by Mary Skulan-Toran, 2022 Joseph C Burke and Joan T. Burke Scholarship Recipient
Introduction to William H. Miner
William Miner was a man with ties to both the big city and the countryside. He was born in a small town in Wisconsin, and after being orphaned at a young age, Miner was sent to live in Chazy with his Aunt and Uncle. Mr. Miner grew up in this rural community and graduated from a one-room schoolhouse. He then moved west to work as a bridge carpenter at the recommendation of his brother-in-law, John Mitchell. Eventually, Miner settled in Chicago with his wife, Alice, where he would build up his company, W.H. Miner Inc.
In 1903, Mr. Miner returned to Chazy to the family homestead bequeathed to him by his uncle, John Miner.
Soon thereafter he began to build up Heart’s Delight Farm. His hydroelectric dams powered the Heart’s Delight Farm’s principal buildings. By 1910, his hydroelectric system was capable enough to power the streetlights and churches of Chazy proper. Later hydroelectric projects also powered Chazy Central Rural School.
William Miner cared for Chazy. Much of his later life, and money, was spent improving the quality of life for those, both young and old, who still lived there.
Development of Chazy Central Rural School and the Country Life Movement
The Miners were large proponents of the Country Life movement, a turn-of-the-century phenomenon that strove to ensure the longevity of rural societies, like Chazy. Thomas Carver, a rural economist, stated that school was more important than the church if country life was to be saved. Thus, one of the main goals of this movement focused on the improvement of rural education, which had been suffering in the industrial age.
The Chazy Central Rural School, commonly abbreviated to CCRS, was the brainchild of Presbyterian minister, Reverend George R. Mott. He, like many within the Country Life movement, understood the positive impact a good education could have on a community. William Miner functioned as the financial backer and close advisor to Mott.
By 1915 the pair were deep into plans for the creation of a state-of-the-art school, one which would consolidate the eleven one-room schoolhouses surrounding Chazy into one school. Their goal was to raise the standard of living in rural areas with sophisticated education for its youth. A centralized school would fix the issues with the one-room schoolhouse system: necessities such as sanitary facilities, an experienced teaching staff, and transportation were all provided. The students would learn practical skills in addition to classical classes. Practical courses would include sewing, cooking and general homemaking skills for girls. While boys would focus on machinery, woodworking, and agriculture. This was done to better prepare them for agricultural work, and, hopefully, keep them in Chazy and out of the big city.
The project was massive and exceedingly expensive. The school boasted five sprawling levels. The building was large enough to comfortably accommodate five hundred students. It had two dining rooms, each with its own kitchen. Two separate pools, one for boys and one for girls, accented with classical statues, two gymnasiums, and a clock tower. A fleet of buses and buggies, both horse-drawn and motorized transported the students to and from school.
The construction itself cost Mr. Miner around two million dollars in 1915, which now equates to well over thirty million. Yet it is evident why he did it. Mr. and Mrs. Miner both believed in the younger generation. The plaque in the original CCRS proves the Miner’s faith in the future generation:
It is our earnest hope that your inspirations-cradled in this building-and your association with your teachers, your books, and with one another, may impel you to make a diligent effort toward self-improvement whereby you may prepare yourselves to go forth into the world of opportunity, not alone to accomplish your own mental and spiritual development but to carry to all mankind a fruitful message of high purpose, patriotic example and practical helpfulness corresponding in the degree to the great and loving interest which we feel for you.
– Alice T. and W.H. Miner
The young were adaptable and open to the advancing technologies of a changing world. By constructing and funding the school, the Miners ensure Chazy youth would be well poised to meet the challenge.