrant transportation to New Brunswick High School, so they put out a request for bids. The winning bid came from Van Dyke Higgins for $275 to transport six pupils. He had a pair of mules and an old carryall-a four-wheeled covered carriage-with benches facing each other along the sides and side curtains. Higgins transported the kids to school, put the mules in a livery stable and waited until 3 p.m. to take them back home. At least one embarrassed kid insisted that the "Donkey Bus" let him off two blocks before reaching the school.

By 1935, Franklin. Township had eight school bus routes that were jobbed out to four private contractors. C. I. Van Cleef ran five of the routes.

A large amount of housing construction in the Hamilton Street area at the end of World War I brought more children to the township, so a school was needed. In 1921, the four-room Hamilton School was built on Hamilton Street and Matilda Avenue. It differed from earlier schools in that it was created as a result of rapid development. That would be the case with the schools that would follow in the township. By 1925, the Hamilton School proved to be too small. Two portable two-room school buildings were erected at the rear of the structure. The short-lived two-room Brunswick Park School was built at the same time on a ridge near Easton Avenue.

The decline of the one-room schoolhouses began in 1917 when the Raritan River School closed. Most of the one-room schoolhouses were phased out soon afterward. Thomson dated the decline even earlier.  In 1895, 61 residents of Middlebush petitioned for an elementary school with two rooms instead of one in their village. The end of an era came in 1932, when the last one-room schoolhouses were abandoned in Franklin Park and Griggstown. When three rooms were added to the old Franklin Park School, the one-room schools were no longer needed.

The year 1932 also marked the opening of the Pine Grove Manor School. The school was built because of overcrowding at Hamilton School. There was also overcrowding in Franklin Park.

During the 1935-36 school year, 231 Franklin Township secondary students attended high school in the surrounding communities of New Brunswick, Princeton, Bound Brook and Somerville. This amounted to $27,500 in tuition; up from about $25,500 the year before.  During the 1935-36 school year, 830 pupils were en- rolled in the township's five public schools. The Middlebush School had the highest first-day enrollment with 304; the Kingston School had the lowest, with 62.


Early Township Schools


In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Jim Moise conducted dozens of oral history interviews with Franklin Township residents, many of whom attended Franklin's one-room schools. The tapes were part of a project undertaken by the then-active Franklin Township Historical Society.

Moise asked each person his or her impressions of these early schools. There was a surprising consistency among the responses. They remembered the pot-bellied stoves, the kids fetching coal and water, the outhouses, the no-nonsense teachers, how hard the teachers worked, and how hard they worked. Some of these recollections are summed up in a description Ralph Thomson included in his history of Franklin Township.

In addition to teaching all eight grades, the teacher, to a very large extent, took care of all the janitor services. At 3:30 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when school let out, the fire in the cast-iron pot-bellied stove was banked with sufficient coal to carry through until 8 o’clock the next morning. On Monday mornings a new fire had to be started and the teacher had to arrive especially early. The teacher had to live within walking distance of the school, the same as the children attending. Few schools had wells, so drinking water was carried in a pail, from the nearest dwelling by two pupils that the teacher might assign. This was a much coveted assignment, awarded to the older kids who had managed to keep on good terms with the teacher.

Peter Nepote, who attended South Middlebush Schoolhouse, recalled that he and the other boys handled the heavier chores such as carrying buckets of water from a farm across the road, shoveling snow, cleaning the outhouse and tending the stove fire.

Each Monday morning, one of the boys would have to arrive a little early to restart the fire. He had to carry in the coal, shake down the ashes, load the stove with dry corncobs, heap coal on top of them, then light the cobs with a paper torch. The fire tender had to bank the fire before leaving school each day and add coal the following morning.

Nepote also remembered the homework and firm discipline. Back then, there were no snow days. The only time school was canceled was when the stove wasn't working.


Middlebush Schoolhouse No.1

South Middlebush Road


The earliest known school in the Middlebush area was on South Middlebush Road, across the road from the Wyckoff-Garretson house. (At that time, it was the John Wyckoff House.) The school was erected about 1730. Ralph Voorhees wrote that the school was near an Indian hut.  In her history of Middlebush, Elsie Beatrice Stryker theorized that the school primarily served the Wyckoff and Van Doren children.


Middlebush Schoolhouse No.2

South Middlebush Road


The second school in the Middlebush area was on the east side of South Middlebush Road, probably in the late 1700s. The land on which the school stood was owned by Garret Voorhees Sr. and was between what is now DeBow Street and Railroad A venue. Students attended the school from as far away as the Landing and Raritan River areas.


Middlebush Schoolhouse No.3

Private lane off South Middlebush Road


Middlebush's third school probably was built in the early 1800s. Judge Ralph Voorhees, who was born in 1796, taught at this school for many years. It stood across the street from the Jeremiah Voorhees house, near the lane leading to what was later called Como Estates.


Middlebush Schoolhouse No.4

Private lane off South Middlebush Road


The fourth Middlebush school was opposite the third, on the village side of the lane leading to Como Estates. The building was still standing in 1850, when the county map was drawn. The school was probably abandoned in 1858, when the new schoolhouse was built. Stryker listed the names of a few students known to have attended the school. She said the school served as a social center; debates were also held there.

Years later, John Van Middlesworth bought the "little red schoolhouse" and moved it to his place in the village. It was used for many years as a carpentry shop and a barn but was tom down in the early 1930s. Some of the beams were built into the garage that now stands in its place.


Middlebush Schoolhouse No.5

Amwell Road and Olcott Street


The fifth school in Middlebush was built in 1859 in back of the Reformed church. The second floor, called the "Lecture Room," was used for Sunday School and prayer meetings. In her journal, Aunt Betsy Van Liew wrote that a fair and festival were held in the woods near the Middlebush Church to pay the debt for the school. The event cleared $140.33

W. S. Willis was listed as a teacher at the school in 1886.  In 1907, when Ida Hummer was the teacher, the student population had grown so much that the four upper grades were moved upstairs, and a second teacher, Bessie Meyers, was added.

In 1916. the building was moved across the street and used as a private residence for a few years. It was tom down around 1920. One side of the old building was incorporated into a garage.

Elizabeth Treptow transferred from the Union Dale School and was a student at the Middlebush Schoolhouse after it became a two-room school. She recalled that Miss Hummer taught the upper grades upstairs. The lower grades were on the first floor. Treptow's father lobbied for the school board to make Middlebush a four-room school, but everyone told him: "We'll never need a four-room school.


Middlebush Schoolhouse No.6

Amwell Road and Olcott Street


The sixth school in Middlebush was a large two-story stucco building built in 1916 on the same site as Schoolhouse No.5, at a cost of $6,000.  This school was used until 1926. The building served as Franklin's municipal Town Hall from 1926 until 1972, when the Municipal Complex opened on DeMott Lane.


