The subject, History of Friends School at Rancocas, is the most interesting one reaching back into the distant and dim past covering a period of two hundred and thirty-seven years in Burlington County.
There is no one institution, aside from the Friends Meeting Houses, with which our ancestors for the last seven generations have been more intimately connected and interested in than the Friends School at Rancocas.
The first Friends Meeting at Rancocas was regularly and officially established on the 2nd day of the 3rd Mo, 1681, more than one hundred years before the erection of the present old brick meeting house in 1772. In the record of the monthly meeting of Friends held at Burlington, on that date, will be found the following minute, to wit: “it is agreed that the meeting at Rancocas be held at the house of Thomas Harding.” Nothing appears of record that Friends Meeting at Rancocas was held elsewhere until about the 7th of the 9th Mo. 1687, when, on which date the following minute was transcribed upon the record at Burlington; viz: “the weekly meeting being on the fourth day, that used to kept at Thomas Olives and John Woolman is now ordered to be kept at Daniel Wills house weekly.” This minute does not mention Rancocas, but the three said names being prominent Colonial persons of that locality, it is reasonable to conclude the minute refers to Rancocas Meeting.
The home of Thomas Olive was upon the present site of the residence of Edwin Brock, it was upon a high hilltop overlooking the beautiful wooded valleys of the Rancocas and Delaware River. Thomas Olive was not only a minister in the Society of Friends, but an enterprising man in business affairs. He located a tract of 636 acres of land upon which he lived. He did much pioneer work and he built and operated thereon one of the first Grist Mills in the province; and later he was appointed by the King on the Colonial Governor of New Jersey (West New Jersey). The home of John Woolman was situated upon a hilltop near the confluence of the Lumberton, Northampton, and Rancocas rivers, overlooking the beautiful valleys of those waters. The home was on the site now occupied by the inviting and hospitable residence of Granville W. and Nancy Leeds, distant grandchildren of that distinguished Friends minister. The home of Daniel Wills was situated on the high banks of the Rancocas nearby, and between the homes of John Woolman and Thomas Harding.
The following minute appears in the record of the Burlington Monthly Meeting under date of 12 Mo. 1St. 1696, to wit: “Ordered at this meeting that the Nine Weeks Meeting, that was at Thomas Olives’, he being deceased and the widow gone, now the meeting to be kept at Josua Humphries.”
The home of Josua Humphries is supposed to have been one and the same with that of Walter H. Humphries, whose location in about 1680 adjoined that of John Woolman on the east, and upon the site of which long lived Uriah Haines, a prominent and beloved member of the Society of Friends.
The following minute appears in the old record at Burlington under the date of 2nd Mo. 2nd., 1716, to wit: “Whereas, there was one little meeting kept at two places, one at Lippincotts and one at Daniel Wills’ which has been held for a considerable time; but now there is a meeting house built at Mount Holly to accommodate these two meetings. Those belonging to these meetings, desire to be removed to said meeting house, which is approved and allowed of by this meeting.” (3) The said Mt. Holly Meeting House, undoubtedly was the one near the base, on the northerly side of “Holly Mount” ( a high elevation which was largely wooded with Holly trees), on the premises of the present grave yard fronting on the northerly side of Woodpecker Lane. The following minute in the old Burlington record under date of 9th Mo. 8th, 1742, would seem to confirm this as to wit: “Tho Friends of Mt. Holly, alias Bridgetown, request of this meeting, liberty to hold a first day evening meeting in Bridgetown for the winter season which is allowed by this meeting.” (4) The said high elevation of land was within the bounds of John Cripps location in 1680. The mount of Mount Holly gave the name to the original meeting place. Bridgetown came into existence on the southerly side of Mount Holly, between it and the Northampton Creed; it has since changed its name to that of Mount Holly, there now being neither a meeting house or town on the northerly side of the mount.
The aforesaid minutes would seem to imply that after Rancocas Friends Meeting was first established at Thomas Hardings’ house, it moved from house to house among Friends in the neighborhood, until 1716, when Springfield and Rancocas Friends united and built the partnership meeting house near the half way point at old Mt. Holly. Tradition says that the distances from Rancocas to Mt. Holly through great forests and over crude roadways, proved too far laborious for Rancocas Friends. They turned their attention to creating a Meeting House of their own, in about 1720 on the northerly end of the old Indian graveyard, now the Friends burying ground, fronting on the easterly side of the Rancocas and Centerton road overlooking the Rancocas river. (5) The first Meeting House at Rancocas, at the home of Thomas Harding, stood upon the present site of the beautiful located residence of Tyle B. and Anne Engle, fronting on the Rancocas River, what will be known in history as the Stokingham tract. (6)
No new school house followed the building of the new Meeting House at the graveyard lot, because the building of a school house had been accomplished nearby, in 1681 at the time of the institution of a Friends Meeting in the home of Thomas Harding. At this early pioneer period of colonial times, the whole country was almost one continuous howling wilderness occupied by the Aborigines. The Indians were favorably impressed with the paleface man, and were always a friend to him in emergencies, and were willing to share with him anything and everything. The Indians confidence these early settlers valued, carefully guarded and continued to enjoy throughout all times.
