Updated: Aug 30, 2022
When I first came to the Southampton History Museum as an intern in the summer of 2015, there was discussion starting around trying to fix up the Red Creek Schoolhouse. One of the last things I did as an intern was begin to compile documents, images and information about the building's history. By the time I had returned as an employee in January 2016 after finishing my last semester of college, Sally Spanburgh was almost done with the historic structure report of the building!
This report was extremely important in helping to secure the funding needed in order to complete the buildings reconstruction which began in 2017 and was finished in 2018. With my primary role at the museum being an educator, this building holds a special place in my heart above all the others and in a pre-COVID world was always a big hit with school groups.
I hope you all get a chance some day soon to come by the museum and check the building out for yourself, but for the time being, please enjoy reading the report below. And once you reach the bottom you will see a lecture that I did earlier this year about the building and its history. You can also download the PDF to this report with the link below if you wish.
The Red Creek Schoolhouse HISTORIC STRUCTURE REPORT February 2016, by Sally Spanburgh
The structure known today as the Red Creek Schoolhouse was originally constructed in the mid-1800s at South Port, in the hamlet of Hampton Bays, for the children of that area’s then thriving community.
The Red Creek Schoolhouse measures about thirteen and a half feet wide and sixteen feet deep. It is one story tall with a front facing gable roof. It has one wood in-swinging entrance/exit door centered on its front elevation with four panels, the two upper panels being glazed with two lights (not original). The door is painted white. No other fenestration exists on the front elevation. The sides and rear each have two double-hung wood windows with two over two divided light patterns symmetrically positioned. The windows are also painted white. These windows are Victorian era replacements, circa 1878, and probably replaced the original double-hung windows with six over six or more divided light patterns. (An examination of more of the building’s wall framing during rehabilitation is likely to yield additional may information about the size and location of original windows.) The schoolhouse windows are each equipped with a wood board shutter painted red. These may be original but have been modified with contemporary bracing. The original shutters would also have been board shutters but would not have had the diagonal brace on the back, and the horizontal brace may have been a slightly different proportion. The schoolhouse is clad with cedar shingle siding applied between painted corner boards over horizontal 1 by 4 lath over building paper (here and there) over studs. There is no sheathing, or insulation. The roof is finished with cedar shakes over building paper (here and there) over lath (of various sizes and vintages) over rafters. The shingle siding and roof shakes do not appear to be original, nor do the corner boards. The building’s structure rests on large stones at the corners and at the midpoints of the east and west sides while its sill and floor joists rest directly on the earth. The roof’s eaves and gable ends have no overhang or projection and are finished with simple 1 by 4 flat trim boards matching those at the corners. All trim boards have butt edges, no mitered corners and no decorative edging. Each window and the entry door also have simple 1 by 4 flat casing with a simple drip edge along the top.
The floor framing and sill plate are original, measuring approximately 3 by 6 and 4 by 4 inches respectively. The sill plate is in very poor condition. The wall studs are original and measure 5-1/2 by 4 at the corners and 2-3 by 4 elsewhere and are supplemented with 20th century studs placed between them in some places. The ceiling joists, measuring approximately 3 by 8, are original and have profiled/tapered ends. Smaller original framing members, measuring about 1 by 3, exist between each larger member. The roof framing is not original. There is no ridge board.
On the schoolhouse interior, the walls are finished from the floor to the bullnose window sill – which wraps around the perimeter of the room - with wainscoting. The wainscoting consists of four horizontal boards with random seems and is capped with a cove molding before reaching the bullnose sill. The wainscoting is original. (It is now painted light blue.) Of particular note, there are two narrow saw-tooth profiled boards in the northwest and northeast corners of the room in which each of the four wainscoting boards are fitted. These are absent in the southwest and southeast corners, but may have existed at one point (there is a similar saw-tooth board in the attic). A small quarter-round acts as a base molding. The wood flooring painted blue and is not original. The floor boards are four inches wide with random seams and run from north to south across what appears to be the original flooring. The original flooring is 1 by 8 tongue and groove boards that run in the east-west direction over sub-floor boards that have deteriorated severely. Above the wainscoting is plaster over lath on studs. The plaster has been covered with beaded board; the beaded board has been covered with 20th century sheetrock. Similarly, the ceiling is also finished with plaster over lath and has also been covered by beaded board. The beaded board was originally varnished, and later painted. There is presently a brick chimney on the exterior of the west elevation, at its center, which is not original. There are two small openings in the ceiling, neither of which are contemporary. The original flue probably exited through both openings at different times (i.e. originally, and then in the late 1800s or vice versa).
