The Dick Schoolhouse was built about 1832 by members of the Dick and Cowen families and other neighbors. It stood on the farm of Daniel Dick, and thus acquired his family name. Like many schools at the time, it first operated as a subscription school, meaning families paid a fee to construct and operate the school their children attended. With the passage of the state Public Education Law in 1834, free public education became available to all Pennsylvania citizens. Most one-room schools provided education just up to eighth grade. Further schooling was limited to the well-to-do who could afford to attend private academies or seminaries. No formal teacher training was required. The first teacher at the school was John Lower, who was only 20 years old when he started!
Picture the interior of the school with rows of desks at which children from age 6 to 16 were taught. Some children might be studying their readers, others practicing arithmetic, while still others rehearsed their spelling words. Older pupils helped the younger ones with their lessons while the teacher worked with a particular grade level. They often wrote on small slates because paper was expensive. Textbooks had to be purchased at the general store. Class was six days a week, but the school term lasted just three to four months.
This building was used for education until 1868, when the Walter school opened in the nearby village of Scratchtown. After that, it served for a time as a church and later as a private dwelling, but was vacated about 1917. In 1920 the property was sold to the Blair County Historical Society for $125. In 1997, Central High School teacher Robert Chonko and students from his local history class put a new roof on the Schoolhouse and cleaned up the property. Many community members assisted this project by donating material and labor. Future classes will continue the clean-up and do some landscaping. It is hoped that eventually the interior of the schoolhouse can be restored.
Blair County Historical Society Physical Site: Baker Mansion 3419 Oak Lane Altoona, PA 16602