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Mason County Memories


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History Columns are arranged by year of publication in the Ludington Daily News



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One Room School History History Column Dave Petersen This week marked the end of the use of the Riverton School building in the Scottville school system. School consolidation is not a new thing to the district, back in 1944 Diamond and Banner Schools burned in Victory Township and the decision was made to consolidate the entire Victory district. In all seven schools were consolidated and they included Diamond, Banner, Townhall, Star, Dewey, Chambers and Victory Corners. Students were grouped with each of the three building being used housing several grades, Townhall school hosted the k-3 students, the middle grades went to Victory Corners and the 6-8th grades went to Star School. After 12 years of this arrangement a new 5 room building was constructed and opened in December 1956 just a few short months after the Victory unit consolidated with the Mason County Central School System. Victory Corners school was the first school built in that township, constructed of logs and opening in 1855, the first teacher of record was Mrs. Emma Merril. In the September 24th edition of the Mason County Press dedicated to school consolidation we quote from an article written by Mrs. Max Rahn. " Five dollars was the sum paid for the original piece of land which was called District No. one of the township of Riverton, locally known as East Riverton. The transfer was made by the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad Company December 10th 1870 to the school District for one acre to be used as a school site only." Some of the early family names in this district included Hull, Genter, Septrion, Smart, Salzgaber, Griffin, Englebrecht, Eckert, Payson, Bidwell, Booth, Van sickle, and Quinn. Some of which are readily identifiable today as descendents of the original settlers in the district. There were a number of interesting tidbits recalled, Shirley Camfield wrote that the Menninger School did not have a clock, and that in order to help August Menninger's wife watched her clock at home and tooted a loud horn when school was called and let out at the end of the day. Starr School had a single teacher for 21 years, her name was Lulu McGhan, I'm sure she is remembered by many still in the county. Does anyone have any stories of life in a one-room school to share with our readers? Mrs Floyd Bickford provided this information about St. Mary's Lake School. "The School Inspectors of Riverton Township formed the St Mary's Lake School District and the first meeting was held at the William Carroll home, March 25th 1878, there were seven qualified voters. "The first schoolhouse was a log building located at William Beard's Corner. They decided to have 3 months school that year and to employ a female teacher. Mary Squire was the first teacher and she was paid 18.00 per month. Some early bills were, chalk 20 cents, broom 35 cents, taking census, stationary and postage all 1.00, 5 cord of wood at 75 cents a cord, and 1.00 for cleaning the school house. " In 1882 the teachers salary was 30.00 per month, and there was seven months school. The school terms were 3 months, September to December, 2 months, January to March, then one month vacation, then 2 months beginning in April or May. " The present site of 1 acre was purchased from Edwin Bickford for 10.00 in 1886. Loren Bickford received 550.00 for furnishing and building the present school house in 1887. The nine month school term was authorized in 1888. In July 1959 the voters voted to join the Scottville School system , but will continue to use the St Mary's schoolhouse the coming year with Mrs. Alice Bahr as teacher." When the County was first being settled, roads were poor, travel was difficult, a trip from Sugar grove Corners to Epworth was an overnight affair, a day to get there and a day to get back. Schools were obviously important to the early settlers of the County, and often the schoolhouse was erected before the church. Education was seen as important, back in the early days of the county 8th grade graduation was an important event as many did not progress past the eighth grade to high school. At that time 8th grade was seen as the same as a high school diploma today and high school as we view a 4 year college degree. One room schools that served the children of an area but a few miles away was necessary as transportation was difficult, the children lived nearby and walked to school. As our roads and transportation improved, and the economy after WWII we saw more effort towards modernizing and consolidating small districts into larger schools. With the changes in technology, and the increased expenses of transportation and education facing us in the 21st century it will be interesting to see what changes can and will be made to meet the challenges in the years to come. If you have any stories or photos you would like to share with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240 or davep@blackcreekpress.com, mail should be sent in care of the Ludington Daily News PO box 340 Ludington Mi 49431.

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