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History of Jefferson County Schools

From: "Historic Shepherdstown", Chapter 3, By Danske Dandridge:

That Shepherdstown was a wide-awake, progressive settlement is proved by many facts. Not only were her inhabitants industrious millers, tanners, blacksmiths, gunsmiths, and skillful artisans of many trades, but she was the first town in the Valley of the Shenandoah to establish an academy for classical instruction.

We do not know the precise date of the opening of this academy, but it is certain that the Rev. Mr. Stubbs, a minister of the Episcopal Church, taught in it in the year 1787, and how much earlier we have no means of ascertaining. A son of Henry Bedinger, George Michael, has written in his reminiscences something about the old schools of Shepherdstown. He says that when his family arrived in the village, in 1762, there were both German and English schools already established there. His parents sent him and his brothers to the English school, then taught by a Scotchman named Robert Cockburn. This gentleman taught reading, writing, arithmetic, surveying and other branches. When Berkeley County was formed in 1772 Robert Cockburn was appointed county surveyor, and moved to the vicinity of Martinsburg, where one of his sons had a school for many years. George M. Bedinger speaks of the Lemons, and Swearingens and Morgans as among his school fellows. Joseph Swearingen and his brothers, Thomas and Benoni Swearingen, were surveyors, and no doubt they learned the art in company with George Michael Bedinger from old Robert Cockburn.

Mr. Smythe speaks of the marriage of William Shepherd, born about 1739, to Mary Clark, supposed to be a relative of "William Clark of Mecklenburg, schoolmaster." William and his family moved to Ohio County about 1778. In another place Mr. Smythe speaks of a William Clark as teaching school in Shepherdstown in 1793.

Who first taught the German School here we cannot tell. When families of Germans emigrated they almost always had a schoolmaster with them. This functionary was regarded as a leader and treated with great respect.

Miss Bittinger, in her charming work called "The Germans in Colonial Times," describes the coming of a large party of German settlers to Frederick, Maryland, in 1735. She says: "In 1735 an organized colony came to re-enforce the few scattered pioneers. It was led by a Palatine schoolmaster, John Thomas Schley, who was the mainstay of school and community and church for half a century. Schlatter, the pioneer apostle of the Reformed Church in this country, wrote, twelve years after: 'It is a great advantage to this congregation that they have the best schoolmaster that I have met with in America. He spares neither labor nor pains in instructing the young and edifying the congregation according to his ability, by means of reading and singing the Word of God and printed sermons on every Lord's day.'

"This excellent schoolmaster, the next year, built the first house in the town of Frederick, which was laid out in 1745. * * * From John Thomas Schley are descended a long line of men useful in their day and generation as he was in his; the most famous being Admiral Winfield Scott Schley, the destroyer of Spain's last fleet in the New World which she discovered."

Miss Bittinger also says: "The thrifty Palatines early established a trade with the German settlements south of them; and caravans of pack-horses carried through the Valley of Virginia as far as Georgia their manufactures of wool, flax, and leather. It was along the southern trail, first blazed by the German pioneers of the Shenandoah Valley, that most of the emigration to Maryland, Virginia, and the farther South, passed."

These quotations throw much light on the duties of the German schoolmaster or masters at Shepherdstown, who, no doubt, in the absence of a settled minister, read the Bible, led the singing and prayer, and closed the services in the log meeting house with a sermon from some good book. It also gives us a glimpse of the long lines of pack horses, laden with goods of every description that pack horses could carry, that crossed over the Pack Horse Ford into the Valley. It is certain that in times of peace with the Indians these caravans were very numerous. They must have had places of refreshment at which to stop over night. Probably the first taverns built in our neighborhood were at or very near the Pack Horse Ford. Indeed it appears that there was a settlement at that very spot, before the names of either Shepherdstown or Mecklenburg had grown familiar to the ears of the settlers.
["Historic Shepherdstown", Chapter 3, By Danske Dandridge - Submitted by K. Torp]

Shepherd State Teachers College
Shepherd State Teachers College

An old advertisement for the Shepherd State Teachers College:
The Best School in eastern West Virginia for Teachers ; the Best School in eastern West Virginia for Students preparing for entrance in any first-class University or Professional School.


NORMAL.—Thorough instruction is given in all the branches taught in this course of four years with special attention to the work of teaching.
ACADEMIC.—four years of systematic study is required in this course, fitting the Student for College or a Professional school.
MUSIC—This course includes instruction in both vocal and instrumental music.

Three years work is required for graduation.

ELOCUTION.---An excellent instructor has been secured for this department. The course embraces two years' work, but special classes will be formed for those desiring them.

The Shepherd College faculty is composed of highly educated and experienced teachers. Each one is a graduate of some reputable school, and many have taken postgraduate work along certain lines in the best schools of the country.

Location, and Other Information.
Shepherdstown, the oldest town in West Virginia, is situated on the N. & W. Railway, surrounded by the rich farming lands of Jefferson county.

The climate is pleasant and healthful; the people are highly cultured and sociable. The school has a carefully selected library of 1600 volumes for the use of the students. New and costly apparatus for the most modern and successful methods of teaching is provided every class room.

The old historic Shepherd College building will be used this year.

There are no saloons in Shepherdstown.

No tuition to West Virginia students in Normal or Academic Department.

It will be a pleasure for the Principal to answer any inquiries concerning the school.

E. F. GOODWIN, Principal.

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