Tradition says, there was an Indian village within the limits of the Thomas Harding bounds, about one half mile from Thomas Hardings or the Meeting House; (the site is supposed to have been selected by the Indians as the most desirable one because of its elevated position) descending to a most beautiful, never failing spring of superior cold drinking water. This spring continues in all its excellency, and has always born the name of the “Indian Spring” in the small basin or undulation, in the center of which nature had located this noted spring of springs, she had surrounded it, and had caused to grow one exclusive swamp of large flowering Magnolia trees, which gave a delightful fragrance to the atmosphere around. (7) As the Indians were willing to share their village and graveyard with the Friends, it was decided to select this cleared, open and somewhat improved grounds of the Indian village, with its grand spring of water as an ideal spot on which to build the pioneer of first Friends School. As late as fifty years ago, the natural lay of the soil and the swampy spring basin remained undisturbed. (The writer can remember the superb Magnolias, and he can remember the un-earthing of all kinds of Indian stone relics, such as stone axes, rolling-pins, spears, arrow heads, etc. They were in abundance and in a perfect state of shape and preservation.)
Up the hill side to the northwest about one hundred yards from the Indian spring stood the school house. The writer can also recall about forty years ago, when superintending some excavations, as having seen the lower portion of the foundation well of this school house; it was about forty feet square; at the time the attention of the old men of the neighborhood was attracted, and they said it was the foundation walls of the said old school house. Both the Indian relics and the foundation walls would seem to corroborate tradition concerning the original school house and its location.
Friends undoubtedly by reciprocity and in harmony with their character strove to improve and civilize the Indians by sharing the benefits of the school with them. Local history records instances of educated Indians like the daughter of the local Chief of the Delaware branch of the Lenni Lenepes, who married Richard Haines about 1720, and who had previously been christened with the name of Mary Carlisle.
Mary Carlisle was said to have been a member of the Society of Friends, and a beloved and distinguished woman among the colonial dames. She has many descendants surviving her. The writer can recall conversations of old men who remember the remanent of the Delaware Indians when they sold their last rights, hunting, fishing and hawking and departed from New Jersey to join their relatives in the west. They were described as having been able, intelligent, sober and grave men. (All of which bears evidence that they had been beneficiaries of Friends school.)
The new, or second school house, was a wooden structure, not pretentious in architecture, but as an institution of learning and high purpose. It laid the foundation for an intelligent and refined community, not second to any other in New Jersey.
At the time of the building of the new Meeting House and school houses, in 1772 and 73, there was no village of Rancocas. The buildings stood isolated and alone in the midst of a heavy-weeded environment, were not enclosed by fences until 1856 (8) The first civilization dawned along the river fronts. The rivers at that time contained all kinds of fish, and the natural fruit. (Which was a sure source of food supply until these few early settlers could clear, grubb and subject with their primitive implements the wild nature of the soil.) Prior to the building of the school house in 1775, Indian paths served as the inland woodways.
The frame school house was built in 1773, three years preceding the outbreak of the American Revolution. The atmosphere within its walls was, from the beginning, impregnated with the spirit of American Independence. There was not a Tory numbered within its patriotic benefactors. The inspiration, and the impression made upon the scholars during the thrilling scenes and bloody struggle stimulated them to serious thought and intelligent study, which molded political futures and gave character and loyalty to their children. (Which has distinguished all the old families of Rancocas down to the present time.)
The Tory Governor, William Franklin, the son of Benjamin Franklin, was the last of the colonial governors of New Jersey. He lived in the immediate neighborhood, where Thomas and Elizabeth Buzby now reside, on the high and beautiful hilltop known as Franklin Park. (9) He persisted in his loyalty to King George in public sentiment became aroused against him. Complaints were made in 1776 to the Revolutionary body sitting at Burlington. He was arrested, tried, convicted and banished, thus making the proud and immortal record that the true spirit of 1776 among Friends was alive and rampant in old Rancocas and vicinity.
Patriotism, moral training, and character building were paramount with those early Friends. They placed moral education and development first, and mental efficiency second. Consequently, in school work as much care and time was given to one as to the other.
