High Teacher Turnover

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Friday, February 16, 1912: And this is the last day of that wonderful teacher of ours. I wonder how he felt this afternoon. I expected he would give some kind of an address, but he didn’t. Oh well, I don’t think I’ll be sorry of his leaving if the next one comes up to the average.  

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma wrote the previous Friday that her old teacher was staying for one more week.

I learned a little more about the mid-year change in teachers in the  History of the McEwensville Schools by Thomas Kramm:

. . . The high teacher turnover rate, especially in the high school prior to 1916, resulted in a new teacher almost every year. At least one teacher, and perhaps more, would not return to teach the following school year because the school board refused to increase the teacher’s salary. Although it did not occur often, when a teacher resigned in mid-term it was sometimes a challenge to find a replacement. During the 1911-12 school year, when high school teacher Howard Northrop wanted to resign mid-term, his resignation was not permitted until he personally recruited his own replacement.

Whew, it doesn’t sound like the school board did much vetting of teachers. Hopefully the new teacher will be good.

Pull the Blinds–There’s a Burial in the Cemetery

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, September 26, 1911:  Was in doubts and fears as to how Mollie would act when I commenced to milk her. Pop milked her last night, but I had to do it after that, so I got up early this morning, resolving to come off conquering and I did. Hurrah. She didn’t kick.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

The calf of Grandma’s cow Mollie was sold the previous day. It sounds like Mollie is adjusting to the change.

The previous day’s issue of the Milton Evening Standard had a front page article about the death of John Sheep, the grandfather of Grandma’s friend Helen  “Tweet” Wesner.  It says that Mr. Sheep died at his home after a long illness.

Milton Evening Standard (September 25, 1911)

I wonder if Tweet was upset—though I suppose that she probably was expecting it.

The article indicates that Mr. Sheep was buried on this date in the cemetery next to the McEwensville school.

My father says that when he was a child attending this same school that the classroom blinds were always drawn whenever there was an interment to keep the children from getting upset. It probably was the same a generation earlier when Grandma was a student.

The brick building in the background once housed McEwensville School.

It seems like it would be equally upsetting to know why the blinds had been drawn but not be allowed to see it—but I guess that people handled death differently back then.

In many ways death was closer to people a hundred years ago. Most people died at home —yet the community apparently tried to protect children from death by doing things like pulling the blinds.

School Boards a Hundred Years Ago

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, September 19, 1911: Thought this would be the last day for our substitute, but afterwards learned that he is going to teach tomorrow instead of having it off for the fair.

Recent photo of building that once housed McEwensville School.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

It sounds as if the teacher had the option of deciding whether to give students the day off to attend the fair in nearby Milton.

I don’t know why there was a substitute teacher for the first several weeks of the school year (the teacher from the previous year was slated to return the following week) — but Thomas Kramm, in his History of McEwensville Schools, wrote:

The election of a teacher from the available candidates sometimes became a serious problem. In 1901, a sixth ballot was required to break the previous five tie ballots. In 1904, seven ballots did not results in the an election of a teacher. All candidates were rejected, and a slate of new applicants was considered. Just before school was to start, the eight ballot resulted in an election. This suggestions that there were probably power struggles within the board membership.

. . . At least one teacher and perhaps more would not return to teach the following year because the school board refused to increase the teacher’s salary.

Throughout the United States in 1911 there were more school board members than teachers. This had both advantages and disadvantages.

For example, in McEwensville there were two teachers (an elementary and a high school teacher)–yet there probably were either 4 or 6 members on the board.

The community was very involved in ensuring that the schools were high quality and met the needs of the community–but they also sometimes micromanaged the schools and perhaps didn’t always make decisions in the best interest of the students (as suggested by the quote above).

The Lutheran Church in McEwensville

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, June 18, 1911: Went to Sunday school this morning. Was over Stout’s this afternoon, and went up to the Lutheran church to witness their children’s day services this evening. Ma was my chaperone.

This used to be the Lutheran Church in McEwensville.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

There is no longer a Lutheran church in McEwensville. Messiah Lutheran merged with the other church in the parish—St. James Lutheran (Turbotivlle) a few years ago. The combined congregation is now called Holy Spirit Lutheran. Holy Spirit built a building in out in the county half way between McEwensville and Turbotville.

The building is now used for antique storage.

An aside: I can remember eating snacks on this porch when I attended Vacation Bible School there as a child. (I wonder why minor random events sometimes pop into my memory.)


The Location of the Old McEwensville Baptist Church

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, May 22, 1911: Never have I felt less inclined to write in this diary than I do tonight.