Middlebush School

Amwell Road


Middlebush School was constructed in 1926. In its early years, it had eight teachers fot its eight classrooms, a 500-seat auditorium and a basement room. By 1935, about 300 pupils attended the school. Many came by bus.  In May 1976, a few months after the school celebrated its 50th anniversary, the ceiling collapsed in the auditorium. It was empty at the time.  In 1979, the Board of Education made the decision to close the school. Parents, students, teachers and taxpayers all fought in vain to keep it open. Students were transferred to the Hillcrest School that September. There was talk of reopening the school in 1981, but the cost of bringing it up to current building code requirements would have been prohibitive.


South Middlebush Schoolhouse

South Middlebush Road and Skillmans Lane South


Middlebush Schoolhouse stood for many years on the southeast corner of South Middlebush Road and Skillmans Lane. It was abandoned in 1924 and sold to Sarah Clark, the owner of the land. The building was later purchased by the Franklin Park Volunteer Fire Company, which moved it to a new site in Franklin Park on state Highway Route 27. In December 1946, it was destroyed by fire.

Ida Hummer was a teacher at the school in 1886.

Miss Hendrickson, who taught at this school, sometimes made soup for the children on cold winter days. Students brought the ingredients from home-carrots, potatoes, a piece of pork- and she cooked them all together. She boarded with a family in the historic Wyckoff-Garretson House on South Middlebush Road. She walked to school.


Pleasant Plains Schoolhouse

Suydam Road (moved to Municipal Complex in 1996)


Pleasant Plains Schoolhouse was originally on the north side of Suydam Road, about one-half mile from South Middlebush Road. Prior to 1839, it was known as the Union Seminary. That year, a lease changed the name to Pleasant Plains. Part of the building dates from the early 19th century, and part from the mid to later part of the century.

A list of Franklin teachers in 1886 indicates Lizzie S. Van Kirk was teaching at the school that year.

The school's name was changed again in 1913 to Franklin Park School No.6. It was abandoned as a school in 1930. In 1931, Harold Suydam purchased the building for $150, paid $265 to have it moved across the street and converted it into a home.

The land on which the schoolhouse was located was scheduled to be part of Hovnanian's Town and Country Estates housing development. Fearing its possible destruction, a group of citizens banded together in 1995 to save the ancient building. K. Hovnanian Inc. granted a 90-day work order stoppage in September to allow the committee to come up with a plan to move the building. Hovnanian also donated $20,000 to help restore the schoolhouse. The building was transported to the Municipal Complex in April 1996.


Elm Schoolhouse

Route 27


Elm Schoolhouse probably dates back to the early to mid-19th century. It was located at what was once Voorhees Station, just north of the Millstone and New Brunswick Railroad crossing on Route 27. Hattie DeMott was a teacher at the school in 1886.

In November 1908, the school was destroyed by fire. It was immediately rebuiit at a cost of $1,200. It was abandoned in 1921 when the Hamilton School opened.  The last teacher/principal at the school was Mrs. Margaret Van Doren Welsh.

In a 1980 interview, Ralph Thomson said the building was still standing on Churchill Avenue, near the railroad crossing and was then owned by a steel drum company that was using it for storage.


Three Mile Run Schoolhouse

Route 27 near Cozzens Lane


Three Mile Run Schoolhouse was on the Suydam Farm on Route 27, facing Cozzens Lane. A school stood in this area in the early1700s. It is not known whether this was the same building. Probably not. And if not, this schoolhouse dated at least to the early 1800s.

Luke Whitlock was a teacher during the first quarter of the 1800s. He moved with his family to Ohio in 1825. Carrie Root was a teacher at the school in 1886.  Miss Harrop and Miss Dorn taught there in the 1920s.

In the 1920s, when members of the Hobbs family attended school there, the one-room school had only seven grades. Students went to Franklin Park for the eighth grade because it had two rooms.

The school was abandoned in 1928. The land and building were sold in 1931 for $1,000, and the structure was turned into a hardware store. The building later burned.


Woodlawn Schoolhouses No.1 and No.2

(Lower Ten Mile Run Schoolhouse)

Route 27 near Bunker Hill Road


Woodlawn School was located just opposite the present Kendall Park Shopping Center on Route 27, near Bunker Hill Road. The school was probably built in the late 1700s. The schoolhouse was standing in the year 1800, when President and Mrs. Washington are said to have passed by its doors. The story goes that the school children were called outside and lined up along the Old Road (Route 27). As they cheered, Washington bowed, smiled and waved his hat. An observer wrote that Washington "spoke kind words to the children. ... Later Washington seemed to enjoy the unexpected and somewhat singular interview." The children, in turn, "made their obeisance" [paid their respects].

In 1886, Eleanor Compton was a teacher at the school.  According to information in the G. Clifford Nevius Records in the Special Collections and University Archives at Rutgers University, a new schoolhouse was erected in 1891.

The schoolhouse was abandoned in 1922. It was sold in 1924 for $1,000, including land.  It then became an ice cream store/gas station.


Early Kingston Schoolhouses


Some historians believe a school probably began operating in Kingston a few years after 1723, when the Kingston Presbyterian Church was established.

The earliest known school in Kingston was built in 1776 in the northern part of the village, on the Somerset County side of the road.  Apparently, it was torn down 20 years later, when a schoolhouse was built on the southern side of the village, in Middlesex County. (Kingston Schoolhouse No. 2).  Kingston Schoolhouse No.2 was converted into a private dwelling in 1831.

Around 1829 or 1830, a schoolhouse was constructed near Route 1 in South Brunswick for Kingston students by members of the Van Dyke family (Kingston Schoolhouse No. 3).


Kingston Schoolhouse No.4


In 1871, a schoolhouse was constructed on the hill at the Kingston Presbyterian Church Cemetery. It was a fairly large building, as it was attended by almost 100 pupils. Some of them came from as far as Franklin Park. During the latter part of the 19th century, a circulating library may have kept its books there.


Kingston School

Laurel Avenue


Kingston School was the first Franklin Township multi-room school to be built in the Kingston area. Previously, Kingston students attended a school in South Brunswick. Two acres were purchased for $2,500, and the school was built in 1922 at a cost of $14,000. A cooperative arrangement was made with the school in South Brunswick so that certain grades attended one school, while others attended the other school. Lois Kruschnitt was an early teacher at the school.

A four-room addition was put on the school in 1948.  In 1956, the Franklin Township Board of Education identified $50,000 for another addition to the school.

Kingston School was changed to a K-3 school in 1977 to correct a racial imbalance as part of the New Jersey Office of Equal Education Opportunity (DEED) mandate. The success of the magnet school program instituted in 1991 brought a reassignment of grade levels at Kingston and all the elementary schools in the district in the fall of 1993.

Kingston School closed in 1998.


