Milton History

a pictorial history of Milton, PA

Education History

From Bell’s History of Northumberland County 1891:

Educational effort at Milton, no less than the material development of the town, received its early impetus from Andrew Straub. On the 30th of August, 1798, he conveyed to John Teitsworth, John Cochran, John Chestnut, John Armstrong, and George Calhoon, trustees, lot No. 90 of the town plot, “for and in consideration of the great desire” he had “to promote the education of youth in the town of Milton” and at the nominal sum of five shillings. It was expressly stipulated that the lot in question should be used “for the only purpose of a school house being erected thereon and a regular English or other school being kept for the education of youth in the town of Milton, and whatsoever other uses may be considered as beneficial to said school by the trustees thereof”.

At the time this deed was executed a school house had already been erected. It was a small log building, and stood on the triangular lot of ground on Lower Market street near the location of a brick school building erected there in 1872. The first teacher was James Cochran, and his immediate successors were James McGuigan and William H. Sanderson. This was the only school house in the lower part of the town from the time of its erection in 1796 until the year 1807. It continued to be used for educational purposes until 1838.

In 1802 a one-story frame school building was erected on Broadway at the site of the school house burned at that place in 1880. This was attended by the school population of the upper part of the village, and the first teacher was John L. Finney, subsequently register and recorder of Northumberland county.

Hitherto no provision had been made for the education of the German element, which formed a considerable part of the population. In 1807 a log school house was built on Mahoning street by the joint efforts of the Reformed and Lutheran congregations; it was designed to serve for both school and church purposes, and the school conducted here combined religious and secular instruction. But it did not prosper, perhaps because the English schools offered superior advantages, and the enterprise was abandoned.

In 1838 the log school house originally erected on Lower Market street was sold and removed to the vicinity of the old stone mill at the mouth of Limestone run, where it was rebuilt and used as a blacksmith shop. Its former site was marked by a depression in the ground, which formed a pond and in the winter afforded skating for the juvenile population that congregated at its successor, a brick school house of two rooms erected in 1838 by Thomas S. Mackey under the auspices of the local board of directors.

Secondary education early received attention at Milton. In 1815 Joseph D. Biles established an English school at the Broadway school house, adding Latin and Greek to his curriculum in the following year. This gained for his school the name of “The Milton Academy”, thus for the first time applied to an educational institution at this place. In 1817 it numbered among its students John F. Wolfinger, for many years a member of the Northumberland county bar, Samuel Pollock, and James Pollock, afterward Governor of Pennsylvania. But this school did not long continue, and other pedagogues succeeded Biles whose inclination did not impel them to continue the advanced course of study that he established. The Broadway school house continued in use for educational purposes until 1849, when it was sold by the directors and rebuilt at a different location as an African Methodist church. In the same year it was replaced by a new brick school building, which was destroyed in the fire of 1880.

The Lancasterian system was introduced in 1830, and was the next attempt to establish a school of advanced standing. This was so called from Joseph Lancaster, an English educator by whom it was elaborated, and its distinguishing feature was the employment of pupils in the higher classes, or the most proficient pupil in each class, as assistants to the teacher. The Milton Lancasterian Association, of which Henry Frick and Joseph Rhoads were the leading members, introduced the system at this place. The school was conducted in a building at the site of the Center Street school house, owned by the association was erected in 1830. The first principal was A. T. W. Wright, a gentleman of fine education from Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, and under his administration the school attained a fair degree of prosperity and popularity. He was succeeded by Charles Guenther, who did not, unfortunately, possess the qualifications of his predecessor; the association became involved financially, and its property was sold at sheriffs sale. It was purchased by Henry Frick, and subsequently passed to the school directors; they divided it into three rooms, two of which, those on the east and west, were used for school purposes, while the apartment in the center was appropriated to the purposes of an armory.

The Milton Academy, the leading educational institution of the West Branch valley during the period of its existence, originated with the Rev. George Junkin, pastor of the Presbyterian church and the moving spirit in many public enterprises of a moral and educational character. Through his efforts a stock company was formed, composed of Samuel Hepburn, Joseph Rhoads, William H. Sanderson, Samuel Teas, Sarah Pollock, and others, by whom a plain, one-story brick building was erected at a cost of four hundred dollars at the brow of the hill on the north side of Broadway, and a short distance to the east of the frame school building previously mentioned. The entrance was on the western side, and from its elevated location the academy commanded a view of the town, the river, and the valley. The interior was divided into two rooms by a narrow entrance hall. The apartment on the north was the smaller of the two; it was occupied by the students in Latin and Greek, the higher mathematics, rhetoric, etc., while the other room was set apart for those who had not advanced beyond the ordinary English branches. A small cupola surmounted the building, but the necessary appendage of a bell was never provided.

The first principal of the academy, to whom its usefulness as an institution of learning and the high character it maintained were principally due, was the Rev. David Kirkpatrick. He was employed as a teacher of the classics at Oxford, Chester county, Pennsylvania, when Mr. Junkin formed his acquaintance and prevailed on him to change the field of his labors; he accordingly came to Milton, and on the second Monday of May, 1822, opened a classical school at a frame building that occupied the site of Dr. James McCleery's residence on Front street. In the following October he removed his school to the academy building, where he taught until November, 1834, assisted at different times by a Mr. Mayne, Thomas C. Hambly, and others. Among his students were many who subsequently acquired honorable rank in the legal and medical professions, and as clergymen, teachers, civil engineers, etc.

The Milton Classical Institute was the next institution of advanced character in the borough. It was founded by a company of citizens in 1859, and placed in charge of Rev William H. T. Wylie, pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian church. The building was a two story brick structure, erected at a cost of six thousand dollars, and situated on Prospect Hill at the site of a school house erected there in 1845 by the school board. After Mr. Wylie retired the owners disposed of the property to Colonel Wright, of Rochester, New York, by whom the school was continued until the building was destroyed by fire in 1867.

The first school building on Center street, as previously stated, was that erected by the Lancasterian Association. It was used for school purposes until 1859, when it was replaced by a brick structure two stories in height and containing four rooms. The main entrance was on the south side, with side-doors on the east and west, and the building was raised somewhat above the level of the lot. This school house was doubtless creditable to the town at the time when it was built, and was the largest in the borough at the time of its destruction by fire in 1880. It was immediately replaced by the present Center Street building, a brick structure of ample and symmetrical proportions, convenient arrangement, and careful adaptation to the purposes required. It was dedicated on the 25th of February, 1881, with appropriate musical and literary exercises, including an address by J. P. Wickersham, State superintendent; the cost was eleven thousand eight hundred dollars.

The Lower Market Street school house, a one-story brick building containing two rooms, was built in 1872, and is the only school house of the borough that escaped destruction in the fire of 1880. It is situated upon the lot originally deeded for school purposes by Andrew Straub in 1798, and is the third building there erected.

The borough high school was organized in 1878, and embraces in its course of study the higher mathematics, Latin, chemistry, botany, physics, mental science, and the English branches. The principals have been as follows: William Foulk, J. Elliott Ross, William Deatrick, E. R. Deatrick, and S. O. Goho; the last named is the present incumbent, and was first elected to this position in 1883. Its duties include also the supervision of the other departments of the schools, and a district superintendency is contemplated.