The old McEwensville Baptist Church probably was located somewhere on the lot that currently contains this yard and white house.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t have much to say a hundred years ago today, I’m going to partially resolve one of the mysteries that I’ve been grappling with.  Many of these mysteries are about minor things (and I keep telling myself they don’t really matter in the bigger scheme of things)—yet it’s always fun to resolve one of them.

The mystery that I’ve resolved (with Uncle Carl’s help) is the location of the old Baptist Church in McEwensville.

I think that Grandma attended the Baptist Church (see February 5 entry), but since the building was torn down many years ago I wasn’t even sure where in McEwensville the church had been located.

The Baptist Church is located near the top of the map on the lefthand side.

Uncle Carl recently loaned me a copy of an 1858 map of McEwensville that had the Baptist Church on it. The church was located on the east side of Main Street a little to the north of where the old road from Watsontown entered town. We assume that the building location on the map probably was the same in 1911.

I’ve updated the map on the Setting page to reflect the correct location.

An aside—It’s really cool how the old map lists all of the property owner’s names. Also, note how in the mid-1800s the very small streamlet that runs along the west side of the northern part of McEwensville had been dammed to provide water for a saw mill.

A Telephone!

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, May 7, 1911: Went to Sunday school this afternoon. Saw M.C.R. I went over to Stout’s this evening. Carrie wanted me to try their new telephone but I wouldn’t do it. Besse and Curt were out this evening. 

 Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Today feels like a milestone was reached in the diary. So many days Grandma’s life moves forward in rather routine, predictable ways—but a hundred years ago today Grandma apparently had her first opportunity to use a telephone—though she declined because the new technology evidently intimidated her.

I’m surprised that Grandma had never previously used a phone. According to George Wesner in his 1976 History of ‘McEwensville:

“Around the turn of the century there were two telephones in the town. The Bell was at Watson’s Store and at the home of Armstrong’s. Later phones were installed at the Gearhart Foundry, A. & C. Mauser’s carriage works and the J.G. Smith’s residence. A number of years later, the West Branch Bell Telephone Company began operations and built lines throughout the area.”

I love how phones came into the McEwensville area so slowly that Mr. Wesner could name exactly who had the first ones when he wrote his history almost two-thirds of a century later. It must have been very prestigious to own a phone in that era.


Throughout the diary Grandma often used initials rather than names to identify guys she liked, so I assume that M.C.R. was someone who Grandma thought was cute. She apparently was concerned that her mother or sister would read her diary, so often tried to mask the names—though it seems to me that if family members were reading the diary that they would have been able to decipher the initials.

Old McEwensville Photos

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Tuesday, April 4, 1911: Not very much for today. It still continues to be so chilly and so dreary. To increase these conditions it had to rain this afternoon. I have to write about the weather, when I have nothing else to write. I don’t believe Thursday is going to be the beautiful day I want it to be!

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Grandma was hoping for nice weather on Thursday because it would be the last day of school. The commencement ceremony for her sister and other seniors at McEwensville High School will also take place that day.


McEwensville in the Early 1900s. Source: Watsontown, McEwensville, and Delaware Township: A Real Photo Postcard History. (Used with Permission)

Today I’d like to tell you about the best source of information about McEwensville and the surrounding area that I’ve found:

Watsontown, McEwensville, and Delaware Township: A Real Photo Postcard History by Robert Swope Jr. (2006; Publisher: Heritage Trails, PO Box 184, New Hope VA 24469; phone: 540-363-4537). 

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words—and this book is a wonderful example of the power of photos. I keep my copy on a shelf next to the reclining chair in my den. Often I flop into the chair after a long day and find myself reaching for this book—even though I’ve previously looked at every page many times before. The photos pull me back to the simpler days a hundred years ago and I feel like I can almost sense what it was like in McEwensville when Grandma was writing this diary.

This book contains lots of post cards from the early 20th century and is absolutely the best resource that I’ve found on the McEwenville of Grandma’s day. There are descriptive captions for all of the  post cards in the book, and it also contains an interesting and informative history of McEwensville.

In the early 1900s real picture post cards were very popular. Back then people were very interested in sharing the sites and activities of their towns with others.

This blog has  given me the opportunity to meet via technology many wonderful people. One such person is Robert Swope Jr., the author of this book. I contacted  Bob and he very generously allowed me to reproduce a few photos from the book. Most of them are on the Setting page. (I updated the page last night—so if you haven’t looked at it recently be sure to check it out.)

I would encourage anyone who is interested in what McEwensville was like in the early part of the 20th century to read this book. I purchased my copy at the Packwood Museum Gift Shop in Lewisburg. It is also available at other stores in central Pennsylvania.

The book can also be purchased  by calling the phone number listed above or from Bob’s  Ebay store. Just go to Ebay and search using the word “McEwensville”. The listing for the book will pop up.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 926 other followers