archives BuildingSouthern Lancaster County Historical Society

HISTORY OF ONE ROOM SCHOOLS

By Rebecca Kirk written circa 1976

This is the year of the bicentennial year and we should be more aware of our heritage. No greater heritage do we have than our free education system. Let us see how this came about.

The first settlers of this area were middle class English Quakers and Scotch Irish, mostly farmers but some mechanics and tradesmen. Having had schooling themselves they knew the value of an education for their children. Since they were religious people, it seems that their aim at first was to teach reading so the children could read the scriptures. The preacher doubled as preacher and teacher.

Until schools could be built, the training was done in the home either by the family or tutor. As settlements grew the desirability of a school house and master teacher was realized.

The first schools were built of log some of which were used well into the 19th century (Maybe you know of some still existing) Building this log house was a community project. In some cases one family gave the ground, some cut the logs, others hauled them to the desired place and still others put them up. Whatever they did they did it together.

Try to picture if you can, what this area was like in colonial days- big trees, no real roads, log homes etc... then you can appreciate better what these people were undertaking.

The log building was erected some place convenient to those interested, trustees (we call them directors today) were elected to oversee the building and select the teacher. The teacher was paid by those who sent children to school. However, the teacher often had limited qualifications and was paid accordingly. One record showed that a teacher received $2 a quarter and 3 cents per pupil. This was not much as we think of the dollar today but when we considered that he lived with his subscribers, it wasn't too bad. Money was scarce and there were no trips to Europe. There were no taxes as such.

Sometimes the starting a school was done by a school master who wandered from settlement to settlement seeking employment. Seeing a need, he drew up a subscription paper, obtained a list of subscribers, rented a building or in some cases saw to the construction of a log house for his school. Then he began school.

The furniture, of the simplest kind, consisted of benches without backs made of half a log smooth side up supported by four legs. In some cases the desks were boards fastened at an incline arranged around the room, so that pupils faced the walls. These "desks" were only for those who were writing and ciphering. The teachers desk, a high stool, a water pail and a tin cup constituted the furniture. There were no blackboards, no slates, and little paper. In the absence of paper birch bark was sometimes used. I have read where boards painted black were sometimes used also

The teacher was a school master as women were employed to a very limited extent and then only for younger children and usually among the Quakers this school master was strict always requiring respect by the birch rod if necessary. Despite his harshness children played tricks on him - locked him in or out of the school house, put things in his desk, took his lunch etc... (children haven't changed). The teaching was done individually as there were no classes. The Alphabet and numbers were taught by constant repetition. To learn the alphabet, rhymes were often use; as ( to mention a few, most were religious)

In Adam's fall

We sinned all.

The moon gives light

In time of night

Time cuts down all

Both great and small

Some place I read where the rhyme about the number of days in each month originated in the early school.

Thirty days has September

April June and November

All the rest have thirty - one

Reading and writing were taught, the latter restricted to boys for it was deemed unnecessary for girls.

How times have changed! Memory was stressed

There were very few or no textbooks. Children brought to school the books that were in the homes. When it came, eventually to ciphering (the use of numbers) a ciphering book was compiled by hand by the school master probably from some textbook he had access to. Problems with their answers were of all kinds - multiplication, division, fractions and the rule of three

These colonial schools provided the bases on which our free school system developed. Keep in mind these people came here for freedom from oppression

The Free Public School system was established in Pennsylvania in 1834 but it was a long time reaching all the rural areas. This law provided for appropriations by the state to those districts which conformed to the law. Taxes were levied to obtain the money. You ask what’s free about it? Anybody can go to our public schools and obtain an equal education if they so desire.

The office of county superintendent of schools was founded in 1854. He was elected by the school directors of various areas and provided the only supervision there was for many years to come. The township was the unit for administration. The work of the superintendent was to hold institutes, test prospective teachers and visit schools. How many of you remember those institutes in Lancaster - a whole week? How many took those examinations? or how many taught when the superintendent visited? Maybe you're not as old as I for I remember.

