The first school in Chewton in Wayne Township opened in about 1834, an area that was part of Beaver County until the new Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, was created fifteen years later. The school was replaced by a small brick schoolhouse in about 1859, built on Elizabeth Street (where it intersects Henry Street) behind where the First Baptist Church sits today. Chewton, then part of the Wayne Township School District, became an independent school district in 1872.
Within a few years a new wooden schoolhouse was constructed towards the north part of the village and just off Oswald Street. In 1875 this school had about 100 pupils and a yearly budget of $285. Eventually two more schoolhouses, a playground, and several storage sheds were built. There was a small one-room and twin two-story buildings housing grades one through eight. The older kids – if they continued their education – went on to attend either Wampum High School or Lincoln High School in Ellwood City.
With the construction of the new wooden school building the old brick schoolhouse on Elizabeth Street was used by the Chewton Christian Church, when it was founded in 1876. A new Christian Church was built right next to that former brick schoolhouse in 1880. When a new Christian Church was built on Oswald Street in 1924, the church on Elizabeth Street was sold to the Baptists and became the First Baptist Church. At some point the old brick schoolhouse on Elizabeth Street was torn down.
Years later, as was the case in many rural communities, the consolidation of schools brought about the end of the Chewton Independent School District. In June 1959, the Lawrence County courts ordered the abolishment of the Chewton School District and for its assets to revert back to the Wayne Township School District – which joined the newly created Ellwood City Area School District a month later. This brought about an appeal from the Chewton School Board and a bitter legal battle ensued. At the core of the issue was whether the Lawrence County courts had the authority to abolish a school district, without the consent of the state authorities in Harrisburg or the taxpayers/voters of the affected district. As the lawyers went to work the Chewton Schools remained independent for the time being.
On July 18, 1960, after intense debate and legal maneuvering, Lawrence County Judge John G. Lamoree ordered the closing of the Chewton Independent School District. The Chewton schools were shuttered and their 135 or so students were ordered to attend classes in the Ellwood City Area School District. In early September 1960 the kids from Chewton started attending schools in Ellwood City at either the Wayne Township Consolidated School (grades 1-6) or Lincoln Junior-Senior High School (grades 7-12). Four additional high school seniors, including basketball star Ronald Allen, were given permission (and tuition) to continue attending Wampum High School. It would be the final year of existence of the Wampum High School as well, as the Wampum School District vacated its jointure with Big Beaver Township and joined the Ellwood City Area School District a year later.
The Chewton School Board, although not in complete harmony, filed an appeal in August with the State Supreme Court. The case was argued a month later and on September 28, 1960, the decision was announced that the appeal had been denied. The Chewton Independent School District officially – and finally – came to an end after eighty-seven years of operation.
After the closure the three schoolhouses in Chewton faced their certain demise. The small one-room building was used as storage by Wayne Township, while one of the larger buildings was leased to the Chewton Volunteer Fire Department for $1 a year. The other larger building was torn down in March-April 1962. With insurance costs and the deteriorating state of the two remaining structures were eventually torn down as well. The school playground, including a basketball court, remains in use to this day and marks the former site of the old schoolhouses. As of 2012 the property has been up for sale. Many members of the LaPatka family, including my maternal grandmother Irene (LaPatka) DeMarc and my cousin Ronnie Teck, attended grade school here.
To see a perfect attendance report from the Chewton Schools for the month of October 1927 click on: OCT 1927 REPORT.
The three buildings (and a coal shed in the back) that made up the Chewton Public School. I believe the smaller building on the left was for the pupils of the first grade. The basketball court is about all that remains these days. (c1950)
The black arrow points to the location of the three main buildings that housed the students of the Chewton Independent School District. (1939)
A good view of the Chewton schools. (c1915) (Courtesy of Helen Houk) Full Size
(c1935) (Courtesy of Phyllis Palagallo) Full Size
(c1912) Full Size
(c1910) Full Size
(c1934) Full Size
(c1935) (Courtesy of Mike Burik) Full Size
Class photo from Chewton. Year unknown. (Photo courtesy of Tammy Kelly Mazzant) (c1933) Full Size
Class photo from Chewton. Year unknown but the teacher is Nora Leopardo. (Tammy Kelly Mazzant photo) (c1936) Full Size
“Miss Stewart” is the teacher here, but this photo is unmarked. (Tammy Kelly Mazzant photo) (c1930) Full Size
Miss Canfield’s class. Photo taken on October 1, 1924. (1924) (Photo courtesy of Mary Tillia Fosnot) Full Size
Chewton school class. Photo taken on September 24, 1930. Teacher identified as Miss McClymonds. (1924) (Photo courtesy of Mary Tillia Fosnot) Full Size
Class taught by Miss McClymonds. (c1924) (Photo courtesy of Mary Tillia Fosnot) Full Size
Chewton class photo. (1944) Full Size
Chewton class photo. (1947) Full Size