My great-great grandmother Mary Elizabeth Knickerbocker of Madelin (Tivoli) NY (later Mrs. Dr. John E Losee of Upper Red Hook) attended the Poughkeepsie Female Academy, graduating probably in 1855 at 18. At the time, most children received an “8th grade education” which was not something to look down upon. Those who cared to and could afford to would send their children on to academies and colleges which were often also boarding schools.

I have a half-dozen letters sent to her from her academy friends Mahala Clarke, Emma Robinson, Almira Culver, Kate Roosa, and Mollie Harris that I have transcribed and will begin a series of posts for each in February and March, but thought a little context and background might be handy, first.

Poughkeepsie Female Academy

Poughkeepsie Female Academy (New York Public Library)

When Mary Elizabeth Knickerbocker attended the Poughkeepsie Female Academy, the principal was Jacob C. Tooker. He was born c. 1800 and when he died in 1856 his widow Caroline Warring ran the Academy in his stead until 1859. They may have had two daughters, Sarah b. c. 1836 who appears in the 1850 census with them, and Ada b. c. 1851 who married John Warnick (they are buried in the same plot with her parents). Caroline died in 1891.

Jacob got a Masters from Union College in 1826. He was from Goshen and resided Montgomery, Orange Co in 1830 and 1840. In the early 1840’s he was a superintendent of Orange County public schools. From 1846-48 he was principal of Brockport Collegiate Institute, an academy west of Rochester (today, SUNY Brockport) where he…

“…was the outsider who was hired as the permanent principal. …There are contradictory remarks about the type of man he was, ranging from “fussy and difficult” to “jovial and well liked.” Principal Tooker and Mrs. Bates, who still ran the boarding establishment after her husband’s death, did not get along. The Trustee Board had to step in on several occasions to settle their battles. Principal Tooker also clashed with the students and was a strong disciplinarian. By the end of the school term in 1848, the board of Trustees had tired of Principal Tooker’s demands and complaints and terminated his relationship with the Institution.” – College at Brockport website

In the 1850 census he was the principal of the Female Academy in Poughkeepsie.  He, along with 60 men like Vassar, Hooker, and Adriance, loaned $300 each in 1853 to the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery Association and “were given the option of either being paid back once the cemetery began to sell plots, or using the investment to pay for a family plot.” “A Brief History of The Cemetery

The Female Academy building was a “fine brick structure on Cannon street, near Market” with “heavy Doric columns” built when the school opened in 1837 per The History of Duchess Co NY, J. H. Smith. It does not exist today, not having survived urban renewal (search this blog/use the tags for posts regarding this topic).

Illustrated Poughkeepsie p.37

Building used as “Women’s Christian Temperance Union” in 1906