Friday, February 17, 2012

School History of Somers Township

Establishing Schools
"The establishing of our public schools in the Township of Somers (formerly called Pike) began more than a century ago, as the first school was kept in the winter of 1836, in the Longwell house (still standing), on the old Indian Trail, later the Green Bay Road, and was taught by Miss Brozee.  From this humble beginning, developed our present beautiful modernized state graded, and rural schools.

(Source:  My Memoirs by Minnie A.G. Ozanne, Copyright 1848 Minnie A.G. Ozanne.  All Rights Reserved.)
Somers Township has (1948) five State Graded Schools and three modernized one-room schools, employing 16 teachers for approximately 412 students.  The majority of students of our schools follow on into higher fields of learning.

School District #1 and Washington School
Organized in the early 1840's, School District #1 has been most prominent as an educational center in Our Town.  The first building was erected on the Green Bay Trail, where it stood until 1886, when a new site was purchased one-half  a mile west on the Somers highway.  Of this first school but little history is available, still we know that out from its doors came many of Our Town's professional men and women.  Among them were:  Rev. James Buswell, Congregational Minister; Rev. Moses Buswell, Jr. Baptist Minister; Ezra Buswell, Leader and Teacher in the Christian Science faith; Miss Belle Spence, teacher for many years, later becoming City Missionary of Chicago.  Among others who became prominent teachers were Mrs. Mary Spence Booth, William and George Spence.  Isaac T. Bishop, an early student, served as State Senator for some years.
This building was in use until 1925 (when it was sold to John Yunk and is a dwelling for his son's family), when a two-room State Graded School was erected on this site, which became known as the Washington State Graded School.  Two teachers are employed.
Note:  Moses Buswell was Clerk of District No. 1 for many years."
(Source: My Memoirs, by Minnie A.G. Ozanne. Copyright 1948--Minnie A.G. Ozanne. All Rights Reserved.)

Schools of Somers Township
"Schools of Somers Township were among the first to be established in Kenosha County.  The township now has five state graded schools and three modernized one-room rural schools.  Three of the units are joint districts - Hannan and Stephenson with Pleasant Prairie, and No. 14 Garfield-Columbia, at Kellogg's Corners, occupied jointly with Paris, Mt. Pleasant, and Yorkville.

Burr Oak School, District No. 5, was organized November 14, 1845, the first building being erected some time later in a grove on what is now 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 1869 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.

Records of Pike River School, No. 7, date back to November 30, 1846, when the district was organized.  Modifications and changes have taken place in the district several times.  In 1860 it was made a joint district with Mt. Pleasant.  The first building was completed late in the fall of 1848.  When the new building was constructed in 1905, its predecessor was moved to the L.E. Ozanne farm, where it is still being used as a granary.  The officers of the district at present are Arthur C. Bohm, director, John Klinkhammer, treasurer, and Mrs. L.E. Ozanne, clerk.

The original school at Kellogg's Corners, now the Garfield-Columbia district, was built in 1841.  After a decade of service the school was replaced by a new building, and the first structure converted into a granary on the Daniel Coughlin farm.  The new building stands east of the site of the first Methodist Church in the state of Wisconsin.  Officers of the district include Wiliam E. Tucker, director, Stanley Coughlin, treasurer, and Hardy Helding, clerk.

The growth of the city of Kenosha in recent years has brought about the absorption of one of the school districts formerly existing in Somers Township.  The old Grant School District No. 14 was organized in 1907, drawing from portions of the Berryville, Wood Road, and Hillcrest districts.  The district was in existence until 1924, when the new Grant School was constructed in the City of Kenosha.  The old rural school building, which stood one block north of the MacWhyte Company offices, is now being used as a storehouse by the C.J. Werwie Company.  Although there is no longer any schoolhouse in the district, a school board is still in existence.  This includes John Murray, director, Nick Schackmuth, treasurer, and W. J. Craney, clerk.  All of the officers now live within the city limits and direct the payment of funds for the tuition of the 15 pupils in the district who now attend the new Grant School.  Schackmuth has been treasurer of the district for the past 22 years.

According to W.S. Dearsley, one of the oldest settlers on the Lake Shore Road north of Kenosha, the first school in Berryville District No. 11 was built about 1835.  In 1855 an addition was built.  A new building was constructed in 1872, when 35 pupils were in attendance.  Both buildings occupied sites on the east side of the highway.  The first is being used as a granary on the J.W. Hansche farm, and the second is now part of the home of Emil Julius on the Dearsley Road.  A new two-room brick state graded school was erected in 1923, being enlarged to a four room structure in 1928, when a second story was added.  An auditorium is also provided in the building.  The present school board consists of Axel Mikkelson, director, W.L. Williams, treasurer, and Frank C. Van Thiel, clerk.

One of the five state graded schools in Somers Township is the Wood Road School.  The present modern red brick building was constructed in 1926 on the site purchased for the original school building in early days.  The first school building was sold in 1877 and is still being used on the Joseph Huck farm.  A second building constructed in that year was sold to George P. Thomas in 1927, after the present school was completed.  The board now consists of Harry C. Thompson, director, John F. Swartz, treasurer, and Frank P. Thomas, clerk.  Swartz has been treasurer for the past 23 years.

Prominent as an educational center in Somers Township is the Washington state graded school which has been in existence since the early Forties.  The first building was erected on the Green Bay Trail, where it stood until 1886, when a new site was purchased a mile west on the Somers Road.  The second building erected in that year, served until 1925, when a two-room state graded building was constructed.  The affairs of the district are now supervised by the following board: William Lauer, director, C.D. Christensen, treasurer, and George P. Leet, clerk.

The story of Hillcrest School, district no 2, is more than usual interest.  The site of the first building erected in 1841, about a mile east of the present structure, is still marked by the old foundation stones.  The original building was known as the Ridge School, and the first trustees included some of the best known of Kenosha's pioneers, Cephus Weed, Jonathan H. Talcott, and Jonathan Pierce.  In 1852 the log school house was superseded by a new structure on the present site.  About 10 years ago this one-room building made way for a modern two-room state graded school.  Members of the district board at present are Rudolph Haubrich, director, Harry S. Rogers, treasurer, and Frank Newman, clerk.

It was about 1850 that the first Bullamore Forks School was constructed, to serve the district for about 80 years, when it was moved away to be converted into a dwelling.  The present two-room brick building is thoroughly modern and a great asset to the township's educational facilities.  Roy O. Bullamore, treasurer, Russell Bullamore, director, and Mrs. Elizabeth Umland, clerk, comprise the board.
(Source:  Kenosha News, June 1935 Centennial Edition, Civic and Social section)

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