Bethel School, located a few miles from downtown Honesdale, is a perfectly preserved one-room school house built about 1870 near the Poor Farm in Berlin Township. This simple wooden structure has separate entrances and cloakrooms for boys and girls. The large single classroom has a high ceiling, slate boards, and the double wooden desks of the last century. Many of the original textbooks used in that era still remain on the bookcases.
The schoolhouse was originally heated by a large wood stove and later by coal. It was the teacher's responsibility to bank the fire at night and arrive in time to warm the schoolhouse before the pupils came at nine o'clock. Many former students remember standing by the stove to dry clothing. Water was carried from the Poor Farm or a neighbor's home and lighting was at first "natural" and later provided by kerosene wall lamps. Electricity was later added in the 1930s. With no running water available, outhouses provided the bathroom facilities.
The teacher taught all eight grades and the number of students varied. Classes were called to the front recitation bench for lessons. Former pupils recall playing Haley Over, marbles, Fox and Geese, and baseball during the long lunch hour and two recesses. Children could eat lunch in an apple tree, search the woods for trailing arbutus, and play in the creek in Schwartz’ cow pasture. A large bell called them back to classes.
Bethel School closed in 1951 with Miss Mary McCarthy of Hawley as the teacher with 21 students on the roster. This largely unchanged building is owned by Wayne County who repaired the foundation and painted the exterior prior to the Wayne County Historical Society opening it to the public on a regular basis in 1998. An Historic Preservation Award was given in 1998 to the County of Wayne for restoration of the exterior of this property.
Historical Society volunteers host free open houses and special programs such as spelling and geography bees! Thousands of visitors and local school children have received valuable history lessons while having fun at Bethel School! The school is available for group tours during the warm weather months.
Check our Facebook events page for up to date information about tours, or contact the historical society at 570-253-3240 to arrange a private tour.
Parking is available on the dirt road at the right of Bethel School.
Each date is open from 1:00pm - 4:00pm
June 11 (2pm-4pm) will feature Mr. Bob Vogler, a teacher at Wallenpaupack, on whose property in Northern Wayne County rests the remains of an old grist mill dating back to the 1850s. Bob and his mother, Mel Vogler, will share what they have learned about the grist mill and the artifacts that have been discovered there.
June 25 (1pm-4pm) Open House
July 9 (2pm-4pm) for a study of maps that portray a significant role in Wayne County’s History: an 1860 map of Wayne County, Beers 1872 Atlas of Wayne County, PA, a 1923 Topographic Map, a map depicting the route of the D&H Canal as it wound its way from Honesdale to Roundout, NY, and other historic maps.
August 13 (2pm-4pm) will be a lesson on handwriting featuring Mrs. Christy Frey, a Wallenpaupack teacher. In days gone by cursive handwriting was an “art”. Beautiful cursive handwriting was a cherished skill to be proud of. In the days of Bethel School cursive writing was taught and learned from the time students began their school education.
August 27 (1pm-4pm) Open House
Free, but donations are appreciated.