In 1815 pioneering settler John Nesbit laid out the village of Mount Jackson in North Beaver Township, in what later became Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. He named the settlement in honor of U.S. Army General Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson, recent hero of the War of 1812 – who later ascended to serve as the President of the United States from 1829-1837. One of the earliest buildings to be erected in the village was a small log cabin schoolhouse. By 1875 the township of North Beaver had about fourteen one-room schools in total, including a wooden frame structure in the village of Mount Jackson.
By the early 1920’s, as the overcrowding of schools became a serious issue, it was decided to build a large consolidated school on the Edinburg Road in Mount Jackson – just north of the intersection with the Mount Jackson Road (soon known as Route 108).
The New Castle News of Saturday, June 10, 1922, reported, “At a meeting of the North Beaver township school board last night the contract for the erection of a modern high school building of ten rooms, was let to J. Clyde Gilfillan of this city at his bid of $61,663, it being the lowest bid.The work to be done by Mr. Gilfillan is what is known as the general contract, being for the erection of the building, exclusive of lighting and heating. The electric work was let to the Freed Electric company of this city for $478. The plumbing was not awarded, but will he let within a few days. Contracts were awarded to the lowest bidder. It is estimated that the total cost of the building exclusive of seating and furnishing will run about $80,000. Plans were prepared by Architect W. G. Eckles of this city. They call for a ten room building rectangular in shape, with a large auditorium in the centre. Brick are to be purchased from the Pearson Brick company of this city. They will be dark red. The building is to stand on a beautiful location on the Gilmore farm just outside the village limits on the Mt. Jackson and Bessemer road.”
Construction got underway in soon after and the school, known as the North Beaver Township High School (or Mount Jackson High School) – or more popularly as the North Beaver Township Consolidated School, was completed slightly behind schedule in June 1923. It was formally opened for classes in September 1923 for students of all grades 1-12.
By the early 1920’s, as the overcrowding of schools became a serious issue, it was decided to build a large consolidated school on the Edinburg Road in Mount Jackson – just north of the intersection with the Mount Jackson Road (soon known as Route 108). Construction got underway in mid-1922 and the school, known as the North Beaver Township High School (or Mount Jackson High School) – or more popularly as the North Beaver Township Consolidated School, was completed slightly behind schedule in June 1923. It was formally opened for classes in September 1923 for students of all grades 1-12.
It initially absorbed pupils from the old Mount Jackson School, but within a few years began taking in students from various one-room schools in the township to include the Carson School, Cross Roads School, Leonard School, and the Brewster School. I believe a large addition was added to the back of the school in about 1927 to accommodate the growth. At that time the school had a total of almost 360 pupils. The high school also adopted a “Vo-Tech” curriculum in the fall of 1929.
In early 1950 the school districts of Little Beaver and North Beaver Township planned to merge in a cost-cutting measure. Part of that proposed jointure called for the enlarging of the North Beaver Township Consolidated School (High School) but I believe the merger did not take place. I’m not certain if the school was enlarged at this time, but a dedicated new elementary school was soon erected right behind it. The North Beaver Township Elementary School was opened (initially serving grades 1-4) in September 1952. At that time the North Beaver Township High School handled students in grades 5-12.
In the fall of 1958 the North Beaver Township School District, in conjunction with several other school districts, joined the newly created Mohawk Area School District. As part of the reorganization the North Beaver Township Consolidated School (High School) became a dedicated intermediate school known as the Mohawk Junior High School (for grades 5-8).
In September 1963, with the opening of the new Mohawk Area Junior-Senior High School near Bessemer, this school became part of the Mount Jackson Elementary School (or officially as the Mohawk Elementary School at Mount Jackson). I know it handled local students in grades 4-6, while the smaller school behind it housed students in grades 1-3. I believe this arrangement continued for some time – and it’s likely the smaller building was eventually closed first.
By the mid-1970’s a debate got underway as to what to do with the school district’s three aging elementary schools at Bessemer, Hillsville, and Mount Jackson. The options included centralizing the students at one of the old schools, renovating all of the schools for continued use, or closing all three and erecting a modern elementary school. It took a few years but a decision was finally made. All three elementary schools remained in service until June 1983 and were closed with the opening of the modern Mohawk Elementary School (located next to the Mohawk Junior-Senior High School) later that fall.