School children were required to attend mid-week Meetings and listen to the oral discourses delivered by such divinely anointed christian missionaries as (prior to 1800) John Woolman, Job Scott, Samuel Culen, Peter Yarnall, Anthony Bonzoto and Jacob Ritter. Between 1800 and 1850, such approved ministers as Eli Yarnall, Jacob Lindley, Nicholas Walan, Elias Hicks, Benjamin Lundy, Benjamin Ferris, and Samuel Janney. Also between 1850 and 1890, Lucrelia Mott, Mary Lippincott, Sarah Ferris, Rachel Parker, George Truman, John J. White, Henry Ridgeway, Samuel J. Levic, Joseph Foulke, Thomas Foulke, Samuel Haines, David Newport, Caleb Shreve and Dr. Franklin Haines. All of these distinguished ministers did contributory work in connection with the Rancocas school in their efforts to impart moral instruction to the scholars attending the mid-week Meetings.
The school curriculum prior to 1800 comprised only reading, writing, spelling, and plain arithmetic. Having proficiency in these, a moral and ambitious youth was considered well-equipped to encounter and master most of the practical problems of the day, and equip himself as a capable and useful citizen.
From 1775 to 1800, the names of the teachers of the frame school house (on the present site) cannot be ascertained; but in 1800, John Gummere was in charge of the school, and continued the capacity of schoolmaster until 6 mo. 1811. (10) John Gummere, at that period of life, was an ambitious young student possessing great inate ability with a distinguished literary career before him. In what was then a very primitive school house, in size and construction, he made it in reputation, the first school of prominence in the whole country. Ambitious young men, like John Gomley, from distant sections boarded in the neighborhood, to attend school.
John Gummere educated himself in this old school house and won the distinction of being one of the first scholars of the day. It attracted wide public attention, and the old town of Burlington, then the populous center of the county, applied to him to open a school in Burlington. The trustees, desiring to have him stay, increased his annual salary from $200 to $350, and in addition thereto, in pursuance of the advice of the yearly meeting, offered to build for him a new and comfortable residence. But John Gummere was destined for wider fields, he departed for Burlington. He there opened a large boarding school, which soon enjoyed a national reputation, he continued to grow in fame and ultimately became the president of Haverford College.
Friends, having become impressed with the wisdom and advisability of building a residence to make life more attractive and home-like for teachers, purchased, in 1810, the tract of land now occupied by Alexander and Rebecca Thompson. The Preprative Meeting appointed George Haines, Samuel Haines, Joseph Wills, and Samuel Woolman to forthwith erect a dwelling house according to the specified plans. On the 28th day of the 2nd Mo., 1811, the committee reported the School masters house was completed at the cost of $1,032.89. John Gummere immediately took possession and gave distinction to the venerable old home as being its first occupant. (11) As a school masters house, it has not been used, as most of the school masters and school marms have been single persons without families, who preferred to board and enjoy the company and beautiful home life of some one of the charming families in the neighborhood.
Succeeding John Gummere on the 4th day of the 9th Mo., 1811, was Charles Stokes, one of his most advanced pupils. He started as school master, with Joseph Wills, Joseph Lundy, Samuel Woolman, Granville Woolman, George Haines, Francis Austin, Samuel Wills and Jonathan Hilyard as trustees, and continued in charge of the school until the 29th of the 6th Mo., 1815, when resigned.
During the incumbency of Charles Stokes as teacher, with the approval of friends on the 8th day of the 10th Mo., 1814, a very able and pretentious literary society, entitled, “The literary Philogical Society” was organized in the old frame school house. Among its projectors and members were several bright and ambitious young men, who were determined on more advanced educational development. Some of them were Benjamin Lundy (of abolition fame), John Comly, Charles Stokes, William Hilyard, Robert Haines, George Atkinson, Fenton Elkinton, Abel Buzby, Thomas Haines, David Stokes and others.
Also during the administration of Charles Stokes as teacher, the attention of the scholars was again engrossed in the ware of 1812. Old England wa again spilling more blood on her independent scions, destroying their commerce, burning the national capital, and doing all kinds of hostile violence. The impression made upon the minds of the rising youth, unconsciously increased the prejudice so keenly felt, transmitted in the blood from their fathers on 1776. This blood has been going on flowing and is far from being eliminated at the present time.
On the 20th day of the 7th Mo., 1815, Aaron Quicksall took possession as teacher and continued for the term of six months, when he retired and Charles Stokes was prevailed upon to return and remain until another approved teacher could be procured.
