History: 1923 Educational System Wood Co., Wisconsin

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----Source: History of Wood County, Wisconsin compiled by George O. Jones, Norman S. McVean and others : illustrated. H. C. Cooper, Jr. & Co., 1923, CHAPTER XII.

----1923 History of Wood Co., Wisconsin's Educational System




As shown in other parts of this history, the first permanent white settlement in Wood County was made at Grand Rapids, and it was there also that the initial steps were taken in the establishment of an educational system. What those steps were, as they applied to that community, may be learned by glancing at its early history as told in another chapter of this volume. But as among the first acts of the first county board were those creating additional townships, and as similar creations were made by a number of succeeding boards as the various parts of the county filled up with new settlers, it became necessary to provide for the educational needs of each and all of the political divisions. Thus in time an educational system was evolved covering the entire county except for the large communities like Wisconsin Rapids and Marshfield, which obtained municipal rights and privileges and established their own separate school systems, an account of which will be found included in the respective histories of those cities. The historical sketch of the growth of county educational system, as given on the following pages, has been compiled from the records of the county board, with some few additions from other sources, including data furnished by the present county superintendent, and with such editorial interpellations as serve to link together otherwise disjointed items.

The machinery of county government had been running but a few months when the first steps were taken to provide for the education of the young, as on March 30, 1857, the county board ordered that "a tax of three-fourths of one-half mill per hundred cents be raised on the taxable property of the county for common schools." On Feb. 4, 1861, Wood County was constituted one superintendent district, and in the fbllowing year Dr. G. F. Witter was elected county superintendent, a position which he ably filled. The institute for teachers was organized in the same year and the first session held in the schoolhouse in Grand Rapids under the immediate direction and control of the superintendent. The desirability of a normal school was early recognized, as proved by the following order passed by the county board Nov. 25, 1863: "There shall be and hereby is appropriated * * * a sum not exceeding one hundred dollars for expenses of a. normal school in Wood County." The amount seemed small for such a purpose, but was probably as much as the county could afford, and in any case it showed a progressive spirit and a dawning appreciation of educational needs. Another item in the records shows that a normal school class was established about this time, being taught in 1864 by J. W. Harris. Several years later Lyman Howe, of Grand Rapids, having bequeathed the sum of $10,000 to found a public school, the county board, on Dec. 15, 1870, appointed a committee to confer with the common council of that city and the trustees of the legacy "relative to the propriety of raising means and taking measures to procure the location of a State Normal School at Grand Rapids." It was further resolved Jan. 20, 1871, "to donate $5,000 and site; or if the trustees of the Howe fund so-called shall pledge the same, to an amount not less than $10,000, then the county shall pledge $15,000; this if the state puts the school here before Jan. 1, 1872." As the Howe fund was tied up and not paid over, being a subject of litigation and dispute for a number of years, the efforts to establish a normal or teachers' training school at that time on a comprehensive plan were unsuccessful.

In 1873 Dr. Witter, who had again been elected county superintendent, made application to the state superintendent of schools for funds to help maintain the Institute and for a competent person to be appointed to take charge of it, both of which requests were complied with and the Institute placed on a solid basis. During the next ten years the county school system made satisfactory progress, and the superintendent's report in 1883 showed that there were then 53 districts with 59 teachers, with a total of 3,578 pupils. In 1885 there were 55 districts, 64 teachers and 4,333 pupils.

In 1886 the number of children of school age was 4,736, of whom 2,821 were enrolled. The report for 1887 shows 4,959 children of school age from 4 to 20 years of age, of whom 4,853 attended school, the number credited to the public schools being 2,643. There were 57 schools and 67 teachers. Geo. T. Rowland was superintendent, following Edward Lynch.

The record for the school year of 1887-1888 (September to June) shows 5,296 children of 4 to 20 years, with a public school enrollment of 2,733. There were 60 schools and 73 teachers, with Mr. Rowland still superintendent.

In 1889 the number of children was 5,762, of whom 3,066 were registered. There were five new districts established and six new schoolhouses built, and a school was opened at South Centralia.

In 1890 there were 66 districts; children 4 to 20 years, 6,191, of whom 3,086 ranged in age from 7 to 14 years. The public school enrollment was 2,142; private school enrollment 409; those not attending any school 535. Geo. T. Rowland was superintendent.

