Kibler School is a restored one-room school built in 1898 and located in Towamensing Township, Pennsylvania. Kibler School contains books, desks, water jug, coal stove, teacher’s desk, cabinet museum, and other materials found in a typical one-room school from 1900 to 1950.
Rural areas of eastern Pennsylvania were once dotted with one-room school houses. The school was often named for the farmer who provided the land for the school; that is how Kibler School received its name. Students generally walked to school, which meant that schools had to be spaced every few miles. Students of all ages and all eight grades attended the same school and were taught by the same teacher.
The grades were naturally small (one to four students), and some grades might lack any students. At Kibler School lessons included reading, arithmetic, history, geography, spelling, and penmanship. The school day began with opening exercises, which included a passage read from the bible, the pledge of allegiance, and group singing.
Classes usually ran from 15 to 20 minutes. The class being taught would sit at the front of the room, but the other students would hear and sometimes learn the material. Skipping grades was not uncommon. Students also learned by teaching, since older students were often asked to help the younger students with their lessons.
Art and music were taught depending on the abilities and inclination of the teacher. Teachers also supervised morning and afternoon recess and the lunch time play. Since schools had no playground equipment, students and teachers made up their own games and activities.
Electricity was added to Kibler School after World War II. The school never had indoor plumbing; drinking water was carried from a neighbor’s well and kept in a porcelain jug in the back. Students shared the same tin water cup.
The outhouses were located in the back of the schoolone for boys and one for girls.
The school was kept warm in the winter by a coal-burning stove. The stove was surrounded by a metal screen to prevent accidental burns. The teacher was responsible for tending the fire and sweeping the floor, although the older boys were often delegated to carry in the coal.
After World War II many rural districts began to bus students by grades to individual schools. In the late 1940s Kibler School became the Township’s school for second and third graders. In the 1950s most rural districts built “consolidated schools.” Towamensing Township’s new school was completed in 1955, and ownership of Kibler School reverted to the farmer who owned the surrounding land. For a time the coal shed was used as a roadside fruit stand, and grain was stored in the school. In its last years the school was boarded up and stood empty. Poison ivy overgrew the outhouses, and honeybees made their home in the chimney.
In 1995 the owner of Kibler School asked community leaders if they would like to move the building, since he planned a commercial enterprise on the corner of Penn Forest Drive and Pohopoco Drive where the school was located. The Lehigh Gap Historical Society (L.G.H.S) took possession of the building, and a local retired farmer, Elwood Christman, agreed to lease the lot where the school now stands for one dollar a year. Ms. Millie Held provided the funds for the move in memory of her husband Lee. A committee of the L.G.H.S., the Kibler School Restoration Committee, raised money for materials and artifacts. Volunteers completed most of the actual restoration work.
In his book The One-Room Schoolhouse: A Tribute to a Beloved National Icon, Paul Rocheleau notes that community groups across the country are saving and preserving one-room schools. While a few one-room schoolhouses are still being used, many previously abandoned schools have been restored and are lovingly tended by volunteers, many of them former students.
The condition of the school when it was moved made a number of modifications necessary. The school was empty when it was acquired. Many of the desks in the school today came from local residents who purchased them at auctions when the consolidated school was built, so it is possible that some desks may be Kibler School originals. We can say with certainty that all of the artifacts in the school (desks, books, Washington and Lincoln portraits, maps, cabinet museum, teacher’s closet, water jug, stove) were used at some point in one-room schools.
The blackboard, interior floor and walls, windows, slate roof, and the weatherboards are original, although some weatherboards and a few slates had to be replaced. Interior plaster is original but patched in spots. The electrical wiring also had to be replaced for safety reasons.
The original chimney could not be moved, and it is newly constructed. The foundation at the original school was fieldstones held together loosely with crumbling mortar and impossible to move. Although the new foundation was built of concrete blocks, it is hidden by stones brought from the original foundation and used as facing.
The outhouses and coal shed are the original structures, but strengthening materials have been added. The “screens” in front of the outhouse doors are replicas, and a new functional outhouse for visitors has been added behind the girls’ outhouse.
The school, toilets, and coal shed have the same orientation as on the original site, but because of zoning regulations, they have been located further away from Pohopoco Drive.
Oral histories of former students of area one-room school houses are being collected. The Kibler School Committee (“restoration” was dropped after the restoration was completed) is interviewing local residents who were students in one of the Towamensing Township’s nine one-room schools.
If you would like to know more about the Lehigh Gap Historical Society/The Kibler School Committee, please email us anytime at LAChris@ptd.net or call 610 377 0235. Donations are welcome. The Kibler School Committee and its parent body, the Lehigh Gap Historical Society, are officially recognized non-profit organizations. If you would like more information on touring the school, click here to go to the Visiting Times page.