The analysis of the building’s fabric make its original appearance clear: it was clad in shingles without corner boards [Based on an image of the schoolhouse at its fourth location, and an image of the schoolhouse shortly after being moved to its fifth location, the building does not appear to have had corner boards from 1926 to 1953. However, corner boards would have been an aesthetic norm from 1825 to 1860.], it had multi-light double-hung windows with board shutters, it had a chimney that exited the center of the roof, and on the interior it was finished with moderately wide flooring, wainscoting, and plaster walls and ceiling. Later, when it was “updated” about 1878, its windows were changed to two-over-two double-hung units, its chimney exited at the rear of the room [This suggests that the current front may have been the rear. Again, an analysis of the building’s framing during rehabilitation is likely to yield additional information about its original appearance.], and on the interior beaded board with a varnished finish was applied over the plaster walls and ceiling. The Southampton Historical Museum will ultimately need to choose which period, original (circa 1830) or 1878, will guide the building’s rehabilitation.
A conditions analysis was supplied to the museum in January 2016. In it, it suggests the following, with the authors comments in italics added:
In general, original materials should be supplemented and sistered with new material rather than replaced as much as possible.
The building be raised so that the floor framing is not in direct contact with the earth.
Replacement of sill plate and floor framing where required. New subflooring may also be needed. Original materials should be supplemented and sistered with new material rather than replaced as much as possible.
Replacement of all finish siding and roofing. Replacement of trim along eaves. The siding and roofing is not original and could therefore be replaced in a manner that would match the chosen period’s detailing. The trim along the eaves and at the building corners is decaying. The roofing is not water tight and has resulted in interior water penetration (and hives, nests, etc.).
Replacement of all doors and windows. The door is circa 1954. The windows are circa 1878.
Replacement of interior ceiling finish. This may or may not be required. Only the center section is buckling. If the museum chooses to restore to the 1878 date, the beaded board ceiling should be salvaged and repaired. If the museum chooses to restore to the 1840 date, removing the beaded board will likely remove the original plaster ceiling with it in which case a new plaster ceiling would be needed.
Similarly, if the museum chooses to restore to the 1878 date, the beaded board wall finish should be restored. If the museum chooses to restore to the 1840 date, removing the beaded board will likely remove the original plaster wall finish with it in which case new plaster walls would be needed.
The flat 1 by 4 trim acting as a crown molding is not original.
The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings (http://www.nps.gov/tps/standards/rehabilitation/rehab/stand.htm) should be followed as closely as possible.
SCHOOLS IN SOUTHAMPTON and THE RED CREEK SCHOOL DISTRICT
New York State encouraged the creation of public schools by an act of the State Legislature in 1813. [The Fourth Book of Records of the Town of Southampton, Long Island, N.Y., John H. Hunt, Printer, Sag Harbor, 1896, page 13.] Before then, schools existed in Southampton nearly from its beginning in 1640. [“The Public Schools of Southampton, New York,” The Southampton Press, 1923.]
“We have reason to believe that a school was established in Southampton at a very early date. The records to the year 1655 are in the hand writing of Richard Mills, who styles himself “school master,” and probably acted in that capacity from the time of the settlement. What at that time was called a school, can hardly be compared with the institutions of the present day [1874—Ed.]; the branches taught were few in number, and the instruction exceedingly limited. Almost all requires of the school master was that he should be a fair penman, and possess a tolerable knowledge of Arithmetic. Geography, Grammar and other branches now considered essential were not taught at all, books were not easily obtained, and the instruction was mostly oral. To read and write and learn the fundamental rules of arithmetic was all that was considered necessary, and the “Rule of three” was to most of the scholars the boundary of mathematical knowledge.
