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Chewton Public Schools - Chewton PA

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.


A brick schoolhouse, built in 1859, once stood behind where the First Baptist Church now sits. It was closed and used as a church when the newer wooden school (followed by two more) was erected in about 1875 or so. (Jul 2010)


The old brick schoolhouse sat somewhere to the right of this photo. (Jul 2010)


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)


Nice old photo of two main schoolhouses in Chewton. I believe the third smaller schoolhouse is visible in background between the two. Unknown year but I would estimate about c1910.


Photo taken years later in late 1950’s. Note the two steeples and their spires have been removed from the roofs. The chimneys appear to be newer as well.


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


A class photo most likely containing 1st & 2nd graders. Dated as 1932 and teacher identifed as “Miss Stewart.” Pauline LaPatka is in top row second from right end. This photo is great because it shows the smaller of the three schoolhouses in the background – which housed the 1st & 2nd graders.


Another unmarked photo from Chewton. The year is unknown but the teacher is Edith (Tillia) Badger, who taught for many years and passed away in June 1999 just shy of her eighty-six birthday.


Unmarked class photo from Chewton. I am guessing its a combined 3rd & 4th grade class from about 1934. Pauline LaPatka is in top row second from left end and the teacher is Edith (Tillia) Badger.


Most likely a combined 7th & 8th grade class – dated Oct 1936. I have a complete list of all students in this photo – available upon request. Teacher identifed as “Ira Stewart.” My grandmother Irene LaPatka is in second row seated on right end. My aunt Josie LaPatka is in the middle of third row with polka dot dress (obscured by crease). Among the other kids are those with popular Chewton surnames such as Sbarro, Toman, Butkevitz, Scala, Ciletti, Ferrante, Fabian, Fosnaught, Capp, Powell, Douthitt, Novaleski, and Houk.


Chewton class photo simply marked as ‘5th & 6th.’ I believe the teacher is Nora Leopardo.


A combined 5th & 6th grade class – I am guessing about 1936. The teacher is marked as Nora Leopardo. I have an almost complete list of names for this one as well. I will say the first row seated from left is: John Yarzebinski, Joe Woloszyn, John Woloszyn, Bob Wisbeth, Nick Butchelli, and John Kosior.


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


Current view of Chewton playground from Oswald St. – Howard St runs down the right of this photo. The three old wooden schoolhouses were situated in the clearing back behind the pavilion. The front of the two large schoolhouses would have been visible from here. Apr 2010.


View from behind playground looking back towards Oswald Street. The two large school houses would have sat right in this area. Scattered foundation remnants are visible throughout the grass here. (Nov 2009)


A closeup of a foundation remnant. (Apr 2010)


Another shot of an old foundation remnant. (Apr 2010)

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Comment

  1. Great work!

    Donald Winegar · 05/03/2012 08:36 AM · #

  2. really great information and fine work.

    john de luca · 10/04/2012 12:51 PM · #

  3. I went to this school from 1949 til 1952 and I have been trying to find what became of Betty Mink, our 1st and 2nd grade teacher. Any help would be helpful. Ron Murphy

    Ron Murphy · 06/30/2013 12:53 PM · #

  4. I attended Chewton 1 thru 5. I help fire the pot bellied stoves in the winter. That is my mother, Edith Tillia Badger. Went to Newport school in 6th grade. Graduated Ellwood in 1963.

    Barry Badger · 07/29/2013 02:23 PM · #

  5. My mother’s family was born and raised in Chewton/Wampum and many went to the Chewton school. My mother’s name was Dolores Leopardo. Nora Leopardo (a teacher noted in two of the photos) was her aunt, my grandfather Carmen’s sister. Grandpa was a steel worker and lived out his ife in Wampum off of Rt. 18. Much of my family still lives in the area and I love visiting as often as possible. What a special treat to see Aunt Nora in the photos!!

    Betsy Martin · 11/20/2014 10:19 PM · #

  6. The little white school building housed grades 1&2 during the time I attended classes. From 1953 until 1957. We were given our choices of going to either Ellwood or Wampum. We walked to Wanpum school for two years then we went to Ellwood school when Wampum joined Mohawk School District.

    We had out houses? Pot belly stoves to keep our rooms warm in the winter, and an outside pump for water to wash up at lunch. In the winter we would line our gloves on the rails that stood on either side of the pot bellied stoves to dry.
    Teachers had their own private out house.

    Judith A. Berendt (Kelly) · 03/31/2016 07:44 PM · #