BY TOM CLOWNEY / APRIL 2014
The Willow Grove School sits on a small bluff overlooking Plum Run on the west side of the Taneytown Road, a short distance north of Barlow. It received its name from the willow trees that grew along the Run.
According to John Geiselman, as recorded in his book, “Reflections,” the School had four settings. John wrote that the original School stood northwest of the present site along Plum Run, up toward Round Top on the Theodore McAllister homestead. Then it was moved to the Harry Black farm on a three-cornered plot along the Kerr Lott Road. The next setting was on the Kelley farm just across the road from where it finally came to rest in its present location. It is now a private residence.
In the early days, one-room country schools were utilized as mini-community centers. The Centennial Hall School was the meeting place for the election of the first officers of Mt. Joy Lutheran Church. The Willow School Grove School was the first meeting place for the charter members of the Barlow Fire Company.
There were box socials (early social networking), spelling and geography bees, puppet shows, amateur shows, song fests, lectures, and all kinds of dramatic entertainment.
At its first setting on the McAllister property after the Civil War, it was in this school house that McAllister first gave his lecture called, “Crossing the Plains.”
Theodore returned home after the war from Libby Prison, which was a Confederate prison in Richmond, Va. He met up with a covered wagon train going west in the summer of 1866 and joined them. Many people would gather in the evening by lamp light in the one-room country schools of the area to hear McAllister speak.
On Aug. 8, 1947, the Willow Grove School was sold at public auction to Lawrence D. and Esther Cruze. for $2,100 and is now a private residence.
Tom Clowney is a member of the Cumberland Township Historical Society.