The following is from "150 Years of Alpine Township History",
Early History of Alpine Primary Schools and Map
By David Wier
Published by The Alpine Township Historical Commission, 1997
(The Alpine Historical Society graciously allowed this to be copied for the Kent County GenWeb.)
During the late 1800ís, Alpine Township had 13 separate school districts providing an elementary school education. Some districts were fractional with Walker, Plainfield, Sparta or Wright Townships, while others were entirely within Alpine. The schools were known by their district number and also by names. As districts changed, some schools were known by several names. Very few of the school records have survived. It is difficult to know when a particular school was built. A few of the districts lasted until the 1960ís when they were consolidated into Alpine Elementary and became part of Kenowa Hills School District. From records that have survived, we have gleaned the following:
The Minutes of the Alpine School Inspectors 1879 to 1896 record the political and financial affairs of the school districts. The township clerks during this time period were Hanson H. Roges, Abel Chase, K. J. Brown, Hiram Chambers, DuBois Conklin, Nicholas Crevling and P. C. Brown and they kept the records of the School Inspectorsí activities. Most of the work revolved around petitions to change the geographical boundaries of districts for a number of political reasons and mostly they were denied. The school inspectors apportioned the money to the school districts and reviewed the yearly financial statements.
Marva Hathaway taught at Ballards School and Holy Trinity in the 1930ís and 1940ís. She wrote a paper for a class at Aquinas College describing the rural school.
The one room rural school was small. The sparcety of population and way of travel made it necessary to design it for small groups. Teacher certification was low. "If you can read, you can teach," seemed to be the only requirement. Here was the water pail with its common dipper. Here also, were big desks and little tiny desks, for grades one to eight were all taught here. The stove was back in the corner with the woodbox near it. It was the duty of the big kids to keep the fire going and the woodbox full. The wood was piled in a building attached to the schoolhouse, known as a wood shed. In this one room school, Johnny learned all that he needed to know to make his way in the world. Besides reading and arithmetic skills, spelling and penmanship were emphasized. Much time was devoted to recitation. In fact, being able to recite, "the Declaration of Independence," "The Gettysburg Address," and "The Wreck of the Hesperus," was a determining factor as to whether you knew much or not.
The school teacher was held in high esteem and they seldom interfered with her plans or discipline. She was considered "good" if she could make the big boys who attended the winter months behave themselves. She didnít tell the farmers when or how to plant their crops and by the same token, they didnít tell her how to teach school. Those were the blessed days when Pa would say, "If you get a lickin at school youíll get another when you get home!"
All the people were interested in their school. It has been said that is was the heart of the neighborhood. When the school programs were put on, everybody came. Bleachers had to be erected from potatoe crates and planks. Extra lamps were brought in to light up the place. Babies might cry or grandpa cough and drown out some of the best rehearsed lines, but it didnít matter. To see the kids in their best togs up there doing something was most rewarding to the families. Loud laughter and much applause followed every act. Each child felt necessary to the group, his contribution was really appreciated and he was encouraged by such a hearty reception. Coffee, sandwiches and cake could always be expected and a good time was had by all.
In the Late 1800ís those schools described were providing the only formal education most of the children would receive. The primary schools were within walking distance of all the students.
District No. 1 was commonly called the Wheeler School and it was located on the Wheeler farm in the center of the township. The first Wheeler School was a log structure and township meetings were held there prior to the construction of a Town Hall in 1860. In 1861, a new wood framce Wheeler School was built on the north side of 7 Mile Road and Baumhoff. In 1885, 46 students attended this school, $50 was spent on teachers wages and William W. Wheeler was the school Director.
District No. 2 was commonly called the Coon School and it was located south of 8 Mile Road and east of Alpine. The school was named after Steven Coon and was an old wood frame structure. In 1885, 33 students were enrolled, $125 was spent on teachers wages and Joseph Heinbeck was the Director. The Coon School burned in 1927 and was rebuilt in 1929.
District No. 3 was fractional with Wright Township and in 1860 the old Walker District No. 3 schoolhouse was moved up to the Thebold Umlor property in the NE ľ of Section 30. In 1868, a fine brick schoolhouse was erected at a cost of $1,000 and it was commonly called the Wilson School or Red Brick School. In 1885, 42 students were attending the school, William J. Pearce was the Director.