Union Dale/Cedar Dale (Cedar Grove) Schoolhouses

Cedar Grove Lane near New Brunswick Road


This schoolhouse was on the west side of Cedar Grove Lane, just north of New Brunswick Road. The Somerset County Road Book mentions the Cedar Grove Schoolhouse in the 1842 survey for Cedar Grove Lane.

Kate E. Garretson was a teacher at the school in 1886.  Between 1907 and 1910, a young woman from New York taught at the Union Dale School and lived on a farm near the school, Monday through Friday. On the weekends, she lived at Ralph Thomson's house.

When Elizabeth Treptow attended the Union Dale School, the teacher, William Ayers, came from Bound Brook. She recalled classes started with a reading from the Bible. Two students sat at each desk. She later transferred to the Middlebush Schoolhouse.

The school was abandoned in 1919 and sold in June 1924 for $200. The building was remodeled as a private residence.

Elsie Beatrice Stryker mentioned a schoolhouse was located "at the bend to the left on Cedar Grove Road." She noted that the building was gone by 1935.


Upper Ten Mile Run Schoolhouse No.1

Old Georgetown Road near Copper Mine Road


The first Upper Ten Mile Run School was on Old Georgetown Road, near Copper Mine Road. Cora O. Potter taught at the school in 1886.  It stopped being used as a school when a schoolhouse was built across the street in 1906.  Afterward, a man named Anderson lived in the building.



Upper Ten Mile Run Schoolhouse No.2 (Old Phillips School)

Old Georgetown Road near Copper Mine Road


The second Upper Ten Mile Run School was built in 1906 across the street from the old one on Old Georgetown Road near Copper Mine Road. The school was a memorial gift from Mrs. Jane E. Phillips, who donated $1,400 to build it. She did so to honor her late husband, George W. Phillips. The school was renamed the Phillips School. In 1932, after the school closed, the building and land were sold at a public auction.

Anna Kiss Peacos attended the Phillips School as a child. She said many local activities centered on the school. The school Christmas Party was attended by the whole neighborhood. After the school closed in 1931, there was no longer that cohesiveness.

Mrs. Peacos grew up on the Kiss farm in southern Franklin, next to the three women who were heirs to the Phillips estate (now Princeton Classics). She learned from them what prompted Mrs. Phillips to build the school. She was told that on her daily walks, Mrs. Phillips became concerned that the existing school (Upper Ten Mile Run Schoolhouse No.1), a one-room building across from the present Peacos house on Old Georgetown Road, and still occupied, was inadequate. So she proceeded to build the first Phillips School about a half block east on the opposite side of the same road.

Mrs. Phillips also established the Phillips School Scholarship for an alumnus of the Phillips School for room and board at Trenton State College. Mrs. Peacos was encouraged to apply for the scholarship. She did and "so became a Franklin Township teacher for 24 years." About eight others before and after Mrs. Peacos got an education because of "a wonderful woman." Unfortunately, the scholarship's principal was invested in Delaware and Raritan Canal stocks, which, said Mrs. Peacos, "went belly up."


Raritan River Schoolhouse

Easton Avenue between DeMott Lane and Leupp Lane (JFK Boulevard)


Raritan River Schoolhouse dates back at least to the mid-19th century. A schoolhouse is shown in that location on Otley's 1850 map. It was on the south side of Easton Avenue, midway between DeMott and Leupp lanes. Ida Philhower taught at the school in 1886.

Raritan River Schoolhouse was abandoned as a school in 1917 and sold for $51.  The building was torn down in the 1970s. Garden apartments are on the site today."


Brunswick Park School

Bloomfield Avenue near Easton Avenue


As early as 1918, residents of this area were petitioning for a new school. In 1925, this two-room portable building was erected on a ridge just south of Easton Avenue at Bloomfield Avenue. It was built at a cost of $7,000. It met its demise in 1932 with the construction of the Pine Grove Manor School. The building was abandoned and sold for $1,350.


Weston Schoolhouse No.1

School House Road


The first Weston Schoolhouse stood near the burying yard, between the Millstone River and the D&R Canal. It was located there because of the growing population in the northeast corner of present Hillsborough-the area of Roycefield or Harmony Plains. It also served the area of Franklin that was then called Van Neste's Mill and later Weston. The schoolhouse was originally built of logs in the 1730s or 1740s.  Around 1798, a Mr. Gordon taught there. Edward Belcher taught there about 1800. Abraham and Garret Montfort taught there around 1824. In 1834, the building burned, and the district was split into Harmony Plains in Hillsborough and Weston in Franklin.


Weston Schoolhouse No.2

School House Road


The second Weston Schoolhouse was on the north side of School House Road, about 100 yards from Weston Canal Road. It was probably built soon after the old schoolhouse burned in 1834, and the district was split between towns.

Lizzie N. Karshow was a teacher at the school in 1886.  The school was abandoned in 1919 and sold in June 1924 for $400 to the Pillar of Fire. The church tore down the building in 1960.


Griggstown Schoolhouse

Canal Road


Griggstown Schoolhouse was on Canal Road, just north of the Griggstown Reformed Church and is believed to date back to 1849. In 1854, the church moved the school behind and south of the church to land it purchased from William Voorhees.

Mary R. Voorhees was a teacher at the school in 1886.  In 1932, the board of education auctioned off the school. Clifford Nevius purchased the schoolhouse on behalf of the church. It was then used for social events and activities. After the Church Hall was built, the school was used tor a variety of purposes, including a library, meeting room for Sunday School, and finally for storage.  The school was moved again in 1960 to a location behind the Church Hall.

In 1981, the Griggstown Historical Society began to restore the building to its original state as a one-room schoolhouse. They repainted the exterior, installed a pot-bellied stove and replaced many broken window panes. The society began holding its meetings in the building, using candles and oil lamps for illumination.

In her history of Griggstown, Laura P. Terhune listed some of the teachers who taught at the school: Miss Klingerman, Mabel Mertz Dixon, Carrie Carroll, Miss Kupp, Miss Helen Seasholtz, Irene Connor (Peters), and M. Louise Crawford, who in 1931 was the last teacher.


A Teacher's Memories


Mabel Menz Dixon was 98 years old when she spoke with Jim Moise in 1979. She received her teacher's training at a normal school in Bloomsburg. She completed a three-year course in two years then took a regular teaching job. She taught in southern New Jersey first, then at the Griggstown School from 1911 to 1915. Back then, the school board did not hire married women. "If you got married, your contract would be canceled," she noted. She also said teachers would discipline students by pulling their hair or shaking them.

Griggstown School was located near the Reformed church. Children would play on the church grounds and steps. Dixon was appalled by that at first, but got used to the idea. Classes began at 9 a.m. She would arrive around 8 a.m. to write lessons on the blackboard and start the fire that had been banked from the day before. She summoned her students by ringing a hand bell 15 minutes befure the start of school.