In some old books I found at home, I found some interesting facts of the times. These were reports of the superintendent of Pa. schools in which each county superintendent reported for his county. The two I have are 1865 and 1864 In the 1865 report of the York county superintendent I found this,

He visited 287 schools, examined 288 teachers- , wrote 103 official letters traveled 2000 miles , and he had no secretary, no automobile, no improved roads, no typewriter etc.. things we take for granted. The need for better trained teachers was realized early and Millersville was founded as a private institution to train teachers in 1855. In 1859 it was recognized by the proper state authorities and received some support from the state. In 1865 the number of children in school was recorded but no one knew how many were not in school. Because of the "Civil War" or "War Between the States" whichever you choose to call it, there was a death of teachers. Most able-bodied men had been drafted into the army and this included superintendents and principals as well as teachers. In many instances schools were closed. Rather than close school schools in many instances, women were employed who were poor scholars and had no intentions of being a teacher. Since more females were employed I quote from one superintendent " this class is as successful as males and in primary department of graded schools, more so. But there is still prejudice existing against them In some places it is hard for them to get boarding because they require too much attention". (We now find female teachers in all grades as well as males)

This I thought interesting - the average grade in teachers examinations was not as high as it should have been because for the first time U.S. History was included in the examination. It is hard for us to believe that it wasn't always included. From this we might conclude that the primary purpose of the early public schools was reading, writing, and arithmetic.

This is what I found to be the early recommendations at the time (1869) for school grounds, building and equipment. These were only recommendations they were a long time being put into effect.

1 Grounds Not less than 1/2 acres in rural areas Grounds should be neatly fenced (it adds beauty to the appearance) Native trees should be planted to break the wind and afford shade. (Details given on kind of trees, when to plant etc.. Some houses were erected in second growth timber even in 1869 the fine oaks, elms, hickories, walnut were gone)

#2 Structure) ,Length 1/4 more than width3 , May be built of wood, stone or brick ,Log houses not desirable and in most cases should be discarded.

#3 Location Quote - a school house should be placed among the choicest charms of nature, removed from all those influences that tend strongly to corrupt and destroy - namely the tavern, the store, the shops, the railroad, and the factory with their corrupting manners.

#4 the Privy "No school house should be considered complete till it has a substantial neat privy. It should be built as much as possible out of view without removing it to an inconvenient distance.": In 1869 there were 78 school houses without privies.

#5 Equipment Seats graded in size2 Teachers desk and comfortable chair Platform across entire room just in front of the blackboard, 15'' higher than other part of the floor and 6' to 8' wide Blackboard, one of the most useful innovations Blocks, globes etc.... , Pot bellied stove,' ,Water bucket and tin cup, Basin

You may wonder why I dwelt so much on the middle of the 19th century schools. The things recommended way back then gradually evolved into our one room schools of only a few years ago which included the things I just mentioned..

Better buildings were built, mostly brick (as red) more subjects were added, more equipment was available, uniform textbooks were eventually secured and teachers were better prepared; term lengthened. The structure of the school system however, remained much the same in the rural area until after W. W. II in the 1940's

The one room school

As late as 1920 to teach one had to take an examination administered by the County Superintendent. An applicant needed only a high school education. The only training for teachers was a book "Methods of teaching" on which the candidate was tested. I'm sure these teachers taught as they had been taught for how much change would this book make. But it was a step in the right direction

All eight grades were taught in this one room. There were beginners to start, eighth graders to get ready for the entrance examination to enter high school and grades 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 to work into the program. The examination eliminated some from High school and transportation was a factor as well as work at home. (There were no buses)

In this school the teacher was the janitor as well as teacher , she swept the floor tended the fires but usually had the pupils clean the blackboard erasers. There was an open bucket to hold the water carried from a nearby spring or farm home and a dipper or tin cup to drink from. Later the open bucket was replaced by a cooler and individual cups were used but still the water was carried from the spring or farm house. The pot bellied stove was replaced by a heater of sorts in the corner.

