Monroe Muses on School Days
Reporter in Residence
I am delighted the school year has begun because I have missed the class visits to the Stroud Mansion. The youngsters are delightful, and always ask interesting questions, and make intuitive comments.
I just wonder if students today realize how different schools were from a long time ago. Fortunately, William Penn, founder of the colony of Pennsylvania realized the importance of education. He wanted children to become productive members of the community. In Colonial times this meant learning a trade or skill. Children, especially boys, were apprenticed to skilled craftsman in the community, such as blacksmiths, coopers (barrel makers), silversmiths, wheelwrights, etc. In the course of learning the trade they would learn to read, write, and do arithmetic, all important skills if you were to have a business of your own. Younger children were often taught in a home in the community by a female member of that family. This type of school was called a dame school.
In the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania, as in many of the other colonies, reading was taught through passages from the Bible. Not only did the children learn to read, but they also learned moral lessons. In addition to reading and writing, girls of affluent families were taught needlework at home or in special schools just for that purpose. Even very young girls completed intricate samplers to demonstrate their skill with a needle. Samplers were also learning tools. Girls stitched numbers and letters, religious verses, mathematical tables, and even maps. The sampler in the Stroud Room was completed by Sarah Stroud at the age 12.
As a community grew, land was often set aside to build a school. Daniel Stroud and his family promoted education in the new community of Stroudsburg.
Stroud donated property at 8th and Main where the stone building was used by several religious denominations on Sundays and as a school during the week. It was known as the Stroudsburg Academy and was chartered in 1814. Community families financed the school.
The first school house was built on Keeve's Hill just beyond the Stroudsburg Cemetery. This was similar to the Bell School (located in Stormsville and owned by MCHA) where students of all ages were taught in one room. Many of the first teachers were young men not much older than their students. Some were itinerant ministers. Unmarried women were also teachers.
In some areas of what is now Monroe County, the language of instruction was often German. Many of the early settlers came from that area of Europe, now known as Germany, and continued to speak German in their homes and churches.
All this reminiscing about school days takes me to the children’s room in the Mansion to look at the collection of classroom tools. I think today’s students might have a difficult time identifying some of the items.
One of the time-consuming tasks of the schoolmaster was to sharpen goose quills that students used to practice their writing skills. Students would copy sentences from the New England Primer that not only improved their penmanship, but also their behavior.
I vividly recall this example; “The idle Fool is whipt at school.” Because paper was scarce, other lessons were completed on a slate with a slate pencil. Books were rare and children memorized lessons from a horn book. This was a wooden paddle to which was attached a paper with a prayer and/or poem and covered by a transparent sheet of animal horn. The alphabet and numbers were often found on the reverse side of the horn book.
I enjoy the students’ visits to the Mansion so much I think I might have enjoyed teaching in a one-room school!