Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 4
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: April 1941 Volume 4 Number 2, Pages 13–19
Old Eagle School
Although there seems to be no record of title for the ground upon which the Old Eagle School House stands, nevertheless its ownership to the land has been sustained down through the ages. History is somewhat vague as just how and when this school came into existence, but in 1767, on one acre of ground, on the farm of Jacob Sharraden, the first stone building was erected. Until the year 1788, it was used as a church for the Lutheran Pioneers, among them John Pugh, William Siter, Robert Kennedy of Radnor, John Huzzard and Robert Grover, Tredyffrin (a Robert Grover was a vestryman at St. David's in 1804).
Whatever may have been the cause of this German settlement, the first authentic evidence of its efforts at this particular spot is found in the Deed Books of Chester County. Ground was purchased by Jacob Sharraden from Sampson Davis and wife on March 16, 1765; the farm contained 150 acres in Tredyffrin Township, lying immediately north of the present Strafford Station of the Pennsylvania Railroad. This tract is part of the original purchase of Richard Hunt of Brome Yard, Hereford County, Wales, from William Penn, dated "March 1 and 2, 34th Charles II (1683)".
The school house lot ran from northwest to southeast near the present road.
Now let us look at the picture of the United States at this time. Only eleven of the thirteen states had decided to join the union and try a federal constitution. In 1788, the first constitution of Pennsylvania, creating the office of governor (this office was not attempted until two years later) was established.
From information handed down from father to son, we gather the following description of the old school house. Its size was little more than one-half that of the building now standing, the present cellar door being close to the southeast side. It faced westward toward the present road, which then passed much closer to the building, the entrance being through double doors, approached by a heavy bank, walled up on the southeast side to give access to an opening into the cellar where firewood was stored. There was a large window to the right of the door and a narrow one to the left. Shutters were not used on such small buildings and the window sash slid sidewise on the inside as barn windows sometimes do today. A long wooden bolt secured the front door and was slipped into place by a crooked piece of iron passed through a hole. At first, the building was heated by an open wood fire and later the ten-plate stove took its place. Benches consisted of rough slabs of wood with bark on, supported by wooden sticks driven into auger holes in the plank. For the evening meetings, such as singing school and debating societies, their only light was produced by candles and an occasional lamp which the members brought with them.
The school house was under the supervision of trustees appointed at a general meeting of the people living in the neighborhood, and these trustees continued their work until all schools came under the Public School System established in 1834. The building was used in its early days for church on Sunday and school during the week, the pastor often acting as school master and the school master sometimes becoming the pastor on Sundays.
On August 6, 1817, a petition was presented to the County of Chester for a public road to lead from Swedesford Road in the valley to the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike near Spread Eagle Tavern. This petition recited that "a road has long since been laid out partly in the same direction with the one your petitioners are desirous to obtain, a part of which has not been used or traveled for considerable time owing to the unevenness of the ground over which it passes and as the contemplated route (wherefore the most part now is a private cartway or passage) would in the opinion of your petitioners be the better course and do less injury to private property." This petition is signed by:
This road was confirmed February 4, 1818.
Prior to the adoption of the Public School System in 1834, it was the custom for the County to pay for the education of children whose parents were unable to pay tuition, and so we find the following records for Old Eagle School.
The Commissioners of Chester County to Adam Siter, Dr.
To teaching the following children from 2nd August up to October 29th, 1830, at two dollars per quarter.
We, the Undersigned, being subscribers of Adam Siter's School, have examined his day book and compared it with the above account and believe it to be correct.
Eagle School, Tredyffrin Township, Oct. 29th, 1830.
On July 27, 1832, the records show Adam Siter still the teacher applying for money from the county for Hannah Hunter, Marian Hunter, Amanda Riddle, James Niblo, George Eiserman, Davis Eiserman, William Eiserman, Mary Ann Siter, Samuel Shurr, Hannah Ann Huzzard, Mary Huzzard, Josuah Jones, Elizabeth Jones and Mary Jones. These students were signed for by James Pyott and John Miller.
For one year commencing November 4, 1834, the money levied by the County, and paid to School District was $169.90.
In 1832, the Carr School was erected about a mile to the north, and for several years little use was made of the old school house, although in all probability religious services were hold there from time to time.
