Southwest Press Tuesday Dec 8, 1981- McKenney School
Teachersís memories add to historical value
of Byron Township schoolhouse.
Story and photo by Ken Kolker
Norine Ocobockís memories of teaching 30 wild kids in Byron Centerís one-room McKenney schoolhouse are vivid.
She remembers what was supposed to be her first day teaching there, the day before Valentineís Day in 1935, when she walked into the schoolís "dirty" entry-way, turned around and went back home.
She recalls being greeted the next day by Valentine cards from children she didnít know. And she remembers coaching the schoolís hardball team to victory after victory.
Now, the schoolhouse, with its shifting Pennsylvania Dutch red and crŤme-colored brickwork, is empty except on Monday nights when itís used by Byron Center Boy Scout Troop 250.
Ocobockís 30 students are middle-aged. And the ball field behind the school now is a cornfield.
But thanks to the efforts of the Boy Scouts, the school wonít fall.
The Michigan Historical Commission has listed McKenney School, on the corner of Homrich Avenue and 84th Street S W, West of Byron Center, as a historical site.
The commission, in a letter sent to the Boy Scout troop, has judged the site to be "historically and/or architecturally significant" and listed it as a protected site.
The troop two years ago looked into the history of the schoolhouse it had bought to hold meetings. After finding it was built by Pennsylvania Dutch bricklayers in 1891, the scouts began a drive to have the building recognized as a historic site.
The troop raised $ 550 to buy a marker that will be placed in front of the school to display its historic value.
"I get a good feeling every time I drive by that school", said Ocobock, 82, of 2054 24th Avenue in Jamestown Township. "I really enjoyed teaching there."
Ocobock taught kindergarten through eighth-grade students at the school for three years. She said teaching there was one of the biggest challenges in her more than 50-year career in education.
"We had trouble back then with discipline," she said. "We had a hard winter, lots of sleet, and there was good skating all over, even on the highways."
"They came over to see if I could teach because the students and the teacher were always busy skating. There was not much schooling."
When she walked into the schoolhouse to start her $ 1,000 a year job, she sensed trouble.
"There was toilet paper and corn husks strewn all over the schoolhouse. And there was teacherís blood on the desk. They must have had a fracas, or else a skating accident."
When she returned the next day greeted by Valentine cards, "I told them we had to have rules and regulations. But I told them " I didnít want to boss you around. So what about us making the rules together."
"I never had another bit of trouble."
Ocobock said teaching kindergartners through eighth-graders in the same class and teaching every subject but music and sewing took a lot of planning, but it also had it advantages.
"You had the older children help teach the younger," she said. "You depended on help from the older students. Now, they (children) get so dependent on a teacherís help, they donít know how to help themselves."
She said schools lost much of their community backing when they were consolidated. In the days of the one-room schoolhouse, there were no millage problems.
Byron Center schools were consolidated in 1946. McKenney School was used by the district for another 16 years.
The present school is the fourth McKenney School built in the area, according to "A Century of Progress, Byron Township, 1857 to 1957, " a history of the township.
There is no record of when the first school, located kitty- corner to the present site, was built. But records show it was demolished in 1846 and replaced with a log schoolhouse that stood until 1865.
The third school, built on the present site, was replaced in 1891 by the brick school.
All four were built with money from area residents.
"I think people had more of a common interest in school," Ocobock said of the one-room schoolhouse days." "At McKenney School, the whole district worked together."
But, she added, consolidation has its advantages.
"The children now have a lot of privileges, things you canít give in a one-room schoolhouse. We had music, yes, but not like children have now. We had the ball team but no varied athletics for children. They need that."
