Mrs. Betty Burkhart
Nanty Glo Journal
June 4, 1942
It is interesting to call
to mind the beginning of free education in Pennsylvania, for prior to
that time the only schools we had here were organized and kept up
entirely by the parents of the children attending.
Before 1834 free education was an unheard of thing here and parents
taught their children at home or secured the teacher and she (or he) was
"boarded around" among the parents, each taking their turn, paying the
teacher very little, usually ten to twelve dollars a month. However,
the subjects "reading, writing and arithmetic" were very thoroughly
taught, and usually singing was included. That is one reason why most
of our older residents can read music so well. Writing was another
subject in which the children were drilled, although it was thought
unnecessary for girls to know as much about it as boys, so sometimes
they were neglected. Arithmetic, or "sums" were given orally and slates
were used by the pupils, being kept clean by a moist rag, (sometimes
saliva), and books were furnished by the parents.
At an opening of the 1833-34 session of the
General Assembly a bill was introduced to provide free education for all
the children of Pennsylvania. The bill was bitterly opposed, many
saying they would educate their own children but not their neighbors.
The bill was passed, however, but repealed in 1934-35. It seemed to be
lost when Thaddeus Stevens from Adam county arose in its defense and
changed the opinion of many of the members. The bill was finally passed
with a vote of 55 in its favor and 30 against it. In Cambria county we
note with pleasure six were for it with just one against it.
Following the passage of
this act the schools advanced much more rapidly and every child was
entitled to an education regardless of whether or not their parents were
able to pay for it. State aid was given to the schools, practically a
gift on the part of the state. According to "100 years of Free Public
Schools," money was distributed on the basis of the number of taxables
and each district was supposed to raise by local taxation at least
double that amount.
In 1903 and act regarding
teachers salaries was passed, requiring the minimum salary to be
$35.00 per month. In 1919 under the Woodruff Bill, another increase was
noted, and in 1941 a bill was passed giving the teacher a minimum salary
of $1,000 a year. The school directors organized in 1891. The first
teacher's institute was held in 1867, or a little later.
In the early days teachers
were examined by the school directors and as in those days they were not
all of high education. They were often not qualified to give the
tests. The teacher had to be able to teach the three important
subjects, however. Many of our older citizens in the township taught
school when they were sixteen years of age, frequently to pupils much
older than themselves. Among those who taught school in their youth and
who are well known, were Harry Burkhart, Mrs. Flora Custer, former
sheriff Cyrus Davis and his father, Wm. Davis, James Singer, (former
recorder of deeds and register of wills), Ruby Stiles, Sam Snyder, Harry
Lowman, Ruth Bartle, Mattie Rose, William Rose, and a Mr. Torrance.
In 1887 Jackson township
had 10 schools with "5 male and 5 female" teachers. At that time the
average school term, was five months and the males received thirty
dollars a month with the females receiving twenty-five for the same
period. At that time there were 303 children attending school.
Schools listed prior to that were Duncan, Dishong,
Chickaree, Clinefelter, Wagoner, Jack Rager, Pike (or Gray), Burkhart,
Leidy, Brown and Vinco. In later years some of these schools were
discontinued. A school was located near what is known to this day as
the school house flats, near the bend of road below Chickaree. James
Singer taught school there for two years. Some of his boys were as
large as he and he would relate how during the winter they would come to
the school with their rifles over their shoulders and at noon would hunt
for wild game in the surrounding woods. This old building was of log
construction and was finally torn down and another one was built near
the site of the present one at Chickaree. The logs were used in
building a spring house on the David Leidy farm in that community.
A school building once
stood in Leidy's Lane which was called the Leidy school, being on the
Henry Leidy farm. It stood about 200 yards from the present barn
located at that place. Later this school was moved to Mundy's Comer
where it was used for several years, until the present structure was
built. Blair Singer bought and remodeled the old Leidy school building
and it has been the home of the Singer family since.
To Be Continued Next Week
Back to top