History of Farrell Public Schools
Centennial Celebration 1901-2001

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The Farrell Area School District is comprised of the
City of Farrell and the
Borough of Wheatland.

[High School - 1927]

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A capsule history of Farrell and Wheatland

(For more on Farrell go to: History of Farrell)

Farrell, a city in northwestern Pennsylvania, in Mercer county, is 69 miles (110 km) northwest of Pittsburgh.

Late in the 1890's this land which lay south of Sharon was an untamed Indian territory where Shenango, an Indian Warrior, held domain over the hunting lands along the river which now bears his name.

In 1897 South Sharon (as Farrell was formerly known) was a rustic undeveloped tract of Hickory Township land nestled between Sharon and Sharpsville to the north and Wheatland to the south. These three Shenango River towns had already established themselves as producers of iron and steel. Farrell was born in 1899 when Frank H. Buhl announced plans to build a large steel plant on the “bottom lands” a mile south of Sharon (South Sharon). So quickly had the new town burst on the scene that it was called the “Magic City.”

Early settlers in the little “boom town” of South Sharon petitioned for the incorporation of South Sharon as a borough. The idea caught on and a petition was signed and filed before any decisive action had been taken to annex the territory to Sharon. William F. Mason was elected as the first burgess. The infant borough of South Sharon began its civic life on November 15, 1901 thus putting a decided crimp into the future growth of Sharon.

Only ten years later, South Sharon had a population of over 10,000 and was a recognized industrial link. Trolley connections could be made to any town within a radius of 100 miles.

In recognition of the importance of the steel industry to the borough's progress, South Sharon changed its name to Farrell in 1912, in horor of James A. Farrell, then president of the United States Steel Corporation.

Subsequently Farrell annexed additional acerage from Hickory Township (Hermitage) in 1918, 1923, 1925 and 1926 thus raising the borough's land coverage. The little borough of South Sharon has been replaced by a city that boasts an acreage of 1,393.52

On January 3, 1932 the people of Farrell voted in favor of becoming a third-class city. Joseph A. Franek was sworn in as first mayor.

On November 5, 1974, Farrell residents voted to adopt the home-rule charter form of government. The charter went into effect on January 1, 1976. Under the charter, the city administration consists of a mayor, six council members and an appointed city manager.



The first family to settle in what is now Wheatland was the George Shilling family. In 1812 they migrated from Westmoreland County and purchased 200 acres from John Thompson. Unfortunately for Mr. Shilling, the New Bedford Land Company held a warrent claim against the property. Shilling lost the ensuing court battle and had to purchase the land a second time.

In the early 1860's, Mr. James E. Wood, a businessman and iron founder from Pittsburgh, was searching for a site suitable for an iron furnace. On his many business trips along the Erie Canal between Erie and Pittsburgh he admired a tract of land located on the south side of the canal and purchased it from the George Shilling family. By 1863 the first furnace was completed while three others were built during the next two years. Through the efforts of Mr. Wood, Wheatland was laid out and incorporated as a borough on February 21, 1872. The first burgess was John Horton and council members were Joseph Coles, N.M. Allen, Andrew Shilling, F. C. VanDusen, Thomas Jones and John Watkins.

The new borough was named for President James Buchanan's country residence located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The 15th President of the United States had bought his 22 acre property in 1848 known as "The Wheatlands" because of its setting among wheat fields.

Wheatland was an important port on the old Erie Canal, and later became a busy railroad center.The first locomotive in Mercer County was brought to Wheatland on a canal boat and used to haul ore from the furnaces and to haul coal supplies for the canal boats.

When Wheatland was first founded it occupied only the land on the south side of the Erie Canal. Today, the borough joins the City of Farrell on its north line, the City of Hermitage on the east, the Shenango River and Shenango Township on the South, and the City of Farrell and Shenango River on the west.

Today it is located within a mile of Interstate 80, so its location remains advantageous to its industries.

The people of Wheatland elected a burgess from 1872 until 1946. During the first term of Thomas Williams in 1946, the residents voted to change the title of burgess to mayor. Today, Wheatland has a mayor with seven elected council members. The borough has the distinction of having elected the first woman council member in Mercer County, Mrs. Helen Duby.

Tornado of the century

On the afternoon of May 31, 1985 three groups of supercell thunderstorms spelled trouble for eastern Ohio, western Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario, Canada. The storms spawned 43 tornadoes that barreled across the region, creating Pennsylvania's worst tornado outbreak ever. The most devastating was an F-5 twister that touched down in Wheatland, Pennsylvania, cutting a 47-mile long swath. It killed 18 people and injured at least 310 more. It is the only F-5 tornado reported in the state's history.

