Plutarch Lives!

One-room school houses dot Ulster County disguised as homes, stores, club houses, and museums. Dozens of others are gone, but not forgotten by those who learned their “three Rs”, and more subtle lessons–don’t forget your lunch, homework, mittens, boots or anything else, ’cause nobody is going to bring them to you. Walking to and from school is good for you; handle your own fights or learn to get along better with people; and last, but not least: The Teacher Is Right, whether or not that’s true. Oh, and by the way, the privy is outside.

My own experience at the one room school at Plutarch was brief because my mother thought my brother and I would do better in the Campus School in New Paltz with teachers such as Mrs. Glenn, Mrs. Compton, and Mrs. Hamilton. We like to think Mother was right.

But even after the Plutarch School was closed in the mid 1950’s, we continued to use the building for birthday parties and other social functions. Today, it serves as the Plutarch Sportsman’s Club and has had raw cut boards added to the exterior to give it that frontier look appropriate for hunting/fishing/beer drinking…

So, where is Plutarch, anyway? It’s on Plutarch Road, which runs north/south, between and parallel to North Eltings Corners Road and North Ohioville Road. Plutarch Road goes through the towns of Lloyd and New Paltz ending in Esopus at Swartekill Road. At this intersection in the 1930s was a nudist colony, The Fresh Air Club.

Plutarch wasn’t always Plutarch. It was originally Cold Spring Corners. But because there already was a Cold Spring in New York State and the post offices were delivering the mail based on skimpy addresses like this from a 1910 post card, “Miss Helen Schmidt, Collinsville, Conn,” it was essential that no two village post office addresses be the same. The fad at the time was to name places after Greek and Roman statesman, philosophers, or cities. Ergo, Plutarch.

The hamlet of Plutarch proper, is made by the Plutarch road intersection with Van Nostrand and Black Creek Roads. Black Creek Road is a misnomer as the north flowing stream running under the “Black Creek Bridge” is the Swartekill, and is an outlet for the Plutarch Swamp that dominates the landscape to the east of Plutarch Road. It’s a riot of purple loostrife in late summer.

Meanwhile, back on dryer land…Plutarch had more than just a school. It was a lively village featuring a general store and Post Office, a blacksmith (his shop is just visible at the left in the photo showing “Main Street, Looking North”), several residences, and one lovely church in which people are still being married.

During the early part of the last century, an electric trolley ran along New Paltz Road from the Hudson River in Highland to downtown New Paltz. If you walked to the south end of Plutarch Road, you could get just about anywhere. Many did.

Many also came back to the Plutarch area to raise their families. Today we welcome all of you more recent transplants. Plutarch not only lives, it grows!



Right after this issue went to press my brother, Louis, was looking at the photos and said, “Wait. I’ll be right back.” He reappeared a few minutes later and place a fireman’s badge with the number 9 on it in my hand. On closer inspection, I saw the badge was from the Plutarch fire department! I had been unaware there ever was a Plutarch fire department. Lou said he thought our Grandmother had given him the badge more than 45 years ago. She had lived in Plutarch in a house across Van Nostrand Road from the school.

As soon as I got to a phone, I called George Schneider and asked if he recalled a fire department in Plutarch.

“Oh, of course.” George said. It had consisted of one model T with ladders on each side. He thought it was kept at the Fire Chief’s –Mr. Norman’s –house and later at the site of the blacksmith’s shop. As George tells it, the Plutarch Fire Department ended it’s service on the day the truck was called into service only to discover it had four flat tires. He thought that might have been in 1927 or so.

I wore the pin one day and stopped in Shandaken (west of Kingston on Route 28) for coffee. “Oh, Plutarch,” the man behind the counter noted. “They had a Fire Department? I know they had a school…”

“You’re kidding,” I said. “People who live five minutes from Plutarch don’t know it ever existed. How do you know it?”

“I was on the New Paltz Police department for years. I used to have to go see Judge Schneider for arraignments…” (the Judge, Rex Schneider, had lived on Plutarch Road his whole life and had been one of my favorite friends).

My new friend and I discussed a dozen mutual acquaintances and what had happened to different other friends. I promised to send him a copy of the Plutarch story in About Town when it came back from the printers.

I’m forever amazed at the cross-currents of life and how often if you just flash something that has meaning to you, you can flow in those currents to new places.