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Early Schools

The history of the early schools in Somerset County is not well documented. Prior to the establishment of free public schools, the difficulties in educating the young people is understandable. In some instances, poverty played a role; a family dedicated to seeing that it is fed, clothed, and sheltered did not have time nor money to spend on education. In a sparsely populated agricultural society, the children were needed to help with the farm work. Consequently, the school classes could only be held during the Winter months when the farms could spare them, but this precluded the younger children from attending while the weather was inclement and the walk to school might be as far as five miles distant. In addition, there was a lack of suitable textbooks.

Early schools were taught in private homes, in homes no longer habitable, or in very rudimentary log cabins built for that purpose by a settlement of people. In some cases the churches doubled as schoolhouses for the members' children.

William H. Welfley, in History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania, Vol. II, (The Lewis Publishing Co, New York:Chicago, 1906), on pages 360-361 states:

"Most of the earlier schools in Quemahoning township, as it now exists, were taught in private houses or in old cabins and houses that had been abandoned and were afterward put in some sort of repair. A well-to-do citizen would very often employ some one competent, or at least supposed to be competent, to teach the children of his own family, and would necessarily have to provide a room of some kind for the teacher's use. Frequently the children of the nearer neighbors would also be permitted to come to the school. This custom probably prevailed to a greater or less extent all over the county. These schools would be in English or German, according to the preference of the person employing the teacher.

"Henry Stauffer was one of the earliest known teachers in this part of the county. He had served as a soldier in the Revolutionary war, after which he appears to have adopted teaching school as a profession. As early as 1798 it is known that he taught school in a church at Stoyestown. This probably was a Reformed church, as that denomination appears to have already had an organized congregation there at that time. The teacher would seem to have lived in the church, or in some part of the building, while engaged in teaching. Some years later this church burned down, and it is quite likely that Mr. Stauffer was the teacher at that time, because in an application for a pension on account of his Revolutionary services, he sets forth that his certificate of discharge was lot through fire. An old dwelling house that stood on the lot now owned by John F. Bender was next used as a school house. Mr. Stauffer taught school in this house also. The late Hon. Michael Zimmerman was one of his pupils when he taught in it. From all that can now be learned of Henry Stauffer he appears to have been one among the best qualified of our early teachers. Our first knowledge of him dates back to 1798. However, it cannot well be doubted that he followed the teacher's avocation from a much earlier period; we also know of his having taught schools at other place[s] than Stoyestown. The first house built in Stoyestown as a school house was erected in 1810. It was of round logs and its furniture was of the crudest type. This house was torn down in 1828 and a better house was built in place of it. Its site has been used for school purposes from that day to this.

"Other early teachers who lived in Quemahoning township that we know of were: Thomas Eliot, in 1811; John Snyder, in 1825; Elijah Bills, in 1829; Peter Jamison and John Penrod, in 1831; and John Miller, in 1834. All of these men appear to have followed teaching as an occupation, but the writer is not able to name any particular locality where they taught. Elijah Bills frequently served in the office of township assessor, from which we may infer that he was as well qualified as most other teachers of that day. The late Colonel Samuel W. Pearson was also one of those whose career as a teacher began before the acceptance of the common school law. He taught at least one or more terms in Stoyestown, and we hear of him elsewhere as a teacher. Later he entered the legal profession. He also served a term in the Senate of Pennsylvania. Jenner township was formed out of a part of Quemahoning in 1812. As tradition has it, the first school was organized and taught by Moses Fream in 1804. He had his school in a room on the second floor of his own house, which was a large log building, about one mile west of Stanton's mill."

The Common School Law of 1834

In 1831, the Pennsylvania legislature provided a fund for common schools. In 1834, the legislature passed an act which established a system of education by common schools. The act provided that each of the several counties would comprise a school division, and the several wards, boroughs and townships a school district; annual elections in each school district to choose a board of school directors were to be held; the means for levying taxes, and other empowerments for building schoolhouses and employing teacher, etc.

There was some opposition to the Common School Act, especially by large taxpayers who did not want to support the education of the children of their poorer neighbors. In Quemahoning Township, the free-school system was adopted in 1840; in Stoyestown Borough in 1838. The school directors of that time were: John Graham, John Hite, George Hartzell, Jonathan Statler, Martin E. Barnett, and James Waugh.

School Districts

The following School Districts are shown on the map of Quemahoning Township (pp. 30-31) in The 1876 County Atlas of Somerset Pennsylvania, originally published by F.W. beers & Co, reproduced 1994 by The Historical and Genealogical Society of Someset County, Inc, Somerset, PA.

Texas District No. 1
Noah Shaffer District No. 2
Walnut Hill District No. 3
Muller District No. 4
District No. 5 [appears to be in Hooversville, but the school there is No. 11]
Shaffer District No. 6
Bowman District No. 7
Ober District No. 8
Mongs District No. 9
California District No. 10

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