The class period was 10 - 15 minutes and each class lined up on the platform to be questioned on the preparation for the day while the others listened, studied or as might be expected misbehaved

The games played were prisoners base, handy - over the school house, tag and such.

Children walked to school, there were no buses no good roads, but schools were so situated that a child seldom had more than a mile or mile and a half to go to school. Today we bus the children, build gyms and hire teachers to provide exercise. Of course there is more than exercise involved here.˜

The county superintendent or his assistant still provided the only supervision. When he came, he usually was accompanied by a school director.

Do you know what has become of these buildings? I'm sure the younger generation doesn't even recognize some of them today. Most that survived until the schools were consolidated have been converted into dwellings. Although some are altered considerably, most will always look like the one room school house.

I know of only one in Fulton township that hasn't been changed and that is Rock Springs (built 1888) on Route 222, however the interior has been stripped of its furniture these were sturdy buildings and stood up well for most of them were built in 1880's or before. Do you know any?

The one thing we can say of the one room school - it had a job to do and it did it.

Little Britain township (including Fulton) introduced the free school system in 1837. In 1869 there were ten school houses. A tax of $1945.27 was levied and the state appropriated $1187.69.

Fulton township was formed in 1844 because it was difficult to administer such a large area. Five school were Fultons share to which three more were added, then one with the High School making 9 in all. Fulton boasted, Quote" that their schools were the best - the best managed and conducted and the most effective in the lower end of the county" This from Ellis and Evans Hist. of 1883.

Drumore including East Drumore (East Drumore separated in 1883), adopted the public school system in 1834. In 1883 there were 15 schools maintained at an expense of $4150."

Now to the High Schools

There were no High Schools in this area until Fulton township built one in 1898, Little Britain was built in 1904, Drumore 19—

Forgive me for talking more about Fulton for I know this township better. All were administered much the same. I received my education in Fulton as well as my first experience in teaching.

Fulton had two teachers. Two rooms one large one (about 35 - 40 seats), where all students assembled (for roll call) and a recitation room. It was a two story structure with a one room school below, the high school above. School started with a Bible reading the lords Prayer, sometimes a song, and Flag salute.

How many know where this is? and what its like today-

It offered a three year course and experimented with a four year course about 1914 - 1915. It was located near the center of the township and to get there a horse and buggy were used. There was a shed for the horses and each student took care of his own. Here there was a pump

Little Britain High School was entirely different in structure. It was a one story, two class rooms with a glass partition between. A shed for horses was also provided and is still standing. Do you know what building it is today?

I know little about Drumore High School, I do remember driving our old horse from Fulton to Drumore to watch our boys play baseball.

The Scotch - Irish fostered higher education early. Rev. Latta pastor of the Chestnut Level Presbyterian Church was principal of a Latin school there founded in 1770. Latin and English were thoroughly taught. In 1850 an academy was erected and an extensive boarding school was added and the school flourished for many years. State supported schools have closed most of the early private schools.

Another private school in the area was that sponsored by the Swifts of Fulton House. It was a school for girls, teachers were brought from Philadelphia. It was located diagonally across the intersection at Bethal Church. Maybe some of you remember the old building that has been renovated and made into an attractive home.

Late in the 19th century there was a G.A.R. school at Pleasant Grove. The building is now gone Maybe some one here can fill in the information I didn't find

Gradually as roads improved and communication grew better the southern end of Lancaster County began to lose some of its provincialism. Maybe you don't call it that. The need for schools where more could be offered was realized.

There was talk for a long time about a joint high school but I think few thought in the 1920's and 30's of such a large district as we have now and each twp. hated to give up any authority.

For years pupils from these township high schools took their forth year either in Quarryville or Oxford. Four year course was becoming necessary for entrance to college.

Fulton tried closing some schools and putting certain grades in one school and others in another. This required busing.

Not until 1947 did six townships - Bart, Colerain, E.Drumore, Drumore, Fulton and the Borough of Quarryville agree to form and be responsible for a joint high school, known as the Southern Lancaster County High School. In 1948 Eden and Little Britain joined the jointure.

