A Short History of Jefferson County Schools
By Tonya Thompson
The history of schools in Jefferson County will take you back as far as 1804. In that year John Dixon taught the first school in the county at the present site of the Jefferson County Service Center, two miles east of Brookville. The second school was taught by John Johnson in 1806 on the Old State Road, between Port Barnett and Brookville. Childern going to that school often walked three or four miles on the paths and trails in the dense woods.
The pioneer school held in Punxsutawney was opened by Andrew Bowman in 1823 in a house owned by John B. Henderson. They hired a master by the year. The tuition for small pupils was $12 a year and $50 a year for larger students.
The second school cabin was built in Punxsutawney by the same men in 1827 on the site now occupied by the Baptist Church.
The pioneer master in Rose Township, near Brookville, was Robert Knox. When he taught, the cabin floor was not completed and the students sat on sleepers. The tuition was fifty cents per month and the teacher was to board wtih the scholars.
In 1828 a school was taught in Brockwayville by master A. M. Clarke who received $12 a month in maple sugar.
The first common school in what is now Eldred township was begun in the winter of 1837. The house was built by the citizens in the fall where the fall schoolhouse stood. It was a hewed log structure, cut from the nearby forests. John Lucas was the first to teach in the school. There were about 40 students in class.
John Kahle taught the first school in Kahletown in about 1837, using one of his father's houses.
About 1837, a round log schoolhouse, called the Milliron School, was built a short distance northwest of Ringgold. Samuel Hice, the first master, received about $10 a month. They used "Cobb's Spellers" as textbooks. Henry Freas, John Hice and Benjamin Campbell were among those citizens active in organizing the school.
Gov. McKean approved the pioneer law of the state making provision for the poor. The act was opposed by some people who believed it would result in increased taxation. Jefferson County received the first money from the state for educational purposes in 1836.
The books used in schools today are far different than those used in pioneer days. Books commonly found in pioneer schools included The Bible, Catechism and the United States Spelling Book. Parents were responsible for buying the books and if they were lost in a fire or a disaster, they would have to pay for the new books.
The law of 1854 expanded the curriculum to include: orthograpy, reading, writing, English, grammar, geography, and arithmetic. The state superintendent also recommended the adoption of uniformity of books.
Unlike today's schools, punsihment was different. In the pioneer school they used a rod or fastened a split to the student's ear of the nose. Often the master would just lay the student over the knee and swat him or her where they sat. An oaken stick, about 12 inches long, (called a cat-o-nine tails), was attached to a piece of rawhide cut into strips, twisted while while wet and dried. It was freely used for correction and those who were thus corrected did not soon forget, and carried some of the marks for life.
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