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History of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) online

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' ' Moderator. ' '

The moneys collected by the Rate Bill was about equal to the pri-
mary money, in many districts, and in some cases it exceeded the
amount of money received from the State.

Many schools at this time and even for many years later had made
no provision for regularity of attendance ; for uniformity of text books ;
for any form of graduation or definite plan of visitation. The houses
were crude, poorly lighted, poorly equipped, poorly ventilated. Yet
notwithstanding all the hardships the people had undergone — the finan-
cial panic of '37, disease, etc. — they still insisted on having a better
system of schools and Calhoun County's three representatives, ]\Iessrs.
Pierce, Crary and Morrison, went into the Constitutional Convention of
1850, and were instrumental in having the Constitution so amended that
a free school must be maintained in every district at least three months
during the year. There was a provision, however, that arranged that the
Legislature should provide for such schools within five years, so it was
actually seven years before any results were secured.

As the Constitutional Convention of 1850 practically closes one epoch
in the educational history and commences another, for comparison, we
quote from the report for the year ending May, 1851, as given by the
State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Francis W. Sherman :
Number of districts, 150; number of children on census list, 6,403;
number of children attending school under four years of age, 92 ; num-
ber of children attending school over 18 years of age, 231 ; whole num-
ber who have attended school during the year, 5,049. Whole amount of
wages paid the teachers in the County, $7,757.55. Amount raised by
rate bill, $3,556.43 ; primary money received, $2,983.36 ; raised for
building purposes, $7,759.60 (a union school building was built in ]Mar-
shall during this year, which is included in this amount) ; support of
school, including teachers, $3,355.87; mill tax assessed, $1,401.53; aver-
age length of school year in rural districts, five months. Average length
of school year in union schools, thirt.y-five weeks. The average salary
of teachers $11.35. (Board for rural teachers cost from $.75 to $1.25 per
week, while in the village it cost from $1.25 to $1.75).

Notwithstaiuling the fact that the Superintendent of Public In-
struction had, through his reports, announced that it was not obligatory
for any one to board the teacher, practically all the teachers "boarded
around." In connection with the system of "boarding around", an
amusing incident is a matter of record in the Board of Supexwisors ' Re-
port of 1874 and 1875, where the Superintendent of the Poor submitted


bills for two aiicl three weeks' board for school teachers. In some dis-
tricts this plan of "boarding around" continued in vogue until the early

The SupiTiutcndciil of I'ublic Instrurtion ivcdinnicndi'd to tlie
Constitutional Convention that the schools be made free, and after dis-
cussing the various plans proposed by the members of the Convention,
the source of revenue for the primary schools was agreed upon as follows :
First, the income from the primary school fund ; Second, a tax of two
mills upon each dollar's valuation of taxable property in the township;
Third, a tax not exceeding one dollar a scholar, voted by the districts
and collected by the township : Fourth, the rate bill to make up any

Previous to this time there had been no close supervision of schools,
but a Law was enacted, making the Chairman of the Township Board
of School Inspectors (said Board being composed of the Township Clerk
and two School Inspectors) inspector of the schools of his township,
and reciuiring him to visit these schools at least one each term. The
Board of School Inspectors examined and licensed all teachere in the
Public Schools. The good resulting from this supervision became quickly

This system of inspection continued until 1868, when the Board of
School Inspectoi-s was discontinued, and Captain Ephraim Marble, now-
living in Jlarshall. was elected the first County Superintendent of Schools
of Calhoun county in 1867. which office he held for two years, when he
was succeeded by Rev. Bela Fancher (now deceased). Rev. Fancher
held the office for four years and was followed by Bertrand F. Welch,
said to be the oldest living teacher in Michigan, and now lives in Mar-
shall. It was the duty of these county superintendents to examine all
candidates for teachers' certificates visit all schools at least once a year,
and consult with the teachers as to the best mode of instruction and dis-
cipline. They were paid by the Board of Supervisors, who fixed their
salary per diem for actual time expended.

One of the great hindrances to good school work during these periods
was the lack of suitable text books. One of the Superintendents
above mentioned informed the writer that in one school visited by him
an entire class had no readers, excepting the New Testament, which they
were using in their reading classes. Ofttimes there were as nmny
different text books as there were pupils in a class.