The number of districts in 1891 was 69, with 73 schools and 90 teachers, of the latter 19 being male and 71 female. The children of school age, from 4 to 20 years numbered 6,233, of whom 3,499 attended public and 622 private schools. The supervisors note at this time, quoting the report of Supt. Edward Lynch, that "the log schoolhouses of pioneer days are fast disappearing and are being replaced with neat appearing frame structures seated with patent desks and furnished with slate blackboards and other conveniences for use and comfort." There were three high schools in the county, one at Grand Rapids, one at Centralia and the other at Marshfield, the Centralia school having been raised to the rank of a high school this year.

In 1892 the number of districts had increased to 70, and there were 76 buildings, with 95 teachers, 13 male and 82 female. The number of children of school age (exclusive of Grand Rapids) was 6,768, with an enrollment of 3,807. Eleven schoolhouses were built during the year, "an unparalled record," said Superintendent Lynch. The Centralia schoolhouse was a modern building of four rooms and cost about $6,000.

No new districts were laid out in 1893 and no schoolhouses built, but two additional male teachers were employed, which raised the total number of teachers employed to 97. The number of children of school age had increased to 6,977, of whom 3,984 were attending school. On May 31, 1893, it was ordered that $30,000 be held for a normal school if erected by the state. In 1894 four new schoolhouses were built and 100 teachers were employed. The children of school age under county jurisdiction numbered 7,016, an increase of 35 over the preceding year, but the increase in attendance was 356. There were 71 districts and 78 schoolhouses, four new schoolhouses having been built during the year. In his report Superintendent Lynch said:

"Since 1890 the school population has increased 825, and five new districts have been created. The graded schools at Centralia and Marshfield have been raised to high schools. The enrollment has been raised from 53 per cent to 62 per cent of all children from 4 to 20 years of age. Township school libraries have been established in fully one-half of the towns, 1,225 books having been bought." In 1895 there were 72 districts (exclusive of cities) and 79 schoolhouses, with 102 teachers, 18 male and 84 female. This did not include the new ward school of Marshfield, which had been built at a cost of $9,000, or the new district of Milladore. The children of school age, from 4 to 20 years, numbered 7,503, of whom 4,139 attended public school. The number of children who had attended private school (between the ages of 7 and 13) was 516. The law relating to school libraries had recently changed, so that it was now mandatory for the town treasurer to withhold from the state school fund each year the sum of ten cents for each child of school age in his town, and for the town clerk to expend the same for library books as the law provided." This appears in the report of R. A. Havenor, superintendent. In 1896 the districts under the control of the county board numbered 73, one more having been added since the preceding year. No new schoolhouses were built, but the number of teachers was increased to 107, 21 males and 86 females. The number of children of school age (4 to 20 years) was 7,820, of whom 4,550 attended public and 516 private school, the latter between the ages of 7 and 13. R. A. Havenor was county superintendent.

The number of districts by the end of the year 1897 was 76, and the number of teachers 112. Two new schoolhouses had been erected. Mr. Havenor was still county superintendent. The report of Superintendent Havenor for 1898 showed that the county had 78 school districts and 115 teachers. The children of school age numbered 8,817 and there was a much better attendance. Also that the city of Marshfield was about to build an $18,000 school.

In 1899 0. J. Leu was superintendent, and his report shows 9,192 children of school age, with a public school attendance of 3,042; private schools, 755. There were 86 districts and 92 schoolhouses and the new schoolhouse at Marshfield had been completed. Only two log schoolhouses were left in the county, these being located respectively in District No. 7, Town of Seneca and Joint District No. 6 Town of Saratoga.

Superintendent Leu's report for 1900 showed there were 8,891 children of school age, of whom 2,991 attended public and 710 private schools. There were 88 districts and 91 schoolhouses.

In 1902, with O. J. Leu superintendent, there were 9,160 children of school age (exclusive of Milladore), with 94 districts and 132 teachers. Joint District No. 4, Seneca Township, was about to build a new brick schoolhouse. Mr. Leu notes in his report: "A good teacher at from $40 to $50 per month is by far cheaper than a poor one at from $25 to $30.

