The Early Schools of Venango
Early Venango Twp Schools
Weeks Valley School
This article was first published in the 100th Anniversary of
the Wattsburg (Erie County) Fair newspaper 1884-1984 by Gene Combs
For several years after
the county was established, the population was too small and sparse to
sustain more than a few schools. These were wholly private with parents
paying the teachers a stated sum for each of their children who attended.
By 1812 almost every village and township had one or more 'pay' schools.
The school buildings were usually put up by calling together the interested
citizens on a certain day with their teams and wagons to raise and cover
The schools were built of logs in almost every instance
and were usually very poorly arranged and ventilated. The 'schoolmasters'
were plain men who made no pretensions to a knowledge of more than the
rudimentary branches. They believed in the use of the rod and applied
it with vigor for every small offense. a ready knowledge of the three
'R's' was all that was supposed to be necessary for the average boy and
According to the Erie County History of 1884, Venango
Township had two joint and eleven full schools. The joint schools
were Wales in the northwest corner (maintained by Venango and Greene) and
Venango-Amity on the south line near the center.
The full schools were Milltown in the northeast
(belonging to the Lake Pleasant district). Phillipsville, Titus,
McNair in the northeast near the center, Lowville (a graded school), Sears
(a little northwest of Lowville), Henderson on the north. Maple Grove
on the old Erie Road, Moore on the Wattsburg and New York Road, Wicks (Weeks
Valley), Tower. Some of these schools were later known by other names.
For example, Maple Grove was later known as the Gulf School and Moore apparently
later became known as the Tracy School. Other schools not mentioned
were Macedonia, Corbin and Smith.
Originally there were two high schools in Venango
Township - one at Phillipsville and the other at Lowville. The high
school departments in these two schools were later included in the Wattsburg
High School, leaving the first eight grades in the two-room schools.
Corbin School: This
school stood on what is known as Corbin's corners on Route 8 across
from Wales Road. Little information is available, but two of the
teachers were Lois Dearing and Reinard Schlaak.
This school, situated in a grove of maple trees on the old Wattsburg Road
next to a picnic area called Maple Grove, was originally called the Maple
Grove School. Later, it was known as the Gulf School since its location
was near the twin gulfs on the road we now know as Hill Road. The
land for the school was donated by Mr. & Mrs. Longstreet with
the stipulation that when it was no longer needed for a school, it would
revert to the owners. As was the case with many of the one-room schools,
the building did double duty as a church.
Some of the early teachers were Agnes
Chaffee, Inas Allen, Maude Long Schmidt, Mabel Carson Hall, Helen Bliley,
Margery Wood Jones, Bessie Jones Cole, Mildred Jones Gallagher, and
the last teach was Bernice Emory. The school term at that
time was seven months.
The school was finally closed in April 1921
and sat empty for a year or so. Later is was purchased by Lawrence
Allen and moved to Route 89 where if formed a part of the home he built
around it. Later, his son, Bruce, had his barbershop there.
Lowville School: Lowville
School was one of the two high schools in Venango Township. Later,
when the high school at Wattsburg was remodeled and enlarged, the high
school classes were moved, leaving the lower grades in Lowville.
Some of the teachers were Edwin Tate,
Anna Keefe Blore, Gertrude Maynard, Ruby Bemis, Mable Rogers, Cora Henderson,
Lloyd Blakely, Paul Cathcart, Eva Barney, Bertha Bennett, Linn Fuller Phelps,
Ross Jones, Ethel Howard Jones, Emmett Blystone, Margaret Moore, Ruby Carroll
Brown, Erma Grover, Ellena Phillips, Ertel, Vera Hawley, Myrtle Yost Eades,
Velma Orton, Mildred Dietz, Madaline Alward, Gertrude Urch, Margaret Munsee,
Clara Patterson Dearing, Roscoe Deering, Frank Chaffee, Mae Pye, Hazel
Van Camp, Millie Hinkson, Kathryn Tracy, Agnes Chaffee and Florence
The school was finally closed in 1957
and sat idle for some time. It was purchased by W.W. Waterhouse
torn down. In its place another building was erected which was operated
as a restaurant for a brief time.
