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.
The New Valley School was one-half mile southeast of Rock Springs on Connelly Road. A school lot of one- half acre was conveyed to the School Commissioners by Joseph Preston in 1860. In 1882, a new schoolhouse was built by S.M. McCardell. It was a frame building with three shuttered windows on each side and a small vestibule surmounted by a flag staff. The teachers at New Valley included James Hanna, Naomi Vandegrift, Ada Brown; Estelle Wood, and Etta Gamble. The schoolhouse was sold to the Rock Springs Friendship Club in 1955.
The school at the Pilottown intersection was a large frame building with a belfry. The school came into being when George Gillespie sold a ¾ acre lot to the School Commissioners in 1859. Some of the teachers were Ellen Shannon, Beulah Creswell, Erma Smith, Jessie Bruce, Marguerite Zimmers, Edna Pierce, Dolly King, and Eula Lee Bartlett. The school closed in 1954 and the building was sold to James Dishman. This was the last one-room schoolhouse to close, ending an era in the history of education.
The Oakwood School was originally known as the Log Cabin School. It is about .25 mile east of the crossroads at Oakwood on Rt. 273 leading to Richardsmere. The teacher for many years was Jacob Warner, a veteran of the Civil War, and one of his pupils was a future Governor of the State, Austin Crothers.
A high school of two grades was established at Oakwood in 1923 but was discontinued in 1925. The eleven pupils who had enrolled were transported to Rising Sun. Mrs. Helen Wells Wright was appointed principal in 1925. The school was sold in 1946 to Ernest Burlin and converted to a residence.
The Grove Hill School at Bay View was a one-room frame building located midway between Shelemiah Church and the bridge at Gilpin’s Rocks. An earlier school which appears in the Atlas of 1877 was replaced in 1892 by a new and larger building, with Fanny Mahoney as the teacher. Later teachers were Sue Gamble Shermer, Cora Burns, and Mary Mahoney. The school was closed in 1923 and after being rented to the Bay View Homemakers’ Club for several years, it was sold to that organization in 1939. It was eventually turned into a dwelling.
The Grove School was located east of Zion on a side road leading to Dr. Miller Road. Ground for the first school was purchased from John and Nancy Carhart in 1834. An American flag was raised at Grove School in 1893 by the American Mechanics Lodge of North East while en route to Calvert to participate in a celebration of the 79th anniversary of the battle of North Point. The flag was accepted by Sarah Miller, who was the teacher at the time. Later teachers were Ethel Miller, Etta Wiley, Naomi Vandegrift, Mabel Barber, Ruth Murray, Ida Cameron, Estelle Wood, Lillian Russell, Rose Kshir, and Agnes McCommons. The schoolhouse was sold to Rev. J.W. Prettyman in 1938 and converted into a dwelling.
The Victoria School was on the road from Pleasant Hill to Blue Ball, near Kirk’s Mill on Little North East Creek. The frame schoolhouse was built in 1885 on a lot donated by Samuel Kirk and was named in honor of his wife Victoria. Attendance ranged from 40 to 50 pupils and the teachers were Ruth Sidwel, Lera White, Eva Vinsinger, Annie Ramsey, Eva Foard, Annie Williams, Elinore Nesbitt, Margaret Wiley, Harriett Gatchell, Mabel Leonard, Bessie Squier, Bessie Wiley, Lois Garey, Bessie Hartnett, and Anna Murray. The building was sold to Henry Kinslow in 1939, but was burned before the title was transferred and the insurance was collected by the School Commissioners.
The Butler School at College Green was a one-room frame building with a belfry and a flag staff. The ground was deeded by John Slicer to Thomas Slicer, Elisha Kirk and John Crothers, trustees in 1825 for one silver piece (twenty-five cent value). The survey of the lot began at a stone called the “Butler” stone near William Kirk’s fulling mill and this is where the school derived its name. Teachers included M. Etta Wiley, Helen Wells, Harriett Miller, Florence Warner, Muriel Dean, and Emma Haller. The building was sold to Harvey Simmers in 1932 and converted into a dwelling.
The Rosebank School was the first public school at Brick Meeting House and was conducted on the first floor of the hall, which was built around 1845, and stood in the center of the present Rosebank Cemetery. In order to enlarge the cemetery, the hall was moved in 1883 across the road, and after being used for Grange meetings it was eventually razed to make way for the Calvert Manor Nursing Home. A new frame schoolhouse was erected on the south side of Nottingham road by Nathan Lackland. Miss Ettie Martindell Simpers was the first teacher in the new school. Rosebank School was closed when the Calvert Agricultural High School was opened in 1906. The school house was turned into a dwelling and was the residence of Mr. & Mrs. Paul England in 1970.
The Cherry Grove School was southwest of Sylmar off Route 273. The lot for the first school was deeded to the trustees in 1847 from William McCullough. It was a brick building with a ten-foot ceiling.
Cherry Grove School appears on the 1858 map and was probably so named because the deed described the bounds of the lot as beginning at a cherry tree in Knight’s field “on the north side of the road from Brick Meeting House to Bald Friar”. A new frame schoolhouse, using salvaged bricks and stone from the old schoolhouse, was built in 1881 by Jackson Bros. Early teachers were Norville Brown, Mary Carhart, Jennie Stephens, Carrie Keilholtz, Annie Tyson, Ida Brown, Mary Passmore, and Lera White. It was noted that in 1879 Miss Norville Brown received an annual salary of $78 for teaching 14 boys and 15 girls. The school was closed in 1931 and the pupils transported to Calvert. The building was sold to Paul Cameron in 1938.
The Wood Valley School was on Shelton Road southwest of Lombard. On October 10, 1902, while classes were being taught by Miss Mabel Leonard, the roof caught on fire and the schoolhouse and its contents, with the exception of one desk, were destroyed. A new schoolhouse was erected by J. Frank Simpers and an additional $20 was added to include a belfry. The schoolhouse was sold to Raymond Cameron in 1923.
The White Oak School was a one-room frame building about one mile southwest of Brick Meeting House on the road to Port Deposit. Amassa Churchman deeded the half acre lot to the trustees in 1853. A large white oak that stood on the playground gave the school its name, however, the tree was blown down in a wind storm in 1911. Teachers included Mary Paul, Mary Cameron, Lera White, Ella Griffith, Lillian Hartnett, Helen Wells Wright, Ruth Crothers, and Lavenia Edwards. The schoolhouse was sold to Charles Trail in 1924 and was converted into a dwelling.
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. Mondays and Thursdays, and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month, except holiday weekends and federal holidays.