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Sara's Roots and Twigs

The Little Red Schoolhouse

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The First Graded and Free Schools in Armstrong County; Academies in Armstrong County

The following passages were taken from "Armstrong County Pennsylvania: Her People, Past and Present" (Chicago, 1914, J.H. Beers and Co.), pp 60-61.


The first graded school in this county came into operation by accident and the action of a set of far-sighted and independent school directors, whose names we are sorry not to be able to record. In 1859, the inhabitants of Allegheny township petitioned the directors to establish another school near Stitt's mill, as the one then in use had become overcrowded. Instead of doing as requested the directors erected a new building near the old one and graded the school. For this innovation they were haled before the court, which very properly dismissed the complaint at the expense of the complainants.


Before the passing of the free school act there was a record in 1828 of an appropriation by the county for the sum of $9.53, to pay the tuition of poor children. So it seems that the early settlers were as loath as the present taxpayers to expose their poverty by applying for free tuition. All this was eliminated by the free schools, and now the children of the rich and poor are all on the same footing, even to the point of free books, and sometimes, in other States, of free meals at noon.

Picture of an old bottle of ink

As required by the act of 1834, the first meeting of the board of school directors was held in the courthouse at Kittanning in November of that year, with eleven delegates present. The Plum Creek district was not represented. The roster of delegates was: Jacob Mechling, Franklin township; James Adams, Sugar Creek; George Means, Toby; Samuel Marshall, Perry; John Calhoun, Wayne; Jacob McFadden, Clarion; Sherman Bills, Kiskiminetas; James McCall, Freeport; John Ridley, Red Bank; and James Hindman, Franklin.

The first levy made was for a tax of $1,920.18, or double the amount appropriated by the State.

The growth of the schools was fairly rapid for the state of the county. In 1840 there were fourteen school districts and 120 schools, which were kept open for four months of the year. In 1858 there were one less than a hundred schools; the number of months taught was four and a half; average salaries of teachers, male, $24, female, $18 per month. The tax levied was $22,000, the number of scholars was 9,500 and the cost per month for teaching each scholar was 48 cents.

In 1876 the schools had increased to 261, it cost 76 cents to fill each little brain with knowledge each month, the sessions were five and one-half months, the average salaries of the men were $41 and the ladies $34. There were in attendance in the year 12,600 scholars. The tax that year was $75,719.


Picture of an old bookstand

During the different periods of growth of education in this county there have arisen and passed away many institutions for the imparting of higher branches of learning than those afforded by the public schools. Born in enthusiasm and ambition, these halls of learning have not always developed in proportion to the desires of their founders, but they have left a strong impress upon the present generation, so their origin and life have not been in vain.

The following is a list of the academies and institutes existing since the beginning of the county's history, only two of them being now alive. The only one of the old academies existing now is Slate Lick, and it depends upon an irregular service of youthful preceptors who teach during their summer vacations. The other is the Dayton Normal Institute.

The last one founded heads the list: Dayton Normal Institute, Dayton Union Academy, Doaneville Seminary, Glade Run Academy, Kittanning Academy, Lambeth College, Leechburg Academy, Leechburg Institute, Oakland Classical Institute, Slate Lick Classical Institute, University of Kittanning, Worthington Academy.

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