Reflecting on a longstanding history of schooling excellence in Harrison Township

It seems a perfect time to reflect on our history in Harrison Township. Schooling in Old Harrison Township has a long and successful history.

To our Harrison Family,

Back to school is always in the air this time of year even though there’s uncertainty about what that will look like in the coming weeks. We are blessed to have a stellar educational system in this community, with a reputation as one of the best in the state; in a state consistently ranked among the best in the country (#1 again in 2020). Each district has two buildings, with K-3 students attending Harrison Township Elementary School, 4-6 Graders housed in Pleasant Valley School, Grades 7 & 8 going to Clearview Middle School and our high schoolers attending Clearview Regional High School. There was a time, however, when the community’s children attended one or two-room schoolhouses.

It seems a perfect time to reflect on our history in Harrison Township on that front. Schooling in Old Harrison Township has a long history, so says our Harrison Township Historical Society. They tell us the Quakers established the first school in Mullica Hill as early as 1720, one of the oldest in Gloucester County, and by the 19th century one- room schoolhouses were scattered throughout the township.

I often wonder what our hometown looked and felt like in its early years. Fortunately, we can get a glimpse of that in the book, Mullica Hill and Old Harrison Township; a pictorial history compiled and authored by Dr. James Turk and Karen Heritage of the Harrison Township Historical Society. Copies are available at Old Town Hall or can be purchased online. It makes a great gift for a local resident and a really cool conversation starter if it’s sitting on your coffee table. 

As the settlement on the banks of Racoon Creek expanded and we approached the mid-1800’s, schoolhouses were needed on our eastern border in the Richwood section of Harrison Township. The first such structure was a small, one-room building known as the Mt. Pleasant School built in 1850. In 1870, the Richwood Academy was built on the same site, located at the corner of Mullica Hill and Lambs Roads, where it still stands today. 

(Here’s something neat: look at the trees in the background – you can see how they grew over time!)

It is the oldest of the three village school houses that survived the ages in Harrison Township. The Ewan School was converted into a residence, while Mullica Hill’s Union Academy (also known as the Cope Building on the grounds of Friends School) has recently been purchased after sitting vacant and unuseable for years. After a period when demolition seemed the likely path, we are very excited for that renovation to commence. The owners plan to bring the building back to its full blossom and house their company offices there, while renting out the other space. 

This seems the appropriate time to officially announce that The Richwood Academy, as it celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, has been selected as our 2nd Annual Christmas Tree Ornament for the 2020 holiday season. The prototype is done, and it looks incredible! The Historical Society will be overseeing the sale and distribution of the ornament, which will commence as we enter the Fall season. Add it to the collection that began last year with our inaugural ornament, featuring Old Town Hall.

It feels good to leave the COVID cloud for a moment and appreciate this place we call home and its rich history, doesn’t it? We’re all part of it now, so quietly bask in that pride, even though we know it’s no longer a secret that Harrison Township is the best place to live and raise a family in the region.