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Girard Township Schools from 1897 article

Contributed by Rich Biondi

The information below about the early Girard Township schools has been transcribed by Rich Biondi from an article in the May 27, 1897 issue of the Cosmopolite (Girard, PA) newspaper. If anyone has any questions or comments concerning this information, please contact Rich Biondi directly.

Girard Township – Girard School 1897 Newspaper Article


At this season of the year as the school closes and its progress is so worthy of note, it may not be amiss to outline some comparisons with the schools of sixty years ago in hopes to a higher incentive to those whose benefit the intervening years have brought, as well as the gratification of those through whose agency and perseverance has wrought this progress.

The first school keeping in Girard village beginning in 1823 and until 1841 was in Masonic Hall (later known as old hall). The lower room was provided for the school and the upper room for various meetings. The school room was dingy from the start, and it was hard to tell whether designed for school or a refrigerator, as it had both appearances. At some former period the boys had cut a crevice through the floor three inches wide under their desks the whole length of the room so as to recover pencils and the like that should fall through the floor. How this ventilation should be maintained for years can best be answered that the boys governed the school and the teachers and directors were spectators, and it is no wonder it needed a stove and fireplace to keep the room passable. But it once got hot enough to make up the difference. The custom at that period was to have school every alternate Saturday, and on Friday evening the boys observing that the wood pile had run low decided that the next day would be better for skating than school, so accordingly after dark the remaining wood was carried in and placed in the old fire place and set on fire. Meanwhile the boys vanished. A little later, some of the citizens saw a big blaze on the school room rushed in and found the wood and brands rolled out on the floor, and a large hole burned through the floor and but for this timely rescue Girard village would have been minus one of its few two story buildings.

I believe it would have been a mercy to the school to have let the boys alone and burnt out the old school fixtures and saved the room for us above. The lower room finally became a nuisance and for the last three years the school was in the upper room which was more comfortable and pleasant.

In 1841 a new school was built on the same ground (about where L. Martin’s store now stands), more modernized and better adapted which continued for schools until the academy was opened.

The following is a list of teachers in each school building as near as ascertained:

In the old, lady teachers were Miss Childs, Nancy Dixon, Eliza Derby, Mary Ann King, Miss Cole, Harriet Clark. The gentlemen teachers were, Mr. Bennet, Gleason, Chapin, Wheeler, Lee, French, Rockwell, Lockwood, Dr. Raymond, Hiram Butler, Rev. King, Major Bumphrey, Rev. Roswell Cheney.

In the new school house the lady teachers were Esther Gallowhur and Elizabeth Fish. Gentlemen: Samuel Adams, Levi Loveridge, S. E. Woodruff, Albert Case, Alonzo Nason, William White, Peter Wright and Mr. Hindbaugh.

In early days it had become a question whether the school should govern themselves or whether the teacher should govern, and in the general make up of our early teachers they were of the easy going and genial, kind, particularly old Elder King, a friendly old gentleman qualified to teach the sciences but not to govern the truants of the village. A change was needed and the Rev. Lockwood was engaged for three months and when he took the reins there was a change in the tide of school affairs.

The first morning he came into the school room it was all noise and confusion and as he advanced to his desk he turned to the scholars and said "Scholars, tomorrow morning and each following morning through the term of school as you see me coming down the street it will be the signal for all of the school to go quietly and directly to their seats so that when I enter the school room all may be ordered and quietness", and then at this juncture as he laid on the desk before him a black walnut ruler about two feet long, it seemed to give emphasis to the pedagogue’s little speech.

In classifying and teaching the sciences the Rev. Lockwood was a complete success and had it not been for one drawback (his temper) he might have continued indefinitely a model teacher.

Comparing the old routine of school books – Cobbs speller, Cobbs Juvenile readers, Peter Parleys and Olneys geographies, Daballs arithmetic and Kirkams grammer – with the improved equipments of our present school rooms, we may fancy what might have been our attainments had the latter fallen to our lot. Or the crude school room of our pupilage with the fair structure that keeps pace with the growth and beauty of our village. It may often bring to mind vivid pictures of the change, but it need give no cause for envy for if we reflect in the labors and hardships of our pioneer fathers in reclaiming the wilderness from the roam of savage, to civilization, in the brief period of a century. And such of the present schoolmates who shall be so fortunate as to look back in review to a like ratio of improvement from sixty years in the future as we can look to a corresponding period in the past, may rest satisfied in the solace of doing their duty in the trusts committed to their care.

There is a fascination that entwines with a mystic tie to all true lovers of science whether of the past, the present or the future in saying:

Proud of the day that led the way,

In the path to science door,

And prouder still, that led the will,

To pluck the gems from science store

C. A. P.

This page was last updated on  Monday, December 31, 2001 .

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