Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sleighton Farm School for Girls

My son suggested I not visit and take pictures of the long abandoned Sleighton Farm School for Girls. He told me it was haunted and that I would bring the ghosts back to our house after visiting there. I admit, the place did have an eerie feel about it each time we drove by and that feeling was no different today as I pulled into the drive to snap some shots.

Driven by a desire to understand what Sleighton School had been when operational, I did a quick search online last night. I thought it had been some sort of private school that had run out of funding but the sad vibe of the place that pulled at my gut each time I went by told me something else. Sure enough, it had been a sad place. A reform school for delinquent girls, sent there by the courts of Pennsylvania in an attempt to rehabilitate them. Under the guise of trying build character, develop an intellectual life and train one to earn a livelihood, the girls spent long exhausting hours working each day in the classroom and gardens.

Here is a quote about the property taken from the company currently managing the property:

"The historic campus of the former Sleighton School for girls contains historic buildings, including 19th and early 20th century school buildings, an imposing chapel, cottages, a stone barn, and 19th century farm structures as well as 350 acres of open space. Some of these historic buildings were designed by Cope and Stewardson who also designed educational buildings at Princeton, Bryn Mawr, and the University of Pennsylvania. The campus has been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The Sleighton School's predecessor, the House of Refuge, was founded by Quakers in 1826. The school closed in 2001 due to financial difficulties. The property is now managed by the Wolfington Companies."

Typical of the many structures found in this area, the school buildings are almost all built of stone and are quite a sight to behold when driving past. They hold your gaze because you can see the work that went into them and it is hard to see them falling into disrepair. The school has been identified as being eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places. Other preservation organizations would like the buildings saved as well. The site reminds me of what Ellis Island once looked like before it was deemed a valuable resource and saved.

Hopefully these buildings will be saved and a bit of their history recorded. It would be interesting to hear the stories of those that attended this school and to know that they went on to better things in their lives. That the reform did help them. That would go a long way toward making me see the possible good in the mission of this school rather than just another place where we housed children in order to tell them how to think and be.

Until I hear those stories, I will simply have to view them as I view the other educational institutional buildings we have for young people in this country. Facilities where students are made to attend by law and given lessons on topics which may or may not help them lead a productive life. Thankfully, homeschooling laws allow some of the lucky ones to escape.

50 comments:

Carolyn H said...

Interesting piece about these impressive old buildings. I hope they can be preserved somehow.

Carolyn H.

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

Darcy -- This school is absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately schools like this are not associated with beauty but abuse and sadness. I do hope that the buildings are saved. -- barbara

Chuck said...

I grew up at Sleighton school in the 60's and early 70's, my father was head of the farm and maintenance departments there.
Being a young boy I spent a lot of time with my dad on the farm and I saw a lot of what went on there. I don't agree with the comment someone made about it being so horrible. The school was there for a reason, to try and rehabilitate the girls, to get them away from leading a life of crime in the future. Not all the girls were all that bad either. One girl that I was very close to was only there because she kept running away from home, her parents were always fighting and she couldn't take it. There was the occasional bad seed that would stir up trouble amongst the other girls and she would be punished but not with any harsh treatment. Sometimes it would take a little physical contact to get a girl under control or to remove a weapon from her but most were well behaved and respectful of the employees. As for the punishment, the worst I ever saw was solitary confinement. As for the preservation of the school, I hope they don't destroy it, it would be devastating to me to see my childhood home torn down not to mention the history in those buildings. I have hundreds of pictures of Sleighton School from when it was in operation, from 1929 when my grandfather started working there, until the early 90's when my grandmother moved from the property. If anyone would like copies please contact me at: contractor629@comcast.net
I've enjoyed reading what other people have to say about the place, Thank You.

Darcy said...

Chuck,

Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I appreciate you telling your tale of what it was like to grow up at Sleighton Girls School. I would love to learn more about the school and your experience living there along with seeing the pictures you have. I will contact you via email soon.

Darcy

Anonymous said...