Teachers boarded with local families for about $8 a month. Dixon boarded with storekeeper Harvey Boice, across the brook from the church. She taught all eight grades. About 30 students showed up each day. She earned $50 a month. With no principal, the teachers in the one-room schools had to report directly to the county superintendent and the township school board.

Graduating from the eighth grade required a trip to Pluckemin, about 20 miles away, to take required tests. After completing elementary school, students attended an area secondary school such as New Brunswick High School.

While some Griggstown children attended the Griggstown School on the east side of the river in Franklin Township, others attended Riverside School on the west side of the Millstone in Montgomery Township. Riverside School was occupied before 1812, when it was leased by Major John Baird. The school was consolidated with another Montgomery school in 1927. The building was sold to William H. Graeber in 1928. A new school was built in the area in 1912. The two Griggstown schools competed against each other in ball games, spelling bees and other events.


Millstone River Schoolhouse

Canal area, south of the Millstone Causeway


Before the village name East Millstone was used, a schoolhouse once stood about 250 yards south of the canal causeway. The school served both Franklin Township on the east of the river and what was then known as Somerset Court House (Millstone) on the west of the river. Snell noted that teachers named Flannery and Welsh taught there at the beginning of the 19th century.  The building was moved to Millstone, near the Millstone Church in 1807. At that time the teacher was James Ellison, a carpenter. He was succeeded by a man named Belcher. A new school was built in 1814.


East Millstone Schoolhouse No.1

Corner of Elm and William streets


An old wooden schoolhouse once stood opposite the Methodist Church. It was there in 1850 when Otley's map was drawn. The schoolhouse was replaced by the brick building on Wortman Street in the early 1870s.


East Millstone Schoolhouse No.2

Welsh's Lane


East Millstone Schoolhouse No.2 was built in the early 1870s. The brick structure replaced an old wooden building opposite the Methodist Church that the town had outgrown.

George B. Randolph was a teacher at the school in 1886.  Mrs. Margaret Van Doren Welsh taught at the school from 1909 to 1913.

In an 1971 interview, Martin E. Metz said his father was one of the first students in the new school. The elder Metz recalled two special features, now long gone: a pump in the front yard where students could fetch a pail of water, and a belfry atop the schoolhouse.

The school went through major renovations after 1900. The belfry was dismantled, and the entrance was moved from facing Wortman Stteet to facing Welsh's Lane. A sliding-door partition was installed to create two classrooms.

The school had two pot-bellied stoves and two outhouses adjacent to the building. Until 1925, there was no electricity. Oil lamps provided illumination for evening events.

The school functioned for much of this century for first through seventh grades. The teaching responsibilities were split between two teachers: One taught first through fourth grades; the other, fifth through seventh.

Jack Rieur was one of the last two teachers to share the responsibilities just before East Millstone rejoined the Franklin Township School District in 1950. He later taught in other Franklin Township schools.

Rieur had just graduated from Montclair State College when he was hired in 1949. He taught geography, history, arithmetic and science to all the fifth through seventh graders as a group-a total of 17 students.

Along with fellow teacher Maude Spicer, Rieur reported regularly to East Millstone's three-member board of education. Spicer's and Rieur's classrooms were separated by the movable partition. When they had assemblies or showed movies, the partition's doors were moved apart.

In those days, the rubber factory was still operating, and a train would go there a few times each month. When it passed by, everything stopped. Students and teachers all went outside and watched.

Rieur enjoyed the old pot-bellied stove in his classroom. When they ran low on coal, the student who made 100 in the arithmetic test was allowed to go next door and fetch more.

East Millstone School was operated by the Franklin Township school district until 1975. It was sold in 1976. In October 1977, Jumping Stone Nursery School took over the building.


Hamilton School

Hamilton Street and Matilda Avenue


In 1921, the four-room Hamilton School was built on Hamilton Street and Matilda A venue at a cost of $30,000. In 1987, Mayor Joseph Martino reminisced about attending Hamilton before he transferred to Pine Grove Manor School in 1934. He said the toilets were 50 feet from the building in a very airy shed. Running water came from an outside pump. After Hamilton, he said the transfer to the newly constructed Pine Grove was "like being downtown.”

By 1925, the school proved inadequate. Two portable two-room buildings were erected at the rear of the structure at a cost of $12,000.  The school was discontinued as a general classroom building when the new MacAfee Road and Conerly Road schools opened in 1966. The Franklin Township Board of Education converted the school to administrative offices. In 1985, the Board put the building up for sale.


Franklin Park

School/Phillips School Route 27


The old Franklin Park School was built in 1909 at a cost of $4,450. Originally, it was two rooms, but a three-room brick addition was put on in 1931, at a cost of $33,000. In 1954, the school was renamed Phillips School to honor Mrs, Jane E. Phillips. In 1916, when she died, her estate provided for a trust, the income of which was to provide scholarships to Trenton State Teachers College for qualified pupils from the Phillips School.

By changing the name of the Franklin Park School to Phillips, the terms of the scholarship could be met, and it left the name Franklin Park free to be used for another school in 1957.

The school was closed in 1976. It was used by the Franklin Township Recreation Department until 1993, when structural problems forced the department to relocate to the Municipal Building.


Franklin Junior High School

(Wing of High School)


When Franklin High School opened in 1961, the township's seventh and eighth grades attended classes in the new high school building. The following September, the seventh graders were moved to Hillcrest School. They stayed there until September 1964, then returned to the high school and attended classes in the new junior wing, along with eighth-grade students.

In 1968, when Sampson G. Smith Interediate School was completed, the high school took over the junior wing and the seventh and eighth graders transferred to the new school.


Blackwells Mills Students


Children in Blackwells Mills used to attend school in a one-room schoolhouse in Hillsborough (near Hillsborough Road), even though it was outside the district. The other schools were too far. The Hillsborough school burned down in the 1930s. Blackwells Mills resident Bert Martin Norton recalled that there was a different teacher almost every year, but she did remember one was Margarita Hill.  The teachers boarded with the Wyckoff family.

Norton said some of the older boys were bound boys-foster children sent by the state to live with and work for farmers.

When Van Cleef started a bus service, Norton switched to Middlebush School. Many of the young people who lived along the canal went on to Somerville High School. Those from other parts of town mainly attended New Brunswick High School.

Everett Gunther started school at Pleasant Plains School when he was five and his family lived near Franklin Park.  Later, when they moved to Blackwells Mills, he went to the Hillsborough school.  He recalled going to Flagtown for a final exam. Graduation services were held at the Neshanic Church in Hillsborough. He said the supervisor came down from Somerville once a month. Teachers would discipline students in the cloak room. Some children were hit, particularly the bound boys.