On Feb. 11, 1903, the board resolved to establish a county training school. The city of Grand Rapids (which now included Centralia) offered the use of the necessary rooms, with free heat, light and janitor service for three years or more. E. P. Arpin was given a vote of thanks for his activity in promoting this matter. At this time the children of school age in the county numbered 9,700, there being 4,871 between the ages of 7 and 14. The number'attending public schools was 3,264; private schools, 1,113. There were 149 teachers. The superintendent was Robert Morris.

The Training School was opened Sept. 1 the same year (1903), in the Lincoln High School building, E. P. Arpin being chairman of the Training School board; Prof. M. H. Jackson (from Columbus, Wis.) principal, and Miss Etta Michaels as assistant to the principal. The initial attendance was 49.

The report for 1904 gives the number of children of school age as 7,377; a general attendance of 4,416 (3,719 between the ages.of 7 and 14); public school attendance 2,536; private school attendance, 943, which seems to be a discrepancy. The number of districts was 99. Eleven graduates of the Training School began teaching; also nine other graduates who had had some previous experience, and nine with only a part of the Training School course.

The number of children of school age in 1905 was 7,467 (4 to 20 years); 4,591 attended. The record of children between 7 and 14 years was 3,648, of which 2,585 attended. There were 126 teachers, 18 male and 108 female, and 99 districts. Robert Morris was superintendent. In this year the city of Grand Rapids granted 668 acres, for the site of a separate training school, and voted the sum of $20,000 for the building.

The figures for the year 1906 were: Children of school age, 4 to 20 years, 7,664; 7 to 14 years, 3,951; attendance, 2,780. There were 124 teachers, with Robert Morris superintendent. There were 25 graduates from the training school in June. In 1907 the number of children of school age was 7,000 (exclusive of Grand Rapids and Marshfield). The public school attendance was 4,371; the number of teachers 124, number ot districts 104. The Training School had 90 graduates. In 1908, with Robert Morris still superintendent, one more teacher was added, the number of districts remaining the same. There were 4,182 pupils enrolled. The graduates from the Training School numbered 115. In 1909 it was reported that 58 of the 103 districts in the county had drawn on the Training School for teachers, and that in over 56 per cent of the rural schools the positions were filled by its graduates, of whom there had been 144 up to that time. Sixty of them were teaching in the cities. For the same year the number of children of school age was given as 7,293 (exclusive of Grand Rapids and Marshfield), the number between the ages of 7 and 14 being 3,705. Public school enrollment, 2,484; parochial schools, 491. There were 103 districts, requiring 126 teachers. The number of teachers employed during the year was 131.

The number of districts remained the same in 1910. Of the 103 districts 94 had one department; three had two departments, and three had three departments.  Two employed six teachers each, one employed seven. There were 7,184 children of school age (4 to 20 years), with 4,235 enrolled.

In 1911 the Training School had three teachers, and in June there were 37 graduates, bringing the total number up to 212. Ninety-three teachers were enrolled, 10 male and 83 female. George A. Varney succeeded Robert Morris as superintendent. The county still had 103 districts; the number of teachers employed was 129, 15 male and 114 female. The school census showed a total of 6,978 children, with an enrollment of 4,003. Close supervision was being introduced. In 1912 there were 7,097 children of school age, with 3,768 ehrolled. One more district had been added, making 104. There were five graded schools and one high school, the number of teachers employed being 130. The Training School had 37 graduates.

The report of Superintendent Varney for 1913 gave the number of children between the ages of 4 and 20 as 7,216; between the ages of 7 and 14, 3,636; enrolled, 4,051; number of districts, 104, with one high school. There were 132 teachers employed, 74 being graduates of the Training School. In this year it was resolved to establish a County School of Agriculture on the top floor of the Training School. In this year the state created the City Board of Education.

The superintendent's report for the year 1914 gave the number of children of school age as 7,453. There were 104 disctricts, 94 rural schoolhouses, 8 graded schools and 2 high schools. In the rural schools 2,787 pupils were enrolled. and in the graded schools, 630; below high school, 339; high school, 70. There were accommodations for pupils as follows: rural, 3,712; state graded, 854; below high school, 437; high school, 150; total, 1,535. County graduation was held for the first time and some social center work was done.

In 1915 the total number of children of school age was 7,557; those between the ages of 7 and 14, 3,659; those enrolled between the ages of 7 and 14, 2,889; pupils in'parochials, 687. There were 106 districts and 138 teachers. A law was passed this year providing for supervising teachers and a committee of three was appointed by the board. The Training School had three teachers, with 93 pupils, and there were 29 graduates, bringing the total number of graduates up to 336. The City School of Agriculture and Domestic Economy had three teachers and 27 pupils, 12 male and 15 female.

