The History of Mohnton Area Schools
History of Shillington Area Schools
Governor Mifflin Senior High School
Governor Thomas Mifflin
The History of Mohnton Area Schools
As early as 1840 and then to 1865, the people living in the hills and valleys in the vicinity of Mohn’s Store took advantage of the opportunity for training their children in a small stone school house at Cedar Top run by Cumru Township. This school building was located at the spot presently occupied by the Cedar Top Fire Co. at the Church and Welsh roads crossing. The pupils, eighty or ninety in number, attended school until they were eighteen to twenty-one years of age, because the school term was only five months long. Children in those days were needed on the farms in the fall and spring, so that only the cold winter months were available for schooling.
Geography is introduced to those topics already taught — reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, and history.
A one-story, sandstone structure, 32 feet by 40 feet, was erected on the northeast corner of Chestnut Street and West Wyomissing Avenue. Among the teachers in this building were: Mrs. Berneville Miller, Mary Deeds, Adam Grill, Leo J. Hess, Katie Lewis, Frank Miller, James Shipp, William B. Bechtel, D. M. Blatt, Valentine Guilden, and Wilson Long. This building was removed in 1895 to make way for Salem Evangelical Church.
Another school for the convenience of pupils from the area of Penwyn and the northern part of Mohnton was built in 1886 on the northwest corner of what is now Madison Street and Hill Street. The newest section of the cemetery is now located on this corner. This building resembled the one in Mohnton and was known as the Fairview School. It was torn down in 1908. Some of the people who taught there were: George L. Hoffman, Howard Shilling, James Boyer, Hiram J. Bigony, Sr., Frank W. Metz, James E. Worley, and Arthur D. Miller.
The history of the sandstone school building on the east side of Chestnut Street begins in 1890 when a two-story structure was built. This is the portion of the building closest to the street. In 1895 an addition was made to the east end of the existing building, and in 1897, because of increasing enrollment, a second addition was made. This east section was built in a north-south direction at a right angle to the existing structure. At that time the enrollment was 90 pupils. Some of the teachers in this building during the early years were: William F. Bigony, Hiram J. Bigony, Sr., J. Frank Merkel, Margaret Mohn, Martin D. Grill, Harry Worley, Madeline Bigony, Wilson Dunkelberger, Elmer Worley, J. B. Gougler, Anna Mohn, and Frank W. Matz.
The first school library was started here in 1897 by Hiram J. Bigony at a cost of $59.26. This building was used for the elementary grades until 1957 when only the kindergarten, elementary office, and curriculum centers were housed there; grades one through six having been moved into the building farther up Chestnut Street. After 1974 it was no longer used for school purposes and was finally purchased in 1978 by Brian R. Schlappich, who converted it into residential apartments, now appropriately known as the School House Apartments.
With the incorporation of the Borough of Mohnton came many changes. The community was growing, and more classrooms were needed. In June 1907, the school directors, Dr. A. A. Stamm, Hiram J. Bigony, Sr., Dr. M. L. Miller, Dr. J. W. Frankhauser, Allen O. Fisher, and Calvin S. Krick, met and appointed a committee that secured the second story of the Knights of Pythias Lodge Hall for a high school room. Mr. John S. McCurdy was elected teacher-principal. Thus, the Mohnton High School was begun. In 1909 Miss Sallie Ruth was elected assistant teacher, and the following year Miss Elda K. Seidel became the assistant teacher and remained so for five years. In 1912-13 there were 32 high school pupils, and the budget was $310.50. The first graduating class of 1909 consisted of Ralph Frymoyer, Naomi Musser, Wayne Slote, and Claude Weber.
1910 – 12
Seventh and eighth grades were formed and taught by Hiram Bigony. More room was needed for these two grades, and in 1913-14 they were moved to the room on the second floor of the John Werner’s print shop on Walnut Street. They were taught by Stephen C. Leininger and the next year by Homer W. Ruth. In 1915 these grades were added to the high school, thus forming the first six-year high school in Berks County and one of the earliest in the state.
In February of this year, the school board — Franklin Miller, James Gougler, Pierce Wenrich, John C. Werner, and Charles M. Worley — submitted to the voters a proposition for borrowing $25,000 for a new school building. The location chosen for the building was on the west side of Chestnut Street, north of Summit Street. Work was begun in 1914, and the halls and upper floors were completed for entrance by the 1915-16 term. There were approximately 100 pupils. The high school curriculum included mathematics, science, Latin, German, history, penmanship, typewriting, bookkeeping, music, literature, English, geography, and civics. The elementary studies were reading, spelling, writing, history, English, physiology, arithmetic, geography, and music.