Mayberry McVaugh, a distinguished scholar in his day, was found, and his services engaged on the first of the 3rd Mo., 1817, at the annual salary of $360, with the use of the aforesaid school masters home to live in. Under his management the school continued to prosper and accomplish desired results, his reputation as an educator extended far and wide; and he thought it to his own business advantage, to institute a boarding school. He purchased Franklin Park, enlarged the old and erected new buildings, which made Mayberry McVaugh’s boarding school one of the most beautifully situated and pretentious educational institutions in South Jersey. It soon became established, enjoyed a large and distinguished patronage and turned out many efficient scholars. (12)
While this high class boarding school gave character and increased educational tone to Rancocas and vicinity it caused the small and cheaply constructed frame school house of the Society of Friends to pale into comparative insignificance. As before stated, Friends have always striven to maintain their schools (not so much for a sectarian reason, as to exercise equal attention and care that the moral character of the child should grow and keep pace with its mental development). Therefore, the great boarding school, in close proximity with Friends School, did not weaken and detract as much as might have been expected. There were only a few Friends patronizing it who had sons seeking an advanced education. Instead of being a disadvantage to Friends School it proved to be an advantage, it suggested to the minds of those enterprising, practical, and progressive Friends that time and conditions had changed with the general physical improvements of the community; and that little old and dilapidated wooden structure of a school house, nearly, half a century old, as a building was neither in harmony in appearance with the large brick Meeting House, nor was it adequate in capacity and accommodations for the increasing population. Therefore, the time had arrived for them to supplant the old school of their ancestors with a new brick building. The subject was regularly taken up by the preparative meeting on the 1st day of the 3rd Mo., 1822 and the trustees, Joseph Wills, Jonathan Hilyard, Samuel Woolman authorized to have a new brick school house built near the site of the old frame structure. On the 23rd of the first Mo., 1825, the said trustees reported to the preparative meeting that the present brick school house, at the cost of $556.59 was completed. (13)
On the 9th of the 5th Mo., 1825, David Lukens succeeded Mayberry McVaugh in the old frame school house, some ten months later, he moved the school into it; the large and attractive new quarters was an inspiration on both the teacher and the scholars. Now life, new action and an advanced management assumed control. About this time, Joseph Lancaster, the famous and distinguished author of the Lancaster system of education of England, which was attracting world-wide attention visited the United States on a lecturing tour. He was a relative of Israel Lancaster who resided where Amos and Rebecca Evans now live, he partly made Rancocas his headquarters, and took great interest in the work of the Friends School.
David Lukens retired as school master on the 18th day of the 3rd Mo., 1825 and was forthworth succeeded by Susan Haines, who distinguished herself as a disciplinarian and successful teacher. William S. Emley opened the school as school master and remained until the 1st day of the 12th Mo., of the same year.
On the 2nd of the 12th Mo. 1826, Jacob Knight opened the school as school master and taught for a short period of less than two months. A halt in school work being occasioned by the lamentable and unfortunate division in the Society of Friends. Afterwhich, another set of school trustees came into existence calling themselves “Orthodox.” For a short time there was an unavoidable unpleasant feeling engendered in the Society of Friends, for which no one in the community was personally responsible (as the great storm center was in Philadelphia and the yearly meeting), but much to the credit of Rancocas Friends, all labored to not allow it to disturb the class friendships which had, throughout all time, given pleasant fragrance to the refined and social atmosphere of the neighborhood. It can be truthfully said, no ill feeling, no scenes of factional discord or animosity ever existed among them.
For this happy piece of history it has always been believed that credit was largely due to the true Christian feeling and promotings of the old board of trustees in possession of the Friends Brick School. They then consisted of Charles Stokes, John Stokes, and George Haines, who forthwith addressed the following communication to the Orthodox:
“To Joseph Will and others who with him claim to be trustees of Rancocas School.
It is a fact, the cause of which is not necessary to recapitulate, that the persons who were formerly united as composing Rancocas Preparative Meeting have of late become divided and now form two distinct bodies, each claiming to itself the ancient title of Rancocas manner to disturb the wanted harmony formerly subsisting among members and which may probably continue, and perhaps increase so long as each of those bodies claims the undivided control of those interests which were formerly enjoyed in common by all the members. For the remedy of which, to prevent the hate and strife which may otherwise arise, and as much as possible to restore again kind feeling and good neighborhood, we, who so claim to be trustees of Rancocas school make the following propositions:
First, a committee be appointed by your body to confer with one to be appointed by ours, or that, if it should be by you thought better, the two bodies claiming to be trustees, to meet at such time and place as you may appoint, in order that an attempt may be made to reconcile according to the requisitions of our discipline and the ancient practice of the Society of Friends, the difference between us.
Second, if the foregoing preposition should not be acceded to, that you communicate to us, in whatever way you may the most approve, plan for adjustment by means of amicable reference, or any other method which to you may appear advisable.
