Home : Quarterly Archives : Volume 7
Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
Source: February, 1953 Volume 7 Number 4, Pages 95–99
Two centuries of Tredyffrin schools, 1700-1900
The earliest settlers in Tredyffrin Township had little time for education, since the few who had settled here about 1700 were more than busy felling trees in order to make this great tract a livable place. I might say, however, that a few children probably attended the Camp School which, history tells us, was built in 1705 on land belonging to Letitia Penn, and now a part of Valley Forge Park.
Two schools were started between 1705 and 1720. Most of the early schools were started in connection with the churches, and the pastor served as schoolteacher as well as minister. The Great Valley Baptist Church was founded in 1711 on the east side of the Valley Forge Road; soon a one-room school and stable were built across the road. The Great Valley Presbyterian Church having been organized about 1714, a school was started in connection with it.
In 1720 the first Howellville School, a one-story building on the North Side of Swedesford Road, was built on land purchased from the Davis family for five grains of pepper. This was the year that a survey was ordered from the Conestoga Road in the neighborhood of the General Warren Inn to Moore's Mill (Downingtown), the road to be known as the Lancaster Road. At this time the officials in charge of Tredyffrin Township were one constable and one overseer of the poor. In 1737 we had thirty-two people registered in Tredyffrin; this probably means there were about thirty families.
About 1750 the Wayne School was opened by Gilbert Wayne, an uncle of Anthony Wayne; the latter was born on January 1, 1745, and attended his uncle Gilbert's school. Thus by 1750 we had the Great Valley Baptist School, the Great Valley Presbyterian School, the Howellville School, the Wayne School, and probably a school at Great Valley Friends Meeting.
Still standing in Strafford we find the Old Eagle School Building suns itself. The first Old Eagle School was started in 1767 and was just half the size of the one standing now; it was enlarged in 1788. I might also mention the first Glassley School built just east of Berwyn
in 1808. This school was in Easttown Township, but children from the vicinity of Berwyn seemed to attend, and so I mention it.
Up until 1809 all schools were pay-schools, the cost being about three cents a day. In 1809 a law was passed requiring the County to provide free education for all children between the ages of five and twelve years whose parents were unable to pay for their education. This meant that parents must declare themselves paupers in order to have the County pay for the education of their children, and so the children of proud parents did not attend school.
1818 brought the erection of the Octagonal or Diamond Rock School (still standing). This school was built by subscription, people giving from 50 cents to $30.00 or labor. The cost of the school was $258.36. On May 15th. 1832, a deed was granted for one-third of an acre of ground to build the Carr School. The deed was for 999 years. The school is still standing at Mount Pleasant on Gulph Road.
In 1834 a law was passed by Pennsylvania creating the Public School system. There were forty-four School Districts in Chester County, and seventeen of them adopted the Public School System, Tredyffrin Township being one of them.
Let's take a look at progress. It is now 1850, and three schools have been added to those early ones, Glassley, Diamond Rock, and Carr.
In 1852 the Mount Airy School was built at Daylesford, Many children from Berwyn walked to Daylesford to that school; Franklin L. Burns often told of his school days there. In 1856 a two-story school was built at Howellville in place of the original one-story one.
Let's take another look at the size of the community the Census of 1857 states, "Whole number of white, 451; whole number of colored, 24." In 1861 the County Superintendent reported to Harrisburg two unfit schools and two fit schools in Tredyffrin.
In 1863 Salem School was opened on Yellow Springs Road in the northwestern Section of the Township; this school was also known as Tablet School. The same year the Walker School was built on Yellow Springs Road in the northeastern section. During this year Diamond Rock School
closed. The second Carr School was built in 1866; this building was later used as a Church and Sunday School, and has a cemetery attached. Just down the road a quarter of a mile the School Board purchased in 1868 ground for the Mount Pleasant School. The building is still standing.
In 1870 the School Board levied a two and one half mill tax. These were busy days for School Directors, as more room seemed to be needed all the time for education.
On April 25th, 1871, ground was purchased from Pechin on Gulph and West Valley Roads, where Strafford School was built in 1872, it was a one-room school; 1872 found the School Board building Fairview School on land purchased from William Walker (now a residence on Route 202).
Let us see how much money was being spent by our School Board in 1872. The tax duplicate that year was $8,291.09, coal cost $5.40 a ton, and the State appropriation was $227.04. The minutes say that "It was moved that the teacher make the fires at his own expense.
Twenty-five years have passed since our last resume in 1850, Old Eagle, Wayne, and Diamond Rock Schools have been closed. In use are Mount Airy, Second Howellville, Salem, Walker, Second Carr, Fairview, and Strafford Schools.
The Strafford School burned in 1885, and a two room school replaced the old one-room building. In 1888 Commencement Exercises for Glassley School were held in the Baptist Chapel, Berwyn, at which time
there were eighty-eight pupils enrolled at the school. However there were only sixty seats in the school, so it seemed time to close this school which was sold the same year to Mr. C. N. Thorpe for $1,554.65. A room was rented in 1890 from Ida Hall on Maple Avenue, Paoli, for the first Paoli School and in 1892 the first one-room school in Berwyn was built on Conestoga Road; it was known as the North Berwyn School.
In 1893 the School Board purchased ground on Darby Road in Paoli for a school. The people did not like the location so the lot was exchanged for one on Chestnut Road, and the first Paoli School was built and opened with fifty-seven pupils on roll. The same year the Board enlarged the North Berwyn School to four rooms. In 1895 the second story was added to Strafford School. About this time the School Board turned the Old Eagle School, long out of use and in a dilapidated condition, over to Trustees appointed by the Courts who put the building back in good condition in 1897.
And now in 1900 - twenty-five years later - we find Glassley School sold, Carr School closed, North Berwyn and Paoli Schools added to the system. We had High School classes both in Paoli and Strafford School, but our first High School was still eight years in the distance and our Junior High still further from existence.
Two hundred years of changing times - greatly increased population, a demand for higher education and compulsory education - necessitated all of these changes, but one name still stands as it did two hundred years ago- Tredyffrin - meaning "Valley Town". A township of peoples of the Valley as well as of towns upon the hills where betterment of community and the important things of life stand as they did when this first became the Welsh Tract and our forefathers used the sweat of their brows to make what we now have possible.
An address delivered by Mildred F. Fisher at the dedication of the New Strafford School on January 15, l952.
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