McKenney Public School
District No 1
Byron Twp, Kent Co, Michigan
ELGIE M IDE, Teacher
Winifred Norris, Floyd Norris, Harry Kenyon, Jake DeZuaan, Dora Bussema, Carl Bussema, Gerrit Bussema
Henrietta Kenyon, Andrew Metz, Herman Pater, Elizabeth Bussema
Sarah Moorman, Katie Pepper, Mary Kenyon, Phoebe Kenyon, Gertrude Pater
Lucy Minisee, Bertha Weaver, Hazel Moorman Thilby Pepper
Rebecca Grantham, Hazel Thompson, Warren Weaver, Arthur Weaver, Otto France
Bessie Minisee Hallie Thompson
Dyer Ide, President
David Irwin, Secretary
John Homrich, Treasurer
At annual meeting of the qualified voters of School District No 1 of the Township of Byron held at the Schoolhouse in said district on the 27 day of Sept 1858, pursuant to publick (sic) notice.
S L Hamilton Chairman
The following officers were chosen
A H Green-Moderator
It was motioned seconded and caried (sic) that their (sic) be 25 cts on each
scholar raised by taxes for the ensuing year.
It is motioned seconded and caried (sic) that their (sic) be $ 10 Dollars raised to pay past indebtness and to pay other expenses.
It is motioned seconded and caried (sic) that their (sic) be 4 months winter and 4 or 5 months school for the summer as the Director may think proper.
One old stove sold by the chairsman to Corkins Barny for 62 Ĺ cts.
Payed to lease 50 cts.
At the anual (sic) school meeting held at the schoolhouse in District No 1 of the Township of Byron for the school year ending Sept 26th, 1859.
Directors account was allowed.. The following officers were elected vis:
Obadiah Roszel, Moderator for 3 years
Elijah McKenney, Director for 2 years
Edwin Ide, Assessor for 1 year
It was voted to raise 10 dollars to pay past indebtedness and for repairs on schoolhouse.
I do hereby certify my acceptance of the office of Moderator in School District No 1 of the township of Byron for three years.
Dated this 27th day of Sept A D 1859.
I do hereby certify my acceptance of the office of Director in School District No 1 of the township of Byron for two years from date.
Dated this 27th day of September A D 1859.
Elijah Mc Kenney
I do hereby certify my acceptance of the office of Assessor in School District No 1 of the township of Byron for one year.
Dated this 27th day of September A D 1859
Report of District Board of School District No 1 for the School year ending Sep 25th 1859
Hired John Weston for 4 months 21 per month $ 84.00
Paid John W Stone in order on the town treasurer. 60.00
Do Do moneys raised by rate bill 26.00
Hired Sarah J Lovejoy for 17 weeks at 2 dollars per week
Paid Sarah J Lovejoy in orders on the town treasurer 34.00
The hole (sic) amount of mill tax and primary money that has been apportioned to this District for the last year has been 109.80 of which there now remains in the hands of the Treasurer $ 15.80 for all purposes.
Paid William Davison Order 4.43
Paid Obadiah Roszel Order 3.60
Paid H B Hall Order 2.00
The above report was accepted at the annual School Meeting.
At the annual School meeting held at the Schoolhouse in District No 1 of the township of Byron for the School year ending Sept 24th 1860.
Elected Silas L Hamilton to fill the office of Assessor in the place of Edwin Ide whose term of office had expired.
It was voted to raise twelve dollars on the taxed property of said District, to pay past indebtedness and to repair and furnish schoolhouse.
Report of District board approved of and accepted.
Directors account allowed. Meeting adjourned
Elijah McKenney, Director
Obadiah Roszel, Moderator
I do hereby certify my acceptance of the office of Assessor in School District No 1of the Township of Byron . Dated this 1 st day of October 1861
Silas L Hamilton
I do hereby certify my acceptance of the office of Director in School District No 1 of the Township of Byron for the term of three years. Dated this 6 Day September 1861.
