SCHOOL HISTORY UP TO 1854
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The following information was extracted from
the book, History of Perry County In Pennsylvania, From the Earliest
Settlement to the Present Time; Silas Wright; Wylie & Griest; Lancaster;
1873; pgs. 131-142.
The earliest educational history of Perry county, for want of records, can only
be obtained from the narratives that have descended from generation to
generation until the year 1834, when an era dawned upon Pennsylvania, such as
has never been estimated in importance.
The first schools were subscription, kept open about three months, or
"a quarter" of the year.
These schools were few and far between, and governed absolutely by the
Then good scholarship consisted in ciphering to the double rule of three, a term
happily omitted in modern arithmetic, in being able to write legibly large and
small hand, and ability to read readily in the Bible and Testament.
These schools were often kept in houses very poorly suited for the purpose; slab
seats and slab writing-boards pinned to the logs of the wall, served as
The earliest school legislation was an act passed on the 28th of March, 1814,
vesting the title of a certain piece of land in Toboyne township, in the county
of Cumberland, in certain trustees and their successors, for the use of a
school. The Act is short, and we give it in full as an instance of
the liberality of the Commonwealth at that time toward educational enterprises:
SECTION I. The land officers to make a title clear of purchase money
and fees to trustees for schools to be established in the township of Toboyne
for a piece of land.
SEC 2. A majority of subscribers to supply vacancies of trustees.
After the Act of 1822, requiring county commissioners to receive from their
parents or guardians the names of all children between the ages of five and
twelve years, whose parents were unable to school them--this Act imposed a fine
of five dollars upon these officers for neglect of duty--houses began to be
erected in the various settlements of the county. Fifty years ago, the
only school-house in Fishing Creek Valley, Rye township, was near the present
residence of Mr. Kocher. This house was covered with clap-boards, the
common roofing material of the houses or cabin of the valley at that time, and
had no floor. It was lighted through single panes of glass fastened side
by side between parts of two logs. So limited a knowledge was deemed
necessary for the school-teacher of these times, that it is related "a
school-master" wanted to keep school in this house who was unable to either
write with a pen or give instruction in arithmetic. It is further related,
to the credit of the patrons, that he was refused the privilege he asked.
The books used in this school were Dillworth's spelling-book, the Testament,
DaBoll's arithmetics, and copy-books made of unruled paper.
The oldest school-house in Penn township was a log building, covered with boards
split out out logs. This house was located near Young's Mill. The
first school kept in it was by Joseph McIntire, and was attended by pupils who
lived within the present boundaries of Rye township. Some of these pupils
walked four miles, morning and evening, to avail themselves of the educational
advantages of being able to read, write and cipher.
The furniture of this house was slab benches, writing boards of the same
material fixed to the walls, and an old smoky stove. Mr. McIntire is
represented to have been "severe with the hickory." He heard
four lessons from each pupil in reading per day, "made and mended"
their pens, and "showed" them in ciphering whenever they came to him
for assistance. The custom then was for the pupil to hear the class read
while the teacher "worked his sum."
The oldest school-house in Duncannon, formerly Petersburg, was built of logs,
and stood on the ground in front of the one now in use in that borough. It
was burnt in 1814.
The ruins of the only school-house in Buck's Valley, during its early
settlement, may still be seen near the base of Halffall Hills. It stands
on a truly romantic spot, and was probably one of the oldest school-houses
within the limits of the county.
Who administered school discipline and taught the youthful ideas to shoot, at
its first session, has not been certainly preserved.
An old school-house in Pfoutz's Valley not very far from Hart's mill, served to
give educational advantages to pupils of both Pfoutz's and Wildcat valleys,
until Wright's and Grubb's school-houses were built in 1836. Millerstown
at this time was a village of Greenwood township.
The oldest school-house at Liverpool was situated on the site of the present
Lutheran church, and was either removed or in ruins in 1828, when the church was
built, for, it is said that the cornerstone of the church was laid on the spot
where the old school-house had stood. Rev. Heim's journal contains the
following: "On the 17th of December, 1814, in the evening, I preached
at Stollenberger's school-house, from Eph. v. 14."
In this same old school-house, in 1810, Rev. Heim organized the Lutheran
congregation, whose descendants worship in the church which stands so high above
it now. In it, too, the early settlers' children of Liverpool town and
township received the elements of their education.
Millerstown has a venerable old school building, which antedates the free-school
system. This house, enlarged to meet the growing educational wants of the
place, still stands on its old site. It was used for religious meetings
until the churches were built.