Hello. I have discovered that my grandmother was admitted to the Sleighton Farm School under the care of Mrs. Martha P. Falconer in 1914 at the age of 16. She was a young lady, without guardian or family. A kindly neighbor from Watsontown, Northumberland County, PA reported to the police that she had been "led astray" to the city of Williamsport. The courts awarded her to the care of the Sleighton School. I have been searching for the records of the Sleighton school; they are not to be found through the Ellwyn School nor the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, who possess records for the boys but not for the girls. I have read Mrs. Falconer's accounts of the daily lives of the girls at the school; her goal was to prepare them to lead useful lives in society and to provide them with employment. Unfortunately, my grandmother married a young man with much the same background as her own; their bond dissolved, perpetuating their family model. I feel sad to know that no one preserved the records of these souls. A grand-daughter wondering about her grand-mother.

Anonymous said...

My mother was a resident at Sleighton Farm in the late/early 1929s/1930s. Trying to find records as well. She had nothing but good things to say of how Sleighton Farm helped her. Believe me, it gave her a chance at life she may have never had if she had remained with her parents. I don't believe it was a "sad" place when she was there. She always said there should be places like it today. She's been gone a year (94 yrs old) and talked about Sleighton Farm a lot.

Anonymous said...

Darcy, I know it's been a while since I've checked this site and got your reply to my comment. I would love to chat with you about Sleighton, I have, or can get info and pictures dating back to around 1929 when my grandfather started working there. My father probably has a few thousand pictures of the place that I would love to share with you or anyone else that has an interest in the place. Please email me at contractor629@comcast.net if you would like any pictures or just to chat about this beautiful part of our history. I would hate to see these buildings destroyed, it would be like loosing a part of my life or an old friend, I have quite a history with Sleighton, probably more than anyone else you will ever talk to about it. I'll await your email.
Chuck

Anonymous said...

I too have a mother who was in the Martha P Falconer school in darlington I dont know if sleighton Farms is the same thing it was in the 1940s I can find nothing. If anyone know any sites or where to go to get more information I would greatly appriciate an email, my mother never said a word but was very hateful, my father said it was because of that school, I would like to understand. aprilmshowers@live.com

Thanks everyone
April 04\29\2011

Darcy said...

Hi Chuck,

Sorry I haven't sent you an email inquiring about your history at Sleighton Farm as of yet. I have been in the middle of a move and extremely distracted. Hopefully other people checking this post will contact you for further information on your life at Sleighton Farm School as will I as soon as my life calms down.

Darcy

Kim Wing Lam said...

To Anonymous

Martha P. Falconer is the School House inside Sleighton Farms. Yes, it is the same thing. I stayed there for one year and my school transcript said Martha P. Falconer.

Link to facebook Sleighton page

https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=121756595443

Anonymous said...

I was a student at the sleighton school in the late 90's, I agree it was a very spooky [lace to be at that time it was intergrated male and female the buildings are updated inside .

Anonymous said...

My friends and I actually discovered this place recently. It gave off an eerie vibe because we had no clue what it was, so our theories became outrageous. Its totally overgrown right now with poison ivy and weeds. The buildings are still fantastic but the area gives off the creepiest vibe ever.

Darcy said...

Hi Anonymous,

I am amazed that you had the courage to go onto the campus at Sleighton School. The scary vibe kept me away, even during the light of day. Were you able to get into some of the buildings?

Isn't it interesting that you picked up the same vibe I did? That place just emanates the feeling of sadness as a result of what happened there...

Darcy

Lirizarry said...

Hello,
I was sent to Sleighton Farm school in 1996. At that time the school housed both girls and boys. The place was already falling apart when I arrived. They use to house the girls in the Robinson Cottage and then they moved to the one near the gym. My time spent there was miserable. Many of the youths were lost and in dire need of a sense of family. I believe that place was hell to many people.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I actually used to work at Sleighton School in 2000-2001. I worked in the Mother/Baby program. Virtually babies having babies is how I would describe it. The youngest was 11 with a 1 year old. I must admit while working there it did have an eeire feeling but while I was there working with those young women, I tried to influnece them the best way I know how...through example. Some or most of them had some serious issues. Most of which I'm still in contact with to this day. People mainly the adults treated the place and children as if it was an escapable prison. I see why the last blogger felt the way he did and I hope he can't put those memeories behind him or at least think of the good memories. In hindsight, I definelty can see why he feels the way he does. Kids were missing their families and just plain horny there, I can't speak about how many diseases I read in files, some diseases I hadn't heard before that time. The adults were worse! Let's just say I'm glad that it closed, I didn't see that when they sat the entire staff down on 1day and told us we would be losing our jobs in less than 2 weeks

Anonymous said...

