History of the Dillingersville School
Union School and Church Association

A Typical One-Room School House


Early Settlers

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 Vally. 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. In 1867 the organization incorporated through the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas in the name of the Union School and Church Association.

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.

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.

Subjects Taught

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.

Early Texts

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.

Furnishings

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.

Early Teachers

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, Allentown PA.



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Union School and Church Association
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Webpage Created: 26 Apr 2004
Last Revision: 29 Apr 2004