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.
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.
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.
Today, visitors can experience a 1890s school lesson in the School House at Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village.
Mark Kelly is a tour guide and interpreter at Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village.