Schools of Saint Clair

1834 private schools were established by several families of the early settlers; Evans, Nicholas, Burgett and French families.   Instructors were; Nancy March, Sarah Runk, Sarah McNair, Richard Grunby, Miss Boyle, Ralph Branch and Mr. McCamant.

The first public school was established in 1838, and was taught by Benjamin Jackson of Catawissa.  This building was located in the borough Cemetery and was used as a school and a church.  Other instructors that followed Jackson were John Calburn, Isaac Breach, James Stokes, Esther Evans, Washington H. Lawrence, Benjamin French and William Porter.

In 1846 the Creek School House was erected with P.D. Burnett and William Porter as teachers.

1848, Mrs. Shippen taught in a house located on the site of 1930's Joseph Townsend property.

The 1850 School Board consisted of the following members: Daniel Frack, John Lawton, John Williams, John Landford, William Stoker, and William Monteluis (Montiles).In 1851, Theo. Thompson became principal and served for 14 years.

In 1862, a brick building was completed on Nicholas Street during the term of Louis Reese president of the Board of Education. Richard Brown returned home from the Civil War and under the instructions of Major Wren, his sponsor, attended the Orwigsburg Academy to prepare himself to become a school teacher.

In 1870, a building was erected on the John Rudd site on North Nicholas Street.  At this time there were 500 pupils enrolled and a teaching staff of 12 members.  Richard Brown became one of the first High School principals in town.


In 1873, the "Town Clock" school was erected on   Mill Street between Railroad and Patterson Streets.

In 1875 the teaching staff dwindled from 12 teachers to nine due to the population of the Borough taking a sudden decrease when the mines/colliery began to close, strikes, and labor violence.

1879-1880 Richard Brown became Superintendent and his protégée T. G. Jones became High School principal.

In 1881, the school system of Saint Clair consisted of three buildings, and the total enrollment had, in ten years, been increased to 900.


1883 - Richard Brown died and T. G. Jones became Superintendent, a position he held for 52 years.                                                                                           

Mr. Jones as a boy spent his summer vacations working as a breaker boy.  When in High School there was a need for a new teacher and Mr. Jones was picked out of the students because of  "his aptness, height and huskiness".  He passed a test given by the County Superintendent of Schools Newlin and was very good with math.  He began teaching school at $22 per month. (Early 1870's)  He later attended normal School in Pt. Carbon and received his "permanent certificate".  He then completed 2 years of "home study."    Later he took German, French, Logic, Psychology and Chemistry courses at Lafayette College.

In addition, Mr. Jones, taught night school for the boys and men who worked in the mines.  He also taught summer scchool for approximately 12 years and held classes for teachers preparing for examinations.

In 1892, a building was erected that replaced the old "Creek" school house.  This building was used as a high school until a new building was erected in 1909 at the corner of Carroll and Mill Streets.

In 1894 William Smith Thomas, born in Jefferson, Pemkrokshire, Wales, April 16, 1850, began teaching in the schools of Wadesville and St Clair.  He retired in 1920 and died Nov. 13, 1930.

On January 2, 1904, W. J. Evans became principal of the grammar school in the Nicholas Street building.  In 1905, he succeeded W. W. Wood as the grammar school principal of the South Ward.

1910 - Mr.W. J.  Evans became principal of the High School succeeding T. G. Jones who became Supervising Principal.  The High School was moved into the new High School building and was rated for the first time as a two-year High School.

In 1911, the High School was rated as a three-year High School.

In 1914, Saint Mary's Church constructed a school at the cost of $30,000.  In 1934 there were 338 students being taught by six nuns.

1918 -  Mr. Evans installed the "School Saving System".  The student body averaged 17.50 per student in the War Stamp and 48.50 per student in the Liberty Bonds.  During W.W.I Saint Clair School were rated among the highest in the Country.

1922 - T. G. Jones retired and W. J. Evans became Supervising Principal. Very shortly the High School became four years and a Library was organized.   This library was financed for 16 years by W. W. Taylor and his wife, owners of the Saint Clair Coal Company.  Baseball, Basketball and Football were the only scheduled High School sports programs.

1927 -  W. J. Evans ran for County Prothonotary. 

1927 - Dec. 12-E. S. Bodenhorn was elected Principal of St. Clair High School

In January 1928 he became the County Prothonotary, resigning from the Saint Clair schools after 25 years of service. Note:  The present Schuylkill County Prothonary is from Saint Clair, his name is Peter J. Symons.

1928 - Charles R. Birch became the Supervising Principal.   Mr. Birch was a Saint Clair student, teacher (graduate of Bucknell University & University of PA), and then Principal before accepting this position.  He was a teacher for two and a half years in the High School and Principal of the High School for two years. 

As Supervising Principal Mr. Birch made possible the fact that all teachers of the primary and elementary grades have attained at least the equivalent of a Normal School Certificate and in High School all teachers have attained at least the equivalent of a Four Year College Provisional Certificate.  He also added science and guidance to the elementary students study, and departmentalized the higher grades in courses of study.   He added extra-curricular activities to school life also, like; music, dramatics, and athletics.

