The old schoolhouse belongs to the Cemetery Association. Ownership was transferred from the Greenwich Township School District to the cemetery sometime after it ceased being used as a school and before 1972, when I first set foot inside. It was then that Ed Buck, the cemetery superintendent at the time, asked if I would help him clean out the place. One of the interesting items inside was the old church chandler which we carried across the street to the Church basement.
The building is used by the current superintendent, Bill Shepherd to do his cemetery office work. The inside has changed very little since I first saw it in 1972, the year I married into Straw Church. Before then Ed Buck’s father-in-law, Frank Piatt, the long time superintendent before Ed was fixing it up to use as the cemetery office. Steve Stocker and Dave Miller helped dig out the basement floor. The main floor walls and very high ceilings are all dry walled but never spackled. Nothing inside remains to indicate it was a schoolhouse that once provided many local children with a wonderful country education. I recall old Ed Buss proudly sharing with me that it was his responsibility as a student to be there early on Monday mornings to get the coal stove started. And extra early when really cold to “crank it up”.
On the gable end of the schoolhouse, facing the road, is the date 1858, however on the wall of the church hall lobby across the road hangs a map from 1852 showing a school house in the exact same place. Could there have been a previous school there that was replaced in 1858 or is there some error in timeline? Some investigation may be helpful here. Maybe a check of real estate records at the county court house.
The schoolhouse could not be part of the St James Lutheran Church application to be on the Historic Register because the school property never belonged to the church. It is however interesting that on May 20, 1996 the NJ State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) issued an opinion of eligibility to: One Room Schoolhouse (ID#3654) US route 22 at St. James Cemetery.
David H. Morris
Revised Oct. 2, 2019