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Horner's School Or "Hickory Hill Academy"

John Geiselman
From his book "Reflections" 

A little weatherboard one-room school stood on a hill just a short distance from the Smith Farm where I lived. The school's glorified name was "Hickory Hill Academy," named for the many hickory trees that grew along the road near the school. My mother attended and graduated from Horner's. I also attended school there and have fond memories of it.

This picture of Horner School was taken at recess (playing baseball)  in 1933 when
Glen Patterson was the teacher.   Madelyn Hartman Smith Fortna is the girl playing
 on the front left of the picture.

There is a lot of history to the old school. The township accepted schools starting in 1836. The Sentinel, a local paper, referred to a school near Horner's Mill on July 21, 1845. The school closed in 1946. Thus it served the community for more than 100 years. The school was later converted into a home and for the last thirty years has been occupied by Terry and Janet Lightner and family.

Since a lot of the local country schools closed in the late 1940's and early 1950's, many who may be reading this are not familiar with the one-room school house. In these country schools one teacher taught all eight grades. She or he opened the school each morning, made the fire, swept the school room, washed the desks, sometimes the windows, cleaned the erasers, and brought in the coal from the coal shed. Many of the pupils helped the teacher to take the ashes out and bring a bucket of coal in to put on the fire. Also they helped to clean the erasers, and sweep the classroom. Many of the desks in the country schools had various initials carved on them. Two, and sometimes three generations, sat in the same seat. We always opened school with the reading of the Bible and we then recited the pledge to the flag.

When I attended country school there were a few mothers that came to help the teacher. I wasn't the only student that was without a mother before I came there. There was a girl by the name of Lula McCarthy, who lived below us, over the hill. She and I became very affectionate because we had the same background. We were two of a kind you might say. Arithmetic was a little hard for me and she was a wizard at it. She would help me out a lot. Once she got me to under-stand the basics of arithmetic, it went a little easier for me.

The Rev. Leslie Young, Pastor of Mt. Joy Church, was a teacher at Horner's for about two years. He put up with a bunch of pretty tricky kids. The things we did weren't anything to hurt anyone, but it seemed they were quite often very foolish. I guess we had to be creative and use the things we had on hand. One time we figured we'd have a telegraph line going over the top of the school house. So we got all the ones that were living on farms to bring balls of binder twine. We tied them together and tossed it up in the hickory tree on the school side of the road. Then we attempted to cross the road to the cedar tree on our farm. We had to put a weight on the ball of string, but it still didn't get the whole way across the road. The teacher gazed out the window and said, "What is this all about?" Then he came running out to the road and said, "Boys, this is coming to an end!" Of course it did come to an end right then and there.

Another time one of the kids went outside after the teacher had gone to the outhouse. He took a club and hit the outhouse and nearly scared the teacher to death. Of course he was punished, and believe me, that never happened again!

In the winter when the ice got on the little streams near the school we would go skating. We were shoe leather skaters while at school. Boy, could we twist and slide! Some recesses we just got to enjoying ourselves so much the teacher would have to come down to the creek and get us back to school and our studies. One day Mrs. Starner came to visit the school. The teacher was asking the pupils about different things that people do. He said, "Do you know anyone that has a piping voice?" It just so happened everyone knew Mrs. Starner, who was present, was one that could fit the bill. Someone raised their hand and said, "Mrs. Starner has a piping voice!" It was funny, but still it wasn't a nice thing to say. Another time, one of the girls had the word "ain't" written down in her book. The teacher said, "That is not a word." The girl said, "Well, then ain't, ain't a word!" Everyone burst out laughing. Boy, we had our fun, no two ways about it!

We played baseball, and tipply-over. That is where you take up teams and throw the ball over the school house. Then the per-son that caught the ball would run around and try to tag someone out on the other side. The winners were the side that had the last one still playing. The other game was prisoner's base. This is one you could run around a track made in the snow.

We had a pump organ in school. The teacher played the organ and taught us many songs. We also memorized poetry. This is how I got to writing poetry myself. I enjoyed writing about the things that were near and dear to me. Very often through life as some-thing or someone impressed me, I would want to write about it or them. It seemed it was just a talent that was there. I also loved art in school and that carried over to things I did later in my life. I loved doing landscapes of places I remembered and enjoyed.

The "Oxen Team Days On the Oregon Trail" drawing, that is in the museum today, I drew when I was about fifteen years old. Mother took me to the Majestic Theatre to see the movie by the same name. Afterwards, I said, "Mother, I want you to do something for me. I want you to buy a roll of manilla paper for me to draw pictures of what I remember of the movie I saw the other night." She did, and I cut it into sections and started drawing on a large table in the kitchen. Now it hangs in the museum. It is 60 feet long and nearly circles the room.

We carried our lunches to country school. Usually we had one or two sandwiches and an apple or an orange. Sometimes Mother would bake pies and cakes then she would include some in my lunch. During the years, of 1925 through 1928, I received perfect attendance awards and I completed eighth grade in 1930. My last teacher was Kathryn Morelock. I have happy reflections of those days in country school.

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If so, send them to us at history@emmitsburg.net