School history of Berks County in Pennsylvania
The author of this book compiled "The History of Berks County," and in 1885 caused it to be published in a royal octavo volume of 1200 pages. Immediately afterward, certain teachers of our public schools suggested to him the utility of compiling a history for the use of the schools, in order to enable the children of the county to acquire special knowledge of their own locality, in which they were mostly interested, as well as general knowledge of this entire country and of foreign countries. It was believed that in this way they would be led to read of and investigate matters and things in the surrounding country with which they were now, or would shortly become, more immediately connected, and also to exercise their perceptive faculties in their daily school life, rather than their imagination; from which they could then be led, as inclination or necessity might dictate, into larger divisions of territory and into more comprehensive knowledge, after their faculties had become sufficiently matured to be interested in them, and more especially to understand them; and it was further believed that knowledge of this kind, thus acquired, would develop a tendency to acquire general historical knowledge.
Being impressed with the importance of the suggestion, he accordingly prepared a "School History," and invited the most prominent educators of the county to meet him in the "Reading High School" for the purpose of criticizing the arrangement and composition of the proposed work. A number of them kindly responded, and, after considering the arrangement of topics and hearing portions of certain chapters read to them, they decided that it contained useful historical information which the children of the county should know, and that it was presented in a manner adapted for school purposes; and therefore they recommended its introduction into the schools as a necessary book of instruction. With this recommendation the matter was laid before the "Committee on Text Books" of the Board of School Controllers of the Reading School District, and this committee then presented a favorable report to the Board, recommending the proposed publication as a supplemental reader in the schools, which report was adopted by the Board unanimously. Receiving such encouragement, the author caused the volume to be published, and he now presents it to the several school boards and educators of the county for their approval.
Table of Contents
EARLY SETTLERvS 24-36
ERECTION OP COUNTY AND ITS SUBDIVISIONS 37-4O
LABOR AND INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS 96-123
MILITARY PERIODS 124-165
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Everything in the material world has a starting point. We grow into physical stature by a process of development through nourishment and exercise. So it is with the mind.
A babe knows nothing and is helpless; but as time advances it gradually acquires strength. In the beginning it is given simple food, which is easily digested and assimilated. Its first ideas are obtained through sight, hearing, and feeling. Its first utterances are simple sounds; and from these it grows into language. The first familiar place is the room in which it was born, and there its observation begins. It advances thence from room to room, and from story to story, through the entire dwelling; and from its residence it advances into adjacent territory, and then into the surrounding country. Its knowledge is thus extended from a few square feet to many square miles.
Reasoning in this manner, it would appear that our present system of teaching geography is too comprehensive in the beginning, and requires too much exercise of the imagination instead of the perception. A child can comprehend a rock, a mountain, a valley, and a county, because it can see and overlook each respectively. But the earth comprises 197,000,000 square miles of surface, a great body of territory in the shape of a ball whose circumference is nearly 25,000 miles. Who can comprehend such a body in all its vastness? It is apparent that in speaking of the earth we must necessarily, imagine it; and so of foreign countries and distant states. It is the same with our system of teaching history. We begin with foreign and remote things, and come down in the course of time to the present day, and endeavor to impress the mind by taxing the memory through the imagination, before either of these faculties are sufficiently developed.
In teaching the general branches, we pursue, however, a different method; for, we begin with the alphabet in obtaining sufficient knowledge for reading, with simple numbers in mathematics, and with a point in geometry, and then proceed by a succession of easy steps. The teaching of geography and history should be pursued in a similar way, by starting at the place occupied and advancing into adjoining territory. A scholar, in a course of study thus directed, would be like a traveler on a journey whereby a succession of facts would be easily obtained, mostly through the perceptive faculties, just as the traveler obtains an ever increasing knowledge of places and peoples.
It is the purpose of the author, through this publication, to afford the children of Berks County an opportunity of acquiring, in a simple and easy manner, by the exercise of practical perception rather than the imagination, knowledge of the geography and history of their own county where many, if not most of them, pass the greater part of their life-time. This knowledge can then, by a process of development, be gradually extended into larger divisions of territory. It is believed that this method, if properly pursued, will facilitate the acquisition of general knowledge.