Here is the history of Bernstadt School written by Melchoir Denny. This was printed on pages 123-124 in the book Supplement to Laurel County History of Churches and Schools - Their Rise and Progress compiled and published by Thomas J. Pate and Henry S. Pate around 1900.

A Swiss Colony School

By M. Denny, Bernstadt, KY

The history of the Bernstadt school, in district 61--near the old hotel--, is traceable for me only since the time of my living here and being its teacher. Of the schools taught before my arrival I can give no reliable information.

My first term was opened, in a private house, January 28, 1884, and closed shortly before the end of the school year. The attendance was good and continued so till the fine days of May and June came and deprived me of all the larger pupils, leaving me sometimes but half a dozen of the smallest ones.

The next term was in the regular schoolhouse, and in that same room I have since taught 15 terms in succession. My last term included one pupil of the second generation, with many more in sight. The highest attendance was 53, the lowest, except as stated above,--I quote from memory--was scarcely ever below 25. The general daily average for many years has been about 44.

The attendance to enrollment was always good, but the attendance to census was not, because so many of our boys and girls, after 15 or 16 years of age, are put to work to earn a living, and often away from home.

The patrons and pupils are nearly all Swiss, except a few American families. In the schoolroom the language has been partly English and partly German, as the individual understanding of the pupil required it; but of late years it has been more and more English.

In the matter of school apparatus, we were at first scantily supplied. The teacher bought some extra blackboards, more were put in by the trustees and in the last years we were supplied with several good maps and charts, and now our room is in a good working condition. Yearly assessments on the patrons furnished funds for fuel and repairs and the trustees promptly carried out any wish of the teacher in their power.

In the plan of study we kept near the schedule furnished by the state, but modified when necessary to our wants. The ten branches were all taught, but we made no hobbies of any one of them, but added some drawing on slate and paper, and especially did we pay some attention to vocal music. We taught and practiced singing by note with reasonable success.

Trustees, patrons and teacher believe in corporal punishment when necessary, and all want the teacher to be master for the school. As a tribute to the often much abused trustees I can say that in district 61 they never realized any gain from their position, but did a lot of hard and thankless work, mostly with good will, and I can further say that nearly all of our eligible men have in turn shared the trustees honors and burdens.

The relation between the district and the several superiors, the superintendents, has been a happy one. They spoke favorably of our school and its progress, at least as far as I know, and I remember with pleasure the visits of the respected gentleman, namely; Messrs. J. T. Williams, Ed Parker, W. Weaver, and B. F. Johnson. April 3, 1900.

The Laurel County Historical Society is located at 310 West 3rd Street in the old Health Department Building. We are open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. We will open on other days by appointment. Please contact us far enough in advance to schedule a volunteer to open the library. You may contact the Laurel County Historical Society by calling 606-864-0607 or e-mail us at lchistsoc@windstream.net (The first character is a lower case L as in Laurel.)

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