Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
History Quarterly Digital Archives

Source: October 1938 Volume 1 Number 5, Pages 13–18

The old Glassley School

Mildred F. Bradley

Page 13

The Old Glassley School

In searching for information about the Old Glassley School I came upon an old notebook in which Miss Annetta Malin had written a history of the school in 1891. Miss Malin, who is now Mrs. Annetta Malin Cleveland of Northampton, Massachusetts, taught in the schools in Easttown and Willistown and also served as a medical missionary. The following is a copy of Miss Malin's article.

"In and for some time previous to the years 1807 and 1808 the people living in the vicinity of what is now Berwyn and Devon had been talking about having a school in which their children might be taught to "Read, write and keep their own accounts."

There was a school house in Howellville called Davis' School, one near Strafford called Eagle School and one near the edge of Newtown, but all were too far away to accommodate the children of Easttown. Accordingly, in the latter part of 1807 a few of the leading men went around with subscription papers to collect money for the building.

A town had already been laid out at Glassley on property owned by Robert McClenaghan and he donated a piece of ground

"on the side of the hill near by a spring of water"

for the school house and although at that time the land was of no value, the site not picturesque, and the cold side of the hill, be it known to all that nature never provided a more suitable place to teach geography than that same spot at "Old Glassley." Here were plateaus, watersheds, so clearly defined that the rains that fell on one side of a barn roof fell off, drained into the Schuylkill, and those that fell on the other side drained into Darby Creek and at last into the Delaware, miniature canons,

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moraines, slopes, hills, boundary lines, commerce and internal improvements, that all that a live teacher needed was simply to take her class to the door and bid them look and know for themselves.

Ground being provided, the people gave either money or work, as best they could, and in 1808 the building was completed, opened to the children who could attend and was known as Glassley School House.

The first teacher was one William Coffee, known as "Master Coffee." He was a well-known teacher in Chester County. Very little is known of the pupils who were present on that September morning in 1808. The names of only six are known--Robert Gamble, Ann Rowan (who afterward became man and wife), Samuel Epright and Hannah Neilley, who also married, Robert Neilley and Thomas Rowan, all of whom are now dead, the last being Hannah (Neilley) Epright, who died July 12, 1886, aged eighty-five.

The teachers are all unknown except George Lewis. We find this receipted bill.

Glassley School, July 12, 1836.
John Neilley, Dr. to Phineas Kutchins
To 12 days' schooling for John M. Epright @ .03 $ .36
" use of broom .03
" use of tincup .02
" use of ink .01
Received this in full
Phineas Kutchins

This Phineas Kutchins lived on the property now owned by T. L. Wiggins. (At the present time, the property is owned by Josiah Newbold.)

Later on, George Coffee, son of William, Jackson Orr, Lizzie Marvin, William Haines, Linneus Fussell, John Lewis and others taught until the old house became too small to accommodate the pupils and meet the wants of the neighborhood, and a new school house was put up nearer the Lancaster Pike in the year 18__ .

Among the teachers were Lizzie Wood, Sallie J. Embree, Susan Worley, Adomeram J. Latch, ______ Siter and others until we come to 1874 and 1875 when Enoch S. Wells taught, closing his work in 1876. Ruth A. Worrall came in September 1876 and resigned the January of 1878 to accept a school nearer home, when Abbie A. Eyre finished out her term, closing her term the June of 1878.

Miss Lizzie F. Criley commenced the fall of 1878 and taught with great acceptance for four years, resigning in 1882.

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She and Miss Eyre were both graduates of West Chester S. N. School and under Miss Criley's care the Latin language was so successfully taught that pupils leaving her school were enabled to enter Pennsylvania University with only one year's preparatory study. Miss Criley was also eminent as a disciplinarian. Her health failing, she resigned in June 1883 and was succeeded by Hannah Epright, daughter of the Samuel and Hannah (Neilley) Epright who figured in the early history of the first Glassley.

This teacher differed from the most of her predecessors in that she had only a common school education, but in lieu of that she possessed the faculty of getting all the hard work out of a boy or girl that he or she was capable of doing. In order to do this she made hard work popular with the students.

