A visit to the Wills School near Yorkana takes you back in time
According to Prowell’s History of York County, Pennsylvania, the population of Lower Windsor Township in 1900 was 2,649. There were 15 schools to educate the township children. They were Will’s, Bittersville, Wrightsville, Benson’s, Canadochly, Craley, Martinsville, Furnace, Brenneman’s, Fitzkee’s, Yorkana, Kline’s, Neiman’s, Pikes Peak, and Long Level. (Note that these were the popular names of the schools in 1907, when Prowell’s history was published. Many one-room schools had two names, often a more formal one plus by the name of the small community or of a nearby family, perhaps one on whose original land the school had been built.)
The Lower Windsor Area Historical Society website states that most of the schools in that township were built of native stone, and that four of them appear on the 1860 York County wall map and eleven are marked on the Lower Windsor Township map in the 1876 York County atlas. According to their research the township had seventeen schools in use prior to the consolidation of the Eastern York School District in 1953-54.
The LWAHS also says that some have been demolished, some as recently as the Snavely School near Yorkana in 2004, said to have been on property now owned by Modern Landfill. Many have been converted to residences; a few are pretty much abandoned and at least two have been preserved in their original state. The LWAHS owns the Martinsville school, which sits near the township building. Wills School sits on the left on East Prospect Road (Rt. 124) less than a mile east of Yorkana. It is owned and maintained by the Conservation Society of York County, but volunteers from the Lower Windsor Area Historical Society open the Wills School from 1 to 4 p.m. on the second Sunday of each month May through October. It is authentically restored and furnished, and I enjoyed talking with the knowledgeable volunteers when I visited in August. The dates for the rest of the year are this Sunday, September 8 and October 13.
For more on one-room schools, click here for my recent York Sunday News column, which tells how they were designed and why they are all so similar.