Monday, September 26, 2011

Burr Oak School

1940 Burr Oak School, Somers, Wisconsin
(Photo Courtesy of Marie, Granddaughter of Charles Clark)

1945 Burr Oak School, Somers, Wisconsin
(Photo Courtesy of Marie, Granddaughter of Charles Clark)

(Source:  Original photo including names, courtesy of Lynn Thompson Powell)

Burr Oak School, Town of Somers, Kenosha County
Class Picture May 1897

Back row from left:  Stella Jensen, Sadie Haigh, Blanche Yule, Anna Nelson, Lizzie Drissel, Mabel Yule, Kate Schaeffer, Lottie Haigh, Mabel Cook, Jake Schaeffer

3rd row from left:  Johnnie Black, Louis Gentz, Clarence Lytle, Frank Drissel, Laura Jensen, Ida Nelson, Erma Bowers, Mary Larson, Lizzie Gitzlaff

2nd row from left: Andrew Petersen, Jens Jensen, Clarence Yule, George Drissel, Willie Thompson, George Gentz, Carrie Nelson, Larena Bailey, Edith Yule, Sena Jensen

1st row from left:  Anton Larsen, Max Gould, Harry Thompson, Jay Gould, Marcia Bowers, Inger Nelsen, Malvina Gitzlaff, Nick Drissel

Frank Rhodes absent but name is on the board
Teacher is Miss Minnie A Grimshaw

School District No. 5 - Burr Oak
The organization of this school reads"
"The undersigned Commissioners of Common Schools of the Town of Pike, having met at the house of H. and I.L. Johnson in said Town for the purpose of deliberating upon an application for the formation of a school district by Jehiel Hughes and others, dated November 14, 1845, and having taken the subject into consideration, do hereby determine to organize a District to be composed of the following territory, viz:
Sections No. 7, 8, 17, 18, and the North half of Sections No. 19 and 20, and the Northwest 1/4 of Section No. 21 and the South half of Sections No. 5 and 6 and the West 1/2 of Sections No. 9 and 16 and the southwest 1/4 of Section No.4 to be known and distinguished as School District No. 5 - the North half of Sections No. 19 and 20 and the Northwest 1/4 of Section No. 21 having been attached from School District No. 4 and included in the above described District.
Dated - Pike - December 13, 1845.
Signed, Leonard Lee and A.T. Maltby, School Commissioners"
The first apportionment of school money recorded is April 14, 1848, the amount District No. 5 received was $21.24.
Thirty children enrolled.

In the early school history, the custom was to have Town Superintendents of School instead of a County Superintendent. Among the early Town Superintendents were George DeLong, Alson Felsh, T.L. Cooley.
From 1845 to 1868 no record is available, as all were destroyed. There was a small light-colored leather trunk, 8x16x15 inches that held the school records for years, and it was among the early relics and records lost.
But during these years a schoolhouse had been built in the northwestern corner of the grove now belonging to the Thomas R. Birchells. This building faced the east, and had a fence at the south and east sides, the north and west sides being open to the highway. The floor, with its rude desks, was built amphitheatrical. A long seat extending the entire length at the rear of the room, was for the advanced pupils. The stove was long and box-like, into which great cord-wood sticks were burned. The toilets were built in the grove beyond, and when the pupils visited them, they were obliged to climb over the fence.
Water for drinking had to be brought in a wood pail from the Bowker well. To "go after water" was quite a privilege, as it took two pupils, and though the pail was large, and the way was hot and dusty, or cold and stormy, no one complained. The water pail was passed around, and everyone drank from the little tin cup.
The usual plan followed the first decade of the school's history, was to have a man teacher for the winter term, and a woman for the summer.
Miss Ann Jordan, a much beloved teach and talented singer, organized a singing school in this first building, that was attended by the folk of the community, and many were the good times enjoyed.
She and George Spence, Minnie Gager, and Phoebe Bishop, also William G. Spence, who taught the last year of school in this building, are all of the early teachers of whom we have any record.
This building was sold more than 75 years ago to Albert Hughes, and moved on to his farm, where it has been used for a granary and tool shed.
This schoolhouse, like those early homes, was most substantially built. The lath used were made of wide boards, split into the required width.
September 28, 1868 a meeting was called, and M.B. Bowker was elected as Clerk, at a salary of five dollars per year. It was also moved to raise money for a site and to build a new schoolhouse and have seven months' school, to be taught by a female teacher, for $190; also voted to have ten cords of seasoned wood furnished by the lowest bidder.
September 27, 1869 a vote prevailed to raise $800 for the purpose of buying or leasing a school site, and erecting a building upon same. The site chosen was a short distance west of the original, and the one on which Burr Oak School stands today.

