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Witmer’s One-Room Schoolhouse named for Preacher David Witmer

Section of Shearer’s 1860 Map of York County, PA (Present Road Names and Annotations by S. H. Smith, 2014)
Section of Shearer’s 1860 Map of York County, PA (Present Road Names and Annotations by S. H. Smith, 2014)

Witmer’s One-Room Schoolhouse was built in 1889; prior to the 1891 formation of Springettsbury Township from Spring Garden Township.  Township farmer and Mennonite Preacher David Witmer deeded the land for Witmer’s Schoolhouse to the Spring Garden School District for One Dollar.  Offering land for schoolhouses for only one dollar, nearly always resulted in the schoolhouse being named after the benefactor.

I’ve added present road names to Shearer’s 1860 Map of York County.  I’ve also noted the location where Witmer’s Schoolhouse would be built in 1889.  In 1860, if one traveled south from Stony Brook and took the Old Orchard Road “Y” turnoff from Locust Grove Road, one would pass the first Stony Brook One-Room Schoolhouse (1859-1913) in the “Y”, then Elias Witmer’s place and then David Witmer’s place after crossing Stonewood Road.

Witmers1845These are 1845 signatures of David Witmer and Elias Witmer, from Estate Records at the York County Archives.  David and Elias were the administrators of the Estate of their father David Witmer.

The elder David Witmer owned about ninety acres of farmland in the area.  He was a Mennonite preacher, and built the first church of that persuasion in his section; initially known as the Witmer Meeting House.  He continued his preaching all through the region until he passing away in 1843.  His son, David Witmer, continued in his fathers footsteps, preaching and farming.

Elias Witmer died in 1873.  His bother David Witmer continued to add to his farmland acreage, which can be seen by the following Beach Nichols 1876 Map of the same area previously shown in the 1860 Map.  Deed research indicates that not only does David Witmer continue to own his original land east of Stonewood Road, he also now owns significant land between Locust Grove Road and Stonewood Road.

Section of Beach Nichols 1876 Map of York County, PA (Annotations by S. H. Smith, 2014)
Section of Beach Nichols 1876 Map of York County, PA (Annotations by S. H. Smith, 2014)

Witmers1889In 1889, David Witmer deeds a 100-foot by 50-foot rectangular plot of land along the eastern side of what is now called Stonewood Road to the Spring Garden School District.  When Springettsbury Township was formed in 1891, per Pennsylvania Law, all the school property previously in the Spring Garden School District automatically transferred to the Springettsbury Township School District.

The plot, shown here, is included on York County Deed Book 8L, page 644.  The 18.5 perches equals 0.12-acres.

In 1952, Springettsbury Township sold the Witmer Schoolhouse on the original 0.12-acre rectangular-shaped property to Charles H. Heiges and Mary S. Heiges, his wife.  The Heiges’ already owned some adjoining land, creating an overall 0.53-acre triangular-shaped schoolhouse property, where the schoolhouse sits today.

David Witmer was married to Anna Kauffman in 1837; Anna’s nickname was Nancy.  David and Anna had two children, Magdalena and Susan.  His wife Anna and his daughter Magdalena died prior to David’s death in 1891.

Witmer1891This is David Witmer’s gravestone in Stony Brook Mennonite Cemetery along Stone Ridge Road in Springettsbury Township.  David was born December 16, 1811 and died March 15, 1891.  As the sole survivor, Susan Witmer inherited everything.  Susan kept all of her father’s land and became a landlord; which was her declared occupation in the 1900 United States Census.

Susan Witmer died in 1908; she is buried to the left side of her father in Stony Brook Mennonite Cemetery.  Susan’s estate was extensive, with a long list of people owing her on notes, mortgages, and rent.

The land in the estate was sold in six parcels.  The land closest to Locust Grove Road was sold to John A. Witmer.  The land in the little valley where Stonewood Road runs, south of Old Orchard Road, sold to Mary A. Landis; Witmer’s Schoolhouse is surrounded by northern end of this tract.  The land along Old Orchard Road and east of Stonewood Road was sold to Samuel M. Strickler.  Timberland along Witmer Road was sold to Charles Kauffman.  And two small lots were sold to Joseph D. Loyd and Moses C. Holtzinger.

The following photo shows Witmer’s One-Room Schoolhouse as it stood in 1941.  This photo was taken by Scott W. Knaub and is from the Collections of the York County Heritage Trust.


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