Early Watertown Schools[edit | edit source]
The first schools in Watertown were largely the result of private citizens acting to provide an education for their children. During the first decade of settlement, classes were held by volunteer teachers in their own residences. The first school in Watertown was taught in 1802 by Sally Coffeen, daughter of Henry Coffeen out of her father’s barn. Sometimes, churches doubled as schools during the week. In 1810, Judge Perley Keyes established a local tax in the settlement of Watertown to provide for a public school. The result was a two-story brick school building on the corner of Washington and Academy Streets (where First Presbyterian Church resides today). During the War of 1812, however, it was commandeered as a military hospital. The sum paid by the state failed to satisfy the mortgage, and after the war it was sold to the First Presbyterians, who used it as a church rectory.
There was still no city school after the war. In fact, it would not be until much later that a city school was again founded. The situation was described in 1832, when founders of a newly-formed school on Academy Street wrote “It has too long been a subject of reproach to our community, that, while other interests were flourishing, the interests of education were neglected.” In 1836, the Watertown Presbytery and the Black River Associations incorporated the Black River Literary and Religious Institute, afterwards known simply as the Black River Institute. This secondary school was built on the corner of State and Mechanic Streets in Watertown, and later reorganized as the Jefferson County Institute. Another school, the Watertown Normal School, was founded in 1839. In 1841, the first state-mandated districts appeared. Watertown Schools organized into a district in 1865.
The Roman Catholics have maintained schools within the county since 1876. That’s when they built the Immaculate Heart Academy on West Main St. in Watertown.