Penns Valley

On Centre: Penns Valley | Community keeps piece of past alive

Years of hard work from a community dedicated to keeping an important part of its history alive has finally paid off.

The Gramley Schoolhouse Museum has opened its doors, and this weekend an open house will give Brush Valley residents and history lovers a chance to glimpse into the past.

The historic building, the last public one-room schoolhouse in Brush Valley, was built in 1838. And now as a museum, it holds a collection that matches the schoolhouse’s storied history.

“There are a lot of memories,” said Vonnie Henninger.

But the museum, and the preservation of those memories, might not have come to fruition without the work of Henninger and other community members.

In 2007, the Penns Valley school district’s insurance company ruled that the wooden Gramley schoolhouse was a fire risk to the recently renovated Miles Township Elementary School. The buildings were about 12 feet apart.

A group from the community, including Henninger, knew then something had to be done.

“We had our first meeting in 2007,” she said. “There were 30 or 40 people who showed up interested in having it preserved, in raising money.”

In 2009, the district agreed to sell the building to Miles Township for $1. The community raised $26,000 pay to the cost of moving the schoolhouse about 200 feet, no small task considering it weighs about 30 tons.

Since then, there have been renovations inside and out. Henninger said the community pitched in and also helped by donating pieces of Brush Valley history.

“Just to know something is being done by citizens of Miles Township in order to preserve our history, it’s a wonderful feeling,” she said.

Henninger has cataloged 800 items, some of which are on display now. They include a desk bell Gramley schoolhouse teachers used in the 1880, a brick from the old two-story Miles Township high school building and a piano that came to Brush Valley in 1906.

But some of the most popular items are the photos of the students and teachers who once filled the seats inside the school. Henninger posts many of the images on the schoolhouse’s Facebook page. They often draw comments from people who recognize a relative.

“My Grandma is the third one in the first row and her sister is beside her!” one woman wrote about a picture of Miles Township school students from 1910.

Henniger said the collection has been a hit among those who have already toured the schoolhouse.

“They didn’t want to leave,” Henninger said. “They had a connection, knowing there was some place to keep the memories of Brush Valley in Brush Valley.”

The open house will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the schoolhouse building on Town Lane in Rebersburg.