History of Somerset County Schools (part 2)

Created: Monday, 14 September 2015 Last Updated: Monday, 14 September 2015 Written by Administrator Print Email

The first school in Paint township was taught by M. Seese, in a private house on the Jonas Weaver farm. The first schoolhouse was erected on the A. D. Weaver farm, and here a teacher named Schultz taught both English and German. The present school system was accepted in 1861 through the earnest efforts of Joseph Lehman, Peter Berkey and other friends of education. There were but four schoolhouses in the township prior to 1861.

The people of Quemahoning township gave little attention to education until 1840, when the free-school system was adopted. Early private schools, both English and German, were maintained by English and German settlers for the benefit of their own families. A few school- houses were built as early as 1825.

The first schools in Shade township were taught in private houses by Caspar Statler, William Nool, Samuel Pearson and others. A schoolhouse was built near the present home of Samuel Statler, in 1810. Prior to the acceptance of the free schools in 1837, there were few schools in the township, and some pupils were obliged to walk six miles to attend.

The first schoolhouse in the town of Somerset was built on the southwestern corner of the Lutheran cemetery. A Frenchman named Costell, a fine scholar, was the teacher. The second school-building was erected on the lot where the Union schoolhouse now stands. This lot was donated to the town for educational purposes by Peter Ankeny, one of the original proprietors. Sylvester Collom, F. J. Kooser and William H. Sanner were efficient teachers of the town.
About 1812 Gen. Alexander Ogle, then state senator, succeeded in getting a state appropriation of two thousand dollars for the erection of a county academy at Somerset. The building was erected the next year, and Mr. Costell, a master both of German and French, was placed in charge. Mr. Blood was afterward principal, and organized the first Latin class ever taught in the county. Henry L. Holbrook, a faithful and popular teacher, was principal from 1826 to 1838. Col. J. R. Edie, while principal in 1842, introduced the first blackboard ever used in the county. Subsequently the academy building was devoted to the use of the common schools. In 1882 the old academy was torn down, and in its place a public school-building, costing about ten thousand dollars, has been built.

An Irishman named James Kennedy was the first teacher in Somerset township. He had been bought by Herman Husband, at Baltimore, for money to pay his passage-fare across the ocean. It seems that he had escaped from an Irish monastery, and knew little of the outside world. After it was found that his services as a laborer were of no value, it was decided to make him a schoolmaster. Accordingly he was set to work in an old cabin in 1777. He tried to teach his pupils the Catholic doctrine, and failed. He also utterly failed as an instructor, and left his school, declaring that it was useless to attempt to teach children who knew nothing. A schoolhouse was built near the present site of Samuel\'s church in 1798. Israel Bailey taught here in 1804. A teacher named Youngman opened a school in the same house in 1805, but died before finishing his term. Schoolhouses were built at Casebeer\'s church and near Will\'s church early. The greater number of the early schools were held in private houses. Free schools were accepted by only a small majority in 1841. Among the most efficient teachers prior to that time were Robert Laughton and Dr. Patterson.

Henry Zufall taught a school near Wellersburg, in Southampton township, in 1796. The first schoolhouse was built a short distance south of Wellersbnrg in 1802. John Knox McGee taught an English school in 1803. Peter Wilhelm and Jacob Ketring taught German schools at different times. The township adopted the present system in 1835.

The early schools of Stony Creek township were German, and were generally taught in private houses. A schoolhouse was built on the Joseph Glessner farm in 1795. Henry Stauffer taught near Shanksville, in, 1807. A schoolhouse was built at this place in 1820. Free schools were accepted in 1838.

About the year 1798 Henry Staufer taught a school in a church which stood near the old cemetery at Stoystown. He also taught in an old dwelling in 1808. A round-log schoolhouse was erected in 1810 and torn away in 1828. The third schoolhouse on the same site was erected in 1860. Henry Staufer and Samuel Pearson were among the best teachers prior to the opening of free schools. Stoystown borough was incorporated in 1838 and adopted free schools the same year. Prof. Frederick Grof had charge of the borough school for several years, and raised it to a high standard of excellence.

In Summit township the early schools were taught in private houses and deserted dwellings. A schoolhouse was erected on the Kensinger farm as early as 1795, but it is not known that a school was ever taught in it. A German school was taught in an old dwelling on the Harrick farm in 1796. Common schools were adopted with great difficulty in 1844. Guns were loaded to shoot the tax collector. Fortunately no blood was shed, and the schools became popular. A schoolhouse of round logs, furnished with benches made of split logs, was built, where Meyersdale now stands, in 1812. William Shocky, Peter Engle and others were early teachers. In 1822 a larger school-building was erected, and in 1842 it was refitted. Gen. William H. Koontz, C. G. Stutzman, George Knee and C. C. Musselman were among the teachers in this house. The present school-building was erected in 1861.

TURKEYFOOT TOWNSHIP (Upper & Lower included)
The earliest school in the county, so far as can be learned, was conducted under the auspices of the New Jersey settlers in Turkey-Foot Township as early as 1776. Probably the Baptist settlers of that neighborhood supported a school in connection with the church which they founded in 1775. About the year 1800 an Irishman, whose name is lost to history, taught a school in an old, dilapidated dwelling, which stood near the Turkey-Foot church. About 1828 Mr. Cox and David Roderick commenced teaching in Turkey-Foot. The first schoolhouse in Lower Turkey-Foot was built in 1830, near the old Jennings farm, and David Roderick was the first teacher in the new house. The free-school system was accepted in 1836. Henry L. Holbrook and Abraham Collins were members of the first school board. Up to 1848, when the township was divided into Upper and Lower Turkey-Foot, Hugh Connelly, Elijah Younkin, John Lichliter, Jackson Mitchell and A. J. Colborn were efficient teachers. John Drury taught a school near Kingwood, in Upper Turkey-Foot, in 1812. William Kilpatrick taught in a private house near Paddytown in 1815. A schoolhouse was built near John Cramer\'s in 1820, and Bernard Conrad was the first teacher.

(Source: Extracted from History of Bedford, Somerset & Fulton Counties, PA; 1884)