Schools of The Town of Alma

By Ron Taylor

   From all accounts, with none to the contrary, the first school in Alma was taught by Clarinda Kent, daughter of Reuben C. Kent, at an unknown location in 1839.  Reuben was a Revolutionary War soldier and conducted the first religious services in the town. 

It is difficult to break apart the schools of the Town of Alma from those that were listed in the former towns of Scio and Willing prior to the publishing of the 1869 Atlas.    Alma was formed from Willing in 1854 and only two years earlier, in 1852, Willing was formed from Independence and Scio.  The records are confusing and intertwined using District numbers and very few names and factual locations.  I, therefore, refer to "The Alma Story, Part II" where Hazel Shear mentions District 9, Honeoye District and District 11, York District.  Familiar names acquaint with these districts of "Honeoye" & "Withey" which may show that they were parts of the future Town of Alma Schools.

By the time that the Atlas was printed, the town of Alma had been set up (1854), the distribution of the population had changed and other districts had come into being.


Where the schoolhouse was located took into consideration where the largest number of pupils lived and accessibility.  Stories abound (including one from my own father) of the large boys carrying the smaller children through snow drifts and muddy areas of the roads to get to school.  It was always hoped to place the schoolhouses in a spot to avoid these, but, often did not succeed.

Nobody has pinned down the date for a first water well for a district school house, but, it was certainly not an available feature of most schoolhouses.  More commonly, it is said, pupils had to take turns going to the nearest farmhouse for water which often was the reward for good behavior.  Accessibility also meant being close enough that the neighborhood men could cut and deliver wood for heat to the schoolhouse.

The Town of Alma Schools on a 1919 map show 5 school buildings: Alma #1, Pikeville #2, Allentown #3, Alma Hill #4 and the Joint District #5 School with Wellsville on Meservey Hill.

Other schools were shared by Alma residents in earlier years in joint districts with Bolivar, Scio and Wellsville.  The only High School was at Allentown.


Below is a map of the Town of Alma - W.B.Thrall Map & Survey Co.
Perry, NY; 1929.  This map shows the school districting and buildings at that time.  The original of this map is at the Allegany County Historian Office.  It is around this map and it's numbering that I make the comments below about each of the Town's Schools.

The number near the pictured school house on the map is the elevation at the school house.  As noted, the Alma Hill School was at the elevation of 2460 feet and accounted for very tough wintertime elements.  My father and his brothers and sisters attended this school and I have heard the stories of the difficulty getting to the building many winter days.  That is probably why the teacher lived "on the hill" with one of the families.