Monday, November 24, 2014

Schoolhouse set to mark 125th anniversary

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 7/23/2014

With Ottawa planning to celebrate its 150th birthday this fall, a community landmark to the north also is set to pass a major historical milestone.

The Pleasant Valley Schoolhouse, about four miles west of Wellsville at the intersection of Tennessee and Thomas roads, is marking its 125th anniversary 4 p.m. Saturday with a celebration that is to include historical elements from when school was in session at the one-room building, Jeanine Berrier, organizer, said.

With Ottawa planning to celebrate its 150th birthday this fall, a community landmark to the north also is set to pass a major historical milestone.

The Pleasant Valley Schoolhouse, about four miles west of Wellsville at the intersection of Tennessee and Thomas roads, is marking its 125th anniversary 4 p.m. Saturday with a celebration that is to include historical elements from when school was in session at the one-room building, Jeanine Berrier, organizer, said.

“We have prepared visual boards with pictures, as many as we could get our hands of classes that have been held in the school,” Berrier said. “The number of kids in the school was horrendous, you’d have 40 to 50 kids in there because there were a lot of farmers and they had a lot of children. I know there were seven in my dad’s family. We have some items that have been held onto very cautiously over the years. We’ll have some of those we’ve been able to get a hold of. I’ll also have some of our Birthday Club things on display. There’s going to be a lot of visuals. We’ll be serving cookies, lemonade, ice tea and water.”

Berrier, a member of the Women’s Birthday Club which meets at the schoolhouse regularly, said the facility has historical significance to the community. While school hasn’t met in the building since 1951, it has been used periodically as a community building, as well as a place for wedding receptions, family reunions and other get-togethers, Berrier said.

“Of course, the schoolhouse it not in operation, but we still do have events there,” she said. “We needed to let the world know we’ve been around that long.

“The second Thursday of the month is the Women’s Birthday Club. We meet [at Pleasant Valley Schoolhouse] and have lunch together and it is kind of a potluck. We have quarterly meetings then for the community and for anyone who wants to come. You don’t have to live in Pleasant Valley or really have a connection to it.”

Invitations also are being extended to those involved with the schoolhouse, including former students and families, former teachers and families and current and former neighbors and friends.

“We’ve heard tentatively that some people are coming back [for the 125th],” Berrier said. “We have one teacher and I know she’ll be there. We are trying to reach out to the families of people who went there. We may have a pictures of them. There was one person who we had a photo of her father and she didn’t know. I said, ‘I’ve got it,’ and she said, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

The history of the school itself dates back to the 1860s. Pleasant Valley School was established in a private home about four miles west of Wellsville in the early 1860s and was known as School District No. 2. Three schoolhouses were built in the vicinity, the first being across a creek that had no bridge, Berrier said. When the creek flooded because of rains, parents had to ride on horseback to pick up their children from school. Because of flooding issues, the school was abandoned in 1883, she said.

The same year, Henry Rand was hired to build a second schoolhouse located a half mile north of the previous location. That schoolhouse was built and used for six years before being burned down because of a faulty flue, she said.

The third and present schoolhouse was built by Henry Mignot in 1889 in the current location. An account of the school’s history stated that enrollment hit 60 to 80 pupils at one point, with ages ranging from 5 to 25, Berrier said.

Because of a decline in enrollment, the district combined with Wellsville schools in 1951 and, after School District No. 2 was disbanded in 1954, the Pleasant Valley community purchased the schoolhouse building for one dollar to use as a community building, she said.

Pleasant Valley Schoolhouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in August 2003 and it received a Heritage Trust Fund grant which reimbursed 80 percent of the about $54,000 cost for repairs to the building. The community organized living histories and other events to help pay off the balance of the repair costs, she said.

For Berrier, the schoolhouse also holds significance to her family.

“Our grandfather was one of the first students in the school when it started,” she said. “All of my dad’s family went to school there. Charles, my dad’s brother, his brothers and sisters went to school there.

“It has quite a history. It is pretty precious to my family, the Coffman family, because it is where my mother [Leona McLaughlin] met my father [Kenneth Coffman].”

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