The land for the Macedonia School was given by Lonnie Eastman and
when the school was discontinued sometime in the 1930's the land reverted
to Mr. Eastman. The only teachers known at this time were
Dean, Claude Manley and Frank Chaffee.
The McNair School stood on Route 89 across from Kimball Road. Only
two teachers' names are available - Frank Chaffee, who taught there
one year and Erwin Urch. The school was finally taken down
to make way for a Penelec transformer which stands there now.
This school was erected in 1884. It had two rooms with grades 1 through
8 in the downstairs room and 9 through 12 in the upstairs. Sessions
were four months in winter and three months in summer. The high school
remained until 1924 with Emmett Blystone as the principal.
After the high school was no longer in session, the downstairs room consisted
of grades 1 through 4 and the upstairs of grades 5 through 8.
Those who served as principal of the high
school were Ross Jones, M. R. Steadman, M.M. McIntosh, Arzie Gillespie,
Theodore Parker, Ruby Bemis, Howard Webster, Leo Harrison, Pearl Feasler,
Ruth Kidder, Elsie Whitney, Milton Bonney and Emmett Blystone.
Some of the teachers who served the Phillipsville
School were Daisy Ketcham, Maude Long, Hannah Carson, Marjorie Wood,
Frances Barney, Bessie Jones, Luella Bengston, Mary Haugh, Doris Mayner,
Florence Henderson, Emmett Blystone, Alice Hooker, Doris Barney, Nora Hawley,
Daisy Rhoades, Thora Maynard (Barney), Alice Carman, Katherine Wargo (May),
Mabel Murphy, Sally Lorei and Kathryn Williams.
After the school was finally closed, the
building was converted into a home.
There are very few records concerning this school. but it is assumed it
was built around 1835. It was situated in the northern part of Venango
Township about 3 1/2 miles northwest of Lowville on land conveyed to John
H. Smith - hence the name Smith School. Some of those who taught
in this school were Bertha Orton Munsee, Fay Mabel Bemis, Ruth Hunter,
Charles Fox, Erma Grover, Margaret Gifford, Henry Orton. Mrs. Francis
Urch, Mrs. Lucinda Smith Nichols, Mildred Gavin, Velma Orton Moritz, Mrs.
Isabel Walford Rose, Kathryn Williams, Mrs. Anna Billingsley, Florence
Samkowski, Helen Brisbin, Margaret Denda, Ed Urch, Rupert Peck and
Smith School was closed in 1947 and the
school was bought by Frank Schlaak for $1,000. It was moved from
the school lot to the southeast corner of Page Road and Colt Station Road
is is now used as a tool shed.
This school stood at the southwest corner of Fuller Road and Hopson Hill
Road. It is thought to have been built about 1860 and was finally
closed in 1926. The school board furnished only a water pail and
a cup for drinking. Books, slates and chalk all had to be purchased
- usually from the Drug Store in Wattsburg.
There was segregation even in our early schools for in
this school the boys were seated on one side of the room and the girls
on the other. The teacher was paid $30.00 a month and $10.00 for
room and board.
Some of those who taught in the Titus School were Alice
Applebee, Earle Titus, Blaine Gifford, Floyd Moon, Fanny Bemis, Edith Pettit,
Grace Titus, Sabra Titus Blystone, Foster Leslie, Velma Fuller, Bertha
Orton, Josephine Corbin, Fay Bemis, Agnes Young, Earl May, Attie Peck,
Vivian McCollough, Era Bennett, Marjorie Hurst, Gladis Gates, Bess Jones,
Mildred Webb and Muriel Sanden.
Around 1818 school was held in the dwelling of B. Tracy about 1 1/2 miles
east of Wattsburg, taught by a Mr. Lewis. In 1833 a frame schoolhouse
was erected on the corner of Tanner Toad. Previous to this a log
schoolhouse had been used, taught by Amanda Tracy. Some of the teachers
in the frame schoolhouse were Norman Chapin, Mr. Pelton, Benjamin Grant,
William Wood, Sylvia Brown, Anna Blackman and Dorothy Chaffee.
After the school was no longer in use as a school, it was used as a dwelling.
The 1884 'History of Erie County' refers to a Moore School in this same
area and it is believed to be the same school as Tracy School.