George and John Hughes did the carpenter work.

"Burr Oak School" --so very appropriately named--when I think of its playgrounds, with those stately oaks, I think of Lowell, who said:
"What gnarled stretch, what depth of shade is His!
There needs no crown to mark the forest's king."

An interesting feature of this site is--"The rain-drops on the west side of the schoolhouse go to the Mississippi River, while the drops on the east side go to the St. Lawrence River."
The first teacher in the new building was William Spence, who also taught the last term in the old building.
August 23, 1892, at a special meeting of the district, it was decided to build an addition of six feet on to the south end of the building. James E. Spencer did the work. Among those who have served on the School Board for more than ten years are: Clerk-Myron B. Bowker, 12 years; James E. Spencer, 16 years; John Haigh, 17 years. Treasurer-William J. Rhodes, 21 years, and his son, Jay W. Rhodes, 35 consecutive years. Director-Enoch Haigh, 15 years.
Among the early teachers in District No. 5 were: Ann Jordan, Phoebe Bishop, George Spence, Minnie Gager, William Spence, Phillip Barnes (later an attorney at law), David Flett (attorney at law and later made Judge of the first municipal court of Racine), Mary Burgess, Delia Cutting, who continued teaching many years, Clarence Smith, who later went to California and became very prosperous, and Cora Marcher, who became Mrs. Bickle. She is the mother of Frederick March, movie artist.
Among the early pupils were: Bingham Porters' three daughters, who followed the teaching profession many years, Will Spencer, teacher in the west, later established as Superintendent of the Astor Buidling, New York City, James e. Spencer, prominent in the civic activities in Somers, Clark Spencer, teacher for many years, Jess Hughes, who heard his country's call--later engineer for more than 20 years, with the C.B. & I. R.R. Company, George, John and Albert Hughes, who operated the Hay Press and Feed Mill in Somers, many years. Florence Spencer, school teacher and teacher of music many years, and popular soprano singer, Mary and Fanny Bowker, both teachers, Henry Flett and John Beffel, prominent physicians, Katherine L. Schaeffer, teacher, entered mission field in China, where she devoted more than thirty five years in the work, died and was buried in Hainan, China, Willis Hughes, ticket agent at Northwestern Depot, Chicago, Jacob Schaeffer, Vice President of the Glen Dive State Bank, Montanta, Arthur Hughes, civil engineer in Africa, Laura and Madline Hughes, who operated a stenographers' office in San Francisco, California, with more than 100 girls in their employ, and many other great men and women who have come out from the Burr Oak School well equipped to meet the problems of life, because of that early training by those early teachers, whom we remember. Anton Nelson was a student at Number 5 and went to Chicago, where for many years he was employed at the Post Office.
The first graduating exercises held in the rural schools of the Town of Somers, were held in District No. 5, now Burr Oak. Minnie A. Grimshaw, teacher."
(Source:  My Memoirs by Minnie A.G. Ozanne, Copyright 1948 - Minnie A.G. Ozanne.  All Rights Reserved.)

History of Burr Oak School - Somers Township - District No. 5
Burr Oak School, District No. 5 of Somers Township, was organized November 14, 1845, the first building being erected some time later in a grove of what is known as the Thomas Birchell farm.  This building was sold about 65 years ago and moved to the Albert Hughes farm, where it is still in use as a granary and tool shed.  In the fall of 1849, a new site was selected, and a new building erected.  The building was enlarged in August, 1892.  Within the past year the schoolhouse has been entirely remodeled through the FERA and is now one of the township's modern buildings.  Officers of the District are Ernest Tabbert; Director, J.W. Rhodes; Treasurer; and John Haigh, Clerk.
(Source:  Kenosha News, June 1935 Centennial Edition, Civic and Social Section)

Burr Oak School, Somers Township
Teacher, Conrad Shearer
(Source:  Original photo courtesy of Jim and Sharon Bose Smith.)
 If anyone can identify these children, please email Jackie Klapproth Nelson at

Burr Oak School in the News
"A surprise party was arranged for Mr. and Mrs. Louis Wilcox at the Burr Oak School recreation hall, Sunday night, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the marriage."
(Source:  Racine Journal November 19, 1942)

"Registration for gasoline at the Burr Oak schoolhouse last week numbered 807."
(Source:  Racine Journal November 19, 1942)

No comments:

Post a Comment