The Miller One-Room School House

Miller School, 2015
Miller School at its current location at Meadowcroft, 2015.

In 1834, Pennsylvania passed “An act to establish a general system of education by common schools.” This law designated each county a school division and every township, ward, or borough a school district.

The Miller School was built in Washington County, Pa. on the border of the Miller and Pettibone farms so as to not interfere with farm production. It was built as a timber frame building with nine-pane over six-pane windows, a stove in the center, and a raised platform running along the blackboard that was typical of other schools built in the county at the same time. The Miller School was designated No. 11 in Cross Creek Township and later No. 1 when Jefferson Township was carved out of Cross Creek.

Caldwell's Atlas of 1876
Caldwell’s Atlas of Washington County (1876) shows the location of the Miller School in Jefferson Township.

Until the 1860s, school terms were arranged from May to August and November to April to allow children to help on the farm during the harvest. With the mechanization of farming and a growing adult workforce, school terms shifted to a seven month term running from September to March. By 1895, there were 372 schools teaching 14,788 students in Washington County, Pa.

With the rise of coal mining in Western Pennsylvania, many coal towns developed. The Penobscott coal patch grew up just down the road from Meadowcroft. For the children of the newly developed patch, the Miller School was too far to walk to, so the Tourney School was built closer to Penobscott and was attended to by both the coal patch and remaining farm children. The last year the Miller School operated was 1921, with both Albert and Delvin Miller, the founders of Meadowcroft, in attendance.

1964 Relocation to Meadowcroft
In 1964, the Miller School was dismantled and moved to Meadowcroft Village piece by piece.

T.A. Miller, Albert’s uncle, purchased the Miller School and moved it just a few feet from its original location so that it was entirely on the Miller Farm. The school was used for grain storage on the farm until the decision was made to relocate it to Meadowcroft in 1964.

After the relocation and restoration of the Miller School, Albert and Delvin hosted a reunion in 1966 for the students and teachers at Meadowcroft. Each student and teacher signed the blackboard with the years they attended or taught. The signatures still remain on the blackboard today.

Report of Miller School, 1894
This report of the Miller School from December 11, 1894, published in The Washington Democrat, lists the number of students attending the school as well as some students’ names singled out for exhibiting good attendance.
Miller School Class, c. 1905
Miller School Class c. 1905. Two students at the time were Albert and Delvin Miller’s father, Earl Miller, who is second in from the left, and their uncle, Alden Miller, the last boy on the right.
W.P. Wilson
W.P. Wilson was one of the many teachers who taught at the Miller School.
Miller School, 1913
This photograph, from 1913, shows the Miller School situated on the border of the Miller and Pettibone farms.

Today, visitors can experience a 1890s school lesson in the School House at Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village.

1966 Miller School Reunion
On Aug. 20, 1966, students and teachers gathered at the new location of the Miller School for a reunion. Albert Miller is standing in the back row while Delvin sits on the ground in front. W.P. Wilson sits in the front row holding the bell.

Mark Kelly is a tour guide and interpreter at Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village.

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