I believe the two school buildings in Mount Jackson sat vacant until they were sold off at a later time. They fell into disuse and deteriorated over time. Both buildings were in the regional news after a rather curious incident on March 5, 2009. On that day a small fire erupted in the smaller building (former elementary school) and the alarm was raised by neighbors. When firefighters arrived they determined that a five-foot-long alligator had knocked over a heater and started the blaze. It was soon learned that the building was home to numerous animals, including dogs, various aquatic animals, and 70+ rabbits. Two alligators and a dog had unfortunately perished due to smoke inhalation. The animals were confiscated but returned to the property owner, identified as local resident Brian Simpson, when it was found that no actual laws were broken.
The two former school buildings continue to deteriorate and present a worsening blight to the surrounding homeowners.
This schoolhouse in Mount Jackson, shown above, served as the high school for the entire township beginning in late 1898. The first graduating class, of three female students, was honored during a commencement exercise on April 13, 1899. I believe this school was located just north of the village and on the east side of where Routes 317 and 551 intersect. (c1910) Full Size
A view of the schoolhouses in Mount Jackson. The North Beaver Township Elementary School, which opened in 1952, is seen at top. The main building served as a senior high school from 1923-1958, a junior high school from 1958-1963, and an elementary school from 1963-1983. (1967) Full Size
The 1928-29 men’s varsity basketball team for Mount Jackson High School. Harry Anderson Howard is first from left. (1928) (Photo courtesy of Don Howard)
The woman’s varsity basketball squad from 1928-29. Mary Patterson (Howard), who married Harry Anderson Howard from above photo, is second from right in first row. (1928) (Photo courtesy of Don Howard)
A music class from Mount Jackson High School. (c1928) (Photo courtesy of Don Howard)
A class photo possibly of 4th graders from c1936. My uncle Paul Hake is in the back row, eighth kid from left end (with head tilted).
Various local fire departments are on scene as a fire was reported in the old North Beaver Elementary School (top left) on March 5, 2009. Full Size
(Jan 2012) Full Size
(Jan 2012) Full Size
Cole Malone #
Hey, i was wandering if i could ghost hunt/ investigate the North Beaver Twnp High School. If i can that would be great, E-Mail a message to me with your answer.Thanks
John Morris #
Yes, It continued as grades 4 , 5 and 6 for quite some time actually. I attended all 3 grades until june 1966 then went to 7th grade at Mohawk Jr/Sr High. and Its my recollection that the elementary school in Mt Jackson was still in operation into the 1970’s At Some point in the windows in the building where updated to the aluminum frame ones seen in the pics. And that occured after I moved from Mt Jackson in 1975. Don’t know when the “little” building behind the “big” building shut down. It held classes for grades 1-3
Jeff Bales Jr. #
(EDITOR’S NOTE) John, Thanks for the information. It’s very useful and answers some of my questions. I know the elementary schools in Bessemer, Hillsville, and Mount Jackson were in service until mid-1983 and were replaced with the new Mohawk Elementary School that fall. I guess what is still in question for me is was the “elementary school” in Mount Jackson – say in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s – just in the smaller building out back OR just in the larger building OR still being held in both of the buildings. It sounds like from your recollection they used both buildings at least up until the mid-1970’s. And were these buildings sold soon after 1983 or used for storage or other purposes for some time? Jeff
John Morris #
I do know that not too long ago, the “little building” had a fire and some weird story in the news about it housing among other things an alligator, of all things. Not as I recall, a native animal of western Pa. The building was owned by an old neighbor of mine as a kid, named Greg Simpson. Imagine you can still google the story or check New Castle News archives as thats where I read it. I now live in South central Kentucky, and peruse the New Castle paper online now and then to see if I know anyone in the news or who died I might remember. I imagine both those buildings where deemed not usable because of asbestos and just general age.
Jeff Bales Jr. #
(EDITOR’S NOTE) John, That is correct. A fire erupted in the “little building” out back on March 5, 2009. Apparently a five-foot-long alligator knocked over a heater and started a small blaze. Two alligators and a dog perished. Firefighters soon learned that the building was home to numerous animals, including dogs, various aquatic animals, and 70+ rabbits. The animals were confiscated but returned to the owner, identified as Brian Simpson, when it was found that no actual laws were broken. Jeff
John Morris #
Ok, Briam Simpson was Greg Simpsons oldest brother. They grew up in Jackson Knolls where I lived from 1960 to 1968 when my family bought a lot on Edinburg Rd. (rte 551) in Mt. Jackson. Could have sworn the article I read said Greg though. Oh well. Even knew the guy who reported the fire, Bill Casto, he graduated high school with one of my sisters. Small world as they say.
