HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP, N.J. - The experience of going to school in a rural Mercer County one- or two-room schoolhouse in the 19th and early 20th century is the topic of a talk by historian Larry Kidder on Friday, Sept. 6, at 7:30 p.m. in the Charles Fish Barn at the Howell Living History Farm visitor center.
Using the Pleasant Valley School, located adjacent to Howell Farm, as a case study, Kidder will discuss the ever changing experience of attending the school between 1820 and 1936. By looking at the experiences of some of the actual students he will explain who was required to attend, how the school year was organized, how the classrooms were organized, who taught the students, and other aspects of going to school in Pleasant Valley. The experiences of the students at Pleasant Valley were typical of those encountered by children throughout Mercer County.
This talk is based on research conducted by Kidder that resulted in the recent publication of his book, “The Pleasant Valley School Story,” in 2012. This book recently won the 2013 Scholarship and Artistry Award presented by the Country School Association of America. The book is available for purchase at the Howell Farm gift shop and Kidder will sign books after the talk. Proceeds from the sale of the book go to Howell Farm to help develop programming at the school.
Today, the Pleasant Valley Schoolhouse is owned by Mercer County and administered by Howell Living History Farm as part of the Mercer County park system. It is currently being used to interpret a variety of topics relating to both education and community development in the time period 1820-1968. The schoolhouse was purchased in 1938 and modified by a former student, Franklyn Wooden, to be his family home. The Wooden family owned the house until Mercer County acquired it in 2003.
For the Sept. 6 program, gates open at 7 p.m. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis and there is a suggested donation of $3.
The schoolhouse will be the focus of the Back to School program offered at the Howell Farm on Saturday, Sept. 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. During the program, children are invited to go inside the school and experience history and geography lessons similar to those taught during Howell Farm's period of interpretation. Tours of the schoolhouse and Wooden poultry farm will be offered on Sunday, Sept. 8, from 1 to 4 p.m.
Howell Farm is operated and maintained by the Mercer County Park Commission. It is located on Valley Road, just off Route 29, two miles south of Lambertville, NJ. For GPS directions, visitors should use 70 Woodens Lane, Lambertville 08530. Regular visiting hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Parking and admission are free.