During the November election, the citizens passed a bond issue for $45,000 to be used to erect an addition to the high school. Besides classrooms, the addition contained rooms for manual training, domestic science, rest rooms, and a combination gymnasium-auditorium.
The first community Baccalaureate Service was conducted on May 17, 1932 with the Rev. I. F. Bergstresser delivering the address. Prior to the construction of this addition to the building, all special activities requiring an auditorium or gymnasium had been conducted in the Mohnton Band Auditorium. They were now held in the new location.
During the ensuing years and until 1953, Mohnton High School was a busy place. In addition to the regular educational pursuits, there were extra-curricular activities: chorus, band, operetta, clubs, school paper, yearbook, field day, May Day and Halloween celebrations. The first yearbook was published in 1927. For many years the high school was on the approved list of colleges and secondary schools. The last evaluation for this purpose was made in 1950. During its 45-year history, Mohnton High School graduated 764 people, the last class (1953) having forty members. The men who served as supervising principals from 1907 to 1930 were John McCurdy, Grant Delph, Harry E. Messersmith, Conrad Muehe, Howard Heckman, O. J. Farrel, Jacob D. Wentzel. In 1930, at the time the high school addition was built, Harry B. Fehl became supervising principal, followed in 1934 by Charles O. Metcalf who served for 18 years until 1952 when Ira P. Hoffman succeeded him.
The History of Shillington Area Schools
First school house erected 100 feet west of Wyomissing Creek on road to Sinking Spring.
Free school system adopted in Pennsylvania, but is not a compulsory law.
Cumru Township adopts free school concept.
One-room school built on plot on East Lancaster Avenue.
Two-room school built to replace former one-room school in same general area. One-room school becomes a bakery.
Cumru Township High School established a two-year course under Principal Amandus Dietrich at four-room school in Shillington. Board members were: Benneville M. Gaul, president; Charles W. Berg, secretary; and Ellis M. Worley. Amandus M. Dietrich was the first principal and only teacher of the high school. A graduate of Kutztown Normal School and a strict disciplinarian, he was nicknamed "Dutch Bill."
The first class to graduate from the Cumru High School was a class of nine in 1904, and it continued as Cumru High School until the class of 1909 graduated. Presenting the valedictory address for the class of 1904 was Isaac B. High, class president. The title of his speech was, "I lead; let others follow." He later became a physician in Shillington.
From 1904 through 1909 there were 42 persons graduated from Cumru High School. All are now deceased.
A statement for the school year ending June 1, 1908 lists the following:
Cumru Township — 26 schools meeting 7 months per year.
22 male teachers; 4 female teachers
average salary per month for males — $47.27
average salary per month for females — $45.00
number of students — 477 males, 547 females
average % of attendance — 92%
cost per month per student — $1.53
mills levied for taxes — 2.5
total statement $10,924.95
On August 18, 1908, the Borough of Shillington was organized and incorporated to include 461 taxables and 387 voters. The Cumru High School then became the Shillington High School.
Shillington High students attended school for two years (ninth and tenth grade) and met on the second floor of the building at 322 South Wyomissing Avenue.
The first Shillington School Board was formed with members William A. Miller, president; Charles M. Yetter; William H. Dankle; Levi Lausch; Harry G. Hain; and Frank Miller. The first Shillington School Board meeting took place on June 7, 1909.
The first graduating class of the Shillington High School, in 1910, included a class of 8 members.
Smallest graduating class of 4 students commences.
Rear addition of eight rooms added to four original rooms and high school classes are returned to the building and extended to three years.
High school course becomes four years long and is taught by two teachers.
The school board, consisting of Charles Mosser, Earl Sands, Elias Coldren, Fred Gehret, and Orville Becker, decided to accept the 8-4 plan of education (8 years of elementary, 4 years of high school). This was the first time a twelve-year school plan was adopted.
Charles J. Hemmig is appointed principal of the high school. He became Supervising Principal in 1925, serving the school for 32 years until his retirement in 1952.
The Shillington School was approved for six-year, junior-senior high school.