Colleges in Franklin Township

Rutgers College and New Brunswick Theological Seminary


Until 1850, a small portion of New Brunswick was within the boundaries of Franklin Township. It encompassed all the area up to Albany Street and included the old Rutgers campus.

The area was usually referred to as New Brunswick, even back then. But it was taxed under Franklin Township and subject to Somerset County authority. Its population was also counted with Franklin's in the federal censuses.

All the very old building on the Rutgers College campus were once part of this New Brunswick section of Franklin Township: Old Queen's Building, Van Nest Hall, the President's House (now gone) and the original Theological Seminary buildings. The old Theological Seminary buildings are now gone, but this is still the location of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, long since separated from Rutgers College.

Rutgers was founded in 1766 as Queen's College. It is one of the oldest colleges in the United States.  Since its earliest days, Franklin Township has had strong ties with Rutgers. Frederick Frelinghuysen, grandson of Reverend Theodore Jacobus Frelinghuysen, was one of the first instructors at the fledgling college. A great-grandson, The Honorable Theodore Frelinghuysen, was born in Franklin Township. He served as the seventh president of Rutgers between 1850 and 1862.

Among the early college trustees were several 18th-century Franklin residents:


Rev. Johannes Leydt of Six Mile Run (1770)

Hendrick Fisher of South Bound Brook (1770)

Abraham Van Neste of Weston (1771-1779);

Rev. Abraham Beach (1787-1828)

Jacques Voorhees of Six Mile Run (1790-1792).


Many Rutgers faculty and staff members have chosen Franklin as their place of residence. And so have many alumni. A recent college alumni directory for the New Brunswick campus, listed more than a thousand graduates geographically for Somerset, Franklin Park, Middlebush and East Millstone.

Franklin has a long history of producing Rutgers graduates. It started with the very first class in 1774, which consisted of one student: Matthew Leydt, son of Rev. Johannes Leydt of Six Mile Run Church.

The second graduating class had 14 members. Three were from Franklin Township: Abraham Schenck, John H. Schenck and Dr. Henry H. Schenck. Their mother was Magdalena Van Liew from Middlebush. Their father Hendrick/Henry operated the mill at Weston.  James Schureman, grandson of Franklin's first schoolmaster, was also in that class.


Alma White College Zarephath


Alma College was established by the Pillar of Fire in Zarephath and named for Pillar founder Bishop Alma White. The college had its be- ginnings when an elderly professor came to Zarephath in 1917 and offered to teach college- level classes.  A college charter was requested in 1921, and subsequently granted by the state of New Jersey.

Because another college Alma College already existed, the Zarephath school took the name Alma White College. The college granted bachelor of arts, science and theology degrees. It also had a master's degree program.

The college was heavily damaged when Tropical Storm Doria hit the area in 1971 and was not able to open that fall. At its peak, Alma White College had just under 200 students. It lost its accreditation in the mid-1970s. The college made the decision to shut down its liberal arts and science programs. The state gave the school permission to allow the students then enrolled to finish. It graduated its last student in June 1978.


Zarephath Bible Seminary

Canal Road, Zarephath


Zarephath Bible Seminary is operated by the Pillar of Fire. It is an outgrowth of the Zarephath Bible Training School that

had been in operation since 1908. The seminary offers theological training for Pillar of Fire ministers, missionaries and others interested in fundamental Bible- centered study.


Parochial and Private Schools


High Schools

A few private high schools operated in the villages of Franklin Township in the second half of the 19th century. One was on Welsh's Lane in East Millstone. During the 20th century, this building was used as St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church, and still later as an Odd Fellows Hall.


Carter School

Elm and Market streets


Maude Carter operated a private girls' boarding school in East Millstone from 1901 to 1906.  The school employed two teachers and later moved to Princeton.

A small number of boys attended the school as day students. The original school was in a large brick house constructed around 1855 and known as the A. T. Vroom House. Today, it is a private residence.  The day school was in the Odd Fellows Hall.


Middlebush Institute

Olcott Street


Middlebush Institute, a private school, began in the home of J. Newton Voorhees. Voorhees was teacher at the Housetonic Institute in Connecticut, where he met and married another teacher, Amanda Olcott. In 1864, they moved to Middlebush and established a "fine type of private school of high-school grades.” Mrs. Voorhees taught French, music, and "the accomplishments." After she died in 1876, the school closed for several years. When Mr. Voorhees remarried, the school reopened.

Scholars came to the institute from Bedminster, Franklin Park, Griggstown, Harlingen, Millstone and Pennington. Some traveled on horse-back; others boarded at the school. In 1880, Voorhees built the main institute building. It consisted of two large rooms with a sliding door, two desks, and heavy tables and benches.

Reverend DeWitt Talmadge, who became a nationally famous preacher, was educated at Middlebush Institute.

By 1917, the building was owned by Lewis Stryker and known as Stryker Hall. After Middlebush Reformed Church was destroyed by fire that year, services were held at the hall until construction on the new church was completed in 1919. The building later became the home of the Frank Pennell family.


Griggstown Private Schools

In the 1940s, a girls' finishing school was located at "Stepping Stones," at the corner of Canal and Copper Mine roads. It was part of the Scudder-Collver School of New York City and was a boarding school until 1947.

In the early 1950s, a nursery school operated in the Towpath House in Griggstown. C.A.P.A.; a creative and performing arts day camp for children 8 to 14 years old; was operated by Harry and Jacqueline Rubel during the summers from 1963 to 1973 on Canal Road, south of Mosher Road. This school was a forerunner of the state's Teen Arts Program.


Kingston Private Schools

In addition to at least four schoolhouses known to have operated for Kingston students during the 18th and 19th century, there appears to have been some private schools in the area. By 1835, a man named Colby was operating a private school in Kingston. An announcement in a local newspaper in November 1870, heralded the opening of the Kingston Institute, headed by a Professor Wagner as a "day and boarding school for gentlemen who have finished their English Education and wished to get an education in German, French or the Classics."


Rutgers Preparatory School

1345 Easton Avenue, Somerset


Rutgers Preparatory School was founded in 1766, soon after Queen's College (Rutgers) received its colonial charter. One of the six founding members was township resident, Reverend Abraham Beach.

Another was Reverend Johannes/John Leydt, who served the Dutch Reformed Church at Six Mile Run. Classes were once held in a building on the northeast corner of Albany and Neilson streets in New Brunswick (then part of Franklin Township).

The Preparatory School remained affiliated with Rutgers until 1957, then became entirely independent. In December 1957, the 35-acre Wells estate on Easton Avenue-between DeMott Lane and Willow Avenue-was put up for sale. The school's trustees believed the 22-room mansion could be converted to an elementary school, and the estate had enough room to build an upper, or secondary school building.

Ironically, Reverend Beach, one of the original trustees, had once lived in the house. When his daughter Hannah Rattoone died in 1848, the property passed to her niece Julia Beach Lawrence. From her, it went to her son Lawrence Wells and then to his daughter

Julia L. Wells. 

