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Early Bay City School History (1937)
  • Transcribed May 2005
  • The Bay City Times - February 28, 1937 -- Centennial Edition

    From the earliest days the Bay City Board of Education through its public school system, has endeavored to bring the most approved methods of learning to the younger generation of this community. Here is depicted the growth of Bay City's educational system.


    Some old timers may remember this old Melbourne school, located on the river bank, between Bay City and Saginaw. It is typical of the first rough school house many Bay Cityans attended.

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    Modern System Had Start In Log Cabin.

    First School Instituted Here In April 1842.

    With Six Students Attending.

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    Progressing through a century, Bay City educational facilities today rank with the best in the nation. From a rude log cabin on the banks of the Saginaw river with a handful of pupils to an ultra-modern high school with more than 1,000 students marks the advancement of a century of education here.

    Today Bay City boasts a school system that has kept pace with the ever increasing tempo of progress through the nation.

    The present modern and completely equipped school system had its institution in a little wooden school building that was established in April 1842 on the banks of the Saginaw river at the foot of Columbus avenue.

    A Miss Clark was the first teacher in the little school located in what was then known as the Bonnell house. The school term that year opened June 1 and continued until September 1, the time now usually devoted to vacation periods. Include in the classes were men and women who later in life played an important role the city’s early times. These pupils were Daniel Marsac, Margaret Campbell, Perry and Philenda Olmstead, Richard Tromble, and P. L., H. B. And Esther Rogers, children of Mrs. Elizabeth Rogers, Bay City’s first physician.

    Probate Judge Sydney S. Campbell was the first director of the school district, Thomas Rogers, its first moderator, and Cromwell Barney, its first assessor.

    New Teacher Hired.

    On the following January a new teacher was brought in to Bay City to supervise the school, Captain Daniel Smith being hired by the school board since there were four of the 24 pupils in the school over 21 years of age. These young men were Daniel Marsac, James McCormick, John Churchfield, and Isreal Marsac.

    The Bonnell house served as the school house for Lower Saginaw’s residents until January 7, 1845 when Harry Campbell constructed a school building at the foot of Washington avenue at the cost of $200. The building was 21 by 26 feet, and was large enough to house all of the children of school age, and there was a wide variance in that age zone in those days, from the entire surrounding district.

    Captain Smith remained in charge of the school here until 1847, when his place was taken by Miss A. E. Robinson who held forth as the village school mar’m until 1848. For her services as teacher in the backwoods settlement, Miss Robinson received the very generous stipend of $1.50 a week and board and room. The board and room meant that she was to live one week at a stretch with each of the families that had children in the school. The “boarding round” method of taking care of teachers was the thing in those days and until a few years ago was used extensively in the rural districts where the school board was unable to pay regular salaries to teachers.

    The school building at the foot of Washington avenue continued to be used until 1854 when a new building capable of house 300 students was built on Adams street. The building was located between Fifth avenue and Fourth street, on the site where a parking lot for the The Times employees is now situated. After the building had been abandoned as a school house it was later used by the Salvation Army for a citadel. Several years ago the building was torn down when the office building of The Times was enlarged.

    New School Built.

    The Adams street school was built because of the large number of children in Hampton township who were without educational facilities. In 1865 the school was enlarged to accommodate an additional 200 children. The following year the second school house was constructed at McKinley avenue and Adams street, the building being built to accommodate 120 pupils.

    Miss Cornelia Chillson, who taught school in Bay City for many years, attended the various early schools which were established here and her reminiscences of early school days have been recorded by early and contemporary historians.

