The first school house known to have been erected within the present city limits of Camden appears to have been the one-story, red brick Camden Academy, built at 6th and Market Streets in 1804, on land donated by Jacob Cooper back in 1776. The delay in construction was a result of the economic and political disruption brought on by the Revolutionary War. Camden was occupied by British and Hessian troops for a time in the late 1770s, and a minor skirmish was fought between American forces commanded by General “Mad Anthony” Wayne and the occupying forces over the ground where the school was to be built. After the war, public donations were sought, and the structure that would serve Camden’s children for many years was built. One of the trustees was George Genge, who in his will, left an annuity in the amount of $80.00 a year (no small sum in those times) for use in operating the school.
An act of the New Jersey Legislature extinguished the annuity, transferring the endowment and the title to the land and building to the newly formed Board of Education of the City of Camden in 1854. This marked the inauguration of the public school system in Camden. Prior to that time the school system was under the supervision of the School Trustees of the Township of Camden. During the period from 1843 to 1854 much had been done to improve facilities, but until the Act of 1854, incorporating the Board of Education, there was a constant struggle between the School Trustees and City Council. The first public school was opened on May 8, 1843, in rooms in the Academy Building at 6th and Market Streets.
The Kaighn School, at Newton Avenue and Chestnut Street, upon land donated by the Kaighn family, was erected in 1854 and was the first school building erected by the Board of Education. This building burned down in 1903 and was replaced by a new structure in 1904. The second school house was the George Genge School at Sixth Street, between Arch and Market Streets, built in 1862 upon the site of the old Academy. In its day it was considered a model school structure. The third school, the E.A. Stevens School, was opened in 1868.
In 1900 Miss Minerva Stackhouse was appointed principal, a post she would retain until the school was closed at the end of the 1926-1927 school year. Miss Stackhouse was the sister of long-time Victor Talking Machine Company employee Virgil Stackhouse and prominent Camden attorney D. Trueman Stackhouse.