The trustees purchased the Wekks estate, also known as Elm Farm, for $137,500. Classes began for the lower school in September 1958. The upper school continued meeting in New Brunswick. To provide needed income during this transition, the trustees leased three acres of land to Colgate-Palmolive Company for a temporary lab facility.

After Colgate moved out in 1962, the upper school moved into its new quarters. An annex to the lower school was built in 1970. A middle school building and library were built in 1974.

In November 1983, Rutgers Preparatory School was hit by a major fire that destroyed almost $1 million in property. A wing of the upper school sustained the most serious damage.  A year later, a classroom and lab building for the upper school opened.

For much of its history, the school was an all-boys' institution. Today, it is a coeducational day school with a reputation for its strong college preparatory and computer science programs. The Lower School accepts pre-kindergarten children through grade four.


Alma Preparatory School

Canal Road, Zarephath


Alma Preparatory School was founded as Zarephath Academy by the Pillar of Fire Church in 1912. The school was accredited by the state of New Jersey in 1916.  It is a coeducational, college preparatory school that provides a Christian education for students in grades seven through 12. Academic achievement is a top priority, and students are encouraged to attain their maximum potential.  Classes are held in the Ruth Staats Alma Preparatory School Building.


Saint Matthias School

170 John F. Kennedy Boulevard


The land facing JFK Boulevard on which Saint Matthias School is built was donated by Amwell Estates developer Nathan Koslow. The parish was able to purchase the adjoining 10.8-acre parcel.

In 1964, groundbreaking was held for Saint Matthias School. The first classes were held in September 1965 for grades one through four. A grade was added each year until all eight grades were being taught. The Sisters of Mercy and several lay teachers made up the early faculty.

In 1995, Saint Matthias was given approval by the Franklin Township Planning Board to build a two-story addition, expand the front parking lot and relocate the east driveway. The 12,000-square-foot addition that was finished in 1996 provided space for the addition of two kindergartens and a preschool for 3- and 4-year olds. Classes are at ground level. The second floor holds a media center and meeting room.


Oak Crest Country Day School

92 Cortelyous Lane


Oak Crest Country Day School is an inclusive primary-education program operated by Kids 1, a private provider of specialized schooling for children with academic and behavioral challenges. Kids 1 was founded in 1986 and presently has programs in five states. Its schools and programs are licensed and approved by the states in which they operate under contract with the public schools.

Oak Crest offers full-time and part-time nursery, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and primary programs up to the third grade for children with and without disabilities. The school's philosophy is that by learning together students also teach one another.


High Road Upper School

104 Cortelyous Lane


High Road Upper School was founded in 1986 and is also operated by Kids 1. It is for students ages 12 through 17 with special learning needs. The specialized private school environment provides a positive learning experience with personalized instruction.

The school's goals are to prepare students to reenter the public school system or find post- graduation employment and live independently.


Franklin Township's Present Public Schools


Pine Grove Manor School

Highland and Pine Grove avenues


To alleviate overcrowding in the Hamilton School, the Pine Grove Manor School was built in 1932 at a cost of $92,000 on five acres of land purchased for $1. Ralph Thomson said when it was built, this school was "pretty much off the beaten path.” When Pine Grove School opened ( in September 1932, it had eight classrooms. The cafeteria and auditorium were in the basement. Women volunteered for lunch duty. Soup and sandwiches sold for about three cents.

In 1987, Franklin Mayor Joseph Martino recalled his experiences at the school back in the 1930s. He said the school provided many services to students during the Depression. A room was set aside in the basement for a dentist, who saw all the students. The district also provided medical exams, a barber, and even piano lessons. Movies were shown in the auditorium for a dime. At Christmas, small boxes of hard candy were given to the children.

An addition was completed in 1954. The addition was named for Mrs. Margaret Van Doren Welsh, who taught at the school since 1938 and was principal when the addition was built. Mrs. Welsh spent 50 years in the Franklin Township school system.

The school grew to 26 classrooms. It was changed to a K-3 school in 1977 as part of the OEEO mandate. At the time, the student population was 59 percent nonwhite, about 20 percent more than allowed in Franklin. Grade levels were reassigned again with the magnet program, and Pine Grove became a K-2 school.

In 1981, the oldest wing of the school went through extensive renovations: a new auditorium floor, new fire walls, additional exits in the hall-ways and an updated electrical system. Large auditorium windows were removed to make the building more energy-efficient.


Elizabeth Avenue School

Elizabeth Avenue


The 21-room Elizabeth Avenue School was dedicated in November 1957. In 1971, Elizabeth Avenue had 425 white students and only 18 black ones. And while the Hillcrest School was overcrowded, there were vacancies at Elizabeth Avenue. To correct the imbalance, students were transferred from the Hillcrest school.

Elizabeth Avenue was changed to a K-3 school in 1977 as part of the OEEO mandate. It later changed to K-4. In June 1997, ground- breaking ceremonies were held for the addition to the school.


Franklin Park School

Eden Street


The 10-room Franklin Park School was dedicated in 1957, just one month after the Elizabeth Avenue School. It was changed to a 4-6 school in 1977 as part of the OEEO mandate. With the magnet programs, grade levels were reassigned again. Franklin Park is now K-6.

The new Franklin Park School opened in September 1998 on the campus of the old Franklin Park School. Where the former school held about 130 students, the new one can accommodate more than 900. Franklin Park School was the first new school in the township in three decades.


Hillcrest School

Franklin Boulevard


The 21-room Hillcrest School was dedicated in September 1958 at a cost of $600,000. Within six years it would require an addition. The new addition opened in 1964. In 1963, seventh-grade students were transferred from the high school because of overcrowding. They stayed at Hillcrest until 1964, when a new wing opened.

In 1966, the Board of Education made Hillcrest a fifth- and sixth-grade school to improve the racial balance in township schools. In 1971, some students were transferred from Hillcrest to the Elizabeth Avenue School after the state issued a directive to develop a segregation plan.  Hillcrest was changed to a 4-6 school in 1977 as part of the OEEO mandate. Grades levels were reassigned to 3-6 in 1993 with the magnet program.


MacAfee Road School

MacAfee Road


MacAfee Road School was built on an 11.5-acre tract of land originally owned by Levitt & Sons. The school had been built to accommodate kindergarten through sixth grades, but to improve the racial balance in township schools the Franklin Township Board of Education in 1966 made it a K-4 school. It opened in September 1966, with 637 pupils and 27 teachers. With the 1977 OEEO mandate, it became a K-3 school. The school remains K-3 with the magnet programs.