    Concerning Miss Chillson, historians record that “she attended Judge Miller’s school on Fremont avenue and was a pupil in the school which was only a “shanty” on Captain Wilson’s farm. She continued her education in “readin’, riteing and ‘rithmetic” in a place of learning located near Pitt’s mill on First street and Washington avenue. The school was a one-room affair with a door located at one end; there was a long bench against three sides of the room and the pupils sat on those facing the walls with their backs to the center of the room. When the grand new school which later became the Salvation Army barracks, was built on Adams street she had the pleasure of entering it to gain more knowledge. What a wonderful place it was to those who had studied and recited in the “shacks”. The building had two rooms downstairs and one large room overhead which had two big square box stoves at the two front corners of the room. Pupils came to the school from a greater distance now and carried their meals. Often they would blow the dust off the top of the stoves and warm up their bread and butter on the smooth, hot surface. What splendid times they had skating on the clearing where ponds had formed around the school building and all else was forest. Miss Chillson, once a pupil, became a primary teacher in this building before 1865. At that time Carlos Bacon was principal. She also taught in Williams town, which is now Auburn. The late Circuit Judge James Gaffney was a pupil of Miss Chillson when she taught at the Auburn school.

    School District Formed.

    Bay City’s Union School district was organized Mar. 20, 1867, and the first official act of the trustees of the board was the ordering of the construction of the Farragut school which served as Bay City’s first high school. George Campbell was awarded the contract for building the school at a cost of $67,350. The building, somewhat changed in appearance still stands today and is used as one of the city’s primary schools.

    The school building was built and the first class held in April 1869. It was about 20 years later that students of Bay City schools entered the new high school building on the East Side. On March 27, 1882, the students of Bay City high school marched in a body to the new Eastern high school located on Madison avenue near Columbus avenue and on March 27, 1922, the students of Eastern marched to the new and modernly spacious the new high school building on Columbus avenue.

    D. C. Scoville was appointed superintendent of schools in Bay City in 1869 and under his planning the system was modernized to fit the educational plans of that day. He was succeeded by I. W. Morley who remained in the capacity of superintendent for many years. Morley was followed by J. W. Smith who served to 1894 and he in turn was followed by J. A. Stewart who held the post from 1894 to 1911. E. E. Ferguson was appointed to the post in 1911 and served to 1914 to be succeeded by F. A. Gause, who held the superintendency until 1922. G. L. Jenner was pointed in 1922 and served until 1935 when his place was filled, following his resignation, by Benjamin Klager, the incumbent superintendent.

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    THE HISTORY OF BAY CITY SCHOOLS

    1842 -- First school established in April on the bank of the Saginaw river at the foot of Columbus avenue. Six pupils attended, taught by Miss Clark. It was 14x20 feet and was built in 1839 as a residence for William Bonnell.

    1845 -- In January a new school building was constructed at the foot of Washington avenue, at a cost of $200. It was 21x26 feet. Miss A. E. Robinson was the first teacher.

    1854 -- A school capable of housing 160 students was erected on Adams street, between Fourth and Fifth. It was named the Central school.

    1865 -- The Adams street school was enlarged to accommodate an additional 200 students.

    1866 -- Another school was built at Adams and McKinley to accommodate an additional 120 pupils. About 500 students were now enrolled in schools.

    1867 -- Bay City's Union School District was organized. The present Farragut school was ordered constructed at a cost of $67,300. It became Bay City's first high school.

    1868 -- In West Bay City, the old Western high school was erected as a Union School. The first West Side Bay school was earlier built on Litchfield.

    1869 -- First classes held in Farragut high school. D. C. Schoville became Superintendent of Schools. He immediately began to institute the graded system in the schools.

    1874 -- Sherman school erected.

    1875 -- The system consisted of 6 buldings, and 35 teachers. 2120 students were now enrolled. The Whittier and Fremont schools were erected this year.

    1877 -- The teacher-training school was begun. For 35 years the majority of Bay City teachers were chosen from its graduates.

    1878 -- Trombley school erected.

    1882 -- On March 27 the high school students marched in a body to the new high school, now Eastern Junior High. The system now had 8 buildings, and 49 teachers.

    1883 -- The Dolsen school erected.

