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Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Schools of the Tri-Counties
Ridgebury School History 1961
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This article is taken from the 1961 Smithsonian-
The Yearbook for the Smithfield/Ulster/Ridgebury Joint School System
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Ridgebury Township Schools

  Ridgebury was constituted a township in 1818; parts were taken from Athens and Wells Townships. The  early settlers were largely of English descent and were mostly from Connecticut, New Jersey, and eastern  New York.

  The name "Ridgeberry" grew out of the name of Samuel Bennett's farm, a place of ridges and berry bushes,  which was located east of Centerville.

  We don't exactly know how the first school came to be organized, but from the old minutes of the school  board we find that a schoolhouse was built when the people of a neighborhood could get together, find a  teacher, and a place to have school and maintain a school for three months.

  By 1837 there appears to have been five full districts and one-half district. In 1841 Sodom was "sot off"  to Smithfield Township.

  The early schoolhouses and facilities were similar to those in other districts in our area. They were  framed buildings usually with six windows, three on each side, and a front door. The first desks were hand made and were for two children. A chunk stove in the middle of the room heated the scholars nearest to it  very well, while those further away froze or moved nearer the stove in the coldest weather. There were  always handy blocks of wood to sit on; a bench usually ran around the room on three sides. As the building  was often the only meeting place of the community, except for the stores and taverns, preaching services, singing schools, and socials were often held in the schoolhouse. Water was carried from a near-by spring  in a pail, and passing the water with the pail and dipper was a coveted treat for the scholars. A typical  school lunch would include a baking powder biscuit with black molasses, pancakes, and fried pork rinds.

  The job of building the early schools was let to local handy men for about $20 per school. There is no record of any purchase of lumber, or fixtures, so they must have been contributed by the neighborhood.

  There were three months of summer school and three months of winter school. In summer the younger children went and the teachers were usually women. They received from $12 to $15 for the three months term and "boarded around" unless they lived in the neighborhood. In the winter a very different situation prevailed. About the middle of December after the potatoes were dug, the corn husked, the butchering chores done, the  homespun woven, and the family clothed for winter, there was a lull in life on the farm; and the older boys  and girls could be spared to go to school. Then the teachers were usually men; they had to be big enough or compelling enough to handle the big boys and girls who often were 17, 18, or 19 years old. They received  as much as $30 to $50 for teaching three months, depending on the size of the boys and their ability to drive a bargain. The boys usually sat on the north side of the schoolhouse and the girls on the south side. The land was usually given for school purposes until such times as it would be no longer used as such; then it reverted to the former owner or his heirs. Somewhere along the line, probably in the 1890's, books began to be furnished by the township and paid for with public moneys.

  In 1840-42 the Irish immigrants came into the township. The men worked on the North Branch Canal from Tioga Point (Athens) to Sunbury. There was such an increase of population that three schools were built on the east side of the township, the Cain, the Chapel, and the Desmond Schools. We find a note in the minutes of the school board about this time that no teacher shall be hired who doesn't have a thorough knowledge of the English language, and all classes shall be conducted in English.

  Teachers were examined by members of the school board as to their general knowledge and their ability to teach. Certain directors were hired to inspect the schools and report to the board at stated intervals.The usual report was that the director "found the school in a prosperous condition with (a certain number of
 pupils) present. " Sometimes a lack of books was mentioned.

  About 1880 the old school building at Bentley Creek was condemned and a new two-room school building was built. By 1900, there were sixteen schools in operation in the township; soon after this, schools began to be closed and children transported. The jobs of transportation were let to the lowest bidder, usually for $100 to $140 for  the year. The wagons must have the ends of the seats protected so children could not fall out and plenty of robes, blankets, and soapstones were to be furnished to keep children comfortable in cold weather. Seven months of school were held at this time, beginning about September 1. Teachers received about $35 to $50 per month.

In 1908 Ridgebury's only high school was built at Centerville at a cost of about $3000. Two years of high school were held there besides two rooms of elementary grades until 1919. Ada VonWolfradt was the last high school teacher. The levy of school tax, had, by this, time, climbed to ten mills.

We find in 1909 that teachers must have at least three years of experience before they could be hired in the township. The school library came into being about this time. At first, the library usually consisted of a few volumes contributed by parents.

By 1924, there were only five teachers hired in the township. One room was open at Centerville, one at Bentley Creek, the South Grove, Hanlon Hill, and Desmond Schools. About then the length of the term climbed to eight months.

A Mother's Club was formed at Bentley Creek and a Community Club at Centerville in the late 1940's. This grew into a P.T.A. at Bentley Greek about 1949. In 1952 only two schools remained in operation--one at Bentley Creek and one at Centerville, It was in this year that both schools were condemned, and after careful study it was thought best to build a new building as there was a building boom in Ridgebury at that time. In 1953, a new building built along modern lines and costing $118, 000 was erected near the site of the old Baldwintown School, geographically about the center of the township. Four, rooms and a multi-purpose room were built, and students moved into the new building in January 1954. A trailer park came into the township, and the building of homes continued. In 1958, four rooms were added. The township became the second fastest growing township in the county, with a school enrollment of about 250 pupils in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Ridgebury Township formed a jointure with Smithfield Township on July 1, 1950 and on July 1, 1953, Smithfield, Ridgebury, and Ulster Townships formed a jointure with the high school at East Smithfield.

Ridgebury Township is now one large community with much the same interests throughout instead of the sixteen small school centers of a century and a half ago.

Bentley Creek School shutting the door for the last eimt - January 1954 Five year old Jennie Miller is last in line in this 1900 Ridgebury School Photo
Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Published On Tri-Counties Site On 23 DEC 2000
By Joyce M. Tice
Email: Joyce M. Tice

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