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A Brief History
of the Godwin Heights Schools
From a circular distributed by the school. Date unknown.
The main road was Gull Prairie Road (now Division Ave.) A trip from Grand Rapids to Kalamazoo took two days. In 1854 the road was made into a plank road. This enabled travels to shorten their trip to one day. People traveling this modern thoroughfare paid a toll.
One toll gate was at 36th and Division where the Administration Building now stands. Tolls were 10 cents for a team and 5 cents for a one horse rig.
Tavern were built along this road to accommodate the stage travelers. One of these - the Godwin House - was the scene of the birth of our Godwin School System.
Augustine Godwin gave of himself to the others of the community in which he lived. His father, William, was one of the original settlers.
At this time the children were attending a one room log school house that was located at Clyde Park and 36th Streets. It was soon evident that this school was poorly located and did not supply the needs of the district. A more central location was needed. At a meeting held at the Godwin House on April 27, 1867, the Fractional School District #6 of Paris and Wyoming was formed.
Voters unanimously approved construction of a one room brick school house - cost not to exceed $1500.00. In September, 1867, voters were asked to approve an additional $427.72 that was needed before the school could be completed. This was done and the school opened for the winter term of 1867-1868.
Charlie Howard was the teacher and he received $1.00 per day. Miss Lena Anway taught the summer term at the same rate.
The school then occupied the site where the District Media Center now stands
One of the major purchases made for the first building was a bell bought for $100.00. The sound of it called three or four generations of youngsters to their daily tasks. There can be no doubt that good use was made of the bell for there are entries in the reports which call for a new bell rope at least twice a year.
1927 was a year of firsts for Godwin: First commencement exercise, first graduating class of five girls, first eighth grade graduation, and the first time to be placed on the University list.
In 1929 a new high school building was built. A special feature of this facility was the new and modern gymnasium that boasted a stage of its own and could double as an auditorium.
The senior high school classes had exclusive use of this building until 1938 when an addition made it possible to move the junior high classes out of the building at 36th and Division. This building then was used for elementary classes only.
In 1941 an addition was made to the east of the senior high building and a new brick front given to the whole structure. The growth from 1925 to 1942 was remarkable and for several years Godwin was the largest rural school in the country.
The library building was completed in 1937. It was a W.P.A. project as was the senior high building and most of the additions there-to. The collection of books numbered at that time.
The business affairs of the school district were taken up at the annual school meetings. Although most matters were handled with harmony, there were bound to be some differences of opinion. It is said that a few of these first differences were settled by the use of fists.
These "physical debates" furnished a motive to all for wanting "ringside seats" when the action started. Due to this fact there were four yearly events whose coming excited much interest - the Circus, the County Fair, Town Meeting Day - and the Annual School Meeting!
Mr. Frank Rackett's rare animal museum includes every variety of bird found in Michigan and he donated this museum to the school district. This was the largest school museum of its kind in the country and the community was indeed fortunate to have such a gift.
Mr. Rackett's farm, located across Division to the West was purchased in 1937. The two conditions of the purchase of this area were that Mr. Rackett had tenure of the house during his lifetime and that the property would be used for school purposes only or some program pertaining to public education.
Further information can be found from the following:
"Godwin's Past" -
Dedicated to the history of the Godwin Heights school district.
Created: 12 March 1999[an error occurred while processing this directive]