Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Education was very important to the settlers who journeyed in the early 1600s from the Netherlands to settle in the area between the Connecticut and Delaware Rivers, a land they called New Netherland. They brought both their religion and educational philosophy with them. Their religion emerged from the Reformation, and like other European countries that “protested” the Roman Catholic faith, they were Protestants. Their denomination was known as the Reformed Dutch Church, and religion was a central part of their early educational practices.
When the first settlers came to the section of Montgomery Township that later would be called Blawenburg, there were no schools, and the local church was over four miles away, a once-a-week trek on Sundays. As a result, the first settlers were home schoolers. Boys and girls were taught the basic skills of reading (likely from the Bible) and math. Boys would then apprentice on the farm, and girls would learn to sew, cook, and keep house. Roles were clearly defined by this early education. Most would begin plying their skills at an early age as helpers on the farms.
According to Ursula Brecknell in her history of Montgomery Township, “A public school system in New Jersey was not ordered until 1834, but long before then the Dutch had erected a number of neighborhood schools, often, if not always, church related.” She further notes that the first school in Blawenburg was built before 1829. The first settlers arrived in the Blawenburg area in the 1730s, so home schooling was the format for teaching and learning for several generations.
The First School
In her book, One-room Schoolhouses in Montgomery Township, NJ, Late 1700s to Early 1900s, Carol Skillman Harcarik says that the first Blawenburg School was built across from the current Montgomery Fire Company No. 2 firehouse on the north side of Georgetown-Franklin Turnpike (Route 518). Ursula Brecknell locates it along Burnt Hill Road at Georgetown-Franklin Turnpike. Today there are houses across from the firehouse and a large drainage field near Burnt Hill Road and Route 518. Wherever it was, it hasn’t been there for over a century and a half.
Possible site of Blawenburg School #1. Montgomery Fire Company No. 2 firehouse is shown at the top of the picture.
The road sign for Schoolhouse Corner Road is the only indicator that there was once a school nearby. The field on the right is a possible site of the original Blawenburg School.
The curriculum of this old school was broader than the typical home-schooling curriculum. According to the minutes of the Montgomery Township School Committee from September 8, 1845, the curriculum included history, geography, English grammar, p