COLORA — In 1970, Ernest Howard endeavored to compile a history of the public schools of Cecil County from 1850 to 1958, when most small rural schools were closed. Accompanied by Morton Taylor, they toured the county looking for the locations of the old schoolhouses.
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 the eighth part of a continuing series that looks at those independent schools.
Early residents of Rising Sun were educated at the old Stone School east of town on the road to Brick Meeting House. Built in 1780, it survived for 116 years. There were 18 desks that seated two to three students. The Methodists held their meetings here before the first church was built in Rising Sun in 1854. The Stone School was torn down in 1896 despite protests and was replaced by a two-room frame building given the name Pleasant Meadows. It is located at the northwest corner of the intersection of Route 273 and the road to Farmington. The school was closed in 1920 and sold to Clement Way, who converted it into a dwelling.
Franklin School was west of Farmington on the road to Barnes Corner. The ½-acre lot was given by John McCullough and his wife to the trustees, Jehoaikim Brickley, Thomas Maxwell and William Cameron. John Calhoun was a teacher in the 1880s and wrote a number of letters criticizing the quality of the text books supplied by the county. Later teachers included Blanche Bond, Minnie Brickley, Olive Jackson and Virginia Maxwell. The schoolhouse was sold to Mrs. L.G. White in 1923 and has since been demolished.
Jefferson School was about 1 mile from Hopewell Church at Cather’s Corner. The first school was brick with two shuttered windows and a blackboard that extended the length of the rear wall. The school was named for President Thomas Jefferson and is thought to have been in existence at the same time as the third president, since Dr. Robert Brookings, who was born in 1807, attended Jefferson School. He married Mary Carter and they were the parents of the noted economist, Robert Somers Brookings. The old building was replaced by a one-room frame schoolhouse. Normally there were 25 pupils and teachers included Clara Guy, Rachel Rittenhouse, Mary Palmer, Annie Jackson, Ada Logan, Helen Thompson, Sarah Kidd and Gladys Payne. The schoolhouse was sold to Clarence Hammer in 1943 and converted into a dwelling.
The Chapel School was on Dr. Jack Road close to the junction with Jacob Tome Highway and near Cummings’ Tavern at Battle Swamp. It was named from a chapel east of St. Mary Anne’s Church in North East. There was an early schoolhouse that was replaced by a frame building built by Lewis Pusey in 1888. A former principal recalled that a pot-bellied stove sat in the middle of the school room and the teacher’s desk sat on a warped platform. There was a spring in the woods behind the schoolhouse called Indian Spring where they got their water. Teachers included Martha Biddle, Blanche Bond, Belle Vanneman, Annie Williams, Ruth Miller, Helen Shepherd, Mary Durgin and Helen Wright. The school house was sold to Walter Robinson in 1941 and converted into a dwelling.
Martha Biddle was a pioneer teacher at Chapel Hill, who began her career in 1853. She taught in the public schools continually until her retirement in 1896. She was granted a pension of $10 a month for the remainder of her life by a special Act of the Legislature. The act stated that she “imparted instruction to more than 4,300 pupils of both sexes.” She died in 1906.
Monroe School was a ½ mile north of West Nottingham on the road to Harrisville. It was named for the Rev. James Munroe who was pastor of West Nottingham Presbyterian Church in 1786 and a large landowner. It is believed that the first school was built in 1800 and a well-known teacher was Basil Hanna. During this period, people had to create their own entertainment and debating societies flourished in some communities. Debates were held in schoolhouses and Monroe was noted for its debates. The schoolhouse was sold to Bertha Tyson in 1923 and converted into a dwelling.
The first mention of a school in Rising Sun is a frame building dated from 1830 and was erected on a lot donated by Jacob Reynolds. In 1864, the citizens of Rising Sun sent a petition to the School Commissioners deeming the school unfit and offering to donate $300 toward a new school and volunteered to haul the stones and brick needed to build it. The proposal was accepted and the school was built on Pearl Street. The first teacher was William Topham, who drilled the boys in military tactics during the noon-hour. Later teachers included John Reynold, Charles Pyle, Basil Hanna, Ada Haines, Hannah Owens, the Rev. William Koons and Walter Lindsay. There is nothing remaining of the school.
Oak Grove School was in the Harrisville area 1 mile due west from Red Pump Road and ½ mile below the Mason-Dixon Line. The school house was built by J.W. McCardell in 1877. Teachers included Ella Haines, Pearl Gorrell, Eleanor Jenness, Anna Gehr, Maude Fell and Lillian Grubb. At the time of this survey, the remodeled schoolhouse was owned and occupied by Burton Boyd, a former pupil, who bought it in 1931.
The New Bridge School was in a secluded spot on Horseshoe Road off U.S. Route 1. It is a frame building with three shuttered windows and a flight of eight concrete steps to the front door which faces the Octoraro Creek. The building was sold to G.C. Delp in 1938 and in 1970 was standing vacant.
Hickory Grove School stood on the north side of McCauley Road about 1 mile west of Vinegar Hill. A building lot containing 65 square perches was conveyed to the School Commissioners in 1867 by Robert Nesbitt. The first session was held in the new schoolhouse in 1868. The West Nottingham Presbyterian Church sponsored a Sunday School in the schoolhouse for many years. Edwin Quigley was the first teacher followed by Emma Moore, Davis Richardson, John Nesbitt, Nona Dean, Margaret Trimble, Mabel Wiley, Rose Graham, Roberta Graham, Sarah Miller, Bertha Astle, Blanch Hill and Margaret Craig. The building was sold to Mildred Nesbitt in 1929 and converted into a dwelling.
Liberty Grove School was on Route 269 just above Basin Run and the P&BC Railroad. It was built in 1880 by S.M. McCardell. Teachers included Belle Nesbitt, Kathryn Keesey, Grace Rawlings, Elnora Martindale and Estelle Wood. The schoolhouse was sold to the Church of God in 1954.
Love Run School was on Lippincott Road about 1 mile north of Colora. Love Run is a small stream nearby that flows into the Octoraro Creek. The school was conveyed to the School Commissioners in 1859 by Torbert Morrison, John Richards and Thomas Fryer, who were all trustees of Octoraro Temperance Hall. Teachers included Bessie Thompson, Beatrice Riley, Lena Fulton, Maud Reynolds and Carmen Price. The school was closed in 1923 and the pupils transported to Colora. The brick building was sold to Deborah Jackson in 1924 and converted into a dwelling.
The first school in Colora to serve the general public was Waring’s Friends’ School. The minutes of Nottingham Preparative Meeting record that on March 14, 1854, William Waring and wife conveyed to the Meeting trustees a lot containing 100 square perches of land — almost ¾ of an acre — on which a schoolhouse had been erected and in successful operation for several years. A duplicate deed for this lot was recorded in 1868. The Colora Friends School survived until 1908, having been carried on up to that time as a private school for the children of Friends. The first public school was opened in 1890 in the parish church just north of Colora which was rented by the School Commissioners for $75 a year. The first public school in Colora was erected by S.M. McCardell in 1898. Among its first teachers were Annie Jackson, Hannah Ownes, Leora Tosh and Annie Fryer. The original frame building contained only one room which was later divided into two. It was closed in 1958 and sold in 1959 to the First Church of Christ in Cecil County.