The first school-house in Tuscarora township was situated in the narrows leading
from Donnally's mills to Buckwheat Valley. It was built of logs and known,
at that time, as the "Narrow's School." To this house the Bulls,
Blacks, Robinsons, and Henches, of the second generation, came to receive an
education. The next school-house was built on the property now owned by
Joseph Leonard. These houses served the purpose until they were
supplemented by the seven which are now in use.
Saville township has a sacred school history, from the fact that she has been
the birth-place and early home of more Christian ministers than any township in
The old school-houses were situated originally one below Ickesburg, near Judge
Elliott's farm, another on the Irvin estate, and a third just below Sandy Hill,
in Madison township. These were all, in their day, in Tyrone township.
These old houses in Saville have been improved by the third edition. The
last is credited first in the county.
Tyrone has built and rebuilt school-houses until there are but two of the first
houses erected for the purpose remaining, and these in the last formed
settlements of Shafer's and Kennedy's valleys. Tyrone is a progressive
district, awake to the fact that the best school economy is well-built and
well-furnished school-houses, and the best qualified teachers in them, employed
at liberal salaries.
In Landisburg, the earliest move for free schools by legislative enactment, we
would naturally expect to find the best school buildings. Instead,
however, an old stone veteran of many years' service still serves the
free-schools of the place. Spring township had an old school-house,
located near St. Peter's church, which was used for religious worship by the
Lutheran congregation, previous to the erection of the old log church in 1816.
Carl's (Charles') school-house about one mile and a half east of Elliottsburg,
was used by a Lutheran congregation from 1837 to 1840. This house was
situated on a lot of seventeen acres of land, donated in his will for school
purposes, by Henry Ludolph Spark. Mr. Spark had a school-house erected on
this tract, in which he taught school for many years. He died, and lies
buried in an old grave-yard near by. After Mr. Spark's death, a Mr. Carl
succeeded him, and administered school affairs for twenty years, with such
success as to have his name given to the school-house, which should have been
This donation of seventeen acres of land was expressly stated by Mr. Spark in
his will, to be for a school-house and a school-teacher, but his idea of a
school, with a teacher's home and gardens attached, has never been carried out
in Little Germany (as this place came to be called).
The school-houses of Madison township were the ones mentioned in describing
those of Saville and Sandy Hill, and the other at Center. These are
believed to have been the oldest houses built for the purpose within the present
limits of Madison township.
The brick building erected at Clark's for a graded and primary school, is a
creditable structure for the purpose.
The oldest school-house in Toboyne township, as described by one who saw and
went to school in it, was situated about twenty rods from Esquire Joshua Rowe's
dwelling house. It was covered with clap-boards, had slat benches and
writing boards, and a wooden chimney. It had two windows, which emitted
light through greased paper. The ceiling was made by laying poles across,
close together, and then plastering on top of them. The floor was made of
split logs, fitted together by hewing the edges.
This, at that time, was the nearest approach from the East of a school-house to
the Round Top Mountain.
Toboyne township is now pretty well supplied with school-houses, and manifests
considerable interest in educational affairs.
New Germantown has a graded school, the only one in the township.
In Juniata township, there is an old school-house at Markelville, which
doubtless served the early settlers of that neighborhood. Markelville
maintained quite a creditable school, without missing a session for nearly
twelve years after Rev. A. R. Height's opened its first summer session,
The school was continued during Superintendent Height's term of office, in a
building improvised for the purpose. Markelville Academy building was erected by
Mr. George Markel. The school continued in this building after Mr. Markel's
decease, but it soon became apparent that with his death the educational project
lost its mainspring. After Rev. Height's term of office expired, he left
the county, and was succeeded by Rev. Geo. Rea, Profs. Geo. W. Leisher, C. W.
Super, and Mr. Alexander Stephens.
Juniata township has a proud array of young men of the present generation, who
started as teachers in her public schools. Of these I cannot speak in
other than general terms here, except of one, in whom many bright hopes
centered, and of whom much as reasonably expected.
John Jones, jr., was born in Juniata township, near Milford, of highly respected
parentage. He received a common-school preparation for the business of
teaching, which he began in his seventeenth year, and continued during the
annual four-months' term, until the winter of 1861 and '62.