Eric Jefferis #
The answer to your question in comment #3 is that both buildings were used right up until the new Mohawk Elementary School opened in 1983. I went through grades 1-6 in the old schools and was in 7th or 8th grade when the new grade school opened. The pictures of the inside of the school are sad. Was the gymnasium in equally bad condition? I have a lot of fond memories of that school.
Jeff Bales Jr. #
(EDITOR’S NOTE) Eric, thanks for clarification on the closing of the two buildings. It seems that the smaller building handled grades 1-3 and the larger building grades 4-6 – possibly from the opening of Mohawk High in 1963 until they closed with the opening of the new Mohawk Elementary in 1983. Does this sound accurate?
Eric Jefferis #
Re note #8, that is correct.
Dan Byler #
I attended Mt Jackson Elementary school. 1980 to 1983, The small building was k to 2nd grade. 3rd to 6th was in the big building.
Charlotte Harding #
I attended Mt Jackson schools from first grade to 11th, when it became Mohawk High. My father graduated from Mt. Jackson High
Francis E. Harding
I remember it well and a real shame to see it falling apart. Lots of good times were had in that building.
Maggie Miller #
I went to Mt. Jackson school as well. 1st through 3rd grade were in the little building there were 3 1st grade classes, 3 2nd grade classes and 3 3rd grade classes in the little building. Then you moved up to the big building for 4th, 5th and 6th grades which also had 3 classes of each grade. There was a cafeteria in both buildings but all the cooking was done in the big building and carried down to the little building for lunch.
Bessemer and Hillsville had their own grade schools and the big move to High School for 7th grade was scarey there were so many more kids from the other schools there. Great memories for sure!! In the summer as kids we used to play at the grade school, I saw a picture of a tunnel way that was in the parking lot of the big building that went to the basement of the school, we used to play in there. There also was a huge sour cherry tree on the playground at the little building and we would eat cherries til we got a belly ache and had to go home.
BLAINE STACHOWIAK #
MY FAMILY MOVED TO MOHAWK IN 1963. IREMEMBER MY TEACHERS TO THIS DAY , THEY WERE ALL SPECIAL. 2ND GRADE WAS EMILY TINCANI 3RD GRADE WAS MRS WALTERS AND 4TH GRADE WAS FERN GWIN , 5TH MRS PARROTT AND 6TH WAS MRS MCKIM. I REMEMBERR BEING IN THE SCHOOL PLAYS, GYM SHOWS CHRISTMAS PROGRAMS AND AT THE END OF THE YEAR WE WOULD HAVE A CARNIVAL DAY. HUCK KENNEDY WAS OUR JANITOR THE NICEST MAN EVER KNOWN AND I REMEBER IN 6TH GRADE, SHAKA-PUDDING WAS INVENTED AND IT WAS SO COOL , YOU JUST ADDED WATER PUT THE LID ON AND SHAKE IT UNTIL IT BECAME PUDDING VALENTINES BOXES WAS A BIG THING ALSO. I’LL NEVER FORGET LEARNING OUR TIMES TABLES FROM MRS GWIN, SHE MADE IT SUCH A CHALLENGE AND MADE LEARNING FUN! GREAT MEMORIES IN THOSE TWO BUILDINGS . IN SECOND GRADE, WE GREW MARIGOLDS FOR MOTHERS DAY GIFTS AND A CLASS MATE NAMED JODI I THINKS SHE WILL REMMBER TRIED TO MARRY ME AND I DID NOT WANT TO BE MARRIED DURING RECESS.WEALSO MADE EASTER BASKETS AND AND WE WE CAME IN FROM RECESS , MRS WALTERS HAD OUR BASKETS FILLED WITH CANDY! EVERYONE WAS FRIENDS AND FAMILIES KNEW MOST ALL FAMILIES . I WILL NEVER FORGET WHEN WE WERE LOADED ON TO OUR BUSES AND SENT HOME BECAUSE PRESIDENT KENNEDY WAS KILLED AND EVERYONE ONE SO SCARED. IT IS A SHMAE AND IT BREAKS MY HEART HOW THAT SCHOOL IS SO DISGRACED BY NEGLECT AS I DRIVE BY . I CAN STILL HEAR CHILDREN PLAYING AND DOING CLASS WORK AS I WRITE THIS I I HOPE OTHERS CAN TELLSOME STORIES/MEMORIESW
David R. Crowe #
Reading these posts sure fires up the memories. I lived in Jackson Knolls for a time and also in an old farmhouse on Kyle Road next to the Booher family property in ’66-‘67. Roaming thru the stripped property across from our house was always enjoyment for my adventurous brothers and myself (playing army, hide-and-seek, and catching toads). Jackson Knolls was the other side of the coin… a beautiful place to live. During this time I was in 5th grade at Mohawk Elementary with Mrs. Parrott as teacher. To me, she was outstanding. One of my prized possessions is a color photo of her and my 5th-grade classmates. The only student in the photo I recognize is Debbie Morris…sister to John Morris I believe in the previous posts. The old school still stands but has changed…probably like most of us. Still cherish the fond memories of skating on the Knolls pond, learning to march in gym class, and singing for the Christmas program. Great times sadly missed.
