First Hickory Grove School House Renovations

The Pennsylvania Free School Act of 1834 was the enabling legislation for carrying out the mandate of  “an education for all.”  Within thirteen years of its enactment, East Vincent Township had established seven one-room school houses!  All seven buildings are still standing.

In 1856, a one-room school house was built on Hickory Grove Road.  It is believed that the original name was "Brenner’s School” as the property line bordered on lands owned by Mary Brenner and John Yeager.  The school building measured 22 feet by 24 feet and was built on thirty-eight perches of land sold by Alexander and Elizabeth Kennedy to the Directors of Common Schools of East Vincent Township District.  The directors were Daniel Bucher, Jonathan Kolb, John Wagner, Henry Miller, Jacob Sheeder, and Samuel Whibby.

The Chester County Book of Deeds reveals that in 1875, the Directors of East Vincent School District sold the First Hickory Grove School House to Christina Wagner for $237.  Local historians, Estelle Cremers, and others, confirm that the structure is the original First Hickory Grove School and that it was a “public” or “free” school.  Unfortunately, the names of the teachers and the original furnishings have been lost in time.

As restoration was in progress, artifacts like pans and cooling racks were found suggesting that it might have been used as a bakery.  Sometime thereafter, it was taken over as a garage. In 1991, a storm felled a large maple tree crushing the roof.  However, East Vincent is fortunate that the Seven Stars Farm and the Kimberton-Waldorf School took an active interest in the historical significance of The First Hickory Grove School and teamed up with the East Vincent Township Historical Commission to preserve this artifact of our heritage.

The active pursuit of East Vincent’s history must include the name of Carl McIlroy, an avid and persistent historian.  Members of the East Vincent Historical Commission worked along with Mennonite craftsmen in the task of restoring the school.  Replacement shutters and brackets were made by local craftsmen.  The needed flooring came from a fifty-six inch diameter oak tree that had fallen on the Kimberton Farm property.  It was taken to Shumate Brothers of Coventryville where it was milled, set back for a year for curing, and then laid as flooring in the First Hickory Grove School House.

The First Hickory Grove School House is open to local schools for educational purposes and has become a most enjoyable site for the East Vincent Township Historical Commission’s annual Christmas affair.

(Compiled by Dr. Frank Husted)