For the year 1916 the school census showed a total of 7,541 children of school age, of whom 3,673 were between the ages of 7 and 14. The number enrolled was 3,983, 2,904 between the ages of 7 and 14. There were 604 pupils in parochial schools. The number of districts was 105, teachers 142, 13 male and 129 female, and the total number of books in the school libraries in the county was 239,928. Of the teachers 85 were graduates of the Training School, which had 3 teachers and 104 pupils. The Agricultural School had four teachers and 39 pupils. In 1917 the number of children of school age was 7,651; between the ages of 7 and 14, 3,558. There were 105 districts with 4,051 children enrolled, the number between the ages of 7 and 14 being 3,128. There were also ten parochial schools in operation with a total enrollment of 781 pupils. The public school teachers numbered 134, of whom 85 were graduates of the Training School. George A. Varney continued as superintendent. There were six graduates from the School of Agriculture and Domestic Economy. The Training School had 36 graduates.  

In 1918 the children of school age numbered 7,507; those between the ages of 7 and 14, 3,566. The total enrollment in public schools was 4,385; parochial schools, 693. There was no change in the number of districts but two teachers were added, there being now 100 who were graduates of the Training School. The Agricultural School had three teachers, with an enrollment of 33 pupils. There were four graduates, making a total of 16. The Training School, with three teachers, had 36 graduates. Robert Morris was county superintendent.

The superintendent's report for 1919 gave the total number of children of school age as 7,570, those between the ages of 7 and 14 numbering 3,596. There were 105 districts, with a total of 4,280 pupils enrolled. The number of teachers was 144. The parochial schools numbered 12 with an enrollment of 614 pupils. A high school was. instituted in Auburndale. The Training School, with 73 pupils enrolled, had 30 graduates, bringing the total number of graduates up to 491. This school employed three teachers. The Agricultural School, with four teachers, had 27 pupils enrolled, with three graduates, bringing the total number of graduates up to 19.

In 1920 the total number of children of school age was 7,703; those between the ages of 7 and 14, 3,624. There were 105 districts with 148 teachers employed, 7 male and 141 female; the number of pupils enrolled was 4,496. The Training School had 41 graduates and the Agricultural School, 1. Robert Morris was county superintendent.

1921.-The report for this year shows total accommodations for 4,908 pupils divided as follows: rural, 3,092; high school and below, 1,198; state graded schools, 618. The total number of library books was 22,898, and 79 districts furnished free books. The number of children of school age was 7,717, of which 3,715 were between the ages of 7 and 14. There were 105 districts divided as follows: rural, 90; state graded schools, first class, 5; state graded schools, second class, 7; high schools, 3. The enrollment was as follows: rural, 2,582; state graded, 1,066; grades below high school, 507; high school, 160; total, 4,315. The number enrolled between the ages of 7 and 14 was 3,899. There were nine parochial schools with a total of 650 pupils.

The enrollment in the graded schools was thus divided: kindergarten, 21; first grade, 164; second grade, 150; third grade, 97; fourth grade, 82; fifth grade, 97; sixth grade, 91; seventh grade, 101; eighth grade, 89; nunth grade, 23; tenth grade, 14.

The above figures do not apply to those schools which include a high school course, the figures for which are as follows: kindergarten, 29; first grade, 83; second grade, 55; third grade, 41; fourth grade, 53; fifth grade, 52; sixth grade, 49; seventh grade, 31; eighth grade, 33; ninth grade, 65; tenth grade, 42; eleventh grade, 23; twelfth grade, 20. The number of districts furnishing free text books were as follows: rural schools, 70; state graded, 8; high school and grades below, 1; total, 79. Of rural schools enrolling five pupils or less there was one; between six and ten, there were two; between 11 and 15, 16; between 16 and 20, six;'between 21 and 25, 18; between 26 and 30, nine; between 31 and 35, 13; between 36 and 40, ten; between 41 and 45, six; between 46 and 50, one; between 51 and 55, two; between 55 and 59, one; 60 or over, two; total number of rural schools according to above enumeration, 87.

