Brown’s Mill School to celebrate 175 years old-fashioned way

Joan Bowen donned schoolmarm attire, including a wig, to show off the typical one-room classroom at Brown’s Mill School. A teacher had use for a candle, apple, inkwell and bell.

The 175th anniversary of Brown's Mill School will let adults be kids again. For some, memories of attending any one-room school will be revived. For others, the living history event will allow them to see what it was like back in 'the good old days' when one teacher taught students in grades 1-8. And children attending may compare a school of long ago with today's modern facilities.

Only one former student of Brown's Mill School is still living. Glen Cump was born in Marion, started school in Kauffman, lived in Greencastle, and now resides in Chambersburg (see related story).

The anniversary celebration is planned for Saturday, Aug. 27. The Franklin County Historical Society - Kittochtinny invites the public to "Spend a Day in an Old Fashioned Way". The schedule includes an opening at 9:45 a.m., singing school at 10, recess, debating society at 11, lunch at 11:45 (bring a picnic), school of penmanship at 12:30 p.m., recess and finally, a spelling bee at 1:15. Activities will take place rain or shine, with a sheltered area ready in case of bad weather. The Kauffman Ruritan Club will provide hot and cold drinks. Visitors may park at Manito School across the street.

On Sunday, Aug. 28, guided walking tours of the Brown's Mill Settlement will be offered at 1, 2 and 3 p.m.

The Franklin County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees is helping plan the event. Members also volunteer to receive visitors at the school Saturday and Sunday afternoons each July and August.

The history

The grounds for the school were donated in 1836 by Lazarus Brown, grandson of Thomas Brown, who was the earliest landowner in the area. He started with 400 acres in 1734 with a land grant for Penn's Colony, and eventually amassed 1,500 acres along Muddy Run. His son George built a grist mill in 1772, and by the time the Revolutionary War occurred, 30 familes were living in the settlement.

Parents paid tuition for their children to attend the first school. After the Free School Act passed in 1834, the residents wanted a public school. They decided on a building of native stone at a cost of nearly $400. Fifty-one citizens donated between 50 cents and $50 and the school was up within months. Brown's Mill School, first known as Trinity Church and School, was open for 85 years to educate Antrim Township children. In 1922 a consolidated elementary school that separated children by grade levels opened across Angle Road. Today that larger building houses Manito School, which serves students from across Franklin County.

The old school stood empty and abandoned for over a decade. Enter the Franklin County Education Association in 1935, which turned the school into a museum through the Old Brown's Mill School Memorial Association. Once again the public came through with the funding. Kids and adults throughout the county contributed dimes or dollars toward the restoration. Furniture, books and supplies were rounded up from area school districts.

Ownership changed a few times. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission took charge in 1962 to pay tribute to the early schools of the commonwealth. Brown's Mill School became part of Pennsylvania's Trail of History. Kittochtinny received it in 2002, possible by a gift from Thomas and Nancy Burkey and family in memory of the Honorable Enos and Mildred Sheller Horst. Maintenance is covered by Kittochtinny, the school retirees association and Kauffman Ruritan.

Joan Bowen, a member of the coordinating committee planning the anniversary, can trace the important dates of the school's history. It's centennial was celebrated in 1936 and it was rededicated during America's bicentennial in 1976. Before that, "people were irked that the school was empty," she said. The contents were restored. A reunion of former pupils was held in 1984, and it turned out to be the last.

Today exhibits include a replica of the flag that represented the U.S.A. when the school opened, with 25 stars; early desks and textbooks; lists of the people who donated money each time the school needed funds; and other records.

Bowen, a retired elementary school teacher, is proud of the condition of the one-room school. "175 years. That's remarkable."