The mast himself held a high position in the town from his superior knowledge. His narrow income was often increased by small sums received for writing deeds and other legal documents. A sick man would send for him to make his well, and he would be called upon by town officers to assist in adjusting town accounts. If he could sing, his fortune was made, and he would always be a welcome addition to all social gatherings.” [The First Book of Records of the Town of Southampton with Other Ancient Documents of Historic Value, John H. Hunt, Printer, Sag Harbor, 1874.]
Private schools were also in abundance throughout Southampton until the 1930s. They existed before the imposition of area districts in 1813 and, in general, wherever it was thought too great a distance to travel to reach the school, rather than because the district school was thought to be an inferior education in any way.
The school at Red Creek was within Southampton Town’s fifth school district and included, “all the inhabitants residing between Red Creek and the Slough at Canoe Place, Red Creek and Tiana Bay to be considered as the western boundary of the said 5th district, John Bellows and his family to be included the same.” [The Fourth Book of Records of the Town of Southampton, Long Island, N.Y., John H. Hunt, Printer, Sag Harbor, 1896, page 14. Note, the original 4th school district included, “all the inhabitants residing between Riverhead and Red Creek.”] In 1842, a new school district, No. 19, was created to expand district No. 5, “bounded … on the north by Peconic Bay, east by the line between the Lots No. 6 and 7, Canoe Place Division, Quogue Purchase; South by the road leading from the Canoe Place to Riverhead, and west by Mill Creek.” [The Fourth Book of Records of the Town of Southampton, Long Island, N.Y., John H. Hunt, Printer, Sag Harbor, 1896, page 102.]
In 1850 and 1865 there were 40 children attending school in district No. 19. [The Fourth Book of Records of the Town of Southampton, Long Island, N.Y., John H. Hunt, Printer, Sag Harbor, 1896, pages 124, 294-295.]
The Red Creek area lies in the northwestern corner of the hamlet of Hampton Bays (previously called Good Ground) and is bounded north by the Peconic Bay, east by Red Creek Pond, south by the Squiretown area of Hampton Bays, and west by Red Creek (the waterway).
Red Creek was originally referred to by Native Americans as Tow Youngs [The Fifth Book of Records of the Town of Southampton, Long Island, N.Y., John H. Hunt, Printer, Sag Harbor, 1896, page 242.] and was particularly valued as a rare place where shells for wampum use could be found. [“Three Centuries at Red Cedar Point,” unknown author, unknown date, from the collection of the Suffolk County Historical Society.] It was laid out by the town proprietors as part of the Canoe Place Division in 1738. The first mention of the Red Creek area, however, in the town records is well before then, in 1686, when the boundary line between the town of Southold to the northwest and the town of Southampton was being negotiated. There are several other mentions of the area before 1738, mostly pertaining to the buying and selling of undeveloped acreage signifying that while the area was well-known, it was not occupied nor developed until considerably later.
Access to the area was also particularly difficult. “…The road that now connects Canoe Place to Red Creek (Newtown Road) did not exist, nor did the road that connects Good Ground to Red Creek (Squiretown Road.) The only possible route to Red Creek from the Montauk Highway corridor since about 1795 was the Old Riverhead Road as listed in the Mackie Papers in the archives of the Southampton Historical Society. [Actually, this road appears to have been in use since 1774 according to town records: “At a meeting of the Commissioners of the town of Southampton…on the first day of June, eighteen hundred and forty-four, all the Commissioners having met and deliberated on the subjectof this order, it appearingto the said Commissioners that the road in the said town used as a highway leading from the south country road to Birch Brook, has been used as a public highway for seventy years [1774—Ed.], but has not been recorded as appeared by the testimony of Ellis Squires, it is ordered by the said Commissioners that the said road be ascertained, described and entered of record. And the said Commissioners do further order that the description of the said road be as follows: commencing at the house of Foster Terry, running to Squiretown, from thence to Red Creek, from there to John Terry’s as the road now runs, from thence to John and Elias Hubbard’s then to the mill, and then to Birch Brook, where it intersects the road leading from Canoe Place to Riverhead, and the said road be of the width of three rods.”] This road first appeared on the 1858 Chase map. Squiretown Road first appeared as a dotted line on the Hyde map of 1896, perhaps, meaning an undeveloped route. The western portion of Newtown Road from Canoe Place to East Landing Road appeared on an 1893 Southampton Town map. By 1902 Newtown Road connected with Squiretown Road.” [“Historic Profile of Hampton Bays, Phase II”, Barbara M. Moeller, 2007, page 17.] South Port was a small community in Red Creek concentrated around the long and narrow strip of land at its north end that extends into Peconic Bay and is more commonly referred to today as Red Cedar Point. This peninsula is said to have originally been an island by multiple sources, before being filled-in by man or mother nature before 1838. The water area created by Red Cedar Point was referred to as South Port Bay and the land in the vicinity was rich with salt meadows. The area is now entirely residential, but from the early 1800s to about 1870, it developed into a thriving and industrious, self-sustaining community with a blacksmith, shoemaker, farmers, carpenters, boatmen, fishermen, baymen, seamen, a general store and schoolhouse. South Port, distinguished from Red Creek, was never recognized in the town records, however, indicating that the whole idea of the South Port community may be able to be attributed to one man in particular, Jesse Terry.
