The first school for African Americans in Bedford County opened in 1866 in the town of Bedford, then known as Liberty. Established by the Pennsylvania Freedmen’s Relief Association, the school was taught by Alvin Varner. Other Reconstruction-era teachers of black children included Ellen Wills at Allen Creek and William H. Richardson at Holcomb Rock.
A deed dated June 3, 1873, showed that Bedford landowners intended to provide land for a black school, with the sale of land designated specifically “for the purpose of establishing a public free school for the benefit of the colored people of said school district.” A school was opened in the Otter district in 1875. The next year the Promise Land School opened two miles south of Moneta. Promise Land was “a one room log house with a large fireplace and no windows except board blinds that had to be closed on cold and rainy days.” In this space sixty students learned reading, spelling, and arithmetic from an African American man named Hines and then from Ann Pearce, an African American woman from Lynchburg.