Farrell Public Schools
The following article appeared in the 1951 Golden Jubilee Reflector.
It was written by Anthony J. Pintar, Principal of Farrell Senior High School

The public school system in Farrell had its beginning in 1901 in three one story frame school houses built under the supervision of Hickory Township authorities. [Lincoln School] One was near the corner of Haywood Street and Spearman Avenue, one on Idaho Street and the third, on the corner of Fruit Avenue and Kishon Street. The locations facilitated the attendance of students from all sections of the sprawling community located on both sides of the valley-like hollow that cut through the center of the town. The rapid growth of the new steel community necessitated its incorporation as a borough and on November 21, 1901, the borough of South Sharon came into existence.

The first Board of Education composed of August Daurelle, E. E. Clepper, W. F, Anderson, C.M. Kester, and C. H, Ingles being aware of the inadequacy of the existing educational facilities moved on January, 1902, to purchase the school building then under construction by the Beechwood Improvement Company. This was the first permanent brick school building of the Farrell Public School System and was called the Lincoln Building. It was located on the corner of French Street and Wallis Avenue and was in continuous use until 1942 at which time it was converted into an apartment house and as such is still in service.

C. G. Cannon was selected as supervising principal of the borough's school system and in 1905 became the first superintendent of the public schools of this community and remained in this capacity until his resignation in 1908.

[WashingtonSchool] Later with the influx of additional residents attracted to the rapidly growing community by the constuction of additional industrial plants, the need for additional school buildings became acute. This need resulted in the construction in 1903 of a new central school building, which was named the Washington Building, located on Wallis Avenue near Haywood Street. Besides housing part of the elementary school system, the Washington Building became the community's first high school; a one teacher, one room high school taught by Mr. John Meyers. In 1904, Grace Brauchle, Frank Clepper and Florence Harry formed the personnel of the first class to graduate from the South Sharon High School.

The mushrooming growth of our steel making community emphasized the need for additional schools; consequently, the Board of Education of 1907 took action and built a new South Sharon High School on the corner of Fruit Avenue and Haywood Street. This large modern buff brick structure consisting of twelve classrooms, auditorium, gymnasium, and offices was officially dedicated to the education of our people at the end of 1908. The high school faculty had been increased to six teachers, W. D. Shellenberger was principal and J. M. Hostetter was superintendent of schools.

The school board responsible for this forward stride in the improvement of our local educational system consisted of Dr. W. G. Berryhill, president; A. R. Maxwell, secretary; W. J. Griffith, treasurer; John H. Dickason, D.J. Levy, George L. Davis and J. Frank Fowler.

[Junior High School] In 1912 the name of the borough South Sharon was changed to Farrell in honor of James A. Farrell, then president of the United States Steel Corporation which had played a prominent part in the growth of this community. In 1914, another grade school was added to Farrell's fast growing education system, the James A. Farrell Building on the corner of Spearman Avenue and Staunton Street. This was followed by the erection in 1917 of the Pargny Elementary Building at the corner of Bond Street and Hamilton Avenue and the L. R. Eckles Elementary Building in 1919 on Indiana Avenue at the top of Negley Street. Later in 1922 and again in 1933, increased school enrollments and the acute overcrowding of the high school building necessitated additions to the high school which included a new modern gymnasium and additonal modern classrooms.

The first senior class to receive diplomas bearing the inscription Farrell High School was the Class of 1913 numbering eleven graduates.

With the passing of the years Farrell grew, bringing increased enrollment to the already overburdened school buildings. In 1938, when the school population totaled thirty-six hundred, nineteen hundred crowded the junior-senior high school buildings. This resulted in overcrowded classrooms, far too heavy pupil loads for efficient teaching. The citizens of Farrell cognizant of this unsatisfactory situation voted a bond issue to help build a new high school. The new building was to be a Federal Public Works Administration project financed jointly by the Public Works Administration and the Farrell School District. The Board of Education at the time of the construction of the new high school consisted of Julius B. Roux, president; John R. Richards, vice president; Dr. L. R. Landay, treasurer; Joseph Geletka, A. J. Podolsky, Andrew Sage, and Anthony Tortorete. George J. Wetherstein was secretary, and W. W. Irwin was superintendent of schools.

