From the earliest days of settlement of the area that became Pine Grove Township, schools and education were important to the families who settled here. In the early days, there were no formal schools; education was in the hands of the families that settled here. Thus, in the early 1800s, John Marsh taught his children and those of a few neighbors. In 1805, John and his brothers built a log schoolhouse in Marshtown (in the vicinity of the present Eisenhower High School). Eventually, the log structure was replaced by a frame building that served Marshtown until 1927.
Stephen Rodger opened the first school in Russell in his home in 1815. The first school building in Russell was of log construction at the corner of Pine and East Streets. Families paid tuition according to the number of their children attending the school. The “school year” was only three months. The log school lasted until 1834 when the building was replaced by a two-room, two-story frame structure at the same location. This was called the “Pine Grove School”. The school was heated with wood provided by the families of attendees.
By 1883, the two-room school was no longer large enough to accommodate the increasing number of children. A. A. Clark purchased the building and moved it to Liberty Street, nearly across from the present Russell Post Office, where it became a dry goods store.
That same year, a new school building with four classrooms replaced the former two-story structure at Pine and East Streets. This building was used until the end of the 1917-18 school year when a two-story brick Russell High School building was built across the street, which housed both high school and elementary school students. The frame school building still remains today, across from the town office building, as an apartment building and is painted a shade of green (Photo 1).
The brick Russell High School served Pine Grove Township until the end of the 1947-48 school year. From the fall of 1948 through the spring of 1949, Pine Grove Township students attended Warren High School; in 1955 they moved over to Sugar Grove. The present Eisenhower High School was built in 1955-56. Beginning in the fall of 1956, Pine Grove students began classes in the new high school building, built close to the location of the old Marshtown school.
A new Russell Elementary School was opened along Route 62 January 29, 1964, which included space for Kindergarten through Sixth grade. Russell and Akeley now had state-of-the-art new schools for all grades.
At one time or another, between 1803 and 1930, there were a total of 18 One-Room school houses operating in Pine Grove Township. They include Beechwoods – Marshfield 1803 – 1927, Thompson Hill 1930s – 1945, Akeley Hollow Log School 1851 – 1865, Randall Hill 1859 – 1872, Cable Hollow I ? – 1879, Hale 1867 – 1921, Ranse Thompson 1868 – 1919, Irvinburg 1869 – 1900, Brogan 1870 1892, Akeley Hollow Frame 1870 – 1918, Cable Hollow II 1880 – 1925, Fox Hill 1869 – 1907, Gouldtown I ? – 1913, Egypt Hollow 1886 – 1907, Akeley I 1893 – 1904, Wiltsie 1893 – 1927, Akeley II 1905 – 1918 and Gouldtown II 1912 – 1930. Today, only four of these structures remain, including Thompson Hill, Cable Hollow II, Wiltsie and Akeley II. The Thompson Hill School at the intersection of Thompson Hill Road and Valentine Run Road presently is vacant (Photo 2). Cable Hollow II is a private residence along Upper Cable Hollow Road near Mill Road (Photo 3). Wiltsie School on Swede Hill Road is a wing of the Wiltsie Church (Photo 4). Akeley II on Akeley Road is now the Akeley United Methodist Church (Photo 5).
This summer, the township road crew has completed major maintenance operations on the following roads: Howard, Mill, Norberg, and Townline.
Through the late summer and fall, work will continue on township roads. This will include ditching, improving drainage, spot repairs and mowing of berms. Additionally, bid requests are out for reconstruction of State Street. It is anticipated the project will be completed this construction season. The bid for repairs to the underpinnings of the Big Four Road Bridge has been accepted and this project will be completed soon. The work should not disrupt traffic too badly. The Egypt Hollow Bridge will be replaced by PennDOT in the spring of 2019. The township is also working on financing for the reconstruction of Woodland Drive and the lower end of East Street with these likely being completed next summer. Long range planning is looking to eventually complete repaving of Cider Mill Hill Road and the streets near the southern township line adjacent to Route 62. Any concerns about roads should be reported to the township office.
The supervisors have approved a pilot project whereby approximately 24 of the township’s streetlights will be converted from sodium vapor to LED lights. The quality of light, resident feedback, and the projected savings will be used to assess whether or not more lights will be converted. The revised Nuisance Ordinance also has been approved, as well as an ordinance covering firework displays in the township. Both ordinances can be reviewed at the township office.
The township’s municipal authority has obtained a PennVest loan for completion of upgrades to the water system. Bids for the work will be sent out soon and it is anticipated the construction will be completed this fall. The improvements will increase the efficiency of the system, greatly reduce water loss through leaks and significantly lower overall operating costs. The problem with milky-looking water that has been present the past several weeks has been resolved. The water no longer contains air which was actually the cause of the milky color.
Fire Department: The Russell Volunteer Fire Department reports the following activity during the month of July. It responded to 10 general alarms and 15 emergency medical service calls for a total of 25 calls. The department achieved a 94 percent response rate which is considerably above the state-level requirements. However, it is suffering a manpower loss with some of their volunteer firemen and EMTs returning to college. The efficiency and effectiveness of the fire department are wholly dependent on volunteer manpower. If any township resident might be willing to commit a few hours a month to help provide a valuable and needed service to our community, please contact the Fire Department to learn about the various roles that volunteers can fulfill and find out how you can help.
The Fire Department’s new siren is now fully operational. A general alarm (firemen and/or EMTs needed) is sounded by a 40-second wail down going up and down. For severe weather emergencies, the siren will peak and remain steady for 3 continuous minutes. Residents hearing this tone are advised to immediately tune in to radio or TV for further instruction.
Township residents are reminded that Supervisors’ Meetings are held the second Wednesday of the month at 7:00 PM at the Town Hall on East Street. Any resident who would like to speak formally at a meeting can simply call the township office to be put on the agenda of the next meeting. Those wishing to speak at meetings are asked to limit their initial remarks to 5 minutes. Additionally, minutes of the supervisors’ meetings are posted on the township website (pinegrovetownship.org) once the minutes are approved by the supervisors.
ROAR Revitalization of Akeley/Russell
ROAR is busy securing a 501c3. The process can be quite lengthy. By-laws for the organization should be complete at the next meeting. The Mission Statement was revised to cover all phases of ROAR’s strategic plan, so it will not need to be amended after Phase I.
ROAR agreed to trim bushes and mow the walkway on South Main St., leading to the former Russell Elementary School. As soon as we get permission from the property owner, progress will begin. We also are helping to replace the siding at One Main St. as part of the revitalization effort. The owner is checking how much siding is stored for that building. Period signage also is being sought for shops on North Main St.
The ROAR committee agreed to have the 2nd Annual Pine Grove Days celebration on the Memorial Day weekend May 25 and 26, 2019. Planning has started to make this celebration even better than the last one.
ROAR is open for donations. Donations can be sent to ROAR PO Box 303 Russell, Pa. 16345 and can be designated “IN MEMORY OF” or “IN HONOR OF” someone of your choosing.
ROAR meets at the Townhall on East St. in Russell on the first Monday of the month at 6:30 pm, except when it is a holiday.
Pine Grove Sportsmen’s Association, 2344 Egypt Hollow Road, Russell, will sponsor a Ladies Only Day opportunity to learn basic safe gun handling of the 22 rifle, shotgun, 22 handgun and defensive pistol Saturday, Sept. 15.
Instructors are NRA Certified.
The event is an opportunity to learn about firearms, safe gun handling and shooting. Free food/beverages will be provided. The event is open to all ages. A door prize and gifts will be provided by local businesses.
For information, contact Dean Spiridon at 730-7902.