Third, if neither of the foregoing propositions would appear desirable to adopt, we then propose that either you or we, take absolute control of the school establishment upon the following condition, to wit: the payment of refunding to the other, all the money by them contributed to the institution, with a proportionate share of all contributions made by individuals, who now have no representative, either with you or us; the body thus receiving back again said contributions, of said concern, leaving those who advance the money, the undisputed control of the establishment, being their own property. To you it is left to elect, where to five or take. We presume you cannot but discover in the above propositions a disposition that would put an end to strife, which if it be reciprocated by you, cannot but be of beneficial consequences, both as regards the tranquility of individual minds, as well as harmony of our neighborhood. We desire no advantages over you. We know that you have contributed your money; we also know we have contributed ours, and we no more wish to control yours or be benefitted by it to the exclusion of you, than we are unailling that you, should control ours or be benefitted by it to the exclusion of us. Lastly, we feel authorized to state to you, to remove any doubts which may exist as to the legality of such an adjustment, that it will be ratified by our preparative meeting, and if this should not be thought to be sufficient security, individual responsibility will be assumed, with which we trust you will be satisfied. Signed on behalf and by direction of the trustees of Rancocas School, 3rd Mo, 7th, 1929. Charles Stokes, clerk.”
All available records are silent in reference to the above communication. No response, and no effort by the Orthodox committee to interfere with the peaceable management of the whole school establishment by Friends has ever been made, but to the contrary the Orthodox continued among the patrons of the school until 1838 (when they erected a new school house for their own exclusive use on the easterly side of the Meeting House yard).
On the 26th day of the 10 Mo. 1837, it was rumored that the Orthodox contemplated erecting a school house, to be administrated under the care of a committee appointed by their own preparative meeting. To give expression to their regrets in having to part with the Orthodox children, Friends again addressed a very kind communication to the preparative meeting of Orthodox Friends at Rancocas, praying that they might re-consider their decision to build, and continue in good fellowship and support of one good school.
After closing the school for a respectful length of time, on the 18th day of the 4th Mo. 1929, Susan Haines re-opened it and taught during the summer months, when on the 23rd day of the 11th Mo. 1929, Jacob Knight again resumed control as teach and continued until the 8th day of the 4th Mo. 1955, when Susan Haines was recalled to teach during the summer months, Mordicia Matlack succeeded Susan Haines and remained during the winter months until the 15th day of the 3rd Mo. 1834, when Susan Haines was again re-called and taught until the late of the 12th Mo. 1834. Mordicai Matlack followed to teach during the winter months until the 15th of the 3rd Mo. 1835. Martha Haines succeeded and remained in charge as teacher during the summer months, when George Hollingshead opened the school as school master and remained until the 17th day of the 4th Mo. 1837. Meribe Wright followed to teach during the summer months. After her on the 1st day of the 10 Mo., Mahlon Paste opened the school as school master and remained until the 1st of the 4th Mo. 1838, when Phoebe Wright assumed control as teacher for the summer months. On the 1st of the 12 Mo., 1838, Joseph Griffin succeeded in the capacity of a school master.
At this time another literary society, entitles, “The Beneficial Society of Rancocas,” was organized and on the 26th day of the 12 Mo. 1838 made application to the trustees for the privilege to use the brick school house in which to hold its meetings. The above being granted the good work of educational improvement received a new inspiration throughout the neighborhood.
Joseph Griffin continued to teach until the 1st of the 4th Mo. 1839, when Meribe Wright again followed for the summer months. On the 1st of the 10 Mo. 1839, David Stokes opened the school as school master, and taught during the winter months, when Sarah French succeeded him on the 1st of the 4th Mo. 1840 and taught during the summer months. On the 10th day of the 12 Mo. 1840, the trustees employed Jarrett Stokes, a graduate of Mayberry McVaughs boarding school, who opened the school, introduced new and advance studies and aroused the interested scholars to an increased effort. He accomplished good work, and continued as school master during the winter months for a period of nine years, until the 1st of the 4th Mo. 1849. Sarah French continued to teach during the summer months of 1841 and 1842. Ann Lukens followed Sarah French and taught during the summer of 1844, Elizabeth Lukens taught during the summer of 1845-1846- 1847 and 1848. Margaret Ann Woolman opened the school as teacher and taught during the summer months of 1849, 50, 51, 52, 53. Jarrett Stokes as school master was succeeded by Edwin Middleton, on the 1st of the 12th Mo. 1849, who continued to teach during the winter months until the 1st of the 4th Mo. 1852. Hannah Ann Woolman followed Margaret L. Woolman and continued as summer teacher until the 1st of the 4th Mo. 1856. Hannah Ann Scattergood succeeded and taught during the summer months of 1857. In 1850, in the middle of the last century, the trustees of Friends brick school were: Charles Stokes, israel Stokes, Clayton Roberts, Granville Woolman, Richard Lundy, Uriah Haines, and J. S. Smith. William Stokes, on the 20th of the 1st Mo. 1852, succeeded Edwin Middleton as school master, and taught during the winter months of 1852, 53, 54, 55. James S. Hansel on the 1st of the 12th Mo. 1855 succeeded William Stokes as school master and taught during the winter months of 1855, 1856 and 1857.