The new senior high school building located on upper Haywood Street was occupied in September, 1939 and housed the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades. W. R. Anderson served as principal. This building is of an “L” design. It contains seventeen classrooms, nineteen vocation rooms, library and conference rooms, cafeteria, health rooms, combination gymnasium-auditorium, offices for the Board of Education, the superintendent, the high school principal, and the teachers. It provides for all of the enriched facilities of a modern school. The junior high school comprising the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades occupied the old Farrell High School building. Mr. John Hetra, Jr., was the first juniour high school principal.

[J.A. Farrell] With the inception of a one room, one teacher, one course high school in Farrell in 1903, our secondary school system was expanded and improved until now in 1951 all students have a wide choice of courses and electives to choose from. The curriculum now includes Academic, General, Commercial, Industrial Arts (woodshop, machine shop, electric shop, auto body shop), Vocational Home Economics, and Cosmetology Courses. Students have a wide choice of elective subjects, besides those required in the courses of their choice, such as art, ceremics, science, mechanical drawing, general typewriting, band, chorus, journalism, public speaking, dramatics, mathematics, home economics, boys' cooking, commercial law and salesmanship, geography, world literature, Latin, Spanich, French, shorthand, bookkeeping, and teneral shops. In addition to the six courses of study, the students of Farrell Senior High School have an extensive list of extra-curricular and intramural activities in which they might participate. Interscholastic varsity athletics consisting of basketball, football, wrestling, track, and baseball are other fields of activity in which the young men may participate. The extensive campus consisting of well kept lawns and athletic fields provide space for numerous outside school activities.

[Pargny School] During the war years starting in 1943 and continuing until the spring of 1950 an extensive vocational industrial training program was part of the senior high school curriculum under the supervsion of Harold J. Peck. Shops in electrical appliances, machine, sheet metal, wood and auto body, and general shops were provided. Boys taking this work spent one half their school time in these shops, receiving trade information and instruction in methods and techniques of the operations of work in their particular shop. The other half of their school time was devoted to the pursuit of studies which were necessary to the success of their shop. In the fall of 1951, due to a revision of the school curriculum, the Vocational Industrial courses were replaced by the Industrial Arts courses which retained most of the original shops and shop instruction but provided additional scholastic training to students enrolled in this phase of the curriculum.

Since 1905 the guidance and the administration of the local schools have been in the capable hands of the following superintendents: C. G. Cannon 1905, J. M. Hostetter 1908, L. R. Eckles 1909, Port Eckles 1918, Samuel M. Robb 1922, William W. Irwin 1926, Carroll D. Kearns 1941, John Hetra December, 1946. Mr. Hetra is the first Farrell High School graduate to attain this honor.

High School Principals 1905-1946

High school principals who have served the Farrell Schools have been John Meyers 1905, Jerome Edwards 1906, Guy Morrison 1907, William E. Shellenberger 1908, Howard E. Kelley 1909, Port Eckles 1916, F. F. Foltz 1918, J.E. Imler 1919, Elmer C. Stillings 1921, Qunicy G. Vincent 1926, William R. Anderson 1928, John Hetra, March 1946 to Dec 16, 1946, Anthony J. Pintar, December 16, 1946.

Jr. High school principals have been John Hetra and Louis Sarcinella. The Director of Elementary Education is Miss Alice Nicolls.

[Eckles School] The total school enrollment reached a peak of 4,130 pupils in the 1927-1928 school year. The peak enrollment in the senior high school of 973 was reached in the school year 1940-1941, at which time the largest senior class of 301 members was graduated. The total school enrollment at present is 2,253. Surveys show that the future enrollment will definitely increase and our local education authorities, in cooperation with the State Department of Education, are now making a careful study of local conditions with respect to a possible shortage of school bildings, especially in the elementary field, and long-range plans have been discussed to keep the Farrell Public Schools in the foreground among the educational systems of this state.

Since its beginning the public school system of Farrell has experienced changes in grouping, policy and philosophy. At various times our students have been grouped as elementary and high school, the 8-4 plan; as elementary and junior-senior high school, the 6-6 plan; and the elementary, junior high school, and senior high school, the 6-3-3 plan, under which program the Farrell schools are now in operation. The changes have been made always with the end in view that the young people of Farrell should be educated best to meet the needs of the changing times and those in various age groups be educated under those conditions that best reach that goal toward which all our teaching is directed - the full development of each student, to make happy and effective citizens in a democracy.

Farrell Public Schools
(The following article appeared in the 1937 Reflector).

It was written by Hazel Mae Patton - a graduate of the Class of 1913.

