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Emmitsburg's One-Room Schools

Shirley Rohrbaugh, Sue Sanders, Ann Marshall

Hampton Valley School

In the nineteenth century, Emmitsburg was unique among little towns as far as education was concerned. There were many small schools in the area, both public and private, and after Mount St. Mary's College was established in 1808, a local person could get a complete education, first grade through college, without leaving home.

Of the 158 one-room schools in Frederick County in 1890, well over 20 of them were clustered in and around Emmitsburg, which was known as the Fifth District.

About 1915, the consolidation of schools began under the rather erratic supervision of the Frederick County Board of Education, which had been established in the middle of the 1800s. Consolidation of tiny schools (with an average of about 20 students) into larger and better equipped buildings where students could be taught in graded classrooms was completed in the 1950s.

One-room schools did not vanish all at once. Even though the Emmitsburg School on South Seton Avenue, now the Emmitsburg Community Center, was opened in 1922, many children still went to one-room schools.

Harry S Hahn of Thurmont attended Hampton Valley School near Emmitsburg from 1928-1931. His memories give us a good picture of one-room schools and how they educated children.

Hampton Valley School was originally located near the Emmitsburg Reservoir at Rainbow Lake on Hampton Valley Road. When the building fell into disrepair, it was decided to build a new school on a site across from Eyler's Valley Chapel. (Building a new school was a fairly simple project in those days, not the multi-million dollar undertaking it now is.)

The new school was officially called Hampton Valley but was, inevitably, also known as Eyler's Valley School. There is nothing now to mark where the school stood. (The Chapel is still in use.) The school site is simply a parking lot off Hampton Valley Road, a narrow macadam road which lies roughly between and to the west of Emmitsburg and Thurmont. The school enrolled students from both districts who came to class either on foot or on horseback.

Mr. Hahn remembers that a bell was rung to begin the school day at 9 a.m. Students listened to a scripture reading, said a prayer, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. That set the tone for the school day.

Curriculum in the lower grades centered on 'Reading, Writing and Arithmetic' taught (sometimes) to the tune of a hickory stick.  Older students also learned American history, ancient history, and a smattering of geography. Spelling was emphasized and spelling bees were frequent. Older pupils helped the younger ones. The curriculum was the same for boys and girls. Report cards were given out four times a year.

One teacher taught all seven grades. Mr. Hahn mentioned teachers Anna Adelsberger, Lottie Eyler, and Myrtle Troxell. Miss Myrtle was just out of high school and was paid $640 per year. Later she went off to college (probably normal school) and after that Mr. Hahn "heard she got $800 per year."

Maryland State and the School Board in Frederick County grew increasingly "picky" about how schools were run. Mr. Hahn remembers that a county supervisor would show up two or three times a year to check on things, presumably to offer helpful advice, and to be sure teachers understood the rules and regulations of the system.

Mr. Hahn describes Hampton Valley School as having a boy's coatroom and a girl's coatroom, a boy's outhouse and a girl's outhouse. It was heated by a potbellied stove, and the first "old enough" student to arrive each cold day would start the fire. Pupils took turns bringing water from a nearby stream in a galvanized bucket. One long-handled dipper served all.

Many students attended school for six years or less. The school year usually ran for seven or eight months but a severe winter snowfall could close the school down for weeks at a time. During a school day, the children had a fifteen-minute recess morning and afternoon and an hour for lunch. Youngsters brought their lunch in a pail and sometimes they would cross the narrow dirt road and eat on the steps of Eyler's Valley Chapel, which had been built in 1857. The school day ended at 4 p.m.

Each child had a desk with ink well set into the upper right corner and a small drawer under the top to keep supplies. A dunce stool in the corner of the classroom stood ready for the disruptive student. One child from the twenties remembers "if you didn't pay attention the teacher would crack your knuckles with a ruler."

Kids had nothing or next to nothing in the way of playground equipment but they all tell, in written or oral memories, of the good times they had with a jump rope, a rag ball, a bat that was just a slat of wood three or four inches wide. They played dodge ball, hop scotch, hide-and-go-seek. They drew a line in the dust and ran races. On rainy days, they would sing, play tic-tac-toe on their slates, or perhaps tell stories The teacher might read to them or hold an impromptu spelling bee.

Mr. Hahn named classmates from the period 1928-32 as follows: Russell Willard, Alice Willard, Robert Warren, Paul Alexander, Caroline Alexander, Steve Alexander, Dan Andrew, Carrie Andrew, Ida Andrew, Glenn Andrew, Millard Hess, Margaret Hess, John Hahn, Rhoda Hahn, Harry Hahn, Paul Hahn, James Hahn, Marsha Manahan, Myrtle Manahan, Veda Masser, Malin Masser, Chester Masser

A Private School Rev. Ronald Fearer has written the following account of a private religious school, which operated in Emmitsburg from 1829-1870 on the grounds of the Elias Lutheran and Reform Church. (It should be remembered that during this period many "elementary schools" were called "academy" or "seminary.")

Do you know someone who attended a One Room School houses in the Emmitsburg area, or have any material on old Schools in the area?
 If so, send them to us at history@emmitsburg.net

Read other stories about Emmitsburg area schools

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