The Terry family of Long Island descends from Richard Terry (1618-1675) who came from England to Salem, Massachusetts when he was seventeen years old with two brothers, then to Springfield, then to Lyme, Connecticut, and eventually to Southold in 1640.
Jesse Terry (1801-1864), the eighth and final child of John Terry Sr. (1753-1846), was one of two children born at South Port, indicating that John Terry Sr. may have relocated to the South Port area from Manorville about 1797. Along with his half-brother John Terry Jr. (1781-aft.1830) to a small degree, Jesse Terry was buying up vast amounts of land in the Red Cedar Point area beginning in 1824 [Jesse Terry from Abraham and Lydia Edwards, Assistant Clerk Liber B, page 64, 1824; John Terry Jr. from Elias Hubbard, Assistant Clerk Liber B, page 298, 1825; Jesse Terry from Samuel Robinson, Assistant Clerk Liber P, page 21, 1832; Jessy Terry from David Terry, Assistant Clerk Liber P, page 23, 1832; Jessy Terry from Samuel Robinson Jr and wife, and Luther Hildreth, and Samuel Jagger, Assistant Clerk Liber P, page 25-34, 1832; Jesse Terry from Ebenezer Peck heir, Deed Liber U, page 220, 1834.] and appears to have had a grand vision for its future. Based on a watercolor rendering created about 1825, South Port was to be developed with a city grid layout around pre-existing homes. A wharf is also shown. This map is not signed, but the initials “J.T.” are prominently depicted at its center, indicating a likely authorship of John Sr., Jesse, or John Jr.
Jesse Terry’s daughter, Mary Ann Terry (1824-1909), married Rev. Charles W. Dickinson (her second husband). In his obituary of 1900, Jesse was described as “once a famous man, and the owner of Red Creek Point, near Flanders. He was the original pioneer to introduce strawberry culture on a large scale on Long Island, and he was also a pioneer in the fish factory scheme, owning a plant at Red Creek – the business that has since made so many men wealthy.” [Brooklyn Daily Eagle, March 31, 1900.] Nate (Elbert) Carter, a descendant of Jesse Terry, offers the following:
“Jesse Terry was a prominent business man and owned extensive property bordering on Peconic Bay. He has been quoted as having said that he "earned more, lost more and spent more than any man east of Riverhead". He was supposed to have been the first man to transport bulk quantities of fresh strawberries to New York City for sale in the markets there. He is also listed as a successful fruit grower. One of the stories as told me by my grandmother of her grandfather was that he would go to New York City and pick up newly arrived Irish immigrants and bring them to Southport to work on his farm and in his other businesses. He would provide them with housing, church and a school for the children. He was one of the leaders in the menhaden fishing business and had the first establishment for manufacturing fish oil on an extensive scale....[An “oil factory” is depicted next to a general store in the South Port area on the 1858 Chace map.] He was the owner of many different ships over the years...It has been said that each of Jesse’s sons owned a ship at some point in time.”
Other accounts describe the Terrys as shipbuilders. “During the whaling era small shipyards produced vessels for the trade. The Terry family operated a shipyard and general store in which seamen could purchase supplies. A saw mill and a grist mill, built along streams in Red Creek provided basic services. the population drifted away to Good Ground and other areas after the whaling industry declined. This decline coupled with the arrival of the railroad in Good Ground in 1869 signaled the demise of Red Creek and Southport.” [“Historic Profile of Hampton Bays, Phase II”, Barbara M. Moeller, 2007, page 20.]