In the spring of 1860, the writer of this sketch first became acquainted with
young Jones, at Bloomfield Academy. Entering as farmer boys and strangers
at the same time, we were soon fast friends. John was soon the
acknowledged champion of the school; possessed of great muscular agility and
power, he was always on the winner's side in the athletic games. His mind
was as vigorous as his body, and proportionably powerful. He had a
retentive memory, but his crowning intellectual development was his reasoning
faculty. he continued his studies at Bloomfield Academy during the summer
sessions of 1860 and 1861. He entered Iron City Commercial College in the
fall of 1861; graduated and returned home, where he remained during the
remainder of the winter. In the spring of 1862, he entered the law office
of B. F. Junkin, where he pursued the study of law until August, when he entered
the Army of the Potomac and served nine months in company G, 133d Pennsylvania
regiment. In 1864, he served six months in Captain Frederick's company as
sergeant, and upon a recruiting officer of the Ninth Pennsylvania Regiment
appearing in their midst and asking such as were willing to re-enlist to step
out of the ranks, sixteen men said, "If our sergeant goes we will
go!" whereupon Jones under that religious conviction of duty which he
never disobeyed, stepped out, and became a soldier for his country for three
years longer. For a young man he possessed large and varied attainments
and his poems, "The Old Chestnut Tree," and "Our Country,"
show sufficiently his original merit. They were written in less than six
months from the time he rhymed his first stanza.
A single stanza the first from "Our Country," will give the reader an
opportunity to judge of his versification:
"When maddened frenzy leads
And reason holds no sway,
It makes a demon out of man,
And darkness out of day."
John Jones was killed at Solemn Grove, North
Carolina, March 10, 1865. He has left a record for patriotism
characteristic of the man. He, the young, the talented, the noble, the
brave, died that his country might live. Cherished be his
One of Juniata township's old school-houses is in ruins on a place owned by Mr.
Myers; another was near Milford, and a third is probably still standing, and,
from the shape of its walls, is known as eight square.
Oliver township had three school-houses, some years ago, that were probably the
first within her borders. Earlier educational advantages were afforded at
the Myers and Milford schools in Juniata, to which this township originally
Some of the present school-houses in Center township were the original ones in
the neighborhoods where they are found.
We have no authentic account of the first school-houses, other than that they
were very few and far between.
Sutch's school-house, in Carroll township, was located on the south-east bank of
Sherman's creek. The spot on which this house stood was consecrated anew
by the erection of Mount Pisgah Evangelical Lutheran church on it. This
school-house was erected some time between 1775 and 1780. It was the first
school-house in Pisgah Valley, and, like Reiber's, built twenty or twenty-five
years later, intended to serve the double purpose of church and school-house.
Of the other school-houses we have no other data than the fact that several of
those now in use bear the impress of antiquity.
Wheatfield township has built new school-houses, which are all removed from the
sites of the old ones. The old foundation of one might have been seen but
a few years ago near Esquire Potter's; Center was another, and Fio used as a
preaching place by the Lutheran congregation, who have since built "St.
David's church," until 1845. Religious meetings are held in the
school-houses of nearly all the townships in the county.
In many localities, for want of churches, this cannot be avoided, but wherever
it can they should be used for this purpose during the time that the schools are
A remarkable instance of wise legislation in response to the petitions of the
people, is seen in the act passed in 1831, which provided for the appointment of
trustees of the public school-house in the town of Landisburg, Perry county, and
gave them power to examine teachers for said school, to visit the same once a
month, and to dismiss the teacher for misconduct, want of capacity, and
negligence. --Sypher's Pennsylvania History.
From the county auditor's report for 1831, we learn that $171.17-1/2 cents were
expended by the county in instructing poor children. This amount,
compared with $35,397.69, the amount levied and collected by taxation to support
her schools in 1870, sufficiently indicates the progress that has been made in
the thirty-nine intervening years, and with all this we seem to have progressed
Under the pauper system, as it was appropriately called, there was a
distinction, making an envious comparison between the rich and poor; so marked
was this difference that it was the basis for two classes. The poor could
hardly ever hope to rise from the stigma that was placed upon them by the aid
intended to be a blessing.
After the Act of 1834, arrangements were made for building school-houses in
every settled portion of the county; school-directors were elected who
supervised the building of these houses, and selected teachers after an
examination by the most competent of their own number, or some other person
chosen by a majority of them.
Educational meetings previous to the adoption of the county superintendency in
1854, consisted in old-fashioned spelling and singing-schools. These had a
healthy social influence on society, beside, in the former, much pride in
spelling was created.
As an instance of one of these school meetings, we have a notice in the
Forester, signed by Wm. B. Mitchell, Jesse Miller and Jacob Fritz,
school-men. This meeting was advertised to be held May 7, 1825, and was no
doubt intended to carry out the provisions of the Act of 1825, which had been
previously printed in the columns of the same paper.