Driving on Route 11 south of New Market, one sees the big bronze turkey welcoming folks to Rockingham County (Turkey Capital.) Just past the turkey on the right is the sign for Newdale School Road (Route 796). About a mile west on the road, stands the New Dale School (the official name although the road name and some historical sources use Newdale.) The school standing there today is the second one on the site with the name New Dale School.
According to Dale MacAllister, local historian, “An 1871 deed for the New Dale School from Noah and Catherine Minnick and Mary Minnick, widow of John Minnick, mentioned that a school-house was also on the church lot. This earlier New Dale School was built before the public school system was inaugurated because it is shown on both the Gilmer maps of the county drawn in 1864 and on the 1866 Hotchkiss map.”
According to some sources, Mennonites occasionally used the old school building for preaching until they built the New Dale Mennonite Church near the school in 1881. Dale MacAllister, a local historian, states that the old school building was also used by the Church of the Brethren for a preaching place. MacAllister who has researched schools in Rockingham County extensively, notes “The second New Dale schoolhouse was built in 1874 on the lands of John and Anna Holsinger about 300 yards from the earlier school building. The new schoolhouse served its community from 1874 until 1906 when it was replaced by the new three-room Concord School built closer to Timberville.”
The current New Dale School stood empty along the road for more than 80 years until the late Anna Lucy Moomaw who owned the property decided to restore the school. Mrs. Moomaw’s daughter, Katrina Blubaugh says “Preserving the school was my mom’s mission, but my dad, Donnie Moomaw, helped throughout the process.” The restoration which included many museum quality records and artifacts inside was completed in the early 1990s. An article in Historical Review Volume 2 Number 2 written by the late Larry Huffman for Rockingham Public Schools in March, 1994, notes “Recently completed, the school stands as a representative of the type of school that served Rockingham County during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and into the first decade of the twentieth century.”
The New Dale School, a 20 x 28 feet building with shutters on three sides, was constructed of concrete walls covered with a parge coating of mortar similar to stucco. The solid construction allowed the school to stand for years while many schools made of other materials fell down or were demolished.
Few records remain of the early history of the New Dale School. Dale MacAllister writes in an article on the school “Minutes of the Plains District School Board… indicate that George W. Salyards, son of famous early educator Joseph Salyards, was a teacher at New Dale School from the late 1870s to at least 1884.” Larry Huffman noted in his article that the Shenandoah Valley newspaper in 1959 had a picture dated January 10, 1900, which mentioned Miss Annie Zirkle as teacher of the New Dale School. Other teachers whom Dale MacAllister documented as teachers at the school were John Mills (years unknown), 1899-1900 Annie Zirkle, 1902–04 C. O. Armentrout, 1904–05 Alpheus Spitzer, and 1905–06 D. R Blakemore.
Research by Huffman indicated that most of the students at New Dale School came from “several large families in the immediate area of the school. In 1900, there were approximately 28 pupils enrolled. Family names included: Scothern, Yates, Holsinger, Welch, Myers, Kennedy, McWilliams, Phillips, and Tussing.” The school became overcrowded, with 44 students and an average attendance of 34 in 1902-03 when C. O. Armentrout was the teacher. (Imagine him trying to teach 44 students in the one room school when they were all present!)
In a 2012 visit to the New Dale School hosted by Mrs. Moomaw, Shenandoah Valley PDK members (including the author of this article) saw not just the renovated school but the displays inside with school records and other artifacts from throughout Rockingham County. Anna Lucy Moomaw through her hard work and vision preserved one of the few remaining small schoolhouses which once served many small neighborhoods in the late 19th and early 20th century. Katrina Blubaugh plans a fall opening of the school which will be advertised at a later date.