There were other families in the Red Creek/South Port area, before the arrival of the Terrys, and that likely became involved, or enveloped into, the Terry family scheme, such as the Fannings, Fourniers, Hildreths, Hubbards, Penneys, Robinsons, Smiths. Many of these family members, except the Terrys and Hubbards, are buried in the Fournier cemetery located in the Red Creek area, at the southeast end of Red Creek Pond. The Hubbards have their own cemetery located on the west side of Red Creek on what was once a Hubbard homestead (Black Duck Lodge) and is now a part of the Hubbard County Park, and the Terrys are also known to have had a local South Port area cemetery on the north side of Red Creek Pond but whose remains have been relocated to the Riverhead cemetery. [From Nate (Elbert) Carter, Jesse Terry descendant: “Jane Warner once told me that she had a copy of a deed that tells where the original grave of John Terry was located in Red Creek (Southport). It is assumed that other members of the family were also buried there. Jane said she received a hand copied copy of the deed from the daughter of Elizabeth McMillian (#176•71). The information from Jane Warner said: "Deed made May 21, 1866 between Griffin Terry and wife H. Emeline of Brookhaven and Nancy M. Terry, widow of Jesse Terry of Southampton Town, and William Daniels of Brookhaven Town Griffin and H. Emeline sold for $3000. A tract of land in town of Southampton in area called Southport (or) Red Creek Island–bounded northerly by Peconic Bay; easterly by Peconic Bay and Meadow and beach of Samuel Robinson, southerly by Red Creek pond and lands and meadow of Joseph P. Hildreth, Elias L. Hubbard and the Messrs. Fleet, westerly by the bay and meadow of Samuel Robinson. Tract contained about 100 acres more or less. ‘Excepting the lands of Elias L. Hubbard, Samuel J. Terry and that part of lot 100 ft. square owned by the Arab fisherman, part of lot being owned by Jesse Terry at the time of his death. Also reserving 1/4 acre where the burying ground now is laying in a square the south side running parallel with the grave of John Terry, 20 feet from it: the west side 10 feet from the headstone of the grave of the above named’. Also reserved to the fisherman they have by paying to Nancy Terry & William Daniels $24.00 a year. Also reserving the buildings that were sold at auction–the buyers buying with the privilege of moving them. Recorded at Suffolk County Clerk’s office, Riverhead, NY on Dec. 2, 1869 at 11 AM. Deed Liber 163 pg. 425.”]
RED CREEK SCHOOLHOUSE SITES
First Location The Red Creek Schoolhouse was originally constructed in the South Port community. It’s exact construction date is unknown. Its architecture is clearly of the mid 1800s (balloon framed), but given the size of the structural members, some of the joinery, and the history of the community, the building could date to the 1830s. Its specific location was at or near the vicinity of Suffolk County Tax Map 900- 124-1-5. According to William W. Hubbard, from whom the Museum obtained the schoolhouse, it was built by the people of the South Port community, specifically the Terry family, as a private school to educate area children. The schoolhouse is shown in its first known location on the 1858 Chace map.
Second Location The Red Creek Schoolhouse was moved about 6,622 feet (or about 1.25 miles) to the southwest between 1858 and 1873 and placed near the southeast end of Red Creek (the waterway), on the South Side of Red Creek Road.
Third Location The Red Creek Schoolhouse was moved about 4,250 feet (or about .8 miles) to the northeast between 1873 and 1878 and placed at the northeast corner of the intersection of Red Creek Road, Upper Red Creek Road, and the road leading to Red Cedar Point (also known briefly as Barrett’s Point) called Hilltop Road today. At about this time, the subject schoolhouse became a part of the public school system. [We know it was there by 1878 due to deed documentation, and we know it was a part of the public school system in 1878 because it was acquired by a school trustee.]
Fourth Location The Red Creek Schoolhouse was moved about 2,260 feet (or about .43 miles) to the southwest about 1926 and placed along the south side of Upper Red Creek Road, nearer to the southwest end of Red Creek Road. At this time is was used for the storage of gunning boats. [A small wooden boat used for bird hunting, developed in Massachusetts. Sometimes called a gunning dory.]
