Podcast Companion Exhibit

The One-Room School House


What's Here

Stories From the Community

Oral History Transcriptions

More Local Memories

Crowdsourcing History

Raising the School House Flag During the Civil War

Video Oral Histories

Stories From the Community

Note: The audio presented here has been modified from its original to provide greater clarity and to better fit this format. The original audio recordings have been preserved, and they are available upon request. 

Charlie Townsend

Arlene Townsend

Genevieve Takas

Mark Carter

Lillian Stockunas

Sandy Visnick

Oral History Transcriptions

Note: The oral history transcriptions below are currently under development.  The text has been modified from its original to provide greater clarity and readability. The original audio recordings have been preserved, and they are available upon request. 

More Local Memories

These recollections have been edited from their original for publication.

In the fall of ‘48 I started first grade at the McCloy one-room school which had been there for quite some time in South Beaver Township.

Mrs. Groscost had taught there for what seemed to be forever. McCloy was built up on a bank along a dirt road, and in the Fall the scene was was incredibly bucolic. The school contained grades 1-8. Each grade with only 3-4 students. I would watch all the grades when “Mrs. G.” called them to the bench in front of the class. In that year I learned all the subjects from grades 2 through 8. And in the following year it was more of the same.

A potbelly stove stood in middle of the room. The 8th grade boys would get coal from the coal bin which separated the two outhouses, one for boys and the other for girls. During vacation one winter, volunteers painted the inside of the school a beautiful light lime-green color. When we returned to school that same winter our ink had frozen solid, so my sister put her bottle of red ink, with stopper securely in place, on top of the stove. When the ink heated and boiled, it blew the cork off and splattered red ink all over the newly painted ceiling. My dad repainted the ceiling the next weekend.

After three years at McCloy, we were told we be going to the Blue Ridge one-room schoolhouse. I didn’t know where it was, but learned that it sat on a ten acre field opposite Miskito Lake on Rt. 68. As a fourth grader, I asked the fifth and sixth graders to help me set up a softball field. They mowed the 10 acres and left long grass lie on the field. We found an old rail fence and used the logs to build log cabins and stuffed grass between the logs to create a shelter. Mr. Beatty from New Galilee taught the eight grades at Blue Ridge, and I credit him with giving me a strong foundation in math. He was also a community thespian (actor-performer), so we did a lot of patriotic singing.

After Mr. Beatty retired, Miss Mary Prato joined us. Her brother Tony taught at the Court School down on Rt. 251. They made an agreement and Tony took the few 7th and 8th graders to Court School and Mary was left with grades 1-6. Either she or her brother paid me $2 a month to carry water from the Golnick home a half mile away. I took a stick and notched it so I could carry the pail of water with a classmate. I put the water in a five gallon crock with a faucet. We thirty kids used five gallons every day. I never told anyone I got paid for hauling the water. It seemed like “big bucks,” but it was only ten cents a trip.

Miss Prato showed me how to create mnemonic devices that served me for the rest of my life and in my 38 year teaching career. She also drilled us in math and would compete with us doing problems on the board. I beat her almost all the time (but she probably let me win.)

Mr. Bennett from Baden came for sixth grade. On the first day he was just sitting in his car and we knew it was way past 8 or 9am. So I went over to him and asked if he was our new teacher. He was visibly shocked. “They didn’t tell me it was a one-room school. There’s no running water!” he exclaimed. I told him I had the water situation handled and the prior teacher paid me for hauling it to the school. Poor Mr. Bennett. He survived. He would take me during lunch hour down to Treasure’s gas station and buy me a coke, and we’d eat our lunch while he would complain to me about things. He stuck it out, though, and when South Beaver Elementary School was built, he was named principal and taught a combined 5-6 grade class. As it turned out, I always felt a little betrayed by him. After coming to the new school, our special relationship from the year before had vanished. I couldn’t get a good morning out of him.

At South Beaver Elementary, we were joined by kids from Johnson school on Rt. 68 and St. Rests on Rt. 251. We had classes if 15, which included the highly competitive Gary Cox. I always though he was a genius.

~ Larry Vosovic, Northwestern High School (1961), now living in California

I attended Saints Rest at Georgetown rd and Blackhawk rd in 1st and 2nd grade. It sat on a little hill on Rt. 251, west of Black Hawk Golf Course. The teacher was Mrs. Sherman. At the time, South Beaver had three schools, mine plus Court, McCloy, and I think it was the Johnson School on Rt. 168.

After the Court School closed, it was turned into an auto repair garage. It was next to the creek at the far end of the Brush Run Methodist Church parking lot. Saints Rests was torn down shortly after it closed. It sat up on a hill, and it was made of red brick.