There are no records to show when Wales School was started, but it was
thought to be around 1825. It had seven-month terms until 1920.
From then on there were eight- month terms. It was a typical one-room
school with all eight grades, heated by a pot-bellied stove. Like
many other similar schools. it was also the cultural center of the community
with programs and such events as box socials or pie socials held there.
Some of those who taught in Wales School were Daisy Ketcham, Fay Bemis,
Flora Dawley, Charlotte Reed, Hannah Carson, Ruby Bemis, Henry Orton, Margaret
Gifford, Ellena Phillips, Audrey Skellie, Evangeline Summerton, Violet
Maltby, Doris Maynard, Isabel Rose, Myrna Mays, Lucy Flasher, Margaret
Mulvin Munsee, Kathryn Williams, Emmett Blystone, Mary Winslow, Florence
Henderson Orton, Eva Barney and Elva Robinson. The old school
building has been remodeled and now serves a a home.
Wattsburg Borough School:
The original high school at Wattsburg was organized in 1821. The
one we know as the 'old high school' - now the Firemen's Social Hall -
was built in 1852. John Brown built the first schoolhouse
and all of the schools since then have stood on that site until the consolidated
school which was built in 1957.
Among the teachers in the early Wattsburg schools have
been a Miss Roberts, William Armstrong, Lucius Chapin, David Shafer
and Phineas Platt. Jessie Butler served as principal from 1906
until her death in an auto accident in 1923. It was through her efforts
that the four-year course was introduced. The schools in 1884 consisted
of three departments which were graded by R.P. Holliday (principal
of schools) in 1878. The average enrollment in 1884 was about 100
pupils. There were four graduates in the first class of 1884.
Among them were Effie Read Merry (grandmother of Arthur Merry)
and Jessie Hitchcock Phelps (grandmother of Jessie Bisbee
and Allen Phelps).
The Wattsburg School building served only Wattsburg Borough
and a few others who paid tuition to attend there. For many years
the first three grades were in the west room on the first floor (known
as the Primary Room). The 4th - 7th grades were in the east room
(the Intermediate Room) while the 8th - 10th grades were on the second
floor in one big room.
Every morning a chapel service with Bible reading, prayer
and songs was held in the high school room. Mrs. John Rouse
played a march on the piano while the pupils from the lower room went upstairs.
She played during the four years she was in high school.
When the four-year school course was introduced, the
second floor room had a partition built to make two class rooms and two
teachers took care of the four classes. The rooms on the first floor
then had four grades in each room.
Sometime in 1941 the old school bell and the belfry which
supported it were removed from the old part of the school building.
The bell had been on the schoolhouse as long as anyone living could remember.
It is supposed to have been new when the building was built 81 years before.
Weeks Valley School:
In the 'History of Erie County' 1884 this school was listed as Wicks which
sounds similar to Weeks. It was built sometime in 1896 with Uriah
Wiard as teacher. The school was also used for church services
and was the cultural center of the community. One of the popular
events was the spelling school which was held in the evening with the participants
vying with one another to see who was the best speller.
As the years went by, fewer children attended and it
became difficult to hire teachers for a rural school. The decision
was made to close it in 1953 and bus the children to Lowville. The
last teacher was Lawrence Pattison.
Other teachers who served Weeks Valley School were Jason
More, Bert Lewis, David Chaffee, Dona Mann, Erma Graver, Edith Sears, Janie
Urch (who later became Mrs. John Dean and taught another year
under that name), Martha Dearing, Flora Catherine Dawley, Margaret More,
Elena Phillips, Nora Chaffee, Geneva Jones, Ralph Tower, Mary Robinson
Woods, Mary Billingsley, Margaret Munsee, Mary Winslow, Lynn Fuller, Florence
Samkowski, Lorraine McLallen, Margaret Coe, Lois Kibbee, Leona Thompson,
Lethia Bisbee, Mae Pye, Olive Sammons, David Waterman, Fred Dean, Mildred
Hunt, Hugh Williams, Mildred Holmes, Charles Barnet and Margaret Rulifson.
The old building was refurbished with a new coat of paint
and now serves as a vacation cabin for some gentlemen from Pittsburgh.
to Venango Township