Ground was broken for a new Shillington High School along East Lancaster Avenue between Brobst and State streets to be built on the former Berks County Almshouse property. The initial cost was $120,000, and the cornerstone was laid in 1925. This new building bears the inscription "Learn to Live — Live to Learn."
Classes began in the new Shillington High School in September 1926, and the first Shillington High School class of 24 students graduates.
The Shillington School Board extended educational services by adding a kindergarten program with Alice Deeds Klopp, a 1920 Shillington graduate, as the first teacher.
The growth of school population causes addition of twelve rooms to the school building. The high school is one of the first in the state to receive accreditation by a visiting evaluation team of state educators.
Four more rooms are added to the school to ease overcrowding. Improvements are made to the athletic fields — four clay tennis courts, three baseball diamonds, a football gridiron, a track, a hockey field, and other playing facilities. Student activities conference is held at the high school involving 200 students and advisers from across the state to discuss assemblies, athletics, clubs, forensic activities, homerooms, and student councils.
Enrollment of high school approaches 700, grades 7 through 12.
School football team completes its only undefeated season in its history with 7 wins and a tie. Victory Track Meet is organized to honor men and women in the Armed Services of America.
Department heads created for subject areas in high school.
Staff includes 29 teachers, one nurse, one part-time doctor, one full-time dental hygienist, one principal, and one supervising principal.
Largest graduating class ever of 151 students commences.
Author John Updike graduates from Shillington High School.
The last class graduates from the Shillington High School. The total number of graduates from Shillington High School from 1910 to 1953 total 2723.
The Governor Mifflin Senior High School
After World War II, changes occurred in the educational system throughout the State of Pennsylvania. The formation of "jointures" was the order of the day, the idea being to form educational units which could offer a better program of study to the children. After much planning, the jointure known as Governor Mifflin Joint Schools was established and became effective July 1, 1953. In 1953, 2,969 children were enrolled in the Governor Mifflin School system, and administrators and teachers numbered 111.
The jointure was composed of the schools from the Boroughs of Mohnton, Kenhorst and Shillington and from the Townships of Brecknock and Cumru. The joint schools were named in honor of Governor Thomas Mifflin, first Governor of Pennsylvania as a state. His country home occupied a part of the old County Home tract and the new Governor Mifflin High School site.
Mr. Howard L. Hendricks was named superintendent of schools for the jointure. The temporary senior high school (Grades 9-12) was located in the former Shillington High School building with Mr. Luther Weik, principal. The former Mohnton High School was designated as the temporary junior high building (Grades 7-8) with Ira P. Hoffman, principal. All of the elementary grades (Grades 1-6) and kindergarten were under the supervision of Mr. Joseph E. Plevyak. At this time there were still two-room schools in use in the townships. These were gradually closed, and the pupils consolidated in new and larger buildings in the Cumru, Brecknock and Farview Elementary buildings.
In 1955, construction workers broke ground for the new Governor Mifflin High School building. Located at the center of the pupil population, the new senior high school was dedicated in 1958 to the service of pupils in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades. The senior high school was built to accomodate 800 pupils, at a cost of $2,080,000. The original Shillington High School was converted to a junior high school building upon the completion of the new senior high school. Enrollment demanded that this facility be enlarged, and the completed renovated and expanded building was occupied in September 1962. With the capacity of 1,010 pupils, the cost of renovation, new addition and equipment totalled $1,655,000. The old Mohnton High School building was then used by 12 groups of elementary children, Grades 1-6. In this same year the old stone building was used for kindergarten and the elementary administration offices. The borough council and some lodges also met in the second floor rooms.
By 1971-72, only Grades 1 to 4 were taught in the Mohnton building. Grades 5 and 6 were bussed to Gouglersville. Later, kindergarten children were bussed to the Cumru building and Grades 4 to 6 to the new intermediate building. The term of 1975-76 was the last one to see children winding their way to school up Chestnut Street to the former Mohnton High School building. For awhile the old high school building stood vacant and was finally torn down in 1979. Thus ended in Mohnton, an educational era lasting for 113 years.
The era of the Shillington High School ended in the summer of 1992 with the razing of the 1925 section of the building. Two additions to the 1961 structure converted the entire building to a middle school in 1990 with occupancy (Grades 7-8) in 1992. The two-phase $7,291,864 million renovation project begun at the Governor Mifflin Middle School transformed the former junior high school into a new 22-acre middle school equipped with a total of 37 classrooms and a maximum pupil capacity of 790 students.