District No. 4 was fractional with Sparta and it had a wood frame building that was commonly called the Rouse School. Later a very attractive brick structure was built that became know as Ballards School. These schools were located on the north line of Section 3. In 1885, 53 students were enrolled, $143 was spent on teachers and S. B. Hawley was the school Director.
District No. 6 school was fractional with Sparta. The schoolhouse was a white frame building completed in 1864 at a cost of $1,000. In 1885, 26 students were enrolled and Cory E. Buck was the school Director. The school was commonly called the Buck School.
District No. 7 was fractional with Plainfield and was commonly known as the Colton School. It was located on the north side of 7 Mile Road on top of the hill east of Alpine Station. The wood frame schoolhouse was built in 1869 for $950 on the property of John Colton. In 1885, 73 students were attending, $125 was spent on teachers wages and George Albert was the school Director.
District No. 8 had a small frame house which was erected in 1851 and commonly called the Pearsall School. It was located on Section 28 by the home of Sherman Pearsall. It was replaced by a white brick structure that burned in 1926 that was commonly called the White Brick School. After the fire the school was replaced with a wood frame building. In 1885, 36 students were attending this school, $100 was spent on teachers wages and Joel Williams was the school director.
District No. 9 was fractional with Plainfield and had a very old school located in the NE ľ of Section 36 by William H. Witheyís sawmill on Mill Creek. The first township meeting was held in this school in 1847. The Mill Creek School was built in the late 1880ís on West River Road in Plainfield Township and was a two room, wood frame structure.
District No. 10 was commonly called the Boyd School. It was a small frame building erected in 1856 on the J. D. Perkins property in Section 8. In 1885, 44 students were attending the school, $150 was spent on teachers wages and B. F. Bacon was the school Director.
District No. 11 was located on the Eberhard Cordes property in Section 26 and was commonly called the Cordes School. This school was a small wooden building built in 1855. In 1885, 38 scholars were being taught in District 11, $100 was spent on teacherís salary and Nicholas Thieson was the school Director.
In 1870 the Catholic Church built a two-story building near Cordes School and started a German-English School. August Meyer, the first teacher, lived on the first floor and school was held on the second. Ignatius Batsche and August Miller also taught in this school.
District No. 13 was fractional with Walker and the oldest district in the township. The first school was built in 1839 on the ridge west of Soloman Wrightís home. In 1844, a new school was built on the Erastus Clark property in the SE ľ of Section 32 and became know as the Tabor School. In 1859, the wood frame Johnson School or Mill Pond School was built to serve this district on Joseph Bullenís property in Section 34, next to the Mill Pond. In 1885, 42 students were attending Johnson School, teachers were paid $100 and W. W. Hilton, Jr. was the director.
District No. 14 was fractional with Sparta and was commonly called the Englishville School. The wood frame school was built in 1852 on the English property in Section 1. In 1885, 36 students attended the school, teachers were paid $190 and M. A. Hoose was school Director. Englishville School was located on Vinton where Englishville High School is located today. The Englishville School Records have been preserved and the records for 1889 show how the school year was organized.
Motion made and carried that we have a female teacher for fall and winter term of School. "Carried". Motion made and sustained that we have nine (9) months of school
This year. Vis. Ė (2) two mo. Fall term (4) four mo. Winter term and (3) three mo. Spring and Summer term. "Carried". Motion made that the Board be instructed to hire Miss Dockeray for the fall term and if she give satiffaction to the District she be hired for the Winter term at lowest possible wages. "Carried".
Richard S. English, Director
District No. 15 was fractional with Walker and located in the southeastern corner of the township. The wood frame building was commonly called the Monroe School, the Graves School or Beach Grove School. In 1885, it had 11 students, and C. E. Gee was the director.
The Alpine Historical Commission, has collected photographs of the Alpine primary schools. The children posed with classmates for group photos. Students attended school in their homemade clothes and even attended barefoot during the summer term.
Created: 9 Jun 2002