At the county Teachers' Institute the Daily Local News offered a prize to the school who should draw the best map and write the best history of Chester County. This was in October 1885. About two hundred and ten schools competed.

Age, penmanship and brevity of expression were taken into consideration, and the prize, consisting of a library of twenty-four books, was awarded to Glassley School of Easttown, Ogden School, also of Easttown, taking third prize.

The library has been of much use to the pupils in creating a love of reading and has been increased from time to time until it consists at this present writing (1891) of seventy volumes.

In April 1886, William Reed Lewis of Devon, now of England, offered a prize to the pupil who should write the best essay on "Arbor Day." The prize, consisting of a copy of Wordsworth's poems, was won by Howard W. Huffington and was placed by him in the school library.

William Reed Lewis was a warm friend to Glassley and gave the first dollar towards the purchase of a Webster's Dictionary (Get-the-best-Edition) for the use of the school.

Glassley was the first school in Easttown to put into operation the Graded Course of Study in the September of 1887. It was adopted by all the schools in the district and a Senior Class consisting of three was formed, who composed the pioneer class of Glassley.

This winter of 1887 and 1888 was eminently successful, the school having a daily average "blizzard and all" of 54, while its percentage of attendance for the term was 95.

The March of '88 is noted for its blizzard. On the 11th of March, snow fell and drifted many feet; traveling was impossible. The teacher went on the 12th, only two pupils came, and only one came on Tuesday the 13th, one on Wednesday, and on the 15th, Thursday, eighteen were present who, as one exercise, celebrated the life of old "Emperor William" of Germany, who was buried on that day.

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On April the 14th an examination was held in West Chester for the admission of cadets to the Naval Academy at Annapolis. Two of our students, Howard W. Huffington and Harry E. Pennell, entered the class and passed successfully, Howard as first and Harry as third, over competitors from private and high schools. This was considered a high honor. They both went to Annapolis and passed successfully, but as Chester County was entitled to only one cadet, only one could be appointed, which one was Howard Huffington, who at this writing is a First Classman and will graduate in 1892. He left Glassley May 11, 1888. County Superintendent Walton held the examinations for the graduating class in Berwyn Hall May 19, 1888, at which time Howard W. Huffington, although at Annapolis, was granted a diploma, and Harry E. Pennell and Jennie Williams of Glassley, Maggie Moore and Anna Griffith of Leopard composed the first graduating class of Easttown.

Commencement exercises were held in the Baptist Chapel June 5, 1888.

By this time the population had so increased that the house would no longer accommodate the pupils. With seats for only about 60 pupils, there were 86 on roll, so that it became necessary to build a new house. Accordingly, the new house was built in Berwyn, and Old Glassley with its cold and discomfort, but its hallowed associations, was vacated June 1, 1888.

The house was sold to C. N. Thorpe and demolished. There were present the last day, Willie Armstrong, Wosley Lewis, Willie Wallace, Willie Yerkes, Frank Kroner, Walter Shank, Howard Kromer, Harry E. Pennell, Willie Kroner, Owen Jones, Archie Yerkes, Hunter Beatty, Herbert Litzenberg, Robert Armstrong, Daniel Camaford, James Wallace, Stuart Wilson, George Williams, Albert Lithgow, Irvine Armstrong, Alan Kauffman, Dawson Yerkes, Ida Taylor, Delia Williams, Jennie Williams, Elsie Beatty, Carrie Litzenberg, Alice Lewis, Bertha Sinquett, Bertha Lobb, Kate McClees, Jennie Wilson, Carrie Lobb, Maud Taylor, Lizzie Nuzum, Retta Nuzum, Effie Taylor, Harriet Nash, Philena M, Shank, Flo Blackwood, Bessie Kauffman, and Lily Brown, a favored company who do themselves honor by venerating Glassley. The last teacher was Hannah Epright.

A mighty roll of names have been recorded at Glassley. The school was always large, and owing to the railroad, the population was floating."

