If you are traveling on a country road in the Abingtons and see a building that looks like a one-room schoolhouse, chances are it might have been.
More than 50 schoolhouses dotted the landscapes of North Abington, South Abington, Newton, Ransom and Waverly townships and Clarks Green and Clarks Summit boroughs at various times in the 1800s. More schools existed in the surrounding municipalities that border what is now the Abington Heights School District.
The first known school in the Abingtons was held in the log cabin of Elder John Miller on North Abington Road. Miller taught eight students there in 1804. The school later moved to a shanty in 1806. The school session was only 20 weeks during the winter because children were needed for help on the farm.
Over the next 20 years, schools formed in homes and one-room log structures. As communities in the Abingtons were settled in the 1800s, schools were built along with churches. A study of the earliest schools in the Abington Heights School District revealed that a log schoolhouse built in the early 1800s was located along Northern Boulevard in Chinchilla. Another one-room log schoolhouse was built along the Morgan Highway. One source gave a date as early as 1812 for this school in Newton Township. The Knapp School, also known as the Mud Pond School, was built in the early 1800s. It was located near the intersection of Shady Lane Road and the Morgan Highway.
In 1830, the first framed schools were built in the district. These small, one- or two-room schoolhouses served children in the immediate vicinity who could walk to school. Many had a stove for heat, wooden desks and blackboards. Most had an outhouse outside.
The first framed schoolhouse in Waverly was the Fell schoolhouse on Main Street. Built in 1830, it is one of the oldest buildings in Waverly Township still standing. The Waverly Schoolhouse was revived in recent years and is now used as a residence. It can be seen on route 632 near the First Baptist Church. That same year, a framed schoolhouse in Ransom Township was built. It too, survives and is located at 2379 Newton Ransom Blvd. It is used as the Ransom Township Community Hall.
The Mountain Valley School in Ransom Township was built in the 1830s. Now privately owned, it’s still standing on Bald Mountain. The Mount Dewey School in Ransom Township still stands as well. Built in 1889, it is located at 1101 Community Drive and used as a community center.
The “Fire-Proof School” was built about 1840 on the old Theodore Stone farm, so named because it was set on fire two or three times and the fires went out leaving behind only slight damage. It was still standing as of 1918 when it was sold by the Newton School District.
In 1845, a log schoolhouse was built in Schultzville on what is now Falls Road. For many years, it was called the “Hog-Pen Schoolhouse” because the door was not fastened shut one night and a sow belonging to a farmer who lived nearby entered the school. The door shut behind her, and students discovered their school overrun with piglets.
D.W. Richards, a teacher at the “Hog-Pen Schoolhouse,” shared his recollections in the “History of Newton and Ransom Townships” by J.B. Stephens:
“The schoolhouse was built of logs, and chinked between the logs with sticks and mud. In size it was about sixteen by twenty feet. Inside, on three sides, a board was placed along the sides at an angle of about forty five degrees which served as a writing desk. A row of planks or slabs with holes bored in them and sticks driven in, were placed along the desk for the larger scholars, and a second row made in the same way but not so high for the smaller children…. Within this little log hut, with sixty-four pupils huddled together, I spent my first winter as a country pedagogue.”
In the mid- to late- 1800s, several schoolhouses were built as the population grew. Extracts copied from an old minute book of the school directors of Newton Township reveal that the board determined a teacher’s salary to not exceed $16 a month in 1856.
Larger schoolhouses were built to accommodate more classes and students. Newton Township built a two-story schoolhouse along the boulevard near where the Newton Township Volunteer Fire Hall is now. It later burned. The Newton Recreation Center was the Newton High School.
Clarks Summit and Clarks Green township children attended one-room schoolhouses until 1866 when a two-story building was erected on Glenburn Road. The school moved to Grove Street in 1893 but only survived two years before being struck by lightning and burning to the ground. Rebuilt, the next school building lasted 11 years before it too, burned. Waverly Township had the first high school in the district which began as Madison Academy. Newton Township followed with Newton Academy, later becoming Newton Ransom High School.
In 1916, Clarks Summit and Clarks Green officially joined together forming a school district and adopting a four-year high school program. In 1929, the high school was built on East Grove Street. In 1950, Clarks Summit, Clarks Green and South and North Abington townships joined together to form one school district. Newton-Ransom joined in 1964, forming the Abington Heights School District.
The little one-room schoolhouses across the Abington Heights School District were consolidated and closed by the time the district formed. Many were sold and demolished. Some, like those in Ransom Township and Waverly, still stand, a testament to the humble beginnings of the educational legacy of Abington Heights.
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