ALSO in many instances the school was salvation to some youth from Philadelphia. I've heard stories from the children there that would blow your mind!

Morpheus said...

I worked there for a little while doing security. It's definitely a strange place...

I was told that many of the building's on the property date back to before the American Revolution, tho, I doubt that's true since at least most of the building's look to new & not old enough to have that kind of age. (1800's is much more likely!) I was also told that the property is haunted... Tho, the stories vary about who or what it is exactly.

The owner's, at least at the time, keep/kept a horse on the property, since the building where the stall is located is/was in decent enough condition. One of the ppl in security that I worked with really liked the horse & would feed it carrots & stuff. So, he feed's it one night & when he was done he went back up to the main building to finish his shift.

He does a round on the property, goes back to the main building & is doing paperwork inside when he hears footsteps on the porch. He knows that no one is supposed to be there that late, other than him, & although it could be his supervisor, he knows his supervisor; they wouldn't show up without some sort of heads up about stopping by. (This guy, that I worked with, is like 60, he's not a kid. He doesn't need someone checking up on him like that, especially since supervisors have plenty of ppl that they essentially need to be checking up on, along with all of the other stuff that they are responsible for...)

So he looks out the window & it's to dark. The footsteps were constant & they sounded like there could have been two or three ppl... He finally can't take it anymore, get's thru his fear & open's the door.

It was the horse! SOB left his stall & came up to the main building looking for more food...

The guy tried to get the horse back to his stall but, it wouldn't cooperate. He had to call the owner & they came out, at like 11 at night, & they got the horse back to its stall. I don't know that the place isn't, and/or wasn't, haunted but, everything is not always as it appears.

Anonymous said...

My mother was in Sleighton Farms in the 50's. She has bad memories of the place and speaks of it often. When she saw that I was on this website she began to cry. I am still very curious about it and will continue to research the history of it.

sharon c. said...

i was in sleighton farms school in the early 1960 i will say that it was an experience thati appreciated i learned to cook also worked the switchboard and learned how to swim i also was int choir i was sent there for three years but i got out in11 months all the staff were nice and respected our feelings and opinions

Kboog8888 said...

THIS SCHOOL, WAS SO MANY THINGS TO SO MANY OF US THAT WENT THERE. SOME DID BETTER, SOME DIDN'T, SOME CAME BACK (IF THEY WERE LUCKY), SOME OF THOSE LIVES WERE TAKEN , AND SOME GIVEN AWAY. REMEMBERING SLEIGHTONFOR ME IS BITTERSWEET. WAS IT HAUNTED???? YOU BET AND IT STILL IS UP TO THIS VERY DAY. I CAN REMEMBER THE LAUNDRY AREA- THAT WHOLE BACK AREA STAYED COLD! AND SOMETIMES THE APPIRITIONS OF YOUNG GIRLS WOULD APPEAR TO ME AS I WOULD BE DOING A CHORE OR MY OWN LAUNDRY. I REMEMBER THE ONE GHOST GIRL AS I USED TO CALL HER SLAMMED THE BIG AND HEAVY AND SECURE BACK DOOR IN MY FACE. i WAS THEREFOR QUITE SOME TIME, MY STORIES ARE PLENTY. THE WHOLE PLACE IS SO SPOOKY AND HAS A SORT OF MIST THAT NEVER QUITE LEAVES FROM CLOSE TO THE GROUND NO MATTER THE WEATHER.

Virginia said...