Prior to this time, Boys were raised from early childhood to work, and by the time they were fifteen years of age, they were sturdy and strong in body, and willing and capable at all kinds of farm labor. Boys then were a valuable asset, not depending upon their parents as much as the parents upon them, to set the gate among the labors on the farm. Their services were urgent and needed with the opening of the planting season on the 1st of the 4th Mo, consequently; the largest and the older boys attended school only during the winter months. (which necessitated them continuing at school until many of them were past twenty years of age.) Though not bad, they were full of health, mischievous life and sturdy youth, so much so that their parents preferred a school master in winter to discipline and condition them for study, and early established the custom of having a man teacher during the winter months and a woman teacher during the summer months. When younger children were in attendance, this order prevailed until the coming of Rachel G. Hunt, a scholar and disciplinarian, who distinguished herself as one of the most successful teachers the school ever had. She engaged to teach the whole year. She opened the school on the 1st of the 9th Mo. 1857. She taught until the 1st of the 9th Mo. 1859, when the educational authorities of the city of Beverly tempted her by a much larger salary, to come and take charge of their much larger school, in the capacity of its principal.
By this time, through the long and energetic work of the Friends school, Rancocas had advanced to the forefront as one of the most intelligent and accomplished communities in the state. The young men and women, joint members of the Society of Friends, thought it desirable to institute a Rancocas Library, which might co-operate with Friends School, and give all people access to standard and instructive books. A meeting to discuss ways and means was called in the school house on the 14th of the 2nd Mo. 1859 at which the library association was organized and forty one subscribed their names as contributing members. The first directors were: Charles Stokes, Daniel Wills, James S. Hansell, Samuel Williams, David Ferris and James Hilyard. Charles Stokes was elected president; Samuel G. Woolman, sect; James Hilyard, Tres; and Jervis W. Woolman, Librarian. This institution proved to be a most practical one and was a source of delight and profit to the general public for many years.
Deborah Yerkes and Ruth Ann Keon, together, succeeded Rachel G. Hunt and taught until the 1st of the 9th Mo. 1860. Catherine Underwood, a teacher of reputation, opened the school on the 1st of the 9th Mo. 1860, and taught until the 1st of the 8th Mo. 1861, when the general public asked to have Rachel G. Hunt return. Prior to 1861, the old and antiquated interior and furnishings of the school house continued as originally installed, when the new brick house was built in 1822. All the scholars desks were one continuous long structure, from the center (dividing the girls and boys side) of the school room to the walls, each accommodating seven scholars. Some of the long desks were enclosed with lids and some were of the old open pattern. The seats which accompanied the lid desks were of the old fashion long benches. The advanced scholars occupied the lid desks. The teachers desk was as antiquated as the others, about four feet square, with four legs about five feet high, all of these were first class and up to date when they were originally placed. One of the articles in the contract to prevail with Rachel G. Hunt to return was that the interior of the school house should be newly painted, and the walls calciumed, a vestibule or repository partitioned off, new and the most improved desks and seats substituted a handsome new walnut teachers desk, new large blackboards, maps, large dictionaries and “Gastiers.” A new stove and other paraphernalia would be introduced.
James McIlvaine, Jarrett Stokes, Israel L. Stokes, William A. Scattergood, David Ferris, Uriah Haines and Benjamin Hilyard the school trustees appointed on the 24th of the 1st Mo. 1861, continued in control. They were all enterprising and progressive men and had children of their own to educate, which prompted them to make the school house the most attractive, comfortable and up-to-date to be found anywhere. They proceeded forthwith to get the school house in readiness for Rachael G. Hunt in conformity with the specifications and contract. She returned and took possession on the 1st of the 9th Mo. 1863, and continued to teach until the 1st of the 8th Mo. 1863. She brought the school up to a high standard, which attracted attention throughout the county of Burlington and served distant Friends procured board for their children in the neighborhood that they might attend the school.