In order to give you a picture of the business of education in the year 1870 when this old school was about 62 years old I have copied the treasurer's report for that year--

Amount of Duplicate $1609.08
Less Exonerations 32.11
Balance $1576.97
Balance last year 290.90
Received from Mr. Hayman 1.25
State appropriation 80.68
Salaries, repairs, etc. 1749.20
Balance 200.60

Mr. Ado Latch received $45.00 a month and this seemed to be the standard rate of pay, which was high for teachers in those days.

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Scuttle, Fire Shovel, Poker, Tin Water Bucket, Hand Basin, 2 good brooms, Dust Brush, Globe, 1 Box Chalk, Crayons, and two Iron Scrapers.

Some of their books included Michel's New School Dictionary, Michel's New School Atlas, Emerson's Astronomical Astronomy, Emerson's Astronomical Chart, and a new school Dictionary which cost $9.00.

Coming down through the years, we find Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships the first in the state to carry out new ideas, and so the first Arbor Day in Pennsylvania was celebrated at Old Glassley.

Next to the last to teach in Glassley was Miss Lizzie Criley, who is living in Downingtown. She has many interesting reminiscences of the old school. Attached to the rear of the building was a coal and wood shed where Miss Criley and probably other teachers put the children for punishment, weather permitting. Isaac Cleaver, a well-known merchant of Berwyn, was a director at the time Miss Criley taught there, and it was with the Cleavers that she made her residence. Among her students were Wayne Pennell, Joseph and Estella Burns. At the time of her teaching, it was customary for the teacher to whip the children. As Miss Criley was considered a good disciplinarian, she probably used the rod rather than spoil the child.

Meetings of all kinds were held in the school house. Among them was an organization which has long passed out of existence. It was known as the Wilberforce Anti-Slave Society, founded January 1837. From the minute book, which is still in the possession of Brooke B. Longaker, we quote,

"At a religious meeting held in the home of John Jones of Howellville, a notice was read by Rev. Leon Fletcher, signed by Thomas Adamson, calling for a meeting in the Glassley School House, Easttown Township, Chester County, Pa., to take into consideration the formation of an Anti-Slavery Society."

"Agreeable to the above notice a number of the inhabitants in the vicinity of the above named place convened on Monday evening, January 23, 1837."

Here they made plans for their society and arranged to meet again on January 27 and adopt a constitution. Forty-two persons signed the book to adopt the constitution, and the following officers were elected: President, John Jones, Howellville; Vice-President, John Pugh; Secretary, George W. Lewis; Treasurer, Thomas Adamson; Managers, John Jones, Clarence Ville, Jonathan T. Lewis, James Hardy, Joseph Lewis and Samuel Lewis.

The Secretary, George W. Lewis, was the father of Miss Lizzie Lewis, now living at the home of William Supplee, on Waterloo Road, Berwyn. Other of his descendants include, William Pyott, Sarah Pyott, Ellen Pyott Weadley, Raymond Margerum, Herbert Lewis Margerum, John Randolph Pechin, Kathryn Supplee Llewellyn. Jonathan Lewis, one of the Managers, was a cousin of George Lewis, and an uncle of Wayne Pennell.

The meetings of this society moved to the Great Valley Baptist School House, and we find them meeting at Glassley only once more. While it seems as though the school house was located a great distance from the little town now known as Berwyn, their reason for building there seems to have been the usual one -- economy.

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A town had been laid out by the owner of the tract of land just east of Berwyn and Robert McClenachan donated the land for the school house, and so the first school house was erected on the ground of the property now known as the Thorpe house located on the south side of Highland Avenue (see map). Mr. Thorpe afterward bought the second Glassley School for $l,554.65 to enlarge his property.

A deed in the court house at West Chester locates the land purchased by the Easttown School District from Mary and Joseph Smith in 1863, as South 3° East 10 perches to stone, then South 87° West 16 perches to stone, North 3° West 10 perches to middle of said Turnpike, then North 87° East 16 perches to beginning-one acre of ground-cost $150.

Both buildings have long been demolished and so that place where much of the history of Berwyn and the vicinity had its beginning is now marked only by a few trees and the fall colored sumac bushes. They did their work well and then passed out of the lives of the coming generation, but still linger fondly in the memory of those who spent so many days within their old stone walls.


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