|Forest Oak School #35, in 1926|
The exact early history of the Forest Oak School is not well-documented (at least not that I've found), but a general timeline can be inferred from other sources. The school that preceded Forest Oak as the District #35 school was also on St. James Church Road, but a little further south. Initially founded in 1808, the St. James School was located across the road from the church of the same name. After the passage of the Free School Act in 1829, the subscription school became the District #35 public school. Although the school house remained standing until 1915 (when it was torn down and stones from it used to build a sexton's house, which now forms part of the parish house), it had long since ceased to be a public school. When, exactly, I can only somewhat narrow down.
If the maps are to be believed, then in 1849 the St. James School was still being used as the #35 school. By 1868, however, a new school had been erected further north. Why is most likely explained by the same forces still at work today on school location and feeder patterns -- population growth and/or shifts. The 1868 map (seen below) shows the new school located on St. James Church Road (shown as a dotted line, indicating that it was more of a country lane) just east of Milltown Road, and south of Milltown.
|District 35 in 1868|
It's funny sometimes what it takes to make things connect in your head. I'd looked at the above map many, many times, even fairly closely at that area when I wrote the post about the Reynolds-Lindell property, almost five years ago. I assume that I saw "Forest Oak" written there, but I don't think I associated it with the school. The name on the map is not that of the school, but rather of the estate it was likely carved out of. Forest Oak was apparently the name of the farm later purchased in 1915 by Andrew Lindell, and renamed "Locust Grove", for the locust trees prominent in the area. I assume the oaks were not as numerous by then.
The name Forest Oak may go back to the ownership of Andrew Reynolds, who brings up an interesting connection. If you were
|Interior of the Forest Oak School, 1926. Recognize anyone?|
The Forest Oak School continued to educate the children of southeastern Mill Creek Hundred for about 70 years, give or take a decade. The schoolhouse's educational era came to a close in 1929, when District #35, along with Stanton's District #38 and Christiana's #95 Sunnyside School (located where the Christiana Hilton is now), were incorporated into the new Stanton Elementary School. With the school gone, the Forest Oak schoolhouse became just a house. It was converted into a private residence, and served that purpose for about as long as it functioned as a school. Eventually other houses were built around it, and by the 1980's it was completely surrounded by newer housing.
I only recently became aware that the old Forest Oak Schoolhouse actually survived until about 10 years ago. The little school was old, and small, and the owner decided to tear it down and build a bigger house in its place. But as you may know, even though the school is gone, the name lives on. When a new elementary school was constructed in the mid-1960's just a short distance west along Kirkwood Highway, it was given the name Forest Oak to honor the tradition of education in the area. This was a fact unknown to me when I attended it in the late 1970's.
The Forest Oak School was neither spectacular nor glamorous, but was a good example of a mid-19th Century one room schoolhouse. Its closing 86 years ago probably precludes any of its students (and certainly, teachers) from being around to give us first-hand accounts. Frankly, I never really expected to find pictures as good as the ones here, so it goes to show you never know what treasures are still out there to find.