Originating in The Little Red Schoolhouse” in 1901, at South Sharon Hickory Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania, the Farrell Public Schools have grown and flung their branches of learning to thousands of Farrell young men and young women during the past thirty-six years.

Following the incorporation of South Sharon as a borough in December, 1901, a Board of Education composed of W. F. Anderson, president, E. E. Clepper, secretary,C.M. Kester, treasurer, August Daurelle, and C. H. Ingles, with James Pierce as solicitor, was organized. This executive body, seeing the necessity for some institution of learning more appropriate than the small one-room buildings then being used as grade school buildings, executed plans for the erection of the Lincoln Building in 1902 and the Washington Building in 1908.As our town grew, the necessity for other schools increased. This resulted in the erection of a high school in 1903, the J.A. Farrell Building in 1914, the Pargny Building in 1917, the L. R. Eckles in 1919, and two additions to the high school, in 1923 and 1933 respectively.

The School Board who were responsible for the first high school were Dr. W. G. Berryhill, president, Archie R. Maxwell, secretary, William J. Griffiths, treasurer, John H. Dickason, Dan J. Levy, George L.L. Davis, J. Frank Fowler.

Professor C.G. Cannon served as teacher in the first high school and also as supervising principal of the North and Central Schools. In 1905, he became the first superintendent of the Farrell Public Schools. In the years to follow, he was succeeded by Professor J. M. Hostetter, 1908, L.R. Eckles, 1909, Port Eckles, 1918, S. M. Robb, 1922, and our present day leader, W. W. Irwin in 1926.

This group of superintendents is greatly outnumered by the more representative group of men, each who has, in turn, served in the capacity of principal. In 1905, Mr. John Meyers became principal, only to be followed in 1906 by Jerome Edwards, by Guy Morrison in 1907, W. E. Shellenberger, 1908, H. E. Kelly, 1909, Port Eckles, 1916, F. F. Foltz, 1918, J. E. Imler, 1919. Elmer C. Stillings, 1921, and Q. G. Vincent, in 1926. Professor William R. Anderson, who began his work as principal in 1928, is still supervising.

In September, 1935, George E. Mason was appointed Farrell High School's first assistant principal. Today (1937), the position is being filled by Mr.John Hetra.

For a while, the only teacher in the one room high school located in the Washington Building was Professor Morrison. Miss Grace Graham was shortly afterwards appointed to assist him. In 1906, Professor ‘Jerry’ Edwards was added to the teaching staff. The Faculty Staff was increased in 1908, at the time of the occupation of the new high school building, when Misses Helen Reed, Vida Parl Eatson, Margaret K. Lester, and Sadie Shaffer were appointed. After this, the faculty increased slowly but surely until today the teaching staff is composed of fifty-two high school teachers. The elementary school teachers number fifty-three.

First graduates receive diplomas with FHS inscription

From a senior class of three persons in 1904, the Farrell High School graduating class will reach a peak of 235 in 1937. Each year, the enrollment went steadily along in its upward trend. The First class to receive diplomas bearing the inscription of Farrell High School was the Class of 1913. Previous to this time, they had been graduates of South Sharon High School, the title of our borough before July 1912. Professor S. L. Cover, art instructor, was the first teacher in the Commercial Department.

The first boys' basketball team was organized under the leadership of Professors Cannon and Morrison, but owing to the fact that they were compelled to practice outside of the school, they were never regularly recognized as a high school team. This team also had a very fine record. The first girls' basketball team was organized in 1910 under the direction of Miss Margaret K. Lester.

Singing contests finance purchase of the school's pianos

Professor Frost was the first musical instructor in the school and with the assistance of Superintendent Cannon held many singing contests between the grades of the North Side (Lincoln School) and Central Building (Washington School). These contests were held in the Old Lewis Opera House and the winners were presented with prizes. The proceeds of these concerts were used as first payments on the pianos for the school buildings. After serving in this capacity for two years, Prof. Frost resigned and Miss Ethel Morehouse who succeeded him continued to hold the contests. After the pianos were paid form the proceeds were used to purchase books for the first library which was housed in the “attic” of the Central Building (Washington School). Miss Morehouse served as musical instructor until 1916 when she was succeeded by Professor David Reese. Professor Prosser, Miss Mikaloff and by Miss Jamison, who is our present director (1937), and under whose leadership the Farrell High School Band was organized in 1930.

Many and varied have been the changes in the Farrell School System, during the lenghty period of its organization and development. Any alumnus might remark “Everything is so different and yet, so much like Farrell High!”

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