De Veaux College
Niagara Falls, New York
Digital copies of the Chevron, the De Veaux yearbook are available on Ancestry.com. The 1881 Report of the Board of Trustees is also online. Big Daddy Dave, one of the “Old Boys,” maintains a De Veaux School blog.
De Veaux College was created from the 1852 will of Samuel De Veaux, who left a 364 acre farm and an endowment of approximately $262,000 to found a school for fatherless and destitute boys. Administered by the Western New York Diocese of the Protestant Episcopal Church, the college was to provide a Christian education for these youth and train them “to a life of industry.”
Classes began in May 1857 for thirty boys, taught by a faculty of three. Enrollment remained small throughout the 19th century. As late as 1881 that figure was only 48 boys, taught by a faculty of seven. Some trustees wanted to add “term” pupils to bring in income and improve academic quality; others believed that the school should serve only the “foundation” boys mentioned in the will. The courts finally allowed the school to accept paying students.
The curriculum was designed to “fit pupils for entrance upon university or professional studies, the United States Military Academy or Naval School or business pursuits.” Classes tended to be the standard preparatory school fare of sacred studies, ancient and modern languages, English, history, mathematics, science, and art—supplemented by bookkeeping courses. From around 1870 to 1950 De Veaux was a military school, so one faculty member was a military officer.
The Report notes that the school had a chorus and a glee club. At that time a prize was awarded for Declamation. The Churchman lists a De Veaux publication called De Veauxnian.
As late as 1938 the Chevron shows only the yearbook, the newspaper, the camera club, the little theater, and the student council as student activities. The 1960 Chevron, the last available yearbook, shows an enrollment of around 140 with a full range of student activities for male students.
De Vaux began to experience financial difficulties as more students were electing to attend public schools and the aging campus buildings required more upkeep. The school closed in 1971.
Bricks and Mortar
Van Rensselaer Hall, a 3 ½ story stone building, was completed in 1857. Measuring 100 by 54 feet, the building housed the entire school--dormitory, library, classrooms, hospital, chapel, and president’s office, as well as rooms for kitchen, dining, and laundry.
In 1866 Patterson Hall was adjoined to Van Rensselaer, creating a new chapel and study hall. In 1871 a separate gymnasium measuring 84 x 44 feet was built.
In 1929 Schoellkopf Hall, the last major structure of a 12-building campus, was added.
When the Diocese closed De Veaux School, the campus passed through several owners or lessees. It is now owned by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The De Veaux School Historic District was placed on the National Register in 1974. The Van Rensselaer Hall complex was razed in 1989, leaving Schoellkopf as the last major building standing.
Team name: Cadets
School Colors: Garnet (later Maroon) and White
In 1879 Aquatic Monthly notes that a recently created Athletic Association at De Veaux College had organized a Field Day with foot, sack, hurdle, and potato races in addition to jumping and throwing the ball. The 1881 Report shows baseball and tennis clubs. Evolvements of Early American Football lists De Veaux as the fourth best college that played senior association football in 1886-87. Future Yale All-America end Frank Hinkey attended De Veaux College in the late 1880’s, playing baseball and probably association football. Niagara Falls Gazette shows football, basketball and baseball games against prep and independent teams in the early twentieth century.
In 1951 football returned to De Veaux for the first time in 25 years. Even with a small student body, De Veaux School fielded prep-level teams in seven sports. De Veaux School became a member of the Conference of Upper Private Schools.
Cadets at De Veaux College in 1887. Frank Hinkey is at the right end of the front row. Image is from
Waymarking image of Van Renssaeler Hall, taken from the Nation Register application.