The Town of Parma settlement began in 1796 with the arrival of the Atchinson family. The first school house in the town was erected near this settlement; the first teacher was Alpheus Madden in 1804. Prior to this, however, Daniel Arnold, a surveyor, taught school in a log house built and owned by Bezaleel Atchinson. School was also taught in one part of the home of Michael Beach at Hunt's Corners. In 1805, Jonathan Underwood was the first to settle in the area now known as Hilton, NY. These New Englanders came with the philosophy that "strength and stability of government stems from the education of the common people" and "education has a softening and elevating influence without which other labor is regarded as useless".
On April 6, 1813, three men were elected to serve as commissioners of the common school, and on August 24, 1813, the Town of Parma was divided into 10 school districts, with some districts later divided and subdivided into smaller districts. District #4 was finally designated to include only the Village of Hilton and a section of the township to the west.
In the Hilton area, the first school, an old log cabin, began sometime between 1813-1815 at the end of what is now Hazen Street. Jonathan Underwood became the school inspector in 1817. His influence came not because he was the first settler, but because he was a man of great character, kind, generous, industrious, honest, scholarly and very civic minded.
As the population grew, a larger school became necessary. A two-room frame school was erected on the west side of the village in 1835. From 1853 -- 1892 a four-room frame school on West Avenue housed the students; replaced in 1892 by a two story four room building. In 1896, the school came under the control of the Regents and in March 1896, District #4 became the North Parma Union Free School. Jennie Mitchell, lone graduate of the 1898 class, earned extra credits to receive the first Regents Diploma issued by the school in 1899. In 1904, four more rooms were added to the school. A brick, two-story school was erected on Henry Street in 1930.
North Parma Union Free School #4 prior to 1929
The one-room school houses throughout the now seventeen districts in the Town of Parma were all officially closed when the centralization of the school districts took effect in 1949. Building new schools to accommodate the influx of students became an even greater necessity: the West Avenue Junior-Senior High School, 1952; Hazel Jenkins Primary School, 1956; Jonathan Underwood Elementary School, 1960; Merton Williams Junior High School, 1964; Northwood Elementary School, 1967; East Avenue Senior High School, 1972. Hazel Jenkins Primary School and Jonathan Underwood Elementary School were physically combined in 1989 to form the Village Elementary School.
Today's school system reflects a global awareness as well as community involvement as evidenced by: the 20" anniversary of the Hilton Model UN on November 5, 6, 1999. This two-day event draws more than 600 students from the central New York State area. All Hilton students have had Internet access since 1998 which links them through research projects to students worldwide through the web.
Community service comes in the form of many projects: volunteering to help senior citizens; collecting funds for areas of natural disasters; aiding the Open Door Mission, and other spontaneous projects based on evident needs. The Service Corp. of the Village Elementary School was instituted for students to assist teachers, read to younger children and other projects.
The 50/100 Celebration of the Hilton School System commemorated the centralization of 17 country school districts into one on June 7, 1949 and receiving Regents accreditation on October 3, 1899.
The graduates of Hilton Central School have distinguished themselves in many fields, among them: medicine, teaching, nursing, politics, science, and law. Among the twenty-five candidates nominated for the first annual Hall of Fame, the following eight people were inducted during Bravo Awards Evening on June 7, 1999: Daniel D. Chiras, Ph.D. (1968) scientist, environmentalist, author; Lucille Collins, M.D. (1957) family
physician; David E. Day, Ed.D. (1948) educator, college administrator; Albert E. Hauck, Ph.D. (1970); Shirley Cox Husted, BA (1949) historian, author, journalist; Tony C. Lanzalaco, Ph.D. (1976) research scientist; Chris J. Marone, Ph.D. (1976) Professor of Geophysics; Kathleen M. Wolf, RN, MS (1966) Nurse practitioner, college professor).
From the humble beginnings in a log cabin with a few students, the six school buildings now house 4,575 students. The current mission statement of the Hilton Central School System: We will engage and support all students academically and socially in becoming self-directed, lifelong learners who think critically and creatively, and function as caring, productive citizens.
The story of a growing school system is not reflected by the number of school buildings, but by the many inspired people who teach, administer, transport, feed and care for the students who graduate to become useful, dedicated citizens; still reflecting the original philosophy of strength and stability of the government stemming from education of the common people.
A documentary video of the Hilton Central School District "Celebrating a Century" is available at the Historian's Office.
Questions or comments should be directed to the Village of Hilton Historian:
59 Henry St.
Hilton, NY, 14468