Colonial Encounters in a Native American Landscape

Education and Child-Life,
page 12 of 17


The remainder of his salary shall be four hundred guilders in wheat, of wampum value, deliverable at Brooklyn Ferry; and for his service from October to May, two hundred and thirty-four guilders in wheat, at the same place, with the dwelling, pasturage, and meadow appertaining to the school to begin the first day of October.
I agree to the above articles, and promise to observe the same to the best of my ability.
                                        Johannis Van Eckellen.

Truly we have through this contract — to any one with any powers of historic imagination — a complete picture of the duties of the schoolmaster of that day.

When the English came in power in 1664, some changes were made in matters of education in New York, but few changes in any of the conditions in Albany. Governor Nicholls, on his first visit up the river, made one significant appointment, — that of an English schoolmaster. This was the Englishman’s license to teach:—

“Whereas the teaching of the English Tongue is necessary in this Government; I have, therefore, thought fitt to give License to John Shutte to bee the English Schoolmaster at Albany: and upon condition that the said John Shutte shall not demand any more wages from each Scholar than is given by the Dutch to their Dutch Schoolmasters. I have further granted to the said John Shutte that hee shall bee the only English Schoolmaster at Albany.”

The last clause of this license seems superfluous; for it is very doubtful whether there was for many years any other English teacher who eagerly sought what was so far from being either an onerous or lucrative position. Many generations of Albany children grew to manhood ere the Dutch schoolmasters found their positions supererogatory.

Women-teachers and girl-scholars were of small account in New York in early days. Girls did, however, attend the public schools. We find Matthew Hillyer, in 1676, setting forth in New York that he “hath kept school for children of both sexes for two years past to satisfaction.” Dame-schools existed, especially on Long Island, where English influences and Connecticut emigration obtained. In Flushing Elizabeth Cowperthwait was reckoned with in 1681 for “schooling and diet for children;” and in 1683 she received for thirty weeks’ schooling, of “Martha Johanna,” a scarlet petticoat, —truly a typical Dutch payment.


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