History of the Dillingersville School
Union School and Church Association
A Typical One-Room School House
In the period of the arrival of our forefathers to Pennsylvania at the port of
Philadelphia, during the 1700's, it is generally believed settlers or land
grabbers scouted the general area of the Hosensack Valley. Hosensack's Valley,
designated all the land between Goshenhoppen Valley to the South and Macungie
to the North, is an area believed to have been settled in various parts around 1730.
The settlers were primarily from the Germanic States bordering the Rhine Valley.
The settlers who came into the Dillingersville area to set down roots were all of
the Lutheran faith. They built their first church and school in 1735 on an original
track of land consisting of 29 acres 137 perches. Their hope was for this project
to become self-supporting.
A Union of Congregations
Shortly after the Lutherans settled here members of the Reformed (now UCC) and Mennonite faiths
began to take up land. Since all were religiously minded they grouped together in
both school and church affairs, building a common "union" school building which served
as both a schoolhouse, church, and community meeting house for the members of the three faiths,
democratically demonstrating the true American spirit of initiative, integrity, and thrift.
The First School
The first building erected in 1735 was of log construction. The building was not too
large; a tall man could step off the area in twelve to fifteen paces. It served as both
a schoolhouse, church, and meeting house. Small windows
first fashioned with oiled paper were later replaced with rippled glass. These rippled
glass windows greatly distorted the whole vista, but they were most gratifying to their
builders. Most chinks between the logs were probably packed with field stone and a
mortar of clay and grass. The benches, although of sturdy construction, were quite uneven.
Later School Buildings
In 1799 they convened to formulate plans to preserve and perpetuate the original school,
thus forming the Dillingersville Union School and Church Association, which to this day
is till supported by the original three church congregations. The second building was
erected in 1799, half being used for the school and the other for a dwelling. The third school
was erected in 1848.
In 1867 the organization incorporated through the Lehigh County Court
of Common Pleas in the name of the Union School and Church Association.
Typical School Day
A typical school day often began when the teacher went to the end of the path leading
to the school building ringing a bell which signaled the start of the school day. A school
day started at 8:00 a.m. and concluded at 5:00 p.m. with one hour for lunch. During the
planting and harvest seasons the older children's attendance was intermittent thereby
making it imperative for perfect attendance during the earlier years.
In the beginning, German was the language taught exclusively. Eight grades were conducted
by one teacher in the typical "one-room" building. The varying sizes of desks determined
the grade in which a child was placed. Dunce stools were conspicuously placed for those
students not performing to the best of their ability. Silence was mandatory; disturbances
were dealt with by disciplinary flogging enforced by means of a hickory switch, wooden
paddle, or leather strap.
Reading, writing, arithmetic, catechism, and singing were the subjects taught. Recitation
was important since paper was scarce and expensive. Chalkboards and chalk were practically
non-existent in the earlier days, and books were always short in supply. For the student's
efforts, after eight years, his benefits included the ability to write his name, do simple
figuring of pence, shillings, and pounds, and probably being able to boast of having read
five or six books, not including the Bible; proving he was no longer average.
The Horn Book was probably the first book known to many of the settlers' children. It consisted
of one page about the size of an ordinary spelling book, printed on one side only and attached
to a wooden paddle-like board with a handle projecting from the bottom side. The sheet of
paper was held in place with a brass frame and was covered with a thin transparent sheet of
horn; thus the origin of its name. The page was prefaced with the cross, often called
'criss-cross', followed by the small and large letters of the alphabet; vowels and single
consonants, the Lord's Prayer and the Roman numberals one to ten.
Early church schools such as the Dillingersville School had A-B-C books, at that time,
printed in the German language.
Outbuildings housed the toilet facilities used both in summer and winter.
Water was brought to the schoolhouse from the springhouse which is
located several hundred feet behind this building and down a hill and was dipped as needed.
Wood was gathered from the land and stored in the woodbox ready to feed
the pot-bellied stove to provide adequate warmth, at least to
those students within close range of it, while the other students never became comfortably warm.
Wooden peg coat racks lined the walls with shelves above where lunch boxes
or baskets were kept until lunch break.
Candles or kerosene lamps provided the source of light.
A suspended wall divider made it possible to divide one room into two distinct sections.
These doors were easily retracted into the space above the ceiling.
Most of the teachers were men who frequently doubled as the preacher. The school teacher
was paid in part from the rent of the farm and partly by the children's parents; however
the teacher no doubt was allowed to raise some produce on the land for his own use. The
amount paid for education was determined in this manner; each parent paid three cents per
day per child for the days the child attended school.
The Present Building
The fourth and present building was built in 1885. Is is basically constructed of shaped
field stone masonry, and a Bangor slate roof with an octagonal spire which houses the bell
in a cupola topped with a finial weathervane, typical of 19th century architecture.
Inside are typical four-foot wainscoting and pine board flooring.
Double hung four-over-four windows simulating the Italian influence in tall casements are to be noted.
A kerosene hanging light with nine etched glass globes directed
upward toward a heavy ornate glass reflects the light. This is surrounded by a frame of copper.
This fixture was donated to Dillingersville School around the time the present building was erected.
A small cemetery used by the early "Schoolhouse Near the
Old Spring Congregation" is located a 1/10 mile behind the school, on private property.
This private property and cemetery was once part of the original schoolhouse track.
It is located along, but set back somewhat from, the south side of Zionsville Road.
It still has several partially legible headstones standing along a stone fence line.
It serves as a visible reminder to the perserverance, fortitude, and faith these early
settlers afforded us in a rich impressive heritage in Dillingersville.
The attachment to this spot increased as nature's elements faded the building's initial colors
transforming it into a weatherworn structure. Since its beginning, the Great High Road
(known as the King's High Way), past the schoolhouse by as travelers then and now, move
along unmindful and unaware of this living monument wrought and hammered into existence
by the faith of its founders. The schoolhouse is located in a small secluded wooden glen,
but a few hundred yards away from this road.
Credits and References
Credits: Historic notes compiled by Saramae Doney and Sandy Eck, 1976, as printed in the
Dillingersville School's tri-folded brochure, reprinted Sept 2003. Some small edits and
additions made in website version by Charles Kerchner, 2004.
References: "Schoolhouse Near the Old Spring", A.S. Berky, Pa. German Society, 1955. "The
History of Lehigh County", Charles R. Roberts, et al, Lehigh Valley Publishing Co. Ltd, 1914,
Group or individual tours can be arranged by contacting the association.
Copyright © 2004-2017, Dillingersville School
Union School and Church Association
All Rights Reserved
Webpage Created: 26 Apr 2004
Last Revision: 20 May 2017