Taken from The History of Tuscola County, Biographical Sketches and Illustrations, H. R. Page Co., Chicago, 1883. Thanks to Bonnie Petee.
Progress in Vassar has been of the broadest kind, and throughout the history of its activities a manifest appreciation of moral and intellectual improvement is everywhere apparent. The schools of Vassar have always been noted for their excellence, and the policy of the village in relation to educational matters has been characterized by the greatest liberality.
Turning backward we find a school being taught in the summer of 1851 by Miss August Slafter, in a shanty remodeled for that purpose.
The records state that at a special meeting of the school inspectors of the towns of Vassar and Tuscola, held August 23, 1851, for the purpose of forming a school district our of portions of the two towns named, the following boundaries were established. Beginning at the southwest corner of the northeast quarter of section 23, thence east to the town line between Vassar and Tuscola, thence north one and one-half miles, thence east two miles, thence north one and one-half miles, thence west one-half mile, thence north one-half mile, thence west three miles, crossing said town line, thence south three and one-half miles, to the place of beginning. Said district was designated as fractional district number one of Vassar and two of Tuscola.
In 1859 the boundaries of the district were enlarged so as to cover twenty-one and one quarter sections.
In 1852 a frame school-house was built, which is still standing opposite the tannery and used as a dwelling. In the winter of 1852-53 a school was taught in this building by D. G.
Wilder, now of Watrousville. Charles Fonda and A. J. Leach also taught in the same building.
Union School Building
About 1857 the subject of erecting a union school building began to be agitated. There were some who believed that a prosperous future was in store for Vassar, and were in favor of erecting a school building that would not only reflect credit upon the place, but afford ample facilities for the demands of the place for years to come. Others were more conservative in their views, but the more liberal enterprise at last prevailed, and in 1860 a brick building was completed at a cost of between $5,000 and $6,000. The village was then in its infancy, and this stroke of public enterprise is a noteworthy fact in the history of the place. The first principal of schools in the new building was Prof. Keyes, who was subsequently killed in battle.
Nor long after the completion of the new building, Hon. Townsend North conceived the idea of providing accommodations for pupils who might wish to come from other parts of the county and avail themselves of the advantages of this school. With this end in view he erected a large building at a cost of about two thousand dollars, and divided it into apartments, so arranged that the occupants could board themselves. The war was in progress and soon after its completion the draft came, and the generally disturbed condition of affairs interfered with the success of the project, and finally the building was rearranged for tenement purposes.
More Room Required
The question of additional school facilities for the district was also one which agitated the public mind for several years before it was successfully solved. The district had largely outgrown the building, which was inadequate to meet the demand. For several years additional rooms in various parts of the town were secured and branch school carried on in these; but the plan had many inconveniences and drawbacks, and did not prove altogether satisfactory. The demand for further school room was imperative, and when once thoroughly understood, action in the matter was not long deferred.
Looking toward this end, at the annual meeting in the fall of 1877, a sum of money was voted for a building fund, which sum was added to each succeeding year, until the amount had reached $1,600 last season, when the question of building was introduced and discussed. The project met with some opposition, but the district finally voted to build and on the Union School grounds.
The board was then instructed to procure plans and specifications for a new building, which were submitted to the district, and those furnished by A. C. Varney, of Detroit, for a large front addition to the old school building was adopted. The next question to be decided was the one of raising the additional money for the completion of the work, which was finally carried, but the season was then so far advanced that it was thought best to defer building until the following season.
During the winter the board advertised for bids for the completion of the work, and the contract for all stone, brick and mason work was let to John Glanfield & Son, and the carpenter work, tin work, painting and completion, and finishing of the job to H. W. Park, all of Vassar.
In style of architecture the new building is the same as the old, and, as it stands on the brow of the hill, is very imposing. It is build directly in front of the old house, and has a frontage of seventy-two feet, width of thirty-five feet and height of thirty-three feet above grade line. A basement, seven feet in the clear, extends under the entire new part. The
building is surmounted by a fine tower in the center of the front, eighty feet from the grade line to the tip of its pinnacle. 160,000 brick were used in the construction of the building.
The furniture throughout is the latest improved, and for convenience, simplicity and strength is unsurpassed by any manufactured in the country.
The building is well lighted and well ventilated, and heated from the basement by two patent hot air furnaces.
In this building, Vassar can boast of as fine, well finished and well furnished a building
as any town of the same population in the State. It is not only a credit to the architect and the mechanics employed in its erection, but a monument to the liberality of the tax-payers of the district, who thus expressed their determination that the educational interests of Vassar should be maintained in the futures as a high standard as in the past. A fine view of the Union School Building as it now appears is given in this work.
The principals of the schools, since Prof. Keyes, have been Profs. Lewis, Van Wormer, Rev. S. N. Hill, Capt. E. P. Allen, Profs. Williard, Park, Wood, Norton and Wilson.
As now organized, the schools are divided into three departments: primary, grammar and high school. These departments have four years each.
The school year is divided into three terms, as follows:
Fall term begins first Monday in September; ends Friday before Christmas- sixteen weeks.
Winter term begins Monday after New Years; continues twelve weeks.
Spring term beings after a vacation of one week and continues twelve weeks.
The superintendent and principal of high school is Eugene A. Wilson.
The board of education is composed of the following named gentlemen: O. G. Emerson, E. H. Taylor, E. C. Caine, M. L. Gage, P. L. Varnum, J. R. Bancroft.
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