In 1934, there were 1,652 students, 531 of these were enrolled in the high school.    In, January of 1934, C. R. Birch became Superintendent.   The schools are over-crowded and there is need of another, larger High School. Boys and Girls gymnastics added to the sports program.

In 1934 the following schools were in operation:  High School on Carroll St.- grades 7 & up, Front Street School - 1 to 6, South Ward School -   Grammar School, and the Nicholas Street School.  My aunt, Margaret Morris was a teacher in the Front Street School, she later moved to Norristown and taught there many years until her retirement from teaching.

On August 5, 1935, the School Board held a meeting at which time the Board made the decision to build a new High School. Members on the School Board were Dr. E. T. Jones, President, Dr. R.G. Gould, J.J. Jacoby, Peter McCarthy, Clarence Hagan, Christian Grosskettler, and Robert Zimmerman, Jr.  On August 20, 1935, an application was made to the Public Works Administrators at Washington, D.C. for a Federal grant.   The matter lagged so the Board  appointed a committee to go to Washington D. C. and contact Hon. James H. Gildea,  District Congressman, Hon. Joseph Guffey, United States Senator, and Judge Harold L. Paul (School Solicitor) to push it along. The Committee consisted of:  Superintendent C. R. Birch, George Schmeltzer, and Bennett Williams. On July 28, 1936 the School authorities were notified of the approval of their application.  On August 26, 1936, the Board approved and accepted the grant and soon after work was started on the new building. 

1937 - New High School on South Mill & Nicholas Street was erected.

In 1938, the public school system consisted of 1,554 students, 617 of these were enrolled in the high school.  First graduating High School class in new building.  This building consists of 24 rooms, enlarged Library, Science Laboratories, Shop, Gymnasium, and Domestic Science Room.  Tennis was added to the sports program.  First basketball game played in the new gymnasium was a season opener for St. Clair, and unfortunately, a defeat to a fast Blythe team, 33-9.  Over the years Blythe joined with Saint Clair and the students bused into the Borough and the school became known as Saint Clair Area School District.  In the 1980's the Blythe school was reopened as a Middle School for St. Clair Area school children. 

1949-1950 - Kindergarden classes were added to the school system.


Early High School on North Front Street next to the United Methodist Church.


"St. Clair has three school buildings (1891), all of which are required to accommodate the pupils in attendance on the schools, the total number of which is 900, the average being about 700. The oldest building in use at present, known as the Creek building, was erected about 35 years ago, and is situated in First street, between Carroll and Hancock. It contains four rooms, each with a capacity for 50 pupils. The building is in a very good condition, having been recently renovated.

The old, or upper brick building was erected in 1861. It contains four rooms, which will seat 250 pupils. There is a fine play-ground, 200 feet square, connected with the building. The lower, or new brick building, on Mill street, between Railroad and Patterson, was built eight years ago. It has four rooms, which are well fitted with modern conveniences, and which have a capacity for 320 pupils. On the top is a tower, in which is the town clock. It has a fine playground of the same dimensions as that of the upper brick house. 

Eleven teachers are employed in these schools, which are divided into six grades: one high school, one grammar school, two secondary, two sub-secondary, two primary, and three sub-primary. Mr. Richard Brown, teacher of the high school, has for ten years had supervision of all the schools, subject to the board of education. They are in an excellent condition, and stand high in the county. "How well," and not "how much," is the motto which the teachers of St. Clair adopt "

--Excerpts from History of Schuylkill County 1881.

In 1892 the Creek School house was rebuilt and this new building was used as the high school until a structure was erected in 1909 at the corner of Mill and Carroll Streets.  In 1922 an addition was added providing more class rooms and an auditorium.  In 1927 the building was further enlarged.  This was the high school building until 1938 when the new high school was erected on the site of the "Town Clock Building".  This new building on Mill and Nicholas Streets contained one of the finest gymnasiums in the state at that time.

Mill St. or Town Clock School

Creek School on Front St.

1910 School on Carroll St & Bell School on Nicholas St.

 In 1893 the first parochial school was established by the St. Boniface Parish, it closed on June 18, 1953.
  In 1914 St. Mary's Roman Catholic church constructed a $30,000 school building.   St. Mary's school closed in the mid-1980's.

1938 High School

For anyone who went to the Elementary School from the late 1960's to the 1980's they will remember this remarkable, tireless teacher. Her classroom was located behind the stage at the Carroll St. school.  She gave her all to her students and they all loved her.  Retired but still very active in the community, Val Davis was given an award from the Schuylkill County Female Scholar-Athlete Association in April 2018.

With 1988-89 came the last High School class to graduate from Saint Clair.  The building that was constructed in 1938 was renovated and changed into a Elementary School, Middle School.  For a few years Middle school students were bused out of Saint Clair to the Blythe School. 


 High School students go to Pottsville Area High School. 

Elementary-Middle School

Recent addition

2018 Kindergarten Class