Va. in VA
I was sent to sleighton Farms School in 1971 it was an all girls school then I started in the cottage farthest in the back Deborah Logan my first days spent there were uneasy you either worked the kitchen long hours with the promise of release when you earned enough points or were assigned another chore & attended some classes durning the day. I was young and only cut school on several occasions before coming there. On several ocassions there were homosexual behavior between girls and the supervisors would look on some being gay had to be careful in the bathrooms & in the showers themselves I ran away once and was put in the cottage where you were on lock down quite a bit I dont remember having any schooling for months when I returned I learned that a girl was smoking in her room and tried to fan the smoke with a deodorant spray and her room went up and she died no one heard her call out this was a place that was depressing ,sad, some uncaring staff,and I would choose the streets to this place anytime spending time there left very bad memories and exposed me to much more than what I had already known as a young teen.Any one blogging tell it like it is dont candy coat this place!

Anonymous said...

My grandmother was a resident there in 1910 when it was called the Girls House of Refuge. She was a very beautiful articulate and intelligent African American woman who could hold a conversation with anyone on any subject. Unfortunately her confinement there did not improve her life, rather, I think it led to her being a repeat offender until she was in her 60s. I would love to find records about her stay there and I am so sorry that we never discussed her confinement there, but she was artistically talented in needle and art work --a talented seamstress. It's a shame that someone with her gifts never got the opportunity to improve her life. When she did work, it was as a maid which just did not utilize her many talents. Regardless of her criminal ways, everyone who met her including those in the justice system were enthralled with her intelligence and gentle manner.

scenicroadway said...

My friend and I just visited Sleighton this past Friday. It was incredible! I was surprised to find complete files still in tact from people who attended. Although mother nature has certainly left her mark on the surrounding property (and is starting to protrude into the building), it is still a beautiful site. I enjoyed reading your post, as well as the stories found in the comments.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for preserving Sleighton Farm School in pictures. I was there for 18 months in the early 60's for running away. The campus had the appearance of an upscale college campus. While there, I learned to program a card punch machine, sew outfits, run a switchboard, type, plan and cook meals for 30, earn several red cross certificates, and participate in student government. No, I'm not forgetting that I was sent there by the courts, but I do believe that I needed the time away to settle myself and mature. Oh, and the staff was wonderful, for the most part. I remember to this day Ms. Ellen Roberts, my housemother, a British woman who gave me a great deal of guidance. As for me, when I left, I was able to use many of the things I learned there to this day. A couple of years after leaving the school left Pennsylvania for California and never returned to the area. I was curious about what happened to the old place and now I know thanks to this blog - Thanks.

almevleland said...

WOW I love the pictures.. I live at the sleighton school in 1996 i was only supposed to be there for three weeks.. I stayed for 8 months.. I loved and hated the place.. There were more boys than girls when I lived there.. I still have pictures of friends i made while i was at sleighton school some who i still talk to today.. I sa only two pictures of the unit i lived in one inside picture and one outside picture..

Chuck Van Horn said...

Hi,
I just wanted to let everyone know that I have posted about 40 pictures of Sleighton School on my Facebook page if anyone is interested.
You can find me by searching Chuck Van Horn at www.facebook.com
Chuck

eDad2003 said...

Chuck,

I love the pictures you posted. Keep em coming. Having the bit of history you are adding is the icing. I grew up close to there and although i dont have direct experience, I am facinated that this sprawling complex was in myn backyard.

I recently visited and time is not being good to the grounds. See here

http://www.flickr.com/photos/michael_kress/sets/72157626342080027/.

So sad.

Mike

shervonh said...

I was in sleighton farms in 1997 and it was boys and girls living there I was actually in the campbell cottage,I stayed there for over a year and it was like prison...

shervonh said...

I was in sleighton farms in 1997 and it was boys and girls living there I was actually in the campbell cottage,I stayed there for over a year and it was like prison...

Lisa C. said...

Thanks to everyone for these wonderful posts and pictures. My grandmother was sent to the school about 1940. Her parents basically did not take care of her at all and she ran the streets. She said neighbors had to feed her. Finally when she was 11 she was sent by the court to the school. She had only positive things to say. Compared to what she had experienced this place must have felt like heaven. she met her best friend there who I got to have holidays with as a kid. She talked about learning how to garden and can etc.. and had little formal education there. I own no pictures from her childhood-the first one was when she'd left the place. I've tried to search for information and pictures but have never found anything. Again, thank you. Lisa

Chuck Van Horn said...

