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Learning for lives of purpose



The Christopher Dock community has a rich history to both its campus and the compassionate school teacher for which this school is named after. 

Several years ago a small brown fieldstone bearing the inscription "1771 ChDScM" was noticed in the cemetery of the Lower Skippack Mennonite Church, of Skippack Township in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The discovery caused a ripple of excitement; here at last was the grave of Christopher Dock, Schulmeister an der Schipbach, who had died in 1771 after a long teaching career among the rural Mennonites, and for whom their high school founded in the 1950's had been named.

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The memory of this quiet, devout man had never been completely lost by his people, though they had largely ceased to sing his hymns when they began to turn away from the German language in the late 19th century.

In 1750, Dock wrote School Management, one of the earliest treatises on pedagogy in this country. Having taught school in Germany, Dock contrasts with his experience there the welcome freedom of the voluntary schools provided by Pennsylvania German farmers and weavers for their children. Here no legislated compulsion stood behind the teacher; he must win his pupils' affection while he taught them their ABCs. To this end, Dock employed a series of quaint procedures.

Good work was rewarded with a note instructing parents to give the child a penny or cook him two eggs. The class was allowed to call out "Faul!" (lazy) at dilatory students, and "Fleiszig!" (industrious) at the diligent. A perfect record in lessons was indicated by an "O" inscribed by Dock with chalk on the pupil's hand, for display to parents. Children who repeatedly lied or swore would sit apart, with a symbolic yoke around their necks; at other times they were given the option of a blow on the hand.

On the walls of the classrooms at Salford (near present-day Harleysville), Skippack, and Germantown (the first Mennonite settlement) were beautifully illustrated manuscripts which served as "Vorschriften" - models for penmanship. Small examples of this decorated "Fraktur" writing were sometimes used as rewards to good students. What is known of Dock's life is soon told. He came to America, probably from Holland or Germany, by 1714. By 1718 he was teaching at Skippack, and continued there and at Salford, with four summers in Germantown, until 1728, when he bought and settled on a farm near present-day Salfordville. His neighbor, the influential minister Dielman Kolb, urged on him the great need of the community, and in 1738 Dock returned to the profession, confessing "the smiting hand of God" on his conscience for his retreat to farming. He seems to have continued teaching until his death in "his great age" in 1771. Before this he had written hymns, his School Management, and two sets of "Rules" for the behavior of children, in school and out.

Brief History of Christopher Dock

  • October 2, 1952 - Constitution of the proposed school approved and a Board of Trustees selected. Paul R. Clemens appointed as Board President.

  • December 8, 1952 - Richard Detweiler chosen as administrator for the proposed school.

  • January 1, 1953 - Forty acres of the Johnston farm on Forty Foot Road approved as school site and purchased for $57,570.

  • December 14, 1953 - H.M. Mininger given contract to make the "two barns" into classrooms, auditorium, and gymnasium. 

  • January 11, 1954 - Edgar Clemens appointed as the first member of the faculty.

  • June 12, 1954 - $315 appropriated for starting a library.

  • August 2, 1954 - Reconstructed building named Grebel Hall.

  • September 15, 1954 - 115 students attend first day of classes.

  • December 19, 1954 - Dedication service for new school.

  • November 16, 1955 -  School officially recognized by the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

  • September/October 1958 - Construction of pond and landscaping front of campus.

  • March 12, 1962 - "Knowledge With Reverence" made official school motto.

  • June 1963 - Harvey Bauman assumes responsibilities of principal as Richard Detweiler begins part-time role of superintendent.

  • December 8, 1963 - Dedication of the new multi-purpose building (named Clemens Center)

  • June 1965 - T. Carroll Moyer assumes responsibilities of principal as Richard Detweiler continues in a part-time role of superintendent.

  • June 11, 1966 - Lee M. Yoder inaugurated as superintendent.

  • January 8, 1971 - Accreditation by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

  • October 9-17, 1971 - Bicentennial Celebrations commemorating the man, Christopher Dock.

  • February 28, 1974 - Franconia Conference Assembly approves purchase of 108 acres of land adjoining the school at a cost of $1,000,000.

  • February 11, 1975 - Paul J. Miller named principal after serving as Acting Principal for one year.

  • October 29, 1978 - Dedication of new classroom building named Dielman Hall and music annex in Clemens Center.

  • April 19-22, 1979 - Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Celebration

  • June 1, 1979 - Elam J. Peachey named Principal.

  • 1980-1981 - Student enrollment reaches all-time high of 421.

  • October 18, 1986 - Dedication of new kitchen facilities in Clemens Center.

  • June 10, 1990 - Food services director Emma Landis retires after 35 years of service.

  • July 1, 1990 - Elaine A. Moyer named principal after serving as acting principal for one year.

  • October 17, 1992 - Administration building named Detweiler House in honor of Richard Detweiler.

  • October 15, 1994 - Fortieth Anniversary Celebration, "Festival on Forty Foot".

  • February 2, 1997 - Dedication of Longacre Center, a multi-purpose activity center with double gymnasium, theater, fitness center, and classrooms.

  • September 12, 2000 - CD Board adopts a Long Range Plan for the next eight years.

  • October 12, 2002 - Dedication of Dock Stadium and three new classrooms in Clemens Center.

  • July 9-11, 2004 - 50th Anniversary Celebration.

Picture History
Christopher Dock - Before and After 

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This large, three-story, rectangular house was beautified by Mr. J. Carrol Johnston and now serves as Christopher Dock's Administration Building. circa 1920 (?)

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This is a current picture of what is now known as Detweiler House.

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This is the old spring house before it was restored by Mr. Johnston.  circa 1930 (?)

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This is a current picture of the restored spring house.

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This is the large barn with an adjoining cross barn before alterations and additions. circa 1920 (?)

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After the additions and modifications, this building housed the schools auditorium, gym, classroom, locker rooms and kitchen/cafeteria.     circa 1955

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This is a picture of the restored barn which was known as Grebel Hall. It was home to the math, art, facs, and computer classrooms as well as the media center on the campus.