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Old Brown's Mill School reflects history

July 08, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

Tucked in central Franklin County, the Old Brown's Mill School still stands as a testament to the region's history more than 80 years after the one-room schoolhouse closed to students.

Built in 1836 on land donated by Lazarus Brown at the crossroads of what are now Angle and Brown's Mill roads in Kauffman, Pa., the school operated until 1922, when a consolidated school opened.

Fifty-one families raised the $400 necessary to build the limestone structure with donations ranging from 50 cents to $50, said Katherine Nicodemus, a volunteer at the school museum.

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"The students contributed two times to the school, but the original money came from the people of the area," she said.

The school was restored in 1935 with donations from hundreds of area students, Nicodemus said.

The school was deeded to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1962, and for the last 20 years the Franklin County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees has staffed volunteers in the schoolhouse on weekends in July and August to give tours to the public.

The Kittochtinny Historical Society is in the process of buying the building from the PHMC, said Bernice Reese, who coordinates volunteers.

Nicodemus, who with Ann Tadley was ready to greet visitors to the school Sunday, said a few dozen people usually stop by during the course of a summer.

The two women remember a family from Texas who came last summer with a woman who attended the school.

Most visitors have some kind of connection to the school, they said.

"Some even educate us," Tadley said.

Strip away the modern conveniences like a fan, fire extinguisher and lawn chairs for the volunteers, and it's easy to visualize the dozens of students who attended the schools working on the dark wooden benches, scarred by use.

A black stove dominates the center of the room, and framed photos of former classes, teachers and other memorabilia line the blue and white walls.

Chalk slates and original textbooks, including "McGuffeys' Fifth Reader" and "Robin Hood," are in glass cases.

One 1887 class picture shows 42 students in grades one through eight with a single teacher. Nearby there are two photos of the eighth-grade class of 1935 - one shows only the girls, "The Sweets," and one shows just the boys, "The Strongs."

A diploma awarded to Mabel Grace Slothour in 1915 hangs near the door.

It was awarded "As an honorable testimonial for regular attendance, good deportment and good recitations in the Brown's Mill School."

The school was once a meeting place for children and adults, with events in the evening, including singing schools and spelling bees.

In 1934, the Old Brown's Mill School Memorial Association formed to restore the building, and on Oct. 12, 1935, it was dedicated as a memorial to one-room schools of Franklin County. It was furnished with furniture and books collected from school districts throughout the county.

The school is open to visitors from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays in July and August.

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