This continued until 1960 when Solanco became a partial jointure compromising all townships except Little Britain and Bart. The townships built their own elementary schools

L.B. Elem. opened Sept 1954

Fulton "" " 1953,

Drumore " " 1953

Southern Lancaster County Joint High School operated for all townships of the area.

L.B. operated its own elementary school. All other townships administered their elementary schools under the partial merger.

In 1961 L.B. and Bart voted to join the merger to administer all schools of the area. The merger was to be known as the Solanco Area School District. In July 1966 the word "area" was dropped an is now known as the Solanco School District.

L.B. Elem. - opened Sept. 1954, 7.2 Acres, 8 classrooms, cost 229,014. site 4,000.p

Fulton Elem - opened Sept. 1953, 5.2 Acres, 8 classrooms, cost 233,192. site 2,000

Drumore Elem - opened Sept. 1953, 4.9 Acres, 6 classrooms, cost 189,735.

Solanco H.S. - opened Sept. 1960, 15 Acres, 13 classrooms, cost 1,786,748.

Swift Jr. High - opened Sept. 1969, 45.8 Acres, 22 classrooms, cost 1,531,677

Q/v Jr. High is the oldest building in the distric

Some more facts about the early school 1869

Drumore including East Drumore, had 15 schools, 5 male 12 female teachers, a term of 61/2 months, salaries - male $30.40, female $27.00

Fulton, had 9 schools, 1 male, 8 female teachers, a term of 7 months, salaries $30. male, $28.27 female

Little Britain, had 7 schools, 1 male and 6 female teachers, a term of 7 months, Salaries $30. male, $26.72 female Elm on the Chistiana road leading from Peach Bottom to Wilmington. Little Britain post office originally at Gibsons Cross Roads and was kept in a wheelwright shop belonging to John Gibson, Esq.. Upon his death removed to the Village of Elm.

Schools, Autobiographical.

by Rebecca Kirk, circa 1976

Before I proceeded with my remarks, I wonder how many of you attended a one room school or taught in one? If you have maybe you'll remember along with me.

My idea in presenting this material is to show you how slow our schools were changing, especially in the rural areas.

Sometime ago I came across some old books, reports of the superintendent of the common schools of Pennsylvania in 1865 and 1869* I should like to read a few excerpts from these books that I found interesting. In fact the more I read the more interested I became.

** My overall idea is to give you some information on the schools of 1868 and 1869 and then relate some of my experience to show how little change was made.­

I know more subjects were added, better buildings built, teachers were better prepared, but the structure of the rural school educational system remained the same

The surprising thing to me is how little our rural schools changed over such a long period of time. Cities or urban areas moved forward much more rapidly than did the rural areas just as they did in all other things. Of course, the free common school was a long time in reaching all parts of the state and little changes were made from time to time. In 1865 the number of children in school was recorded, but no one knew how many children were not in school so over the years an enumeration of children came into being, as well compulsory education and the public high school. However over a great number of years our basic education was conducted in one room schools.

In 1865 to teach one had to take a teachers examination administered by the county superintendent. An interesting fact in the years of 1864-65 the average grade in teachers examinations was not as high as it should have been because for the first time U.S. History was included in the examination. It is hard for us to believe that it wasn't always included. From this we might conclude that the primary purpose of the early public schools was reading, writing, and arithmetic.

There were county superintendents in 1865 elected by the directors even up to my time. The chief duties of this superintendent was to administer examinations to prospective teachers, visit the schools of the county, hold institutes and make an annual report to the state superintendent each year.

In the 1865 report of the York county superintendent I found this,

He visited 287 schools, examined 288 teachers, wrote 103 official letters, traveled 2000 miles.;

The superintendent was the only supervision there was.

As to the school building itself certain recommendations were made namely:

Location - very important

Shape - best is a parallelogram whose length is 1/4 more than in width.