The number of teachers in rural schools were: male 2, female 85; in state graded schools, male 4, female 36; in high schools and grades below, male 5, female 19; total, males 11, females 140.

Certificates held: state certificates, 38; first grade, 35; second grade, 56; third grade, 15; special limited, 3; training school, 4.

The disbursements for the school year were as follows: rural schools, $143,332.26; state graded, $167,444.02; high school and grades below, $50,833.86; high school, $12,462.55; total, $374, 072.69. Ruth C. Bennett was county superintendent. The Wood County School of Agriculture and Domestic Economy had four teachers, one male and three female. The number of pupils enrolled was 25, of whom 17 were male and 8 female. (There were four graduates of this school June 30, 1921, three male and one female.) The total number of graduates since the beginning is 24. The Training School graduated 41 pupils, making a total of 532 graduates of this school.

The only township high school in the county is located in Auburndale Township. It was built in 1919. An account of the schools of Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield and the other cities or villages of the county may be found in the respective histories of those places included in this volume.

The following historical sketch of the Normal School was written by Prof. M. H. Jackson and contains its history in more compact and consecutive form than can be found in the fragmentary and interrupted records of the county board.

Wood County Normal and Agricultural School.-"The Wood County Normal School was started when the plan was still an experiment in the state. In February, 1902, the county board of supervisors voted an appropriation and applied to the state for aid, which was granted, and the school was opened the following September with the present principal, M. H. Jackson in charge and with only one assistant, Miss Etta Michaels, now a teacher in the Milwaukee Normal School. From the start the school has been a success. More than 600 students have graduaeed form the institution and have gone out to teach in this and other counties.

The present building was built in 1907, the school having been quartered up to that time in buildings owned by the city of Wisconsin Rapids.

"In 1914 the Wood County School of Agriculture and School of Domestic Science was organized and coordinated with the Wood County Normal School under one managing board, and M. H. Jackson was made superintendent of both schools. The two schools being under one management has worked for economy, as the faculties of both institutions are able to simplify exchange of work between them, making a smaller combined faculty possible. Mr. W. W. Clark, who afterward acted as county agent for Wood County was the first principal of the Agricultural School. Mr. S. G. Corey followed Mr. Clark and is now its head.

"The Agricultural School has been uniformly successful. Many boys have been trained for scientific farm work at home, and several have gone on to higher institutions. Many have accepted excellent positions in farm management and in cow-testing associations. One of the important activities of the County Agricultural School is the establishment of a department under government and state aid known as the 'Smith-Hughes fund.' Through this department small schools of two weeks' duration are established in the county during the winter months, to accommodate boys of school age who are not in any school. Large numbers of boys have in this way been helped directly in the immediate problems of the farm and a few have been pointed the way to higher institutions.

"The County School building is a busy hive of industry during the school year. In it are to be found all of the county educational activities. The offices of the county superintendent of schools, the county agent and the county nurse are also located here, thereby saving a large amount of money and time in stenographers' service, office expenses, etc. No other county in Wisconsin is so thoroughly organized in all its educational activities. This is the unanimous verdict of those who visit Wood County. One continuous board of education has made this development possible. Mr. E. P. Arpin of Wisconsin Rapids, and former Lieutenant Governor W. D. Connor, of Marshfield, have been on the board from the beginning, and with them have been associated successively Robert Morris, the late Geo. A. Varney and Miss Ruth C. Bennett, who have been members ex-officio when administering the office of county superintendent of schools.

"The expenses of the schools are borne by the state and county, the state bearing nearly all the expenditures for the salaries of teachers. At present the combined faculties of the two schools, in addition to Mr. Jackson and Mr. Corey, are Lillian MacDirmid, Margaret Breene, G. F. Porter, A. N. Howalt, and one to be elected to take the place of Miss Agnes Breene who has recently resigned to finish her course in physical training at the University of Wisconsin. After June, 1923, the courses of study are to include a four-year course for eighth-grade graduates. a three-year and a two-year course for students of more entrance preparation, and a one-year course for high school graduates. In the Agricultural and Domestic. Science School the courses are uniformly two years.

"The Wood County Normal and Agricultural School has from the first received the generous support of the people. Its extensive service is now recognized as a. necessary part of Wood County's activities. The members of the faculties go out into the country under the direction of the county superintendent to attend and take part in social and civic work. They give from 75 to 100 addresses a year in country schoolhouses."