Report of District of School District No 1 for the school year ending Sep 24th 1860
According to last years report, here is a balance in the Treasury 15.80
Mill tax 33.26
Primary money 31.28
Raised by Rate Bill 22.50
Raised on the taxable property of the District 10.00
Payed Obadiah Roszel Accít as follows:
To 2 days hunting teachers 1.50
2 days drawing book 1.00
1 day getting the number of scholars 1.00
1 lock .37 Ĺ
To making out and warrant rate bill .25
Obadiah Roszels Acct for the year 1860
To making one black board 2.50
1 table .50
1 pail .20
Paid $ 3.20
Hired G W Dilenbeck for 4 months at 20 dollars per month.
He taught 3 months and 15 days. Payed him as follows 72.50
By order on Treasurer 50.00
Raised by rate bill 22.50
Hired Adelphus Smith for 3 months at 10 dollars per month.
Taught 37 days. Payed 16.00
By order of Treasurer
Payed G W Dilenbeck for Web, Primary Lessons 1.00
There yet remains in the Treasury of Primary money 14.34
At the annual meeting held at the Schoolhouse in District No 1 of the Township of Byron for the school year ending September 2nd A D 1861
Calvin Gibbs was elected Director for 3 years. It was voted to raise (8) eight dollars on the taxable property of the District for the following past indebtedness and for repairs.
Vis 1.23 to supply depreciated currency in the hands of the Assessor. 1.65 for exemptions and the Directors account 4.52 as allowed by the meeting and it was voted that the Director shall notify each person sending to School to get their proportion of fewel (sic).
Also voted that the Director now elected shall record all the papers and reports now on hand unrecorded. Meeting adjourned.
Obadiah Roszel, Moderator
Elijah Mc Kenney, Director
I do hereby certify my acceptance of the office of Moderator in the School District No 1 of the Township of Byron for the term of three years. Dated this first day of Sep 1861
I do hereby certify my acceptance of the office of Assessor in School District No 1 of the Township of Byron. Dated this 1 Day of Sep 1861.
James Mc Kenney
Hired D Millard Stiles 3 ĺ months at 20 dollars per month amounting to $
Payed him by order of Treasurer 55.37
Raised by Rate Bill 17.98
Assessor lost in depreciated currency 1.23
Leaving a balance of 16.75
The 1.23 is to be raised on the taxable property of the District with 1.65 which is the amount to be raised for Exemptions 2.88
The following persons were exempted from Rate Bill. Vis:
The Widow Gager for .64
The Widow Mayo .64
Jonathan Irwin .37
Yet due -Mr Stiles 1.23
Hired Julia R Loomis for 17 weeks at 2 dollars per week 34.00
Payed her by order on Treasurer 15.00
There will yet be due her at the expiration of her term 19.00
Yet on hand in the Treasury 21.59
As follows of Primary 18.52
For repairs and furnishing and to pay past indebtedness 3.07
Obadiah Roszel, Moderator
Elijah McKenney, Director
Silas L Hamilton, Assessor
Report of receipts and disbursements of the District Board of School District No 1 for the School year ending September 2nd A D 1861
Twelve dollars raised to pay past indebtedness and to repair and furnish schoolhouse 12.00
According to last years report there is on hand 1.68
Repairs and furnishing house 70.61
And of primary moneys in the Treasury 3.07
There is on hand at the commencement of the school year 14.34
The Mill tax is 38.85
The Primary 35.85
Raised by Rate Bill 17.98
To be raised for exemptions 1.65
Payed E McKenney account as allowed by school meeting Sep 21, 1859 as follows, Vis:
For services as Director 2.50
One broom .30
2 lbs chalk .13
3 panes glass .12
Payed Elijah McKenney account allowed by District Board Jan 22, 1861 and
payed by order on Treasurer as follows
14 panes of glass .56
2 lbs putty .13
1 broom .25
1 dipper .12
1 gross crayons .50
5 lbs nails .25
For repairs on house 1.00
For lumber for house 1.75
Payed Obadiah Roszel for building entry 1.50
Payed S A McKenney by order on Treasurer for rent for the years 1859, 1860 1861 1.50
January 22nd, 1861