Another of the great hindrances to the district school \\(}ik was the
fact that there was no uniformity in the course of study and the children
were allowed to take up the study that pleased their fancy most with-
out reference to the practical side of the matter. The more advanced
educational minds ])egan thinking of the advisability of adopting a uni-
form course of study and the enacting of a law that would tend to
bring about a uniformity of text books. This agitation brought good
results, for a few years later they saw their ideas realizpd.

The people, having become dissatisfied with the County System of
Supervision, which they believed to be very expensive for the results
secured, returned to the Township System in 1875. The vi.sitation of the
schools was again placed in the hands of the Chairman of the Board of


School Inspectors of the various townships, who met once each year and
elected a member for the County Board of Teachers Examiners, each
member to hold for a term of two years. It became the duty of the
Board of Examiners to conduct the examination of all teachers of the
County. We are unable to find a complete record of the examiners thus
chosen, but find that Capt. Ephraim Marble, Miss A. R. Camburn, and
S. G. Gorsline all served at sometime during this period.

In 1887, the law again changed with reference to the visitation of
schools, taking the work out of the hands of the Township School In-
spectors, and placing it in the hands of a County Secretary, who was to
be chosen by the Judge of Probate and the two members of the County
Board of School Examiners. Report made by this Board to the Board
of Supervisors on the 17th day of October, 1887, is herewith given in

'■'To the Honorable Board of Supervisors of Calhoun County: —
Acting under the requirements of the new law, the Board of School
Examiners of this County met with the Judge of Probate at this oifiee
the 28th day of September, and elected Mr. R. A. Culver secretary of
such Board for the ensuing year ; fixing his salary there for at $1,300.00.

"They also instructed such secretary to visit in person or by such
assistants as he might select, each school in the county, at least twice a
year; to ascertain the conditions of such school and success of its
teachers; to note the conditions of the buildings and surroundings; to
counsel with the school boards azid advise as to any necessary improve-
ments; to keep a record of such visits and make a yearly report of the
same to the Chairman of the Board of Township Inspectors, of the
several townships at their annual meeting on the first Tuesday in

' ' Said Board to also require that the whole time of such secretary be
devoted to the work, and the supervision of the schools be made as
thorough as possible.

"To accomplish this work the board have agreed upon the following
estimates, as necessary in their judgment to pav for the same : Salarv
of Secretary, .$1,300.00 ; Pay of Board of Examiners, $200.00 ; Pay of
assistant visitors, printing, stationery, postage, room rent and janitor,
$300.00; Total .$1,800.00

"All of which is respectfully submitted,

" (iliss) A. R. Camburn, chairman.
"S. G. Gorsline,
"R. A. Culver, secretary."

From this time forward the scliools advanced with rapid strides.
Mr. Culver had the honor of being one of a committee of five who
planned the first State Manual Course of Study, which was approved by
the Superintendent of Public Instruction and by him placed in every
school district in the state. While the course as laid down was not man-
datory, it brought about immediate results, and a general approval of
a common course of study for all district schools. 31r. Culver held the
position of Secretary for a term of foiir years, when the law again


changed, and provided for a County Commissioner of Schools. The first
Commissioner was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to serve one
year, after which he was to be elected by the people at the regular
spring election for a term of two years.

On June 22, 1891, Mr. Arthur G. Randall of Tekonsha was appointed
the first County Commissioner of Schools for Calhoun County, and twice
re-elected by popular vote of the people. The law relative to the elec-
tion of County School Examiners having also been changed, provided
that the examiners should be chosen by the Board of Supervisors. At
a meeting held June 22, 1891, the Board selected Mr. Chester L. Williams
of Lee and Mr. Edward L. ilcPherson of Burlington to act as County
Examiners for a term of two years and one year respectively.

