Ferry School had its beginning in September, 1913, when as the Fourth Ward School, it was built on the southwest corner of what is now called Pennoyer and Ferry Streets. It replaced the Beech Tree School located at Beech Tree and Pennoyer which was purchased by Otto Glueck for his home. He lived there with his family until his death. His daughter, Elise, lives there now with her husband, Bob Schell.

The Fourth Ward School was built on property of five acres purchased from Henry J. Bolt who had a garden and cow pasture there. It was a brick building with three floors containing eight classrooms and a kindergarten room. The front entrance to the main floor was on Pennoyer Street, but on a cold day, a lucky child could enter at the side door. When you entered this way, you went down a few steps to the boiler room, bathroom facilities, one classroom and the kindergarten room. The main floor had four classrooms. The office was on the third floor because the sixth grade teacher was also the principal.

Miss Ella Mulder was the first teacher-principal and Mr. Albert Wall the first custodian until he retired in 1920. Miss Myrtle Cherry6 was also an early teaching principal. Later, she and Miss Julia Soule were in charge of the "Normal Room and trained high school graduates in teaching skills. Miss Cherry was also a teaching supervisor and observed classroom teaching at Fourth Ward School.

The athletic field, also used by the high school, was completely rebuilt in 1926 and was considered one of the finest playing fields. It was so well built and so perfectly drained, that during a wet season it was the only playable high school football field in the state.

In 1927, an addition to the Fourth Ward School was begun. Superintendent E. H. Babcock kept a close watch on all phases of the building as well as the finances. The total cost of the new expansion was $126,994.08. This amount was raised by bonding for $125,000. The sale of the bonds to the John Nuveen Company brought a premium of $1,355. Mr. Babcock was well known for his close watch of construction as well as the cost.

Mr. Babcock was very proud of Ferry School and brought visitors to see it even when the building was twenty-five years old. Mr. McLaughlin, a later principal, remembers how Mr. Babcock always had a pencil stub in his pocket and would figure the amount needed for a project. He would also draw pictures as to how it could be done and what it should cost.

The Warren-Holmes-Power Company was engaged as architects. The general contract was awarded to George Lathers and Sons of Traverse City. The heating and plumbing was done by L. J. Deming Company of Cadillac, and the electrical work was contracted by the Grand Haven Electric Company. Al and Jim Van Bemme helped put in the footing and laid brick for the new wing.


The foyer revealed the character of the building. The walls were built of caen stone with soft antique finish accomplished by using hundreds of gallons of sour milk in the process. The terrazzo floor wrought iron stair rails, recessed benches for waiting parents, and beautiful tile made the entrance outstanding. Small colored tile insets and small carved figures in high relief, tiled drinking fountains and broad well lighted stairways impressed everyone.

The classrooms were models of innovative school arrangements at that time with movable seats and shelves for library books. Cork bulletin boards on one side and blackboard units on the other side made for versatility of usage. The big, broad windows, soft colored walls, and battleship linoleum covered floors with tiled edges under the lockers were both practical and pleasing.

The kindergarten room was one of the most unusual rooms. A big fireplace on one