The Bethel School — stepping back
BERLIN TOWNSHIP — “The Bethel School
is a good example of one of the eight one-room country
schools in Berlin Township,” said Sally Soden.
Soden, a retired teacher, is a member
of the Wayne County Historical Society, which opens
and maintains the school. The school is owned by Wayne
County and is the responsibility of the Wayne County
The circa 1872 one-room school closed
in 1951 with the formation of the Wayne Highland School
District. In 1997, members of the historical society
sought help from the commissioners to save the school.
“It was falling apart. The foundation was crumbling,”
said Soden. The county agreed to take it on—the school
was propped up, a new stone foundation was constructed,
a new roof was put on and the exterior was painted.
Three members of the Wallenpaupack High School construction
class recently reconstructed the outhouse.
Photo courtesy of the Wayne Historical
Francis Gray posed with her students
in this undated picture of the Bethel School, located
near what had been called the “Poor Farm.” Edith Holbert
offered the picture and, with the help of Mildred
Body, came up with the names of those shown here:
from left, John Smith, Tom Marshall, Lorance Ham,
Mildred Wagner, Louise Sweitzer, Bertha Smith, Josephine
Smith, Cecilia Smith, Katherine Smith, Victoria Smith,
Rosa Smith, Otto Ritchman, Aaron Sweitzer, George
Sweitzer, Fred Sweitzer, Clyde Harvey, Grant Harvey,
Pat Wenders, Stella Schwartz, Leon Toms, Warran Bunnel,
Letta Marshall, Mable Wagner, Virginia Jay, and Catherine
Gray. (Click for larger image)
Since the school opened for tours in
1998, 1,800 people have passed through its doors.“People
were proud of their little schools,” Soden said. “Imagine
going to school with everyone who lives within two
miles of you. Everyone was cousins, neighbors. There
was very little variation. There were a lot of social
and community events that happened around the schools.
There was always a play, and a box social where they
would auction off lunches for art supplies and crayons.
There were very few school supplies.”
The teacher taught all eight grades
and the number of students varied. “The teacher would
give out assignments and then listen to the children
recite their lessons from the recitation bench. “There
was a lot of mental arithmetic and not a lot of frills,”
Soden said. “Most of the kids went to work when they
were 12. Childhood was very short.”
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