Mr. Randall's ability as a Commissioner was recognized by an ap-
pointment on the committee of five to draft the Second State Manual
Course of Study, and he was also appointed a member of the State
Teachers Reading Circle Board. He was educated in Hillsdale College ;
had had a long and successful experience as teacher; as business man;
as editor and publisher and he entered into his work with such earnest-
ness that he could not fail to inspire enthusiasm in both teachers and

Mrs. Emma S. Willits was elected Commissioner in the spring of
1897. She is a graduate from Albion College and is a lady of more
than ordinary culture and refinement. She was a successful teacher,
having taught in some of the best high schools in the state. She made
an excellent Commissioner and is now the efficient Deputy County Treas-
urer in this count}\

Ernest Burnham succeeded Mrs. Willits in 1899. He was educated
in the rural schools, Battle Creek high school, and Albion College. He
was City Editor of the Albion Recorder at the time he was elected.
Mr. Burnham was a student of Sociology and as such drew attention of
the state authorities who offered him the chair at the head of the Rural
Department of the Western Normal at Kalamazoo in 1904.

That the state was fortunate in its choice is evidenced by the rapid
growth of the department. He took his degree from Columbia in 1911.
Dr. Burnham still takes an active interest in the educational affairs of
the county.

At the resignation of Mr. Burnham, in 1904, the writer of this sketch
and present incumbent. P. D. Miller, was appointed to fill the vacancy
and has twice been re-elected. IModesty prevents further comment other
than to state that I attribute any success I have had, to a great extent,
to the solid foundation, educationally, laid by my predecessors.

At the time the office of County Commissioner of Schools was insti-
tuted, the salary was determined by a sliding scale, depending on the
number of schools under the Commissioner's jurisdiction. The minimum
salary, in this county was $1,200.00 and the maximum was .$1,800.00,
with all necessary office expenses. The Board of Supervisors fixed the
amoimt at $1,200.00, with no allowance for traveling expenses. In 1903
the length of the term was increased from two to four years, and the
salary was raised to $1,500.00 per year; in 1908 an extra allowance of


$150.00 was voted by the Board of Supervisors for traveling expenses and
two years later the salary was raised to $1,800.00 per year.

Register of State and County Officers

Superintendents of Public Instruction, elected from Calhoun County :
John D. Pierce, 1836-1841; Dr. Oliver C. Comstoek, 1843-1845; Ira
Mayhew, 1845-1849; Francis W. Sherman, 1849-1854; Ira Mayhew,
1854-1858; Delos Falls, 1901-1905.

Twenty-two of the seventy-six years since Michigan became a state,
Calhoun County has furnished the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Chairmen of Committee on Education in Constitutional Conventions :
Isaac Crary, of Marshall, in 1836, John D. Pierce, of Marshall, 1850, and
Delos Fall, of Albion, in 1909.

Superintendents of Cominon Schools for Calhoun County : Ephraim
Marble, 1869 ; Bela Fancher, 1869-1872 ; Bertrand F. AVelc'h, 1873-1874.
Secretary of Board of Examiners: Rufus A. Culver, 1887-1891.

County Commissioners of Schools : Arthur G. Randall, 1892-1897 ;
ilrs. Enuiia S. Willits, 1897-1899 ; Ernest Burnham, 1899-1904 ; Frank D.
Miller, 1904.

County School Examiners: Ephraim Marble, ; Miss A. R.

Camburn, ; S. G. Gorsline, ; Miss Lizzie Cook, ;

Chester E. Williams, 1892-1894; E. L. McPhersou, 1892-1895; F. W.
Arbury, 1894-1896 ; Guy Fisk, 1895-1897 ; Albert II. Wlntakcr. 1896-1898 ;
J. H. Atwood, 1897-1899; Kassen Richardson, 18!»S-]:i(l(l ; F. D. Miller,
1899-1904; A. J. Flint, 1900-1906; E. L. McPlierson, 19(14-1909; B. J.

Rivett, 1906-1907; Josiah Phelps, 1907 ; Maude Blair, 1909-1911;

E. L. McPherson, 1911 .

County Truant Officers: Vern G. Gibbs, 1905-1906; S. M, Reed, 1907-
1910 ; Wm. Gray, 1910 .

Truant officer is appointed by the Commissioner and receives $3.00
per day and expenses for time actually expended.

There are 158 one room school buildings, and seven graded schools
in the County with a combined teaching force of 193 teachers. There
are about 200 teachers employed in the cities, making a total of about
400 teachers in the County.

