The first school located in the Township of Green Brook was a log building located near the intersection of Warrenville Road and Quaker Road (now Greenbrook Road). Exactly when the school was first built and over what period it was in use is not known. Information provided by descendants of the Vail family suggest that the first building was probably built around 1765.
Although a school building is not identified on any of the early maps of the area, Warrenville Road was designated by Somerset county in 1765 and there was a bridge crossing Green Brook just Southeast of the location that would have allowed children from Piscataway to attend. Between the many descendants of Stephen Vail who lived on the plantation to the West of Warrenville Road, and those of John Vail who lived to the East, there would have been at least a half-dozen Vail children of school age to attend the school throughout that period.
Sidna Vail, was the daughter of Jonah Vail. She attended the school in 1831. A descendant of Miss Vail's had in his possession a very beautiful sampler which she is said to have made while she was attending the school. Mr. Vail said that sewing instruction was given as part of the regular school work. It took three years and great patience to complete this particular piece of work which reads:
"Jesus, permit Thy gracious name to stand
As the first effort of my youthful hand,
And while my fingers o'er this canvas move,
Engage my tender heart so seek Thy love.
With Thy dear children let me share a part
And write Thy name Thyself upon my heart.
Sidna E.R. Vail, aged 10 years, 3 months
September 30, 1831
The Little Red School
The next school to be built in the township was a small one-room building built near or on the site where the new Green Brook Firehouse now stands. The location of the school is clearly identified on an 1850's map of the area, as well as on the 1872 Warren map. The school house was known as "The Little Red School" and was often referred to as the Quaker School because most of the children who first attended the school were from the Quakers families who lived in the area.
One detail of class room activity that has been handed down described a bench in front of the room. "When it was our time to recite, we would be called up to the bench". "In the afternoon the teacher would crowd all of us children around the stove and read to us from the magazine 'The Golden Age.'"
Fire destroyed the Little Red School in the first half of the 1800's, but it was replaced by a one-room gray building at the same location which was also referred to as the Quaker School. In later years it was just called the Gray School.
A surviving list of attendees, from around 1870, provides a good indication of the number of students that would have been attending the Gray School. Many of the family names can be found on the maps of that period, and are still found in Green Brook and the surrounding communities today.
Blanche and Charles Randolph
Clark and Robert Lowery
Jim and Bessie Blair
Randy, Harry, Millie and Grace Vail
Lizzy and John Smalley
The teacher at that time was Miss Maggie Vail. Others who taught at the school were: Mrs. Randolph, Mrs. Walker, Miss Stover, Mrs. Hopper, and Miss Dowd.
One pupil who attended the school said, "The thing that stands out most in my mind was how cold it was. The fire was always going out. Also, we did not have long vacations."
Another pupil said that after he had completed his coursework at Green Brook, he went to Plainfield for one year. He found the work there just a review of what he had already learned at Green Brook.
The older children took turns carrying pails of water from the nearest neighbor's well for their drinking and washing needs. A single dipper served as a cup for drinking purposes and a single towel served the needs of the entire class. The children would take turns in taking the towel home Friday afternoon, washing in over the weekend, and returning it Monday morning.
When enrollment in the one-room gray building had increased to thirty-eight, which included grades one through eight, it was time for a new building. In 1924 a new school was build and the gray school building was converted into the Green Brook Firehouse.
The New Green Brook School
The new Green Brook Elementary School was a beautiful two-room building with a full basement. It was located adjacent to the old building. A furnace in the basement furnished the heat. Although the toilet facilities were not in the building, the building was very modern and it was the pride and joy of the community.
When the classes first began in September 1924, the school covered all eight grades with two classrooms and two teachers. The two teachers were Miss Merle Herkstrotter and Mrs. Maude Spicer. In 1925, Miss Mabel Carmitchel took over Miss Herkstrotter's class and in 1926 Miss Irene Feldkirchner started the first year of her forty-seven year career with the Green Brook school system.
Miss Feldkirchner taught in the Green Brook School system for forty-seven years. During her long career, she taught grades five, six, seven and eight. Mrs. Spicer taught grades one, two, three and four.
Green Brook, which ran behind the building, played a big part in the student's lives. They fished in it, sailed boats in it, and jumped it for gymnastics. Many received their second baptism when they landed in the middle. Facilities for drying wet students were poor, so the neighbor ladies often helped out.
By 1933, there were one hundred and ten students enrolled at the school. To accommodate the students, a classroom had been constructed in the basement of the building for grades six through eight. That arranged sufficed until 1938 when additional space become necessary.
The Green Brook School on Andrew Street (Irene E. Feldkirchner School)
On January 4, 1938 the ground was broken for a new school on Andrew Street. The modern building had five classrooms, a kitchen, a teachers' room, restrooms, a storage room, an office, and a large auditorium.
The building was ready for the first day of classes September, 1938. Miss Irene E. Felkdirchner was the first principal of the school which had four teachers and one hundred and twenty students. The thirty-six Green Brook high school students were enrolled in North Plainfield and Bound Brook high schools.
Between 1938 and 1951, school enrollment expanded rapidly. By September, 1949, the seventh and eight grades were sent to Dunellen primary schools and the ninth grade to Dunellen High. In the Fall of 1951, a three-room addition was added to the building at the cost of $60,000. The additional space was sufficient for the students at the lower grades who had been using the auditorium as a classroom. At the time, Green Brook was one of the fastest growing communities in Somerset County, so classroom demand continued to grow.
A second addition was built and it was ready for the September, 1955, school year. The addition consisted of six classrooms, a large kindergarten, rest rooms, a custodian's room, storage, and a cafeteria. Still, the school had sufficient space for students in kindergarten through grade six. Mr. Robert Hanlon had become the principal by that time, a position that he held until 1961.
The staff of the Irene E. Feldkirchner Elementary School, October 1973.
The Final Addition
With the lower grades covered, attention was shifted to the rising cost of tuition for grades seven through twelve. After considerable deliberation, the decision was reached to bring the seventh and eighth grades back to the township. By 1958, an $475,000 addition added thirteen classrooms, a gymnasium, library, storage room, furnace room, art room, teachers' room, rest rooms, and an office.