archives BuildingSouthern Lancaster County Historical Society

Providence Township School History

Now and Then in Providence Township, 1976 , Paul Hollinger


There was an abundance of historical data about the industry, transportation, churches, etc. and one would expect that our educational institutions, the schools, would have the most complete information. Wrong! If it were- not for the Atlas maps, I would have no hard facts except pictures of the eight most recent elementary schools. Only one of the eight public buildings even has a date stone. The high school building in Quarryville, now Junior High, does not have a date stone on it. The local school boards threw their records away (so did the supervisors). The new elementary school referred me to the Junior High, they to the Senior High, then to Ray Dunlap, first principal at Providence, also Solanco, and now of the Manheim Township Schools. He even wrote a history of the southern end but nothing about our schools. I was even referred to IU-13, but William Kautz in Dr. Lloyd Ruoss' office had no information either. I got a friendly and helpful attitude from everyone, but no hard facts on the early schools. I appealed to the School Directors, but they voted 4-3 against any funds to research this data. It remains for an enterprising historian to unearth the facts as to when each building was constructed, by whom, how much cost, what tax or subscription funds, who .were the school directors, teachers and stu- dents, what subjects weretaught, textbooks used, length of school terms, salaries paid, influence on students and impact on the community.

In the Colonial period, parents educated their children at home. From 1775 to about 1830 the churches taught reading, with the Bible as the principal text- book, plus a spelling book and "ciphering" book. The first school buildings were similar to our present-day Amish schools. They were constructed on a farmer's field, with volunteer labor and subscription or tuition payment for each child who attended. However, from 1800 until 1895 attendance was not compulsory. The first pay school of record was one in Marticville in 1824. (providence was then part of Martic Township.) It is possible that New Providence, Smithville or Hickory had a school before 1800, but we don't now know that. Ellis and Evans refer to a Moore Connell and George Evans, who taught as early as 1800 in a log cabin with slab benches and desks near the molar mine. That could have been the first Fairview School. The Fairview School II was at the end of Archery Road right where Mud Hole mine is today. On the other hand, it could have been the first Pleasant Valley School. An unnamed school house stood on Camargo Road in 1864 across from the present-day PP&L service center. Who knows?

The first Public School Act was passed in 1831 but did not affect Providence schools until the Common School Act of Pennsylvania in 1836. The Pennsylvania Compulsory School Law in 1895 caused many more children to enter the schools and created a building boom, adding more schools, enlarging old ones. About 1850, the early public school teachers were paid $20per month to women teachers, $30 per month to men for a six-month term. By 1880 the wages increased to $35 and $50 respectively for a seven month school term. Here is the June report from 1883. The only Providence one-room school dated was the Pleasant Valley (1904), Rt. 222 at Sunset Estates Mobile Home Park. While driving around the county, I found these date stones on brick buildings of similar size, design and construction: 1879, 1892, 1897, 1898, 1905 and 1908. The Springville School in Strasburg Township near Camargo was built in 1883. New, larger schools were built in ad-jacent Pequea Township in 1879 including Pequea Valley near Smithville, Mt. Hope and Mt. Washington.


Many interviews turned up teachers' names: Harry Brubaker at Hickory; Helm, Shultz, Wentz, Barr, Andrews, Fickes, William Paes, and Mary Rohrer at New Providence. (William Paes is Paul Paes' father, Ref ton.) Claude Miller of Union taught many years at Rising Sun. Rev. Shepardson (1921) of Zion Church taught at New Providence, as did Esther Findley 1920, Liddy Edwards 1922-25 William Hensel Frank Armstrong, teacher at Mt. Airy 1926, and J. Clyde Deiter 1927-28. School, Providence Township. Frank Eshleman taught at Mt. Airy and may have turned out more pro-fessional people than the other teachers. Ai Rorabaugh taught for nine years (1942-54) at Fairview, Harmony and Hickory Grove. The directors decided where he taught. He was paid $100 per month from August to May 15 only. He also taught at the Providence new elementary school from 1955-61. His sister Ethel taught from 1948-52 at Mt. Airy where their family went to school. She had 45 students in 8 grades.

Board of Education

Providence Township 1954 schools were closed in 1953, requiring the busing of the elementary children. This group reads like Who's Who of Providence. Dr. Gerlach became the first head of IV-13, over all Lancaster and Lebanon schools. Dr. Helm was the last medical doctor to practice medi-cine here. Dr. Raymond L. Dunlap heads Manheim Township schools, Landis Mowery lives across the street in a new home, Frank Foulk built a community of log cabins, John Rush owned the Mt. Airy Inn until 1975 and now drives bus for the schools and Paul Heagy lives in the brick house where his father, Hiram lived to run the train station at New Providence. Providence Elementary can handle only about 320 students. Some children are bused to other nearby schools because the present building is too small.

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