Conerly Road School

Conerly Road


Conerly Road School was built on 12.5 acre tract of land in the Foxwood section of Franklin. It opened in September 1966, at the same time as the MacAfee Road School. The school had been built to accommodate kindergarten through sixth grades, but the Franklin Township Board of Education took steps in 1966 to improve the racial balance in township schools by making it a K-4 school.

In 1977, as part of the OEEO mandate, Conerly Road School became a 4-6 school. With the success of the magnet school program, Conerly Road School became a 3-6 school. Ground- breaking ceremonies were held for the addition to the school in June 1997.


Sampson G. Smith Intermediate School

Amwell Road


The $2.1-million Sampson G. Smith Intermediate School opened in 1968 with 27 standard classrooms, 17 lab- and shop-type classrooms and a capacity of 1,105 students. The school is situated on 32 acres just off Amwell Road.

Sampson G. Smith, a Middlebush resident, taught history for 19 years at New Brunswick High School. He was named supervising principal of Franklin's schools in 1941, Somerset County superintendent of schools in 1945, Franklin superintendent of schools from 1958 to 1966, and president of Somerset County College from 1973 to 1974. Smith was a member of the Franklin Township Committee from 1940 to 1942. He died in 1981.

A $6.1 million expansion to the school in 1992 added 16 classrooms, two science labs, computer lab, a greenhouse, several smaller instruction rooms, a new library/media center, freezer for food services, and a basement for storage. The school's existing library was converted to data and word processing labs. New soccer fields were completed in 1993.

Until 1992, Sampson G. Smith School accommodated seventh and eighth graders. That year, 100 sixth-grade students began attending the intermediate school. They were the first of the magnet school students to attend. They would be joined by several hundred more the following year.


Franklin High School

Francis Street


Before 1961, Franklin Township's secondary school students attended Bound Brook, New Brunswick, Princeton, Highland Park and Somerville high schools. In October 1957, Princeton announced it could not take Franklin's students after September 1961; it did not have room for them. Franklin was sending approximately 130 students there.

With 672 secondary school students and the number predicted to be 1,004 by 1962, the township had to do something about building its own high school.

In April 1959, the site was chosen: a 37.3 acre tract adjacent to Hillcrest School on Franklin Boulevard. The school was designed to accommodate 1,632 pupils. Ground was broken in September 1960. The general contractor was a local company, Sisler Bros. Construction Co.

The $2.3 million, 52-room Franklin High School opened its doors to 1,370 students on September 8, 1961. The school was officially dedicated on Sunday, October 22, before a crowd of 2,400.

The keynote speaker was U. S. Senator Clifford Case, son of a former pastor at Six Mile Run Church. Case was born in Franklin Park and educated in the township.

Franklin's 170 seniors did not transfer to the new high school when it opened in the fall of 1961. Instead they finished their last year where they had started, at Bound Brook, Princeton, Highland Park and New Brunswick high schoo1s.


Franklin High at 25

When Franklin High School celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1987, English teacher Norah Kuthy reminisced about the high school's accomplishments during its first quarter century in a Somerset Spectator interview. She said the school had established an outstanding reputation for the Golden Warriors, its marching band that grew from 17 to 300 members. The band won the JC National Championship in 1967 and marched in President Nixon's inaugural parade in 1969, representing New Jersey.

Among its many other honors, the band marched in the Festival of States in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1971; the Orange Bowl Parade in 1975; and represented the state of New Jersey in the Bicentennial Parade in Philadelphia on July 4, 1976. Lionel Hampton was at FHS in January 1980 to help the band fund a trip.

She noted that the high school's bowling and track teams had won state championships. The football team won the Central Jersey Group III Championship in football in 1983. She mentioned Frank Baker, who played in the American League, Roy Hinson who was then playing in the NBA, and John Hill who was playing in the NFL. (In 1987 and 1989, the Warriors won Group III championships again.)

Kuthy told how the school colors (blue and gold) and the football team's name (Warriors) were chosen: The secondary students who attended the various high schools were polled in the spring of 1961, and they made those choices.


Franklin Township's Student Population Explosion


A Franklin Township census was taken in 1947 to determine the school population in five years. It found that for every 10 dwellings occupied that November, one new one was ready for occupancy or under construction. The school population in 1947 was 1,148. The estimate for 1952 was 1,381.

The township’s five elementary schools- Middlebush, Pine Grove, Franklin Park, Hamilton and Kingston- were already experiencing overcrowding that would only get worse.  The board of education estimated the township was short a minimum of three classrooms.

East Millstone became part of Franklin Township again in 1950, after operating under a separate charter since 1873.  When the village rejoined the fold, two of the thorniest issues were the fate of its two-room school and what would happen to its board of education.  The matter was resolved in July 1950, when the Franklin Township Board of Education decided to continue to operate the tiny school for both East Millstone and township pupils through the four lower grades and to combine the two boards.

By November 1951, the Franklin Record was predicting that unless a building program was undertaken, a shortage of classroom space would weaken the instructional services of the township.  In February 1952, the Franklin Township Board of Education decided it would need a 13-room addition for Pine Grove School by 1953.

Voters approved the $415,000 project, and ground was broken on the addition in the spring of 1953. It was dedicated in October 1954. Meanwhile, in the fall of 1952, when classes resumed after vacation, crowding forced double sessions at the school.

Other municipalities were also experiencing a population crunch. In 1954, Bound Brook informed the Franklin Township school board it could no longer accept their high school students because of overcrowding. New Brunswick accepted some of the students, but it was becoming increasingly apparent the township needed its own high school, and soon. Within a few years, Princeton would stop taking township secondary students.

The school board hired four more teachers in September 1954. In January 1955, plans for two new schools were put before the school board. A year later, the planning board approved the sites for Elizabeth Avenue and Franklin Park schools. Ground was broken in November 1956. But by then, the township had grown so much that two new school additions were required. While construction was moving ahead on the Elizabeth Avenue and Franklin Park Schools, construction began on a third, to be called Hillcrest.

The board of education tried to get approval for a junior high school in 1955, but it was voted down by more than 2 to 1 in August. It would have been built on a 64-acre tract near Middlebush. The same proposition had been defeated the previous April.

The 1957 school budget was $1 million for the first time. When classes began that fall, some 2,200 students were enrolled-a jump of 20 percent in just one year. The township had to fill 24 faculty jobs.

When classes began in September 1959, the Board of Education had to transfer 100 high school students. New Brunswick did not have room for them. Despite the pressing need for a secondary school, Franklin voters rejected the $2,679,000 high school bond issue that same month. After knocking almost $400,000 from the budget, the bond issue was once again submitted to voters in January 1960. The plan got the go-ahead the second time around. Residents voted two to one in favor of a pared-back $2.25- million bond issue.