Just wanted to let everyone know that I have been posting pictures of Sleighton on Facebook if anyone is interested.

babsinPA said...

Does ANYONE know the STORY about the FIRE AT SLEIGHTON....there were a couple....but the one I want to know about is the one at Deborah Logan Cottage, resulting in it being completely torn down. What was the story and when was it?

Anonymous said...

I am delighted to find your site. Please, anyone who has information about Miss Agnes B. MacNaughton who was employed at Sleighton Farms before taking over as headmistress of Samarcand Reform School for Girls in North Carolina (she was recommended by Martha Falconer), contact me immediately. I have written a book about the Samarcand Arson Fire of 1931, and the abuse of the girls of Samarcand who were charged with the death penalty. Miss MacNaughton's role in this true story is pivotal. My phone # is 910-256-3457 in Wilmington NC, and my email is arussell9@ec.rr.com.
Anne Russell PhD

Anonymous said...

My book The Wayward Girls of Samarcand, about the notorious 1931 arson at NC's reform school for white girls, is soon to be published. Agnes Brown MacNaughton was school superintendent at the time, having come from Sleighton Farm School under Martha Falconer. Anyone with information about Agnes B. MacNaughton, who was from Canada and prior to that from Scotland, please let me know asap.
Thank you. Anne Russell, Wilmington NC, arussell9@ec.rr.com

ABNF said...

Just to let you know, the link to the interior shots should be changed from abandonedbutnotforgotten.com to abnf.co. Two sets of pictures of Sleighton School can be found there in the Pennsylvania section.

Anonymous said...

my name is emily ! i visited this place yesterday, my friend told me all these stories about someone dying or something, this school gives me the creeps. we drove up and it was like scary, i was just wondering if the place was haunted, because my friend had said it was, also i did some research on the place, and my friend had actually went inside. if they had financial problems why did everyone just leave everything there. its so weird. i feel like the school was hiding something or something. but i was just wondering if it was haunted or something, ah very creepy.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing on this site. I was on the property not too long ago and its such a shame to see it falling apart.-- i didnt dare try to enter any of the buildings tho, i figure trespassing is better than breaking and entering :)

Patricia Fleming said...

Hi, My Name is Patricia and I was a resident at Sleighton Farms for just about 10 months in the 1996-1997 School Year. I was sent there becuse of truancy (my grandmother, who was a Youth Probation Officer motivated my father to send me there) and eventhough I hated being there I can look back and say that those 10 months changed my life DRAMATICALLY. I don't recall working in thefarms or slaving over dishes or anything along those lines, in fact, you couldn't work (which was actually a priveledge to earn monies to purchase your own goods) unless you earned a certian level which was demostrated through responsibility and grades. Perhaps I was one of those lucky few, who managed to make the best out of every situation, but I can definitley say that wiyout Sleight Farms, I don't know where I would be right now. While at Sleighton I was able to earn my GED, and I got accepted into College; things I doubt I would have been able to do given my circumstances at the time. Its unfortunate to hear that the school is no longer in existence, and even more unfortunate to hear such horrible stories about the perople who did not find their stay at Sleighton Farms beneficial.

Anonymous said...

I was incarcerated in Sleighton Farms in '78-79 A thing that disturbs me to this day.I can't get into it.I can see the beauty in the buildings but it will never overshadow the ugliness of the place ..for real what a freakshow it was there . I can't even begin..

Anonymous said...

Hi, I was at Sleighton Scool from 12/21/67 - 8/21/69. I don't know why people think the school was haunted. Probaby because of the old buildings, I could see why someone would think it is errie. I was there when Ambrose was there and this short, lighted skinned chubby lady, forgot her name. We had some fun, actually the only fun I can remember when I was a teenager. Did people die, yes, but people die everywhere. I met alot of interesting people and at the time best friends. I have vivid memories and most of them are good. Some not so good. I recently heard from some people who either went there or their Aunts went there. I would love to hear from anyone who was there during this time. I knew this girl who looked out for me alot, her name was Vanessa Blackwell. If anyone knows her please let me know if I could reach her I would love to thank her. I will welcome any comments or stories. I am a grandmother of 9, I don't really talk about this to my children, I don't know why, I guess the subject never came up. My mother did not want me and I used to run away and steal. (I wonder why) This is the reason why I went there. I didn't see my family for two years, my mother didn't care. The only person who used to see me on occasion was one of the workers from Northampton County. (she passed now). To make it weird, I now work for this same County. Anyway email: rrockmore@northamptoncounty.org Originall name from then was: Roxanne Howell

Anonymous said...