Fifth Location The Red Creek Schoolhouse is presently in its fifth location, at 17 Meetinghouse Lane, Southampton Village, on the property occupied by the Southampton Historical Museum. It was acquired by the Museum (then the Southampton Colonial Society) from William W. Hubbard in 1953, moved to its present site, and rehabilitated. [There are no deeds of record for this transaction since it did not involve land, only the building.]
PROPERTY OWNERSHIP William Washington Hubbard (1874-1959) was born in Hampton Bays, a descendant of a well-known Long Island family which continues to populate Long Island’s north and south forks today.
The Hubbard family of Long Island originated with James Hubbard, “one of the pioneers of the Charleston colony in Massachusetts….Leaving Charleston he afterward resided in Lynn, Massachusetts, and in 1643 came to Long Island….” He is attributed with the laying out of Gravesend. The subject Hubbard family is the same family that owned extensive property on the west side of Red Creek (the waterway), and are well known for having a family homestead there, Black Duck Lodge, built in 1836 and later owned by financier E. F. Hutton.
William W. Hubbard was the first president of the Hampton Bays National Bank, opened in 1926. He was also a teacher at the Red Creek Schoolhouse in 1900. [U. S. Federal Census, 1900.]
William W. Hubbard acquired the Red Creek Schoolhouse from its second location in 1926 for the consideration of $100. He bought it from Herman F. May, at that time the sole trustee of Southampton’s fourth school district, in Flanders. [Liber 1190 of Deeds, conveyance page 463, dated June 29, 1926, recorded July 15, 1926.]
William W. Hubbard’s father was Norman Lewis Hubbard (1831-1910). Norman was a trustee of Southampton School District No. 23 (Red Creek vicinity). On behalf of his school district, Norman acquired the subject schoolhouse and property in 1878 from Joseph P. and Mary F. Hildreth, Samuel R. and Avis H. Hildreth, and George W. and Rosanna Hildreth, the heirs (and spouses) of Joseph P. Hildreth (1808-1876), for the consideration of twenty-five dollars. [Liber 241 of Deeds, conveyance page 179, dated August 20, 1878, recorded June 18, 1879.]
Norman L. Hubbard was the sole executor of his father, Elias’ estate. He was also somewhat of a stickler for “following the rules.” He sued the Long Island Railroad in 1871 for damages for the value of the timber that was lost on the land he sold the Railroad for its creation. [The Sag Harbor Express, March 23, 1871.] He won 17 years later. [The Sag Harbor Express, Feb. 11, 1888.] He sued his neighbor in 1894 for damaging his horse with a barbed wire fence; he lost. [The Traveler (Southold), Dec. 14, 1894.] In 1879 one of his dogs killed some neighbor’s sheep, wounding others; Norman consequently killed the dog and paid the neighbor a sum of $31.50 for damages. [The Sag Harbor Express, Jan. 23, 1879.] It is assumed that Norman L. Hubbard acquired the schoolhouse from his brother, Elias L. Hubbard (1819-1868) who drowned at the age of 49 while taking a passenger from South Port to North Sea, or from his father Elias’ estate. Elias L. Hubbard bought property from the Terry family in 1864 and 1865. [Deed Liber 129, page 413, 1864; Deed Liber 154, page 252, 1865.] Elias L. Hubbard was a son-in-law to Jesse Terry.
The Red Creek Schoolhouse is a rare surviving one-room schoolhouse in the Town of Southampton and an important contributor to the 19th century collection of structures that have been assembled on the grounds of the Southampton Historical Museum. Especially today, when whole building typologies in Southampton are being lost to intense development pressures, it is valuable to observe both an authentic, early, educational environment and also its architectural details. The preservation of this structure on the museum grounds will be an educational benefit to residents and visitors alike for generations.
HISTORICAL MAP REFERENCES
OTHER EARLY SOUTHAMPTON SCHOOLS
There are other surviving one-room schoolhouses in the Town of Southampton, both younger and older, but not many. Similar examples to the Red Creek Schoolhouse, both surviving and lost, are shown below.
Here is a lecture that I gave in the spring of 2020 about the history of our schoolhouse. I used the above document for much of my research.