CECIL COUNTY — In 1970, Mr. Ernest Howard endeavored to compile a history of the public schools of Cecil County from 1850-1958 when most small rural schools were closed. Accompanied by Mr. Morton Taylor, they toured the county looking for the locations of the old school houses. There was not a unified school system in Cecil County until 1859.
Prior to that, the schools were built by contributions of land, labor and materials. The subscribers selected a Board of Trustees who had the power to hire and fire teachers and dictate the studies. This is part of a continuing series.
Whitaker’s School was on the north side of the Old Post Road (Rt. 7) near the residence of George Whitaker at Principio Furnace. At different periods three structures have served for school purposes.
The first of these was a little red building which the Methodists in the area used as a meeting house as early as 1843. The second was a frame building that sat close to the highway and was still standing in 1970, however it was in a dilapidated condition. It was used as a band-room and later as a cottage after a new two-room building was erected in August 1890 by Lewis Pusey. When the two-room school was closed, one side was used as a lodge room and the other side served as a community center. Miss Roberta Graham was a teacher for many years and later maintained her association with the school by having an annual reunion which she held with her former pupils. In 1970, the schoolhouse had become Grace Baptist Church.
The first “Perryville School” was north of the town, near Frenchtown, close to the bank of the Susquehanna River. It was a frame building with a vertical type of weatherboarding. Samuel Tammany was an early principal. In this schoolhouse the earliest services of the Presbyterians of Perryville were conducted by the Rev. John Squier of Port Deposit.
In the 1800s it was sold to Noah Keesey, who occupied it as a dwelling. The building was still standing and in good condition in 1970. A new frame schoolhouse was built on Susquehanna Avenue. Theodore Currier was principal of this school and some of the teachers were: Martha Biddle; Sallie Nickle; Mary Patton; Belle Vanneman; Hannah Whitelock and Isabel McCay. In September 1909, a brick school for all grades was opened and after two additions it was used as an elementary school and a third schoolhouse was built to be used as the new high school that opened in January 1929.
The first school at Blythedale was a square stone one-room building with a stove pipe through the center of the roof. It was known as “The Partridge Trap” and also as “Jackson’s Schoolhouse”, because it was built by members of the Jackson family and used as a private school before being taken over by the County School Commissioners.
In it, the Methodists held meetings before Asbury Church was built in 1830. When the stone school was torn down it was replaced by a two-room frame building in which classes were held for the first time in the fall of 1889.
The contractor was George Jackson. Teachers at Blythedale included: Edward Coale; William Rogers; Alexander Jackson; Mrs. Theo W. Currier; Niles Haynes; Oliver Currier; Ella Staats; Lillie Buchenhart; Hannah Whitelock; Belle Husfelt; Ellen Price; Ella Lynch; Mary Cosgrove; Annie Patterson and Pauline Kirk. The building was sold to Edward Jackson in 1929 and enlarged to become a dwelling and a store.
The second Franklin (or Independent) School stood on the east side of the road from Port Deposit to Battle Swamp near what was once the farm of the late Frank Everist, but is now in the center of the former Bainbridge Naval Training Station. The location of this school is indicated on the County Atlas of 1877. The attendance declined due to the proximity of the Jacob Tome Institute, and it was closed in 1911 with Miss Benigna Hohn being the last teacher. The schoolhouse was a frame building which was still standing when the area was acquired by the U.S. Government in 1942.
The Linwood School stood on the east side of the road from Port Deposit to Liberty Grove (MD 269) not far from the home of the late Dr. Jack. The lot for this school was sold to the School Commissioners in 1869 by William and Albina Patton. Linwood School was closed in 1911 because of lack of attendance due to the competition posed by the Jacob Tome Institute. Beatrice Riley was the last teacher. The building was sold to Mr. Patton in 1917 and demolished.
Chesnut Grove School, often referred to as “Tick Ridge”, was near Woodlawn Camp meeting ground on the north side of the road from Fisher’s Run to Jenness’s mill. It was opened in 1869 with Mollie Williams as teacher for 28 boys and 15 girls. Her salary was $90 for a term of ten weeks. The schoolhouse was a long frame building of upright weatherboards. The boys carried drinking water from a spring about a quarter of a mile distance.
Teachers at Chestnut Grove included: John Turner; John Campbell; Bertha (Kidd) Terry; Maggie Davenport; Jennie McCall; Ella Staats; Ella Thompson; Annie Jackson; Annie Williams; Beulah Creswell; Ella Lynch; Helen Thompson; Elizabeth Tyson; Mrs. Ella Gibson and Agnes McCommons. The school was closed in 1927 and the building was sold to Hugh Falls in 1930. It has since been demolished.
If you would like to learn more about Cecil County history, stop by and check out the Historical Society. We’re open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Thursdays, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month, except holiday weekends and federal holidays.