The following Statistics were taken from the last report made to tlie
Board of Supervisors in October 1911 :

No. of teachers under the jurisdiction of Commissioner 193

No. of teachers employed who had no previous teaching experience. 44

No. of County Normal graduates employed 47

No. of State Normal graduates employed 17

No. of visits made by Commissioner during year 360

No. of pupils on census list in rural districts 4412

No. of pupils on census list in village schools 951

Cost of instruction in rural districts $51,757.55

Cost of instruction in village schools $16,366.50

Average length of school year in rural districts S mo. 16 days

Average salary per month in rural schools $39.30


Average length of year in villages !• iiki. 14 days

Average salary of village teaeiiers (per month) .t.")2.(jr)

No. of pupils who wrote the eighth grade diploma examination. . . . 410

No. of pupils who reeeived diplomas lM7

No. of eases investigated by Trmuit Officer '27A)

No. of truancy notiees siTvcd 184

There are 155 frame, 25 brick and S stone school houses iu the rural
districts. Two districts just organized, where frame buildings will be
erected. Nearly all the rural schools are equipped with wall maps,
dictionaries, globes and other necessary appendages. At least 90 per
cent of the rural schools are well equipped and fully 75 per cent have
the Stars and Stripes displayed in, or over the building during the
sessions. The library money is used for library purposes, so at present
95 per cent of the rural schools have working libraries. More attention
is being paid to the choice of books; teachers and officers are now being
furnished with approved lists from which to make their selections.

Drawing and manual training have been introduced in many of the
rural schools with excellent results; the annual exhibit, along these lines,
in connection with the County fair is evidence of the good woi'k being
done. Elementary Agriculture is receiving more and more attention
each year in the schools and will be made a part of the course for eighth
grade pupils, for intensive study, for the first time this year. Boys and
Girls' Agricultural Clubs are being formed in connection with the
schools and are finding the work very interesting. At the Agricultural
Association meeting in ^larshall in 1912, the Boys and Girls' Agri-
cultural Club from the Aurand district in Tekonsha. won the Sweep-
stake for the best Agricultural exhibit on the grounds.

Dr. Delo.s Fall.

The Educational History of Calhoun County and the State of ]\Iich-
igan would be incomplete without the mention of our honored resident.
Dr. Delos Fall, who served two terms as Supei-intendent of Puljlic In-
struction. Dr. Fall is truly the friend of the rural ilistiicts, ,iiid to him
we are indebted for much of the rural pro.uifss ih,it h;is Immmi made in
recent years. Dr. Fall recognized that the State instit\itinns were pre-
paring teachers for the city schools at the expense of the rural districts,
as many of the best rural teachers left their school, took Nornud courses,
but failed to find their way back to the i-ural schools after receiving theii-
training. He therefore, was not only instrumental in having rural school
courses placed in the State normals where rural school teachers could be
trained, but he also provided for the organizing of County Normal train-
ing classes in the counties, where it is possible for young people to take
a year's training for their important work, at a very small expense.

When these laws became effective, there were but two normal trained
teachers in the rural schools of the'eounty. Today more than one third of
all the rural teachers in the county are graduates from one of the State
Normals or from the county Normal, and a goodly pi'opoi'tion of the
others have taken summer school work at one of the State Normals. ])v.


Fall appeared personally before the Board of Supervisors in 1904 and
argued the advisability of organizing a County Training class in this
county. The Board acted favorably, and Miss Eva Warriner, of Battle
Creek, was elected principal and took charge of the class the following
year. Miss Warriner has given us some very excellent teachers during
the eight years she has had charge of the work

