Elk Twp. Historical Society open house Saturday

The Elk Township Historical Society invites the public to an open house on Saturday, July 14, from 1 to 4 p.m.

A feature will be in recognition of the WWII heroism of Louis Buvoltz, who served in the U.S. Army in the European Theater. An expert marksman, he served in Patton’s Third Army and fought in seven major battles in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France, and Germany, including Anzio Beachhead and the Battle of the Bulge. He was wounded several times and was awarded three Oak Leaf Clusters. Among his service medals are The Silver Star, The European, The African, and The Middle Eastern Service Medals and The Good Conduct Medal, as well as the WWII Victory Medal. His medals are being donated to the Scandia Museum to take their place in the Elk Township Veterans Exhibit.

Following 36 months of active combat for his country, Louis served as an Elk Township supervisor.

Louis was employed by Blackstone as a grinder for 30 years.

“Babe”, as he was locally known, played the banjo, mandolin and the fiddle and was part of the “Moonlight Ramblers.” He was married to Ruth Mack and they made their home and raised their four children, William, Trudy, Allen, and Julie, in Scandia, and each of his children is a graduate of Scandia School.

By the time the Buvoltz children were attending Scandia School, it had been in existence for 70 years. Today, that one-room school has painstakingly been restored to its 1870’s appearance. Here, one can step back in time into a completely restored one-room school where lap slates and chalk took the place of paper and pencils and where there was neither running water nor electricity.

The original “blackboard” (ordinary wall boards painted black) displays a vintage lesson in chalk. When the 20th Century carpenters covered the wooden walls, they simply nailed the 4×8-foot luan panels over the blackboard without erasing the lesson in chalk. That chalk lesson remains today for all to see, however, it is now safely covered with acrylic panels for protection.

Original 19th Century desks with inkwells are in place waiting for their students to arrive. The oldest desks accommodate two or three children, which could more efficiently seat the growing number of Swedish immigrant children pouring into the community.

One of the most outstanding exhibits at Scandia School is the presence of over a century of enrollment records, which list student names, ages and grade level, as well as the teacher’s name and the subjects taught. In some years the teacher’s salary is listed.

In the recent decade since the school has been opened to the public as a museum, numerous instances have occurred when visitors have been delighted to find their parent’s or grandparent’s names on these rosters. Recently a district school teacher found her grandmother’s name listed as a teacher at Scandia School and she was deeply moved to be standing on the exact spot where her grandmother had taught students some 60 years previously.

If you are lucky enough to have attended Scandia School sometime before it closed in 2000, you can actually visit one of your classrooms today. The two wooden classrooms of the 1800s and the newer 1961 brick and mortar classrooms await your arrival. This is indeed a rare privilege because very few schools of this vintage still exist.

In the late 19th Century, most families in Elk Township lived on self-sustaining family farms. A museum in an adjoining classroom celebrates this heritage. Here, one can view Kodak photographs (circa 1910) of productive farms along the Allegheny River, now obliterated from view forever by the Kinzua Dam project of the 1960s, which inundated them with Kinzua Lake.

Genealogists may find help by searching the extensive genealogy collection of 250 families who lived in Elk Township in the 1800s. These are cataloged for easy access and arranged in notebooks titled by the roads on which they lived. Some of these genealogies are very complete and others not so.

There are exhibits about cooking and food preservation techniques of the 19th Century, on gathering maple sap, shoemaking, dairy farming, vintage greeting cards and intricate handyworks, such as lace, doilies and crocheted items.

On the family farm, almost everything was made at home with available materials, even the hair of their horses. One can sit on a horsehair upholstered chair to experience its unique scratchy texture.

Each year, a special temporary exhibit is prepared for visitors. The focus of this season is a miniature antique tractor collection of Patti Anderson.

The public is invited to spend the afternoon of Saturday, July 14, investigating Scandia’s 1870’s one-room school and the museum to contemplate times gone by, and then walk across the street to the Scandia General Store for a sandwich to enjoy at the Elk Community Center pavilion while watching families enjoying the playground.

Scandia hospitality continues unbroken.