The current Governor Mifflin Senior High School consists of the original 1957 structure with additions in 1965, 1991 and 2007. In 1991 the building underwent extensive renovations and an expansion to accommodate a Grades 9 through 12 organizational pattern. After the $9,820,822 million renovation project was completed, the 202,227 square-foot senior high school accommodated a maximum pupil capacity of 1,406 with a total of 56 classrooms. Between June 2006 and March 2008, the school received additional renovations which included 14 new classrooms, two new large group instruction rooms and an expanded cafeteria. The current 237,000 square-foot building has a maximum pupil capacity of 1,729. Enrollment figures in 2007 exceeded 1490 students, and faculty and support staff numbered 112.
Other District Projects
Renovations commenced in 2008 at the Governor Mifflin Intermediate School to upgrade its mechanical system and replace the open classroom "pod" concept with individual classrooms. On the same campus, construction work began in 2008 on the new 175,000 square-foot Mifflin Park Elementary School building. This new facility, containing 23 classrooms and a maximum pupil capacity of 575, will open for students in the 2009-10 school year.
Since 2004, the District has made several improvements to its athletic facilities. In the summer of 2006, the District installed new synthetic turf fields in the football stadium and in the adjacent multi-purpose playing field. This $3.1 million improvement project also included upgrades to the playing fields along Lancaster Avenue. In 2007 the District moved the tennis court facility to a site east of Cumru Elementary in order to make way for the new Mifflin Park Elementary School. Also at this site, the District installed a new soccer practice field, which will be open for team use in the spring of 2009.
As of 2008, the Governor Mifflin School District covers a 42-square mile suburban-rural area with a population of 29,092. Scores of loyal administrators, teachers and supportive staff have worked diligently to provide an education to prepare 19,000 Governor Mifflin graduates to succeed in today's highly complex world.
Governor Thomas Mifflin
Thomas Mifflin was born on January 10, 1744, into an affluent Quaker home. He was educated at the Quaker school on 4th Street between Chestnut and Walnut in Philadelphia. Later he graduated from City College (now the University of Pennsylvania) at 16.
While still in his twenties, he married his cousin, Sarah Morris, the daughter of Morris Morris, also a Quaker. During most of their lives they lived in a stone mansion located at the "Falls of the Schuylkill," a few miles northwest of the city, in what is now Fairmont Park. This was usually called his "country home". (He maintained a place in the city, also.) It was torn down in the early 1800s.
As with most people of his background and education, Mifflin was a liberal and deeply involved in the turbulent politics of his day, including being one of the youngest and most radical members of the First Continental Congress. His political career began when he became a general in April of 1775, the beginning of a military career that would span a brief four years. The pacifist faith of the Quakers condemned Mifflin for his involvement in the military movement. His belief in the "cause" was more important to him, and on May 16, 1776, he was appointed brigadier general in the Continental Army by Congress. In September of the same year, he was also made quartermaster.
During the years 1776 through 1778, many wealthy persons, from the Philadelphia area in particular, purchased land in the area surrounding Reading. Many did so because at the onset of the Revolutionary War it was a probability that the enemy would try to capture Philadelphia (which became a reality) and they would need a place of refuge.
Thomas Mifflin began to acquire his property in Berks County in 1777, and for a period of seventeen years was the owner of what came to be called "Angelica Farm." Although he never set up a permanent residence here, he appears to have found solace on the premises he loved.
After the war ended he was made a delegate to Congress from 1782 to 1784, serving as its president in 1783-1784. In 1787 he was a member of the Federal Constitution Convention. Later he was made prothonotary.
Sarah died in the summer of 1790, only six months before he took office as Governor. She is buried in the Friends’ Cemetery in Philadelphia. She was still evidently an accepted member of the Quakers at the time of her death.
Governor Thomas Mifflin, the first governor of Pennsylvania, served for three terms as governor from 1790-1799, the constitutional limit. Governor Thomas McKean succeeded him in December of 1799, and Mifflin was elected to the Pennsylvania Assembly to continue his political career. However, a month later, he became seriously ill and died at 3:15 a.m., January 20, 1800, in a lodging house on Queen Street in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He was 56 years of age. As a former Quaker who had been ostracized from the faith, he could not be buried with his wife in the Friends' Cemetery. The inscription on a tablet affixed to the church where he was buried, Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster, refers to Mifflin as a "distinguished Patriot and Zealous Friend of Liberty."