Old Eagle School, Mt. Pleasant School (formerly the Carr School)

Of the three early residents of this section whose reminiscences of their school days at the Old Eagle School in Strafford have been made available to us through clippings from the January, 1900, issues of “The Suburban”, all were born in the first quarter of the 19th century.

The youngest of these was Joseph Fisher Mullen, living in Upper Merion Township at the time he wrote of his early life. He was then 76 years old, having been born in Downingtown on March 31, 1824. He was only a year old when he came to “the hill adjoining the Eagle School”. And here he lived for 59 years, not leaving that section until 1883.

Mr. Mullen’s first schooling was at “The Eagle”. Later he went to “The Carr”, subsequently known as Mt. Pleasant School. He was about 20 years old when he finished there, and at 27 he returned as a teacher. His recollections of the interior of the Eagle School are vivid ones. “The walls of the old building at The Eagle”, he writes, “were pointed, with the door on the west side toward the road. It was a double door divided in the middle and swinging each side, with a string latch and wooden bolt like a barn, which we turned by a crooked piece of iron through a hole in the door…

“The whole building and furnishings were of the roughest material. The benches consisted of the first slabs cut from the logs with the bark on them and holes in which were stuck the legs on which they were mounted. In winter we often used them as sleds on ice. In the schoolroom they were arranged around the sides of the building. The sashes of the window slipped past each other side-ways, as is now often seen in blacksmith shops, on the inside of the opening, so as to leave the rough unplastered ledge of the window outside of the sash.”

In true, small-boy fashion, Joseph Mullen was always curious about “a hole like a cup” in one of the outside stones at the northeast corner of the school building. It looked to him as if it had been made by a cannon ball. “But”, as he added, “I never knew what it was.” Although he had known little about the old log Lutheran Church, which supposedly once stood at the side of the school, he could readily believe that the great logs, used as joists in the Huzzard house, had originally come from the early church. Joseph Mullen’s mother had been Elizabeth Huzzard before she married John Mullen. The Huzzard house stood on Eagle road near the school.

From his grandmother, Roseanna Augee, who married Jacob Huzzard, small Joseph heard that the ground on the west side of Old Eagle School road, opposite the school itself, had been given by one Nancy George for “a church free to all except Catholics and Baptists”. This church was never built, however, and all that Joseph Mullen remembered of the property was that in his youthful days there were the ruins of the cellar of an old house on it.

Like Joseph Levis Worrall, Mr. Mullen remembered the “singing school” at the Eagle, where “we always carried candles with us for light, and sometimes put a wick in a bowl of lard and lighted this. Lamps were almost unheard of. We used delftware, china was almost unknown, and we used pewter mugs and gourds of pumps, and coconut shells.”

Adam Siter was one school master who seemed to make a great impression on all three of these writers of school day reminiscences, perhaps because he took care of his duties so well, in spite of his partially paralyzed condition. “Father paid him three cents per day for our schooling, each, and we found our books, etc.,” Mr. Mullen writes. Among these books were Pike’s Arithmetic and Comley’s Spelling, and for later use “The American Tutor”. In arithmetic, when I was a boy, we did not study in classes; some studied in one book and others in a different one,” Mr. Mullen remembers.

Like the other two pupils of whom we have written, Joseph Mullen’s recollections were particularly vivid in the matter of school discipline. He speaks in sincere admiration of one David Rogers, who taught at the Carr School and who “kept splendid order.” This “Master”, as all teachers of that time were called, “had two straps called ‘Constable’ and ‘Sheriff’. When a boy behaved badly he threw the ‘Constable’ at him, and the boy had to bring it up, and then he warned him, and perhaps struck him once. If he repeated the offense, then he threw the ‘Sheriff’ at him and when the boy brought it up, made him give security through another boy that he would behave himself. If he failed to do so, then both he and his security were soundly thrashed”. We might add that, perhaps any master who thought out his disciplinary methods as carefully as did Mr Rogers, deserved the admiration one of his pupils gave him!

Among other occasions that were vivid in the memory of the 70 year old Joseph Mullen was when Adam Siter took all the school children to see Maul’s bridge, which was then being built “above the present St. Davids Station and was a great curiosity because it was so high. The old culvert and bank near Newhall’s, at Strafford, was constructed by use of wheelbarrows entirely”. The military parading in corps around the schoolhouse and the firing of cannon under the direction of Captain John Yocum also left their vivid imprint on a young schoolboy’s mind.

Like Miss Cornog and Mr. Worrall, Joseph Mullen recalls with much interest those first horse-drawn cars on the old Philadelphia and Columbia Railroad. “I remember,” he writes, “ that Matthew Ferguson, an Irishman on Pechin’s place, outran the first engine with a blind horse. He used to boast of it.

“Many persons at first owned cars, which they hitched onto the train, paying so much for the privilege, and charging others for what they hauled. The first engine was called “The Crab”. The smokestack was in the center. At that time it was usual to let cattle go at large on public roads. Each owner knew the tinkle of his own bell. However, this became a great danger to all kinds of public travel.”

Mr. Mullen remembers that when the first engine appeared, the roads were lined with people to see it. The great changes made, not only by the railroad, but by the telegraph as well, met with much opposition. He quotes some of the older people as saying, “It was bad enough when the railroad came, but now with telegraph, no poor man could keep a cow.” It is a little difficult to follow the thought here. However, it is plain that neither the railroad nor the telegraph were popular in this locality, when they made their appearance in the early half of the 19th century.

(For the use of the material in these last three articles centering around the Old Eagle School, and its immediate environs, the writer is indebted to Miss Emily Siter Wellcome, who has preserved not only the old Martin family Bible, but numerous clippings that have been kept in it for many years.)