Many take for granted that Mohawk Area Schools have been here forever, but this is not so. They have actually been in existence since 1958.
Prior to the state initiative in the 1920s, twenty neighborhood oriented one-room schools served students in grades one through eight, and students who chose to attend high school could go to Bessemer, Enon Valley, Mount Jackson or Wampum.
With the state initiative, all one-room schools were united in Township Consolidated Schools, such as Mahoning and Mount Jackson. That is when the “old” school buildings were built.
North Beaver Township Consolidated High School in Mount Jackson was a vocational high school. Students from Little Beaver Township went to either Mount Jackson or Bessemer High School when Enon Valley closed its high school. Mahoning Township sent its high schoolers to Bessemer or Union High School. Big Beaver Township sent their high schoolers to Wampum High or Mount Jackson.
In 1956, the state of Pennsylvania issued the Re-organizational Plan. A professor from Pitt, named Maurice Thomas, spent over a year studying the area and developing a new plan for the reorganization of the local school districts. Students from Little Beaver Township, North Beaver Township, Mahoning Township, and Bessemer Borough were joined together as the Mohawk Area School District in 1958. The Mount Jackson High School was the junior high school and the Bessemer High School was the senior high, from which Mohawk’s first class graduated in 1959 and Tom Andrews was the first person to receive a diploma from Mohawk.
At the time of the Mohawk jointure in 1958, Big Beaver Township was sending their students to Wampum Area Schools, which were joining Ellwood City, but Big Beaver residents did not want their students attending Ellwood City. In 1959, the Borough system of government was adopted so they could choose where to send their students. As a result, in the summer of 1961, the New Beaver Borough students joined Mohawk students.
There was much controversy over a site for the new high school. The John Wallace farm, on Smalls Ferry Road, and the Willis Gleghorn farms were the main contenders due to their geographic location and topography. The school purchased 109 acres from Mr. Gleghorn in 1959 and began building in 1962. The class of 1964 was the first to graduate from the brand new Mohawk High School building.
Most people believe that our school was named after the Indian tribe. In actuality, the name Mohawk came from Bell Telephone Company, who used the numbers “66” to signify our area. The numbers “66” in letters is translated to “MO,” and from that abbreviation came the name Mohawk. It was suggested to use Mohawk as the name because the new school district boundaries were encompassed within the “MO” exchange. Even today, we still carry the name Mohawk, and most phone numbers in the school district begin with “667-“.
Members of the Mount Jackson Alumni Association recently brought some of this local history to the Mohawk library. At the February School Board meeting, J.V. Lamb and Ken Shiderly, Sr., association president and past president, presented the Mohawk Board of Education with a series of picture cases. The association funded the project.
Mrs. Gertrude Fullerton-Davis, a graduate of the class of 1927, attended the meeting, and she is the oldest independently functioning alumna.
Each year since 1958, the Mount Jackson Alumni Association (North Beaver Township Consolidated High School) has gathered for a reunion at Mohawk High School. At each reunion, members displayed photos from previous graduation classes and then placed them in storage.
At the 2004 reunion, a discussion took place about to how to preserve the pictures. The association hired local carpenter/contractor Bruce Harmon to build frames to mount the pictures, which date from 1924-1958, from Mount Jackson High.
Ken Shiderly states that the objective is to join the Mount Jackson Alumni Association with the Bessemer Alumni and all Mohawk Alumni to create one Mohawk Alumni Association. The goal is to have a joined association reunion in the summer of 2008, as Mohawk School turns 50 years old.
In the past two years, the Bessemer Alumni Association has become more active, and some pictures from Bessemer have been located back to 1926. Not all consecutive years, however, have been located.
Mohawk High School Librarian Lynn Miklos and former classmate, Scott Jones of Compucom, Inc. of Pittsburgh, are scanning the class photos and they soon will be available on Mohawk’s web site, www.mohawk.k12.pa.us.
Mrs. Miklos is looking for old photographs or other school memorabilia from Bessemer, Hillsville, Mount Jackson or any of the area one-room schools. If you would like to donate any such items, please contact her at (724) 667-7782, Ext. 2163.
(Information on the history of Mohawk was obtained from the Totem, 2004)