Now, kind reader, we have traced, somewhat briefly, the development
of the rural schools, from the organization of the first school, in 1832, to
the present. We have seen the passing of the old log school houses with
the plank seats, thatched roofs, rude equipment, and in their stead we
find well equipped, more modern buildings. The rate bill outlived its
usefulness and, thanks to the newly enacted tuition, it is now possible
for each child in the state to have free school from the time he enters
the chart class, until he completes the high school course. No longer
does the old song. "Readin' and "ritiu and 'rithmetie, taught to the tune
of a hickory stick, ' ' apply to our schools, for today it is possible to get
a good practical education in the home district and the "Hickory" is
almost an unheard of accessory in school work. Pupils now attend school
the entire school year, as taught in the districts, and follow a regular
course of study, instead of attending a few weeks, as they did in pioneer
times. Untrained teachers of fourteen years are no longer permitted to
take the place of the real trained teachers of today. The prophecy of
that great educator, John D. Pierce, has really been worked out and
while we honor his memory, we should not forget those other great
Calhoun county educators, who have taken such prominent parts in
shaping school "legislation as Dr. Oliver C. Comstock, Ira Mayhew, Fran-
cis W. Sherman and Delos Fall, all of whom have held the responsible
position of Superintendent of Public Instruction, nor should we fail to
pay homage to those brave pioneers, who boldly struck out into the wil-
derness, forded streams, endured untold hardships, and carved out their
fortunes in this, the best county, in the best state, in the best country on
the face of the earth.

Village Schools

By Frank D. Miller

There are seven village schools in the county, employing thirty-five
teachers. Three of these schools have the regular twelve grades in their
courses and the remainder have but ten. East Leroy has been set off into
a separate district and will build a three room school building. Two
rooms on the ground floor will be used for school purposes after January
1, 19i;i and one room on the second floor will be used for lecture room,
assemblies, etc. The district has bonded for $3,000.00 for a new building
which is now in the course of construction. Wlien completed we will have
eight village schools.

The Ceresco school property is valued at $2,000.00. The building is
in a good state of repair and is well equipped. Two hundred sixty-three
volumes of well selected books are found on the shelves of the school
librarv. Last year, the enrollment was fifty-five and two teachers drew


$810 for niue months' work. There is a good healthy school sentiment
in tlie district.

Bedford village school was organized in the home of John P. Ames
on the sixth day of November, 1842. School has been maintained in the
district, each year since that date. There are 83 pupils on the census list,
seventy-seven of M-hom, with four non-resident pupils, were enrolled last
year at a cost for instruction (two teachers) of $810.00. The school
building has seen many years service and naturally shows the wear.
There has been considerably agitation, during the last few years in favor
of a new school house but the proposition has been defeated each time it
has been brought to a vote.

Burlington was laid out as a village in 1842, but five years before a log
school house had been built where the present frame house now stands
and JMary Buckingham was the teacher. In 1838 the district was legally
organized by the board of school inspectors consisting of E. A. Hayden,
Jonah Bradish and Lorenzo Escanback.

In 1869 the district was graded and a two room building was built,
which building is still doing service for the district, although it was
found necessary to divide the lower room, making three rooms instead of
two. The last census list contains seventy-six names of children living
in the district, fifty-five of whom with six non-resident pupils attended
school. Three teachers are employed at a cost of $1,220.00 for nine
montli 's work. Six hundred and forty books, including many good refer-
ence books, are in the school library. The school has a fair e(iuipmeiit.

Urbandale has just completed a tine $14,000.00 scliool building, which
was dedicated October 4, 1912. A fine banquet was served by the ladies
of the district, in the main room of the building, to about four hundred
people. Twelve years ago Urbandale had not been plotted and one
teacher taught fourteen pupils in the "Little White" school house.
Since that time a two room building was built in the district, but was
outgrown and a small church was secured by the board of education and
a third teacher employed. One hundred and thirty-two pupils attended
school in the district, last year.

The building is well equipped ; teachers are among the best in the
county; school board is progressive; patrons and entire community be-
lieve that the best is about right for Urbandale, and the school naturally
must get excellent results with such environments. Three teachers are
employed at present with good prospects of the fourth being added before
the close of the year.

Tekonsha has always taken an active interest in education. From the
time Chloe Ann Mead, later ;\Irs. Harvey Kennedy of Clarendon, taught
school in the old plank school house, with but a dozen pupils in 1837. to
the present, with Superintendent P. I. Wise and six very efficient as-
sistant teachers, with an enrollment of one hundred and ninety-seven
pupils. Tekonsha has been found in the front ranks educationally. A
tine two stor>' brick building was built in 1873 to which an annex was
erected in 1910. The school property is now valued at $30,000.00.
School is maintained thirty-eight weeks each year at a cost of $3,400.00
for instruction. It has a full high school eour.se of four years: is on the

Online LibraryWashington GardnerHistory of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 74)