During Mr. Clemson's rectorship at Old St. David's, about the years 1861-66, a new interest arose in the establishment of a Sunday school or chapel of St. Davids at or near the Old Eagle School in Tredyffrin, The Sunday School conducted at the Old Eagle School house during this time was mainly under the charge of Episcopalians from St. David's Church, including Mrs. Paul Shirley, Mrs. John Langdon Wentworth, Miss Elizabeth Gwinn, Miss Helen A. Hibler, and Miss Louisa Lewis. Mr. Clemson frequently officiated at the old school house.
Early in the spring of 1874, just before the usual time of reopening the Union Sunday School, application for the key was made to the teacher by Peter Mullen, a well-known colored man of the neighborhood, who said he intended to occupy the school as a dwelling house (squatters were numerous at this time). The request was refused, but in a few days he was found in full possession with his family. He claimed the use of the school had been given him in return for his care of several of the graves in the adjoining cemetery. After much discussion as to the proper mode of procedure to eject the new tenant, he was arrested and after a hearing before Squire Nathan Stetson on May 2, 1874, was bound over for trial at the Quarter Sessions of Chester County to answer the charge of forcible entry and detainer. He was acquitted under the direction of the court, although compelled to pay the costs, as proof of force in entering was wanting.
The Tredyffrin School Board, having previously turned the property back to the trustees, showed no interest when urged to make intervention in behalf of taking control of the property once more.
After two years of litigation in the courts trying to prove to whom the Old School Property belonged, the School Board again in possession leased it for a small rent to Elizabeth Dickensheet (better known as "Chicken Lizzie") a well-known old character of the neighborhood.
In June, 1879, Thomas R. Jaquette and others made application to the School Board for permission to use the building for religious purposes, but the application was refused.
Very little use was made of the Old School from this time until May 6, 1895, when a final decree was entered, appointing Thomas R. Jaquette, Elijah Wilds, John S. Angle, M.D., Daniel S. Newhall, and Henry Pleasants, trustees, to hold title to said real estate and to administer this charity and in the exercise of a reasonable discretion subject always to the further order of the court to regulate the manner in which the property can most effectively be utilized for the general use and good of the neighborhood for religious, educational, and burial purposes as aforesaid.
The trustees immediately set out to raise funds to restore the School House and on February 7, 1897, the Strafford Union Sunday School, the successor of the Eagle Sunday School, held their first monthly evening service in the restored building, the first religious services since October 12, 1873, when the Eagle Sunday School closed for the winter.
A free course in political and scientific lectures was held in the old building in the spring of 1904, but few persons were interested and plans for utilizing the building were suspended.
In 1905, we find Mrs. George A. Hunt using the building for private art classes. These classes continued for several seasons. Close by the Old School House, we find the cemetery where many soldiers were buried during the encampment at Valley Forge. Among those serving in the war and later buried in the cemetery were Jacob Huzzard,II, of Tredyffrin, Private Morgan's Company, Hannum's Regiment, Chester County Militia, enlisted 1777, died 1819; Samuel McMinn, of Tredyffrin, Private in Emergency Militia of 1780 from Chester County, died August 8, 1811, aged 54; Charles McClean, of Tredyffrin, born 1741, Dunne's Company, 3d Pennsylvania Regiment, wounded at Stony Point, died July 23, 1798; Frank Fisher, of Tredyffrin, Marine on brig "Hyder Ali", Captain Barney, wounded at capture of the "General Monk" in Delaware Bay, 1782, enlisted 1777, died (about) 1825.
The trustees have placed a large boulder conspicuously on the western slope of the graveyard, on which is inscribed the names of these men end also encased thereon a bronze tablet bearing the following inscription:
In Unmarked Graves
In 1906, it was decided to have the ladies cooperate and so the following
committee was appointed to assist the trustees:
But sometime later, the committees combined and the work of keeping up the ground and building has been carried on by a committee consisting of Edward F. Beale, Strafford, President, Brognard Okie, Walter Pierson, L. M. C. Smith, and Mrs. Duncan Selfridge.
During the past year, the school house has received a new roof and some new evergreens have been planted around the building.
So there it stands upon the hillside, not as a "ragged beggar sunning", but as a monument to the history of the past in the neighborhood, telling the story of the teaching of religion to both young and old, and of teachers trying to give the youth of the day some education under the trying experiences of cold weather, lack of heat, lack of proper books and lights, with the only thing in abundance
an energy to give and teach and learn. With the surrounding ground used as a resting place for those who gave their lives that we might enjoy this great land, what more could we ask of a tiny room, four stone walls and an acre of ground?
I wonder if I've made you see
Source of Material
Book - "Old Eagle School" by Henry Pleasants.
Page last updated: 2012-03-30 at 14:24 EST