In about 1800, Conrad Coon brought his small family from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and settled on a tract of land in what later became Big Beaver Township in Beaver County (later becoming part of newly formed Lawrence County in 1849). In about 1833 I believe his son Joseph Coon laid out forty acres of land to start a small settlement initially known as Coontown, but later known as Irish Ripple (after the local post office name) and then Newport. The settlement was established along the west bank of the Beaver River and just north of what later became known as the borough of Wampum.
Sometime in the 1850’s the purpose-built Newport School was constructed within the village. It sat on the corner where the Newport Road now intersects modern-day Route 18. It was a two-room wooden frame building that served the local children, whose fathers were probably employed primarily in the local limestone businesses. The small school was in operation for many years and later became part of the Big Beaver Township School District, comprised of several schools that included Glenkirk, Possom Hollow, Brittain, McAnlis, Centennial, and Keely.
In the first half of the Twentieth Century the Newport School generally served all local students through the eighth grade, while the older kids who desired to continue their education did so at nearby Wampum High School. After a temporary jointure between the Big Beaver Township and Wampum school districts sometime about 1950 (which became permanent in February 1954), the Newport School began housing mostly local fourth and/or fifth graders.
In 1961 the Big Beaver and Wampum school districts split and Big Beaver Township (which became the New Beaver Boro) decided to merge into the Mohawk Area School District, formed just a few years earlier in 1958. The antiquated Newport School, which lacked modern restrooms and other amenities, remained in use but was finally ordered closed by the Mohawk Area school directors in June 1965.
It had been in limited use at that time and was used primarily for storage by the school district after its closure. In February 1966 the school’s dilapidated coal shed was authorized to be torn down to prevent danger to children who played in the area. In June 1967 the school (and the property in sat on) was sold to local resident Nicholas Trivilino for $775. It was used as a storage facility for some time and was later demolished. The small wooden school was well over a hundred years old and certainly proved its worth by that time!
I recently talked to a nice elderly gentleman from West Pittsburg named Paul B. Hunter Sr., whose great grandfather Clark Hunter (1846-1917) was the longtime postmaster of Irish Ripple. Paul, who attended the Newport School as a youngster from 1939-1947 (grades 1-8) and later graduated from Wampum High School in 1951, provided me with some great insight about the school. His father Edward Paul Hunter and paternal grandfather Harry B. Hunter also attended the school while growing up. Paul mentioned that during the 1940’s the school had two separate outhouses behind it, one for the boys and another for the girls, and they were separated by about 150 feet. He also remembered there was a ballfield located behind the school and an old bell atop the building that was rung several times during the day. (Hmmm, I wonder what became of that bell?). Thanks Paul!
To read a school report from November 1906 click on: 1906 SCHOOL REPORT. To read about the school closing for the summer break in 1914 click on: SCHOOL COMES TO CLOSE ARTICLE. To read a school report from December 1914 click on: 1914 SCHOOL REPORT. In February 1916 teacher Mary Crawford was suffering from a complication of tonsillitis and the school was closed as a result. To learn more about that closure click on: SCHOOL CLOSED ARTICLE. To read a school report from October 1919 – that mentions pupil Paul Hunter Sr. – click on: 1919 SCHOOL REPORT.
A class photo from the 1899 class of the one-room Newport School, built just north of Wampum sometime in the 1850’s. It was located where the Newport Road now intersects modern-day Route 18. Full Size
An addition was made to school at a later date to provide for an extra room. It was finally ordered closed by the Mohawk Area School Board in 1965 and was sold in June 1967. It was later razed due to its deteriorating condition. (c1940)
A group of younger children from the “lower class” (probably 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders) of the Newport School during the 1921-22 school year. Francis E Harding (white shirt with black tie) is sitting in dead center of front row. (Photo courtesy of Lottie Harding Clark) Full Size
Another “lower class” photo from the Newport School during the 1922-23 school year. Francis E. Harding is sitting in front row second from right end. (Photo courtesy of Lottie Harding Clark) Full Size