Click Here to Return to Index

Click Here to Return to Milestones

The Bell Once Tolled for One-Room Schools

Milestones Vol 27. No. 1

A portrait of George Washington adorns the front wall of the classroom.

In the middle of the room is a castiron, pot-belly stove. It is surrounded by desks of various sizes - the smaller desks on the right side and the larger ones on the left.

A ceiling-high closet used for storing books and supplies is in the right rear corner of the room and there is a coat rack in the left rear.

Alongside the old red brick building is a pump and behind it are out houses.

This is education as it was when Bea ver County was in its formative years This is the Richmond Little Rec School House in Brighton Township.

The school house on Brady's Ridge built around 1845, once was one of the one-room schools in Brighton Town ship. Each served pupils in grades on through eight who lived within approximately a two-mile radius of the school.

Originally, the land on which the school was built was part of a federal land grant to John Strawbridge, a veteran of the Revolutionary War Strawbridge obtained the land in 1786.

He owned it until 1818, when it was sold to John and Rebecca Nible. The Nibles owned the property for 2 years, selling it to Brighton Township in 1844 for construction of a school house.

A school was needed on Brady' Ridge to serve a small crossroad settlement located there. Indeed, the community was called Smalltown. However, it was not named for its size but because of the rather large number of families named Small which settled there.

The school was built at a cost ol around $850, according to Ben Wilson of Brighton Township, former president of the Richmond Little Red School House Group, the organization which maintains the restored school.

It was closed in 1950, after some 105 years use. Curiously, when the school was sold by Brighton Township in 1953, it brought the same price it had cost to build some 108 years earlier $850.

The school changed hands again before it was reacquired by Brighton Township in 1969 for $442 as payment of back taxes by the last private owner.

It was after the township reacquired the building that Richmond Little Red School House Group was formed and set forth on the task of restoring the building to its original condition.

The call went out for things which once were used in the Richmond School or in other one-room schools in this area. In came desks, the potbelly stove and many other items.

Work was done on the inside and outside of the building. Windows cut by the previous owner in the thick walls were bricked over and re-plastering work was done inside.

Historical items donated to the school house group were set in place. Finally, the restoration work was completed and the school was dedicated Sept. 13, 1970.

Several interesting stories surround the restoration of the building. One recalled by Wilson involves the school bell, which was missing for some 100 years, but now is safely back in its original home.

When the school was built, a fine bell called students to classes in the morning and dismissed them in the afternoon.

However, one morning in the 1850's or 1860's the teacher arrived at school to find the bell gone. It seems that during the night someone had stolen it from its place in front of the school.

The family of the boy who pulled the youthful prank must have been ashamed to return the bell. Never again did it toll at Richmond School.

Then one day a couple of years ago, the Richmond Little Red School House Group was asked if it would like to have the bell returned. Naturally, the group was enthusiastic at the prospect of acquiring the original bell and said yes.

The bell is now back home - donated anonymously by a descendant of the boy who stole it.

Another tale concerns the heavy lock on the door of the school. It, too, was missing when the group started its restoration work.

While digging around the foundation, the group turned up what appeared to be the original lock. It was repaired and a new key was made for it. Now the lock works perfectly again.

Also found under the school were some of the original desks. They too have been repaired and are on display.

Tales that the old building itself could tell us about 100 years of education are lost forever. But in the mind's eye, visions of dunce caps and stern school marms, of readin', ritin', and 'rithmetic abound in Richmond Little Red School House.

From Beaver County Times Anniversary Edition