Size - determined by the number of pupils to be accommodated

Roof – slate

Bell on roof

Furniture - Teachers desk on a platform

Blackboard, one of the most useful innovations

apparatus - outline maps, clock, charts, globes, geometric solid

stove

Water bucket and tin cup

Privies

The rest of this will sound like the story of my life but i do not mean it as such (overshadowed by my many years) and remember I am talking about Fulton twp Other townships were much the same - L.B., Drumore and E. Drumore.

When I entered Cedar Hill one room school there were still 9 schools (as in 1865), 8 of which were built in the latter part of the 19th century. This particular school was built in 1886 on a 1/2 acre plot purchased from our farm.)

The building was built of brick, slate roof and belfry more or less according to the specifications I gave you before. There was the platform, the teachers desk, the double graduated seats for pupils, the blackboard, a pot bellied stove which we literally hugged on cold days and the privies

The class period was about 15 minutes as I recall and each class lined up on the platform to be questioned on the days preparation while the rest of the pupils were supposedly studying or listening.

The county superintendent still made his yearly visit usually accompanied by a member of the school board. As i recall we knew when he was coming so we all pitched in to make things ready. We knew as well as the teacher that he would put his hat on top of the book cupboard to see if there was any dust

Our annual "field trip", as it is called today today, was to the Seven Springs a distance of about 1 1/2 miles away. Can you imagine the teacher and 25 - 30 pupils of all eight grades trudging there and back? But how we enjoyed it

Everybody walked to school and how I envied the group that walked up the road together. We had to come straight home across the meadow.

One incident I well remember. There had been a wet snow during the night and so my father said he would come for us. I guess he took us too. Never again he said when he found us splashing around in the slushy snow waiting for him. Children will be children even today.

If any of us got in trouble at school and were punished we could expect worse at home. Respect for teachers was without question.

I was fortunate in having very good teachers. Josephine Swift, one of the Swift "girls" of Fulton House was my first teacher, the next four years Lula Shoemaker and next three Grace Carrigan.

The old Cedar Hill School probably built about the middle of the 19th century was just recently demolished for the bricks.

There is something to be said for the one room school - it had a job to do and it did it well. Poor means of transportation and communications had a great deal to do with the slow change.

Rural areas were slow in establishing free public high schools. Academies were to be found in numerous places. The first twp high school in the area, Fulton High School was built in 1898. The building was a two story brick building. An elementary school occupied the first floor, the high school the second. This second floor had two rooms - one large enough for all pupils and a small recitation room. There were two teachers much like the one built in Manheim in 1865.

The building has now been made into two apartments.;

Here we didn't use the water bucket, there was a pump.

The curriculum consisted of basic subjects Latin, English, History, (U.S. and ancient) Algebra, Geometry, etc... There were no frills. There was a 3 year course after 9 months each.

There were no hard roads in the area when I entered high school. We used the horse and buggy and believe me those roads were rough in winter time and almost impassable in the spring. There was a little stable for the horse and each cared for his own horse.

To enter high school we had to take and examination at Fulton High School (strange place to most of us) in all basic subjects - Reading grammar, history geo. arith.

The teacher of the township, or at least some of them corrected the papers. This test eliminated some and many considered an 8 grade education sufficient, so the high school enrollment was small. There were 14 who graduated when I did in 1918 but many classes were much smaller - 4 or 5.

The one and only sport I remember was baseball - played in the fall. We cheered our team as enthusiastically as pupils do today, again young people have not changed.

The commencement was held right here at Oakryn Hall. There were usually two or three orations by members of the class and a commencement speaker. I remember my orations " Belgiaim the Innocent Bystander"" that is I remember the year. How patriotic we were! we were at war. There was always a class motto " Tonight we launch, where shall we anchor?" In those days too we had Baccalaureate services the Sunday before commencement.

Again I think I was fortunate in teachers.

