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The Early Schools of Venango Township
Early Venango Twp Schools
Corbin School
Gulf School
Lowville School
Macedonia School
McNair School
Phillipsville School
Smith School
Titus School
Tracy School
Wales School
Wattsburg School
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 structure.
    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 girl.
    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.
Gulf School:  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 Rosencrans.
    The school was finally closed in 1957 and sat idle for some time.  It was purchased by W.W. Waterhouse and torn down.  In its place another building was erected which was operated as a restaurant for a brief time.
Macedonia School:  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 Janie Dean, Claude Manley and Frank Chaffee.
McNair School:  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.
Phillipsville School:   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.
Smith School:  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 Emmett Blystone.
   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.
Titus School:  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.
Tracy School:  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.
Wales 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.

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