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Tribute to the 3 Rs

  • Nancy Thatcher of the Lehigh Township Historical Society accepts a book, "The One-room Schoolhouse," from Lenny Szy of the Lower Saucon Historical Society.
    Nancy Thatcher of the Lehigh Township Historical Society accepts a book, "The One-room Schoolhouse," from Lenny Szy of the Lower Saucon Historical Society.
Published July 16. 2010 05:00PM

A simple, one-roomschool was built in connection with St. Paul's Indianland Union Church in 1865.

One hundred and forty-five years later, it's back in the business of education.

After years spent renovating the schoolhouse, the Lehigh Township Historical Society reopened it as a teaching tool.

The school was in use until 1951. It is still owned by the church, now a United Church of Christ church, and is leased by the society.

Beverly Putt said financially the work is only half completed with new gutters, repointing of the bricks and other major renovations still needed. However, it has been completed to the point where visitors can come see what school was like 140 years ago.

Doris Whitney, a one-room-school teacher in New York, looked at the front of the room and said, "With George (Washington) in his place, everything is okay."

Putt said, "We didn't have to buy many things."

They were donated including 26 desks. The society cleaned and, when needed, repaired them.

Catherine Uhmak Greene said she and her brother Vincent attended the school. She remembers carrying water from a nearby farm and playing baseball where the church parking lot is now located.

Nancy Thatcher welcomed members from other historical societies who came to share Lehigh Township's big moment. She said the men did the work inside the school and the women planned the dedicatory day.

The next project for the historical society is to add to the museum, she said.

St. Paul's School was typical of those of the 1860s. They were usually near a church, which ran the school. The first schools were of logs buildings erected by the settlers but by 1865 there were brick masons and carpenters. The school had glass windows that opened and closed for heating and cooling. Coat hooks in the rear of the room held outer clothing during the school day. The youngest kids sat in the front of the room.

They learned the three R's: reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic. Earlier, the third R was for religious studies.

Reading was stressed so children could read the Bible. The ability to write indicated a cultured person and arithmetic was necessary for trading.

If you were left-handed, students had their hands smacked so they would learn to write with the right hand.

Grammar and spelling classes were added leading to spelling bees as a form of entertainment as well as study. World geography was the last subject to be added.

The teachers were men because school boards were afraid women would marry, become pregnant, and leave. Then the men went off to the Civil War and the field was opened to women.

Moravian and Lafayette colleges were the first to train teachers. Prior to that a teacher had only to be able to read and write.

Corporal discipline was used in the schools, and was emphasized when parents repeated the punishment.

The schools had to belong to the Grange so students learned modern methods of farming.

At first there were only three to four months of school because students were needed at home on the farm. However, teachers demanded a longer school year and it was raised to six months.

Paper, slate boards, inkwells, quills and blotting paper were available, but textbooks were very expensive. Lunches were carried in kitchen tins the refreshments for the event were what students may have carried in their lunch boxes.

And yes, students really did have to walk miles through the snow, said Thatcher.

Pastor Martin Nuscher said the German Reformist settlers believed education should be for all, not just the elite who could afford to pay for it. He said he saw the school at its worst and today will see it at its best.

For the dedication, Randy Lentz played the "Star Spangled Banner" on the trumpet as the flag was held in the front of the room.

Putt said she appreciated everyone who came out for the day. She asked members of the society to stand and be recognized. The school had been partially renovated in the early 1970s. That work was torn out and replaced with something closer to the period of 1930 which the society attempted to convey.

Elsie Kleppinger's older sister attended the school. Elsie made several donations to the historical society.

Whitney is 90-years old. She taught for three years and then quit to become a Rosy the Riveter with Gruman aircraft. She said when her grandfather taught, the teenagers ran him out of the school.

The replacement said he was not leaving and laid his pistol on the desk. She said one day per month a minister came to the school to teach religion.

Rules for a female teacher included: to not marry, to be home from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m., not to loiter downtown, not to travel beyond city limits, not to wear bright clothing, no dyed hair, could not ride in a carriage or automobile, must wear at least two petticoats and dresses could only be two inches above the ankle.

As a group walked uphill to the school, one of the men said, "We walked up here in winter - two steps forward and one step back."

St. Paul's Indianland Church is located across Route 248 from Municipal Road about two miles from Berlinsville.

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