When I graduated from high school in 1918 I felt sure I could begin teaching. I secured the book on method of teaching which was required, studied it and took the teachers examination at the old Quarryville High School. Administered by the C.S.> . After the examination I was told I would not be able to teach because of my age. I returned to high school and took advanced work. How did teachers manage to work this in

Another examination the following year and I was prepared to teach. How did I teach? The same as I had been taught. I was assigned the Pleasant Grove.

Here again was the typical one room school - platform, double graduated desks, blackboard, etc.. .One improvement was a water cooler but the water to be put in it was carried in an open bucket from a nearby home.

I received $60 a month for an 8 month term.

The County superintendent by this time had an assistant and he visited my school. Institutes were held in late fall in Lancaster. There was an entire week.

There were no janitors. The teachers tended fires, swept the floor, dusted if it was done, cleaned erasers & blackboard sometimes with the help of students

How I worked in all those classes from beginners to eighth grade I do not know. The first year I had five beginners and several 8th graders who had to be ready to take the high school examination at the end of the year and the in - between grades to a number of about 30.

No need to mention the problems. Who doesn't or didn't have them.

Two years in the one room school taught me one thing - I would either become a primary teacher or high school teacher. I chose the latter probably because of the pay - $130. a month for 9 months.

To qualify I went to Millersville State Normal School for spring and summer terms and finally a full year. The Normal School was primary preparation of teachers and that it certainly tried to d. There were methods of teaching, psychology, English, Mathematics etc.. and believe it or not, a full year of penmanship. The Palmer method no finger movement. I never learned to make R's to the satisfaction of my instructor.

There was also a full year of public school music I am sure it didn't require too much talent or I would never have passed.

There was a model school where students did there practice teaching. Today students do their practice teaching in our regular schools. This model school was made up of children from the town. If I ever knew how they were selected, I have forgotten. I thought I knew something about teaching until I met those classes

One amusing incident I recall was when I was asked to substitute in an 2nd grade art class. I never drew so many stick men in my life but I kept the class entertained.

When I finished my year in the spring of 1922, I was given a provisional certificate and secured a job at Little Britain High School as assistant teacher.

This building was one story, two rooms with a glass partition between them. There was a heater in the basement that I tended when I arrived before the principal. Again we did our own janitorial work.

As I recall I taught Latin and book keeping with only my own high school preparation. Since I had had a year of public school music that fell to me. I shudder to think what I did in that line.

In addition to teaching I coached girls basketball. I had never played so I studied the book of rules, the pupils knew more than I. The court was outside needless to say we were not champions but the girls enjoyed it and so did I.

The seniors usually produced a play. This I coached with the aid of the principal. It was held at Oakryn hall, as was our commencements. &

There were few social events but one that was popular at the time was the box social. This was given to raise money. A girl prepared a box of food, wrapped it prettily, and it was put up for action. The highest bidder had the privilege of eating the contents with the girl who prepared it.

How did I get to L.B.? Ask any of my former pupils and they will tell you. I rode horseback, I couldn't afford a car and my father would feed a horse. I still have the darted skirt I wore.

After three years at Little Britain I was admitted to Penn State. After summer terms I received my bachelors degree

I returned to Little Britain for one year but like most young people after having a taste of the outside world I yearned for bigger and better things

I went to New Jersey for two years and finished out my teaching career in Newark Delaware. I think the happiest years of my teaching career were spent at L.B.H.S.

As I look at the schools of today it is hard for me to believe that my schooling was such as this. I let you make your own comparisons or are the contrasts. Schools, teachers, salaries, equipment etc.. did not change noticeably here in rural Lancaster County until after World War II

By way of a postscript

My brothers, younger than I, were apparently not as docile as I and had troubles. It was then that my father decided to get on the school board. During his many years he argued for a joint high school and a consolidated school for the township. He never dreamed of anything like the present Solanco Area Schools. He was never to see his wish fulfilled for it was not until 1953 that the Fulton Elementary school was built and much later the Solanco district was formed reluctantly by some townships. They hated to give up their autonomy.

This site is generously

Hosted by RootsWeb

Hosted by RootsWeb

return to SLCHS homepage