    1885 -- First elected school board took office. Members had previously been appointed by the Council. The board consisted of 22 members. The Park school erected.

    1887 -- BAY CITY FIFTY YEARS OLD. The system has 10 buildings, 77 teachers, and 3,836 students enrolled.

    1888 -- The Kolb school was built.

    1890 -- Corbin school built.

    1893 -- Lincoln school built.

    1894 -- A new Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Stewart, took office.

    1895 -- Washington school built, enlarged and repaired in 1929.

    1905 -- Greater Bay City. East and West Sides united. Woodside school built, enlarged and repaired in 1930.

    1906 -- Wenona school built.

    1907 -- Riegel school built.

    1908 -- McKinley school built.

    1911 -- E. E. Ferguson name new Superintendent of Schools.

    1912 -- 7,085 students enrolled.

    1914 -- F. A. Gause succeeded as next Superintendent of Schools.

    1919 -- Bond issue of $1,400,000 approved for city schools.

    1921 -- Central high school built. First students entered the building in April, 1922. 764 enrolled.

    1922 -- A big year in the history of Bay City schools. Bay City Junior College was started. T. L. Handy Junior high school was opened.

    1923 -- Bay County Normal started in Riegel school.

    1931 -- An addition to Central high school, chiefly to house the Junior College, was constructed at a cost of $45,000.

    1936 -- Bay City school system has 330 teachers and 7622 students enrolled, occupying 19 buildings. The school district has 74 acres of property. Central high school has 1751 enrolled. Benjamin Klager becomes Superintendent of Schools.

    1937 -- January -- School enrollment 7,646.

    LOOKING AHEAD -- The school system's next urgent problem to be solved is the East Side Junior High situation. Soon the replacement and consolidation of some grade schools is planned.

    Related Pages & Notes

    Bay City 1867

    Related Pages:
    {Pictorial Bay Co. Sch.}
    BC School Histories 1940
    Campbell, George
    People Referenced
    Bacon, Carlos
    Barney, Cromwell
    Bonnell, Williams
    Campbell, George
    Campbell, Harry
    Campbell, Margaret
    Campbell, Sydney S., Judge
    Chillson, Cornelia Miss
    Churchfield, John
    Clark, Miss (1st teacher)
    Ferguson, E.E.
    Gaffney, James, Judge
    Gause, F.A.
    Jenner, G.L.
    Klager, Benjamin
    Marsac, Daniel
    Marsac, Isreal
    McCormick, James
    Morley, I.W.
    Olmstead, Perry
    Olmstead, Philenda
    Robinson, A.E. Mrs.
    Rogers, Elizabeth Mrs.
    Rogers, Esther
    Rogers, H.B.
    Rogers, P.L.
    Rogers, Thomas
    Scoville, D.C.
    Smith, Daniel, Capt.
    Smith, J.W.
    Stewart, J.A.
    Tromble, Richard
    Union School District
    Williams-town (Auburn)
    Subjects Referenced
    1st school classes
    ... Bonnell house, Columbus ave.
    1st school bldg.
    ... ft. of Washington ave
    Adams street school
    Bay City high school
    Bay City Junior College
    Capt. Wilson's shanty sch.
    Central school, Adams st.
    Central H.S., Columbus ave.
    Corbin school
    Dolsen school
    Eastern H.S., Madison ave.
    Eastern Jr. H.S., Madison ave.
    Farragut school
    Fremont school
    Hampton township
    Judge Miller's school
    ... Fremont ave.
    Kolb school
    Lincoln school
    Lower Saginaw (Bay City)
    McKinley school
    McKinley & Adams school
    Melbourne school
    Park school
    Riegel school
    Sherman school
    Salvation Army citadel
    School near 1st and Washington
    T.L. Handy Jr. High
    The Times newspaper
    Trombley school
    Washington school
    Wenona school
    Western school
    Whittier school
    Woodside school
    WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.