History of Lemasters High School
By Sue Stoner
For almost half a century, Lemasters High School provided a quality education to the students of Peters Township. In 1907, there were two graduates - Sara Diehl and Mabel Berger. Twenty-four graduates comprised the final Class of 1954. After 1954, Mercersburg and Lemasters High School would merge to become James Buchanan Junior-Senior High School.
There had been a schoolhouse in the village since 1881 when a one-story frame building was erected on the road now called Steele Avenue. Many community activities took place in the "Old Schoolhouse." Three congregations, Lutheran, Reformed, and Radical United Brethren, worshipped in the building before erecting their own churches. This building continued to serve students in Lemasters, but by 1895, something larger than a one-room schoolhouse was needed. A two-story brick building (now the Mercersburg Area Preschool) was constructed at a cost of $2150.00. At that time, the one room schoolhouse was purchased by Peters Township Supervisors for $200.00. This building also still stands and is still in use.
By June 1906, discussions were underway regarding a high school in Lemasters. The upper room of the brick building would be the site. On September 3, 1906, Miss Helen Smith of Carlisle was hired as the teacher at Peters Township High School. In August, a gentleman, Parris Andrews, had been hired, only to resign on September 3rd! He was to have been paid $65.00 per month. Miss Smith's salary, however, was to be $60.00 per month for a seven months school term. (So much for equal pay for equal work.)
Unfortunately, Miss Smith would teach only for seven days; she received $21.00 for her services. By the end of September, Miss Ellen Stuff was elected teacher at the high school. Miss Stuff was succeeded by several male teachers from 1907-1910, all who were paid $65.00 per month. The second group of five graduates was from the Class of 1910. In the years 1910-1920, Lemasters High School would graduate forty-eight seniors. The Class of 1921 numbered ten graduates.
In 1922, a new Berlin brick school was built along what is now Lemar Road between Lemasters and Markes. The six-room building housed the high school classrooms and four grade school classrooms. Prior to 1922, Peters Township High School had been a three-year high school. Since the change to a four-year high school was made in 1922, there was no graduating class that year. In 1923, the first class to graduate from the new high school numbered eight graduates.
During the 1922-1923 school year, several Peters Township schools were consolidated. A two-room school in Markes and three one-room schools were closed. Those students were then bused to Lemasters. The brick schoolhouse on Steele Avenue continued to house the first and second grades until 1954. In the late 1920s, the "Old Schoolhouse" again opened to house third grade students. In the summer of 1929, four rooms were added to the building on Lemar Road, two on the north side and two on the south side.
When Jacob A. Garns wrote Reminiscence of Lemasters, dated January 15, 1940, he
stated: "The building now consists of ten classrooms, a library, laboratory, an auditorium that will seat 600 people, gymnasium, shower bath, and directors’ room." From the 1930s onward, Lemasters would have a well organized band, having many public engagements. Garns wrote, "The large number of trophies attest to the prowess of those who were active in athletics." Sports were an integral part of the high school, beginning in the 1920s.
Mary Etter wrote the chapter, "Our Schools,” in History of Lemasters Centennial Celebration publication in 1972. In it, she notes that the School Board purchased the house across the road from the newly built school in 1922 as a residence for the janitor and that it would later house the Home Economics Department. By 1947, according to Mrs. Etter's narrative, an Agriculture Department was established at the high school. Fall 1948 saw the establishment of a cafeteria to serve all pupils in the Lemasters High School Building.
After 1954, Lemasters remained an elementary school in the James Buchanan School District. In July 1966, the James Buchanan and St. Thomas Districts merged to form the Tuscarora School District. When a new high school was completed, the former James Buchanan Junior-Senior High School became a middle school, housing sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. By this time, Lemasters was outdated and in need of major repairs. The kindergarten through fifth grade students of Tuscarora School District are now served by the Mercersburg, Montgomery, Mt. View, and St. Thomas Elementary Schools. Lemasters High School Building was closed in 1971, and its contents were later sold by the Tuscarora School District.
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