In 1964, voters in record numbers turned down a $1.38 million referendum for two new 21-room elementary schools near the new Levitt and Foxwood developments. The following April, a referendum was once again put before voters. It was announced that if voters approved construction of the two schools, the Hamilton School would be discontinued as a general classroom building. This time, the voter turnout was not as heavy-about one-fourth less than the previous year. The referendum was approved, and construction got underway for the MacAfee Road and Conerly Road schools. They were opened in 1966.

Two years later, the Sampson G. Smith Intermediate School opened off Amwell Road. With the Smith School, Franklin's new-school construction marathon came to an end.


Growth Slowdown


School enrollments nationally and statewide began to decline in the early 1970s. Franklin was no exception. The number of public school students dropped from 7,309 to 4,465 between 1970 and 1982. Some of the decline was because family sizes had decreased. And some was because many of the people who moved into the new apartments and townhouses did not have children. Also, there was an increase in the number of township students attending private and parochial schools.

By 1982, the school system had space for 1,300 more students, so the existing schools were more than adequate to serve current needs. The sharp drop in school enrollment brought a change in the township's master plan. When a new plan was prepared that year, the allocation of school sites was no longer one of the town- ship's objectives.


OEEO Mandate


In 1977, Franklin Township was one of 103 New Jersey school districts mandated by the state Office of Equal Educational Opportunity to desegregate its elementary schools. Franklin had until June 30 to come up with a plan that would put the racial balance at 63 percent white; 37 percent nonwhite in each school. (Nonwhite included Hispanics, American Indians, Alaskan natives, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and people with origins in any of the black racial groups of  Africa.)

Satisfying the state mandate was an emotional issue for many township people. More than 30 desegregation proposals were considered. The final plan created four K-3 and four 4- 6 schools and was implemented without incident. The problem of maintaining a racial balance in Franklin's school system was and is a continuing process. In 1984, a task force established to look into racial imbalance in the township's schools recommended transferring about 100 of the township's 1,100 K-3 students.

Pupils from Pine Grove, Elizabeth Avenue and Kingston schools were transferred to MacAfee Road School for a time to relieve over-crowding and create a racial balance. MacAfee's enrollment had declined and the school had developed a racial imbalance. It had a capacity of 482, but an enrollment of only 291.


Space Squeeze


After Sampson G. Smith Intermediate School was built in 1968, Franklin Township did not add any new schools for more than 20 years. By the end of the 1980s, the school system was feeling the pinch of the growth spurt that had taken place during that decade. In 1988-89, as the elementary school population outstripped available classrooms, the board of education had to purchase 16 trailers to provide extra space for educational programs and services. By the following year, all portable and permanent classrooms were in use. Educators were predicting a 25 percent increase in students by the mid-1990s.

One solution to the space squeeze was to reorganize the elementary and junior grade levels from K-3, 4-6, 7-8 to K-2, 3-5, 6-8. That required putting the sixth grade in the intermediate school. Moving the sixth graders to Sampson G. Smith Intermediate School meant they would have the benefit of computer and science labs, shop, home economics, foreign language programs and other facilities. But it also meant the taxpayers would have to fund a $6-million expansion. In 1991, the school board asked for and received the money for the addition. Only 2,264 of the township's 21,355 registered voters voted. The $6-million referendum passed by exactly 200 votes.

The 1990s saw other major changes in the Franklin Township school system. When classes resumed in the fall of 1991, Franklin High School was experiencing a $13-million renovation program that saw the library/media center expanded, classroom space improved, the science wing renovated and the building brought up to code. The renovations were completed in 1992. That September, the high school had its highest enrollment in eight years, including 400 incoming freshman. The schools also had a stu-

dent population that spoke 46 languages.


Magnet Schools


The Franklin Township Board of Education introduced magnet programs into the schools in September 1991. The purpose of the programs is to group students by their specialized interests. By providing students with instructional choices, educators believe the magnet schools will help both students and parents take a greater interest in their education. All students participate in a core curriculum based on state-established standards and designed to meet the educational needs of participants in each magnet program.

Parents and students are able to choose among several programs:


Early Childhood: Elizabeth Avenue (K-4), MacAfee Road (K-3), Pine Grove Manor (K-2)

Fine, Visual and Perfonning Arts: Pine Grove Manor (K-2), Franklin Park (K-6), Conerly Road (3-6)

Science and Technology: Elizabeth Avenue (K-4), MacAfee Road (K-3), Franklin Park (K-6), Hillcrest (3-6)

Academy for Classical Humanities and International Studies: Franklin Park (K-6)165


Very few schools offered the kinds of choices Franklin's students were being given. Franklin was an innovator, and soon educators elsewhere would be visiting to see the classes in operation. Within three months after the magnet schools went into operation, five school districts sought to copy Franklin's program.

Hillcrest School, a science and technology magnet school, was selected as a 1996-97 National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. It was one of 226 public schools and 36 private schools nationwide to receive the honor. The school has had other state and national academic recognition. It was named one of 10 New Jersey "Star Schools" in 1994. In 1995, Hillcrest School was named by Redbook magazine as one of "America's Best Schools."


More Growth


The magnet schools were a big hit. The 1991-92 school year-the year the program was implemented-saw a significant increase in student enrollment, especially in kindergarten and first grade. Because the number of classes needed exceeded those available, the Franklin Township Board of Education had to make some adjustments.

When the 1992-93 school year began, enrollments were even higher. The schools were restructured from K-3, 4-6, 7-8 to K-2, 3-5 and 6-8. Some of the magnet school classes were relocated. International studies, for example, was moved from Conerly Road School to Franklin Park School.

The Franklin school board was able to report in 1992 that the school district had been commended by the New Jersey Office of Equal Educational Opportunity and the U.S. Office of Civil Rights for its eftorts to establish equity and excellence in educational programming.

In 1995, the board of education was predicting a student population of 7,461 by the year 2000. The board explored a number of options to create more space. One was to build a new high school and convert the existing high school into a middle school. Another involved adding to existing elementary schools or building new ones. Several options were presented to taxpayers in November. They carried price tags ranging from $20 million to $50 million.

The following March, the board of education narrowed its options down to one proposal: Renovate three elementary schools and build a new one in Franklin Park. A $17.5-million referendum went on the ballot in April and was accepted by the voters.

Groundbreaking for the new Franklin Park School was in April 1997. The new multi-magnet K-6 school accommodates 900 stu- dents. Conerly Road and Elizabeth Avenue schools were expanded. Groundbreaking ceremonies for additions were held at both schools in June 1997.

In addition to the magnet schools, the Franklin School District offers a Gifted and Talented/Enrichment Program. Advanced placement courses are offered at Franklin High School.

Among the 1997 graduating class, 80 percent of seniors planned to go on for further education. Some members of the senior class received acceptances from the most competitive colleges and universities in the United States, including Brown, Cornell, Georgetown, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, Stanford and Yale. Many more received offers from highly competitive and very competitive colleges. Seniors applied to and were accepted by more than 140 schools.