As for my classmates, I think Jane Smith went to Court. Judy Martin Shee went to the school one on the Darlington end of Georgetown Rd. I think that was McCloy.

~Dolly M. McLaughlin Ferguson, Northwestern High School (1964), now living in Florida

Crowdsourcing History

These comments have been sourced from various social media posts and other recollections related to our topic.  They have been edited for publication

My dad who was born in 1916 went to Brenner School in New Sewickley Twp. His teacher was Dorothy Duncan, later Brenner who he talked of fondly. She must have been a very good teacher. Even though he only went to 8th grade, he learned much more than we did in high school. I wish I had a picture of it. ~Sue Bonzo Tuttle

There are people alive that are in their 70s & 80s that went to one-room school houses in Beaver County.  ~Fred Sams

My mother went to a one-room school house in Eastvale during the 1930s. She said the older kids knew their lessons well because they heard them repeated over and over to the younger kids. ~Kevin Farkas 

I see life still in that building. ~Kathy Myers

My dad was born in 1922 and talked of going to the one-room schoolhouse in Bennett’s Run. Unfortunately he passed away in 2016 at the age of 94. He shared how wonderful his teacher was and appreciated how much she truly cared about him. He was very ill as a child and she would walk miles to come visit with him when he couldn’t make it to school. ~Valorie Dripps-Walker

My mom and her siblings went to Braden School at the corner of Darlington Rd. and Braden School Rd.  I believe she talked about her older sister also teaching there. Quite a walk from Klein St. in all kinds of weather.  ~Lois Heberling Mennell

Homewood church was a school until the present building was built. ~Jesse Burnette

If you go to the end of Careywood Rd. and then make a right on Shenango Rd., you will go up the hill a short distance to the first house on the right.  This was a one-room school house where many of the kids in this area went to school. My mother Betty Barclay Davenport went there, as well as the Beatty brothers Wayne, Sam, and Jim went there. And some of the Crespo family went there, too. ~Bob Davenport

I know exactly where that [old school] is and as a kid, I remember a bell on top of the roof, in the front. After the school closed, obviously someone turned it into a garage. ~Bill Riggle

My aunt had her first teaching job there [in that old school] . When I visited you could see that it had been a garage, but things were still there from the school. ~Phyllis Byrne

I did go to a one-room school in first and second grade before they built the South Beaver grade school that is now closed. ~Pearl Mays

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Raising the School House Flag During the Civil War

Personal account of raising the American flag during the Civil War (1861) over the Dam School in Big Beaver Borough (located on present-day Sherwood Road). Article from The Los Angeles Times, September 11, 1921, Page 91.
A few days ago a community researcher sent me this eyewitness account of the Civil War on the Beaver County home-front, published in The Los Angeles Times, September 11, 1921. Here Mr. H. C. Marshall tells us about raising the American flag over the Dam School in Big Beaver (located on present-day Sherwood Road).
It was the summer of 1861, and school children in northern Beaver County were witnessing the recruitment of local troops. There was “drilling and marching to the stirring music of fife and drum. This was very exciting for us boys,” he writes. “We followed the band with great interest and were bubbling over with patriotism.”
We know this to be a factual account; the 100th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (“The Roundheads”) were organized during August 1861. In fact, present day Greersburg Academy in Darlington served as an official recruitment center.
Around this time, Mr. Marshall claims that he organized the making of an American flag out of ordinary muslin and it was hoisted above the Dam School as townsfolk and dignitaries looked on. That humble, home-sewn flag, “It represented and expressed our patriotism,” he says, “as if it had been made of the finest silk.”
But here is where Mr. Marshall’s recollection gets interesting. He wonders if this flag raising over the Beaver County school house may have been an historical first. “Now there is a flag on every school,” he writes, “by the law of the land. If anyone knows of a flag placed on a schoolhouse earlier than this, the writer would like to hear of it.”
Of course, Mr. Marshall did not know that the earliest historical instance of an American flag being flown at a school house happened in Colrain, Massachusetts, 1812. Look it up; it’s an interesting event. Some historians think it was the first time these New Englanders may have actually seen their own national flag—some 35 years after its adoption by the Continental Congress. In fact, flag historians Howard M. Madaus and Whitney Smith suggest that before the Civil War, the American flag was hardly seen by the public except for military, government, and maritime use.
Therefore, it may have been highly unlikely that public school houses anywhere in the country (since the late 18th century) would have flown the American flag prior to the Civil War era—and for decades beyond that, even.
An interesting observation is that flags and flag poles are missing from most photographs of old one-room school houses in Beaver County. This leads us back to Mr. Marshall’s claim about his flag flown over a school house being “a first.” It’s plausible that it is, in fact, a Beaver County first.

Video Oral Histories

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