During the administration of Rachael G. Hung (1862), the newly improved school house was thought to be so attractive, that a select society under the auspices of Friends was instituted. The Friends families most prominent in the proceedings were: John Hunts, Charles Stokes, Benjamin Ridgeway, James McIlvaine, Charles Mather, David Ferris, James Hansell, Granville Woolman, Jacob H. Leeds, Jarrett Stokes, Israel L. Stokes, Uriah Haines, Benjamin Hilyard, William Scattergood and Joseph Rogers.
As a full pledged literary society, holding its meetings in the school house, it continued for one year, when it was re-organized and during the winter seasons held its meetings in the large, beautiful and hospitable homes of its members.
The enterprising board of trustees after putting the school house in such new and attractive order, turned their attention to its immediate environment, the commodious meeting and school year, and placed it in the same and complete order; the large and extensive horse sheds were overhauled, repaired and whitewashed, which afforded ample space for the school children to play on rainy days. Now school yard fences were built and whitewashed all undulations in the ground were graded and smoothed, new grass seed was sown; all driveways were cut and newly graveled, all old decayed trees were cut and removed, but those grand old oaks, which still remain were spared by the axmen, not only for their beauty and utility, but as survivors of the virgin forest, wherein wained the Indian, and awaited the coming of out forefathers, the writer can remember these trees for longer than fifty years and they were almost as large then as now. If for no other reason, they should be valued and carefully guarded on account of their old age.
On the 1st of the 9th Mo. 1863, Ellen Spencer succeeded Rachael G. Hunt as teacher and taught until the 1st of the 7th Mo. 1864. Emma Fussell opened the school as teacher the 1st of the 9th Mo. 1864, remaining until the 1st of the 7th Mo. 1866. Godrey Hays succeeded as school master on the 1st of the 9th Mo. 1866. Lizzie Hollingshead followed Godfrey Hays and remained until the 1st of the 7th Mo. 1868, and distinguished herself as one of the most popular and successful teachers in the history of the school.
Many of us who survive can recall with happy recollections, that prosperous and enthusiastic period of the old brick school house under the administrations of Rachael G. Hunt, Deborah Verkes, Catherine Underwood, Ellen Spencer, Emma Fussel, Godfrey Hayes, and Lizzie Hollingshead. The high social standing of the scholars, the almost matured young men and women, the congeniality and affinity and prominent among the scholars were Ruthanna and Mollie Keen, Lizzie and Lillie Mather, Hannah, Elizabeth, Naomie and Rebecca Funt, Sue, Josephine and Rachel Engle, Ella Hansel, Julia and Clara McIlvaine, Matilda Ferris, Rebecca Scattergood and those two charming and popular girls, Annie and Lizzie Stokes, all of these young women were beautiful, vivacious and romping girls, and gave Rachel G. Hunt all she wanted to do with them. Among the boys were: Joel and Mark Haines, Will Rogers, Joseph Lundy, Samuel Stokes, Silas and Charles Keen, Albert Wilmont, Richard Hansell, Hilyard, Charles and Rowland Stokes, Louis and Charles Mather, James G. Stokes, Abraham Engle, Frank, William and Henry Ferris, Len Ivory, Sterling McIlvaine, William Hendrickson, Granville and Henry Leeds.
About 1867, the Friends School received their greatest and most disturbing jar. The great Civil War of the War of the States, which had been distressing the country since 1860, occupied almost exclusively, the national and state government, until the surrender of the Confederacy at Appromattox in 1865. Almost immediately after which the movement to Inaugurate a public school system throughout New Jersey was begun. on the 2nd of the 3rd Mo. 1867, a law was enacted entitled, “An Act to Establish a System of Public Instruction.”
By Friends this law was regarded as usurpation, obnoxious and in violation with the fundamental and long acknowledged principal of inalienable rights. (The right most valued and a sacred among Friends; the right to educate their children according to their own high moral precepts, and which privilege they now believed to be threatened.)
Preliminary meetings were held in the old brick school house, which culminated in the calling of a public indignation meeting to be held on the 22nd of the 3rd Mo. 1867. The meeting was largely attended, and at which a long and interesting set of resolutions were draughted, and approved (see records of township) among other things the following was adopted:
“Resolved, that the act to establish a system of public instruction passed at the late session of our legislature does not meet with the approval of this meeting in many of its provisions; and rather than voluntarily place ourselves under its requirements, we cheerfully forego our just claim to share of the sixty thousand dollars authorized to be taken from the state treasury.”
“Resolved, that all moneys from time to time appropriated to constitute a state fund for educational purposes by the constitution of this state has been wisely withheld from legislative control, further than to direct the income thereof for the equal benefit of all people of the state.”
Public agitation and renewed legislation continued throughout the state, and Rancocas Friends, not desiring to be put on record as opposing public school and a free education for all, were instrumental in the convening of another township meeting in town hall on the 9th of the 3rd Mo. 1869, at which another interesting set of resolutions were enacted, among them was the following:
“Resolved, that a fund for the free schooling of the children of this township, between the ages of five and eighteen years, be provided by adding to this township’s share of the surplus revenue, (the state appropriation and school fund) such amount raised by taxation as will be sufficient to pay five cents for each day that any scholar between the ages foresaid may attend any school within this or adjacent township.”
This township law giving perfect satisfaction, Westhampton township enacted a similar one, which enabled the Friends School at Rancocas to pursue the peaceable and prosperous tenor of it way, until 1877, when the legislature passed the drastic act ignoring and discarding all school in the state which would not acpuies with the state laws in all particulars.
The public school district of Rancocas was established entitled, school-district NO 32. A School lot was forthwith purchased at the westerly end of Second St. and the present two-story brick public school was erected and opened (prior to this time there had never been anything but Friends Schools at Rancocas).
This was a hard blow for the Friends, all the old constitutional school funds being withdrawn, the Orthodox School closed forever; but the Friends of the old brick school were determined not to surrender the moral welfare of their children to the public (and have not to the present time, 1913, layed down and dismantled their famous old school).
Anne Hibbs succeeded Lizzie Hollingshead and opened the school as teacher on the 1st of the 9th Mo. 1867. The, in regular order new teachers came as follows: Mary Rogers, 1867; Martha Engle in 1868; Howard Stokes in 1868 & 1869; Mantia Woolman in the spring of 1869. On the 1st of the 9th Mo. 1869, Charles Stokes Jr. opened the school as school master and continued to teach until the last of the 6th Mo. 1875.
In 1870, during the administration of Charles Stokes, Jr., with the approval of Friends, the famous old Rancocas Lyceum was instituted in the brick school house. It held its meetings weekly from the early part of the 10th Mo. to the middle of the following 4th Mo. Owing to its business and practical management, it rapidly grew and prospered beyond the limits of expectation. Its members came from far and wide. The program of entertainment was high class: it embraced everything within the literary sphere (reading, declamations, essays, orations, questions, dialogues and debates) every talent had equal opportunity for exercise and development. The large and cultured audience ceased to be local and came from beyond the county lines, which crystallizes the social union and meeting place not second to the Lyceum itself in anticipation and pleasure. Dialogues and Shakespearian selections were rendered in such a masterly manner that they savored of theatricals, and those who were not kindly disposed termed the Lyceum a “quaker theatre.” This did not disturb the old Friends as they were rather pleased with the success of the Lyceum and the literary efforts of the children, but about this time, as the audience had out-grown the capacity of the brick school house, it was expedient to erect a much larger building (especially designed to accommodate the exercises and the people) most all the old heads of families, comprising both branches of Friends, were liberal subscribers for stock, and their cheerful cooperation made the enterprise successful. The Lyceum continued for longer than ten years, and those who frequented it, will recall with pleasure, the entertainment afforded by those gifted members: Martha Engle, Josephine Borton, Sallie Roberts, Mattie Scholl, Nancy Haines, Lizzie Stokes, Horace and Jacob Haines, William and Oliver Parry, Samuel Brown, “Cap” Chancellor Baily, Colonel Haffey, John Scholl, Dr. J. D. Janney, Harry Herr, George Wills, Charles Parry, Cyrus Moor, Dr. Frank Haines, W. R. Lippincott and a host of others.
Ellie Scattergood succeeded Charles Stokes Jr., as teacher on the 1st of the 9th Mo. 1875.Then followed in successive order: Nancy M. Haines, 1876; Chalkley Matlackin 1877, Mary Duval, 1880; Charles Stokes Jr, again in 1881, 82, 83; Fannie Rogers, 1884; Martha Mott, 1885; Lizzie Leedom, 1891, 92, 93, 94 and 95; Lizzie Ambler, 1896; Laura C. Jarrett, 1897, 98; Florence Windle, 1899, 1900, 1901; Lizzie Leedom, again in 1902, 3, 4, 5; Lizzie Pettit in 1906; Susan Smedley in 1907, 8, 9; and Katherine Leland in 1910, 11, 12 and 1913.
Friends School at Rancocas has a proud old history; to write it in detail would require volumes. For near a century and a half, it has been the source of all practical action and the center around which everything seemed to evolve. It built up and perpetuated a community of great men and women, both Friends and Orthodox, which, as historical characters will, always serve as a beacon light in virtue, worth and example to guide and direct the destiny of their descendants, their successors and all posterity.
The Rancocas Friends School is under the Governance of Rancocas Friends Meeting and Member of Friends Council on Education from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.
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