Old Stone School - from article by Laura Semanek, The Pioneer, Pioneer Historical Society, Bedford County PA, July 1983.
Old Stone School in 2011 - this is a panoramic picture taken of the Old Stone School and surrounding grounds.
"The Old Stone School House" by Allan E. Semanek
In the vicinity where the "Old Stone School House" sets is the location of the first white settlement west of the Susquehanna River. In 1710 John De Burt and his wife settled here and raised 12 children. In 1732 the family was massacred by renegade Indians and the mother and father and seven of their children were killed. Five managed to escape somehow and returned to Virginia. Three boys and two girls.
The name De Burt is today known as Dibert. John Dibert was a friend of Martin Chartier and his wife was the daughter of a Shawnee Indian woman, and due to the Indian cultural system of matriliniarity she named her first daughter after her own family name in the Shawnee Indian language. Mary Seaworth is the English variation of that name. Mary Seaworth was the wife of John Dibert.
In 1710 John Dibert, knowing this area chose it as a place to live and trade with the Indians living in the area. Most were Shawnee but there were also a few Delaware and Seneca. It became known to the Indians as Wingawn.
In 1793 the Heltzels took 100 acres and paid taxes on a sawmill and grist mill, which was then the Heltzel district. Tobias Heltzel married Hetty Imler, a neighbor. This is probably the source of any sawn timbers that were used in the construction of the "Old Stone School" (doors, windows, flooring, etc.).
George Michael Imler owned the land now known as the "Bill Baer Farm", his son Conrad lived on the adjoining farm.
On June 26, 1764 the Fetters bought 229 acres about a mile north of the area where the Messiah Church was built in 1791.
The farms of George Wisegarver, Jacob Helms, and the Sills were in the same district.
Jacob Fetter married Margaret Dibert. Michael Fetter married Eve Catherine Ernest in 1794. By this time other families lived in this area. The Zimmers, Croyles, Reighards, Earnests, Philips, Walters, Crissmans and others settled nearby.
Records from Frederick Dibert show a draft for the school house lot was shown as June 11, 1813 also articles of agreement between Henry Wieand, Michael Rickle and Frederick Dibert for the sale of the lot for the "Old Stone School House" is earlier on August 12, 1812. Agreement to subscription paper to buy a ten plate stove for the school on November 13, 1813. Also accounts in 1822 show who brought wood to the school house, and there are also rules for governing the school and school house, signed by Fred M. Dibert.
By this time there were many children and settlers wanted a better life for them. After the dark days of the Revolution had ended and settlers had recovered from hard times, here and there schools were organized. At this time barely five persons in a hundred could sign their own name twice in a single day and spell it correctly. Frederick M. Dibert, his brother Michael and John made their mark on a legal paper in front of David Espy (Bedford's first Prothonotary and Clerk of Courts). The date was May 24, 1779.
Many cabins were converted into schoolhouses. Teachers received a stipulated amount per term for each student plus chicken dinners on Sundays from time to time. Very few schools erected before 1800.
Only reading, writing and arithmetic were taught. School began after harvest was completed usually December 1 through April 1. The first schools were log cabins with chimneys and fireplacews for warmth, greased paper for windows. Seats were slabs with four pins for legs and writing was done on a similar slab fastened to the wall with wooden pins. The age of scholars ranged from age 6 through 36. School hours were from 8 to 5 when possible, weather tended to alter that at times.
Books were: Western Calculator, New England Primer, US Spelling book and of course the Bible and testaments.
The school was built by the Sills: Michael Sill, Abraham Sill and George Sill.
Some teachers: Jonas Imler, Mr. Philips and Mr. Heltzel.
Some students: Diberts, Phillips, Walters, Zimmers, Crissmans, Heltzels, Holderbaums and others.
Bruce Zimmers attended this school at age 6, the last year it remained open. He was born in 1864, so this is proof of it closing after the 1869-1870 school year.
This is the oldest school in the county and one of the oldest in Western Pennsylvania.
This has been rewritten from a paper in the possession of Laura Semanek my mother.