Michele Margraf Foster #
I have been bothered by the deterioration of these buildings, and cringe every time I travel to this, my hometown. I always wonder how the buildings were allowed to get to this horrible condition, and if it is even legal. Then, when I heard about the animals there, and that someone lived there, I just didn’t see how that was even possible. Looking at the photos, who cleaned up the interior, and was this left like that since the school closed?
I heard today that the township is beginning action against the owner, directing him to convert the property to a safe state, or it will be demolished. Hoping for a solution. I attended Mt. Jackson Elementary from 1965-1970 and have fond memories of both buildings. The owner, Brian Simpson, was a neighbor of mine in Jackson Knolls. He was the youngest, not the oldest, by the way.
Lora Duvall #
Hi I really enjoyed reading your story about Mt. Jackson school. I attended grade school there and it was not opened until June, it was around Dec.-Jan. as I was in the little building behind in Mrs. Hopes 2nd grade class when the heating went out and the pipes froze. The moved us to the bigger building up front until the same thing happened there because they were in the process of building the new Mohawk Elementary school. However, we were moved to the new school in the middle of winter because we had no heat or water and they decided instead of sending us home they shipped us to the new school to finish out our day and year. So I was one of the first students in Mohawk Elementary schools new building. My grandmother Heckathorne (she was Betty L. White then) attended Mt. Jackson when it was a high school. If you find any pics with her would you kindly sent them to me…. Thank you very much.
Name Withheld to Protect the Innocent #
I went to the Mount Jackson school from 1st grade (1952-1953) to 9th grade (a few years after the jointure that is Mohawk Area Schools). I returned to the area after 20+ years two years ago and visited Mt. Jackson. It really hurt to see the level of deterioration of the school. I loved that place and I cherish all the fond memories of kind teachers and good classmates. So sad that the old red brick building looked too far gone to be renovated into something useful. If it were preserved, it could be an architectural focal point for the community and enhance the look of the village and the life of the village.
Lynda LePore #
Reading all of these posts makes me miss the wonderful times I had in grade school. I went to 1-3 grade in the little building and 4-6 in the front bldg. fun memories of riding my bike up Mt. Jackson rd to the little playground outside of the little bldg. stopping at Lusks grocery on the way for bags of candy!! I can remember the softball field behind the big bldg and many fun games there during gym class. I wish I remembered the very nice man who I had in 6th grade with classmates Sharon Kerr and Cheryl Gwinn. He was so patient and math made me cry daily!!!! Benchwarmer coats were all the rage and little plastic colorful twist rings that Cheryl sold! Too funny, miss it and all those wonderful years. Moved up to the HS for 7-11 and then sadly moved away for senior year. So sorry the schools were let go to the point of ruin. I can still see the inside of both buildings clearly!!! Great years to be a kid!!
Wendy Carr #
I do believe the hold up on the razing of the 2 school buildings in Mt. Jackson is the fear of releasing asbestos into the air. The man who owns it probably found it to costly to tear down. Rumor has it that the Township would like to purchase them for demolition but it is being held up in the courts.
instant wondering if anybody has ever metal detected around the old Mount Jackson school looking for permission to do so
John Morris #
To DAVID CROWE: In Re:your recollection of a girl named Debbie Morris, Might you be thinking of Kimberly (Kim) Morris? That is my younger sisters name. Born 1960. She attended Mohawk schools up to 1974, when my parents moved to Florida. also, to Lynda LePore, teacher you are probably thinking of was Edmund Retort. He went on to be vice principal at the High School until I graduated in 1971. And don’t feel bad. Math gave me migraines and probably an ulcer or two as well. I have always thanked the people who created pocket calculators!
David R. Crowe #
John, The girl in the class photo I have would have graduated high school in 1974. Her parents were Ed & Claudette Morris. I think her dad worked for the railroad and her mother was a nurse.(So,I guess you’re not her brother). I need to put my ’67 class photo on here so others can identify my “mates”.
Bonnie Tindall Barnes #
The picture of the 4th or 5th graders from 1929 is familiar. My father, E. Dale Tindall, is in the front row of boys seated on the ground. He is the child second from the right. I believe the last child on the left in the second row of that same picture is Sarah Thompson-Parrott. It would be nice if all the children could be identified, along with the teacher. The photos are very interesting. Thank you for displaying them.
Timothy Orten #
I remember these buildings well. When I attended the school the small building in the rear housed grades k-2 and the large building was for grades 3-6. The garage was operated by a janitor/custodian named Gus, and we always volunteered to help him gather garbage from the cans outside of each classroom during lunch, and whenever he needed help with things like Christmas displays and such. When he retired in the mid 1970s there was a ceremony honoring him in the gymnasium. I attended the school from 1972-1977, and I have many fond memories from that time period. Thank you for posting this story!
Kevin McCullough #
My grandfather, Samuel McCullough, and grandmother, Esther McCullough were principal and teacher respectively at the Mt. Jackson schools during the ’30s ’40s and ’50s (maybe into the early ’60s?). They lived a few doors down from the school. I’m not sure if their house is the second house away in the picture or the third house (not pictured). My brother and I would spend a month or so every summer there until my grandfather passed in ’71/‘72.
Attended from 3rd grade (1979, family moved back to Enon Valley) through 6th grade. Grandma Bell Foster taught 4th grade English in the first floor, furthest to the right when looking at the school. She retired the year before. The school was always an oven in summer, not so well heated in winter. Lucky kids had window seats to watch semi trucks rumble past (it was the 70’s, nobody was cooler than a trucker, except Evel Knievel), and melt crayons on the cast iron steam registers along the outside walls.
The gymnasium was super! Had an upper deck to watch whatever was going on, or the play performed on the stage. We played “murder-ball” at lunch in the winter, bounced SuperBalls against the outside rear wall of the gym in summer. Also had roller skating in the gym, which was alarming to my parent’s who were forbidden to touch the floor with street shoes when they attended the same school, but the school was on last legs so let the kids have fun, I guess.
One year the asphalt basketball court was painted with a map of the USA, which was pretty neat. Lots of mud football at lunch in the fields out back. Baseball games, too (Argiro’s dog’s poop always seemed to get on someone’s shoes behind home plate).
Remember busses lined up in formation behind the school at closing? Ever get on the wrong bus? I suppose everyone did it once but we always got home somehow.
There was no cafeteria so we lined up in the hallway to the kitchen to load up a tray of standard school slops, which was plenty good. Then trudge up to classrooms to eat at our desks. Naturally, a few diners would go a$$ over tin cup on the stairs and the janitor would help hide the shame (I suppose nobody went hungry if they spilled a lunch, I’m sure they got a fresh tray of slops).
We watched films on actual reels of cellulose nitrate, and the cool kids knew how to load the reel into the machine, and splice with scotch tape if necessary. I don’t remember what we watched, but I do remember Ronny Bromer leaning back on his wooden chair which happened to have one back leg on the power cord. The cord pinched and shorted, creating an electrical explosion. Ronny went on his back, Mr Swanson jumped behind his desk (dodging the bullet, I suppose), rest of us kids didn’t know whether to crap or go blind
I remember two teachers. Mrs Parrot was the sweetest lady, and lived with her husband just a few houses toward intersection from the school. We practiced for an actual Christmas pageant with Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus, and the works. We put on the pageant at her home in a small garage, makes me wonder if the schools were just getting warmed up with getting God out of schools. The other teacher was Mrs Hopper, about whom I cannot say anything kind. So I won’t say anything. She’s dead now, was close to it then.
Bill McBride #
Thanks for posting, my relatives went to school here. Also, please don’t ghost hunt, ghosts aren’t real and causes damage. Why would there be ghosts in a school anyways!
I attended starting in 1958. As I remember, I attended 1-3 in the back, went to Hillsville for 4, then returned to the front building for 5-6…then to Mohawk HS where I graduated, in 1970. This post brings back good memories. Thank you.
Stu Williams #
I attended 1976 to 1981. I thought mine was the last class but I guess there was one after me. Thanks for the summary Byron as your recollection was better than mine and brought back some fond memories. I recall the superball off the back wall as a ton of fun. Same recollection of Mrs Parrot and Mrs. Hopper. Mrs. Hopper was so mean to me I started skipping school or pretending I was sick so I wouldn’t have to go to her class.