Just drove through the campus today giving my mom a tour, she was a teacher there for 12 years. So sad to see these beautiful buildings going to waste. Toll Brothers plans to build 400 homes there and there was a news article this week about the high levels of arsenic they found in the orchard area.

Barb Donnelly said...

SEP 2013 and I just found this blog? So disappointed in myself!? Anyway....I tried to subscribe to the post and hear about follow ups and comments....but it did not work? Please feel free to see more information on my facebook page entitled "sleighton farm views"... I grew up around the corner from there and am also friends with Mr. C. VanHorn....his father, grandfather, and great grandfather were the Farmers of the School Farm. I would love to know how to reply to some of the postings on here. Help?

Sleighton Alumni said...

I want to thank Chuck for posting those pics!!! Brought back some pretty good memories... I still have my pics and I will post them as well... I attended Sleighton in the late 80's as did my grandmother sometime in the early to mid 1930's that school was a big help to me and my grandma we both had hardships as young girls growing up but Sleighton played an instrumental part in our maturity at separate times of our lives... So sad to see it abandon it was a good place for young adolescence...

Sleighton Alumni said...

I can't relate I too went there and have a boat load of pictures to share

Sleighton Alumni said...

I have a picture of you we were there at the same time

Joanna Swank said...

Thank you so much for this information and links. I am still searching out what happened to my grandfathers sister while she was there from 1919-1925. However please refrain from saying this was a place for delinquent girls who needed reform. My grandfathers sister was sent there because as a ward of the state (her parents were the ones in trouble) she had to be educated somewhere thankfully. From all I have learned of her there was never a delinquent or evil bone in her body. She was poor and abandoned by her father and/or mother.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

I can tell you of many horriffic stories of that place. The abuse that went on there is beyond your wildest imaginations. My mother lived there as did many many other poor girls whom became orphans like here due to coal mine cave ins. She lived there from 1936 thru 1941, she was not sent there by any court for being bad, she and 11 other girls were sent there the same day due to a coal mine cave in in WB, PA and several of them wrote letters as to what happened to them there. Before my mother passed away, I had meet several of the other women that were sent there with her and they all had similar stories and you would not believe what went on in the dungeons there. The so called nuns that run the place were as bad as the men to the girls there even. My mother still had scares till the day she died from that place, both mental and physical.

Anonymous said...

here is a link to the 1940 census that shows what girls lived there in 1940
www.archives.com/GA.aspx?_act=ImageViewCensus1940&FirstName=josephine&LastName=britz&Location=PA&UniqueId=67250987&folderImageSeq=262&type=census

Michelle Crippen said...

My mother, 82, is still living and well with
horrific memories of Sleighton Farms. She was not a delinquent either. Her mother and father divorced and neither of the new spouses wanted to be bothered with her. She is looking for anyone with any information or photos around the years of 1943-47. It would open up a lot of wounds, but she is ready to face them to gain closure. Thank you so much. Michelle
Contact me at memheidi@gmail.com with any info.

Tabitha Rinehart said...

Hello,

I recently discovered this as I am new to the area and live nearby. My friend and I are both photographers and decided to check this place out and take photos. We did get inside of the church and another building and plan on going back soon. Initially, the grounds seem creepy, but when entering the buildings, I didn't get any strange vibes from them. It's just very curious that everything was left. There's still furniture, mattresses, desks, bibles, books everywhere, and even music books and papers in the music room. Even clothing and shoes all over the place in one of the dorms. It's very strange. Unfortunately, there's graffiti everywhere and an obvious party/hangout location. Trash everywhere from food, drinks, alcohol, etc.