Preserving History

Elk Township Historical sets open house for May 20

Photos submitted for publication Above, the Roper barn sits beside the wagon trail leading up through Roper Hollow from the Allegheny River. Today, this part of the road is under the Allegheny Reservoir, though the upper reaches of the road connect the Roper Hollow boat launch to Scandia Road.

Ever wanted to step back in time to see what education was like in a one-room school house.

The Elk Township Historical Society has just the event for you – an open house set for Saturday, May 20, from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. at Scandia Corners, the former Scandia Elementary School.

Part of that facility is an original one-room school house – one of 12 that served children in Elk Township during the 19th and 20th centuries.

“The Scandia one room school has been completely restored to its 1870s appearance and features – original teacher’s desks, students desks and accommodate two to three children and authentic black board… as well as over a century of enrollment records, some of which include curricula and teacher’s salaries,” according to the Elk Township Historical Society, which cares for the site.

The Elk Township Historical Society is the outgrowth of the Scandia School Preservation Committee, established after the school was closed in 1999.

“In 1999, this classroom space was a working computer laboratory and it seemed like miles of electrical wiring had to be removed to accommodate this historic restoration,” the ETHS said.

While the focus of the ETHS has initially restoring and preserving the school, that work has expended into the development of a museum that tells the story of life in the early days of Elk Township.

The museum is held in a larger wooden school room which was added in the late 19th century when increasing enrollment required more space, according to Boozer.

“At one time, the Allegheny River flowed through Elk Township and it was the extraordinarily fertile location of many family farms along her banks,” the ETHS said, noting that settlement occurred in the early 1800s. “Exhibits in the museum feature displays that describe life on the self-sustaining family farm, such as early food preservation methods, making maple syrup, shoe making, coal mining, family farm dairy operations, early hand tools and a collection of 250 geanologies of families that lived in Elk Township before the turn of the 20th century.”

May 20 is also Armed Forces Day and the military contributions of many members of the township are featured in the museum.

One homestead in particular is highlighted at the museum – the farm of the James Roper family.

The ETHS provided some background on the family – whose estate is now underwater beneath the Allegheny Reservoir – and is likely more well known today as the name of a boat launch.

Originally a tract of land 800 acres in size adjacent to the famed Cornplanter Tract, the Roper property was initially acquired by Benjamin Marsh from the Holland Land Company in the 1830s, according to the ETHS. James Roper married a grand-daughter of Marsh, Elsie Jane, which is how the farm got its name.

The museum has in its possession a collection of Kodak images detailing farm operations in the 1910s and 1920s.

Included in that collection are photos of an 1830s-era log cabin that remained at the Roper Farm, as well as the Victorian home that followed in the 1870s.

A Roper descendant – Gail Robert Gustafson, who visited his grandparents at the farm as a boy – will be on hand to explan the exhibit and answer any questions.

Other photos of the collection show daily life – the Allegheny River winding through the valley, the family poling across the river, working the farm fields with horse-drawn equipment as well as views up the road from the river of what is now Roper Hollow Road.

A complete Roper geneaology is included in the collection as well as members of the Marsh, Roper, Bennett, Clendenning and Disnmore families.

The ETHS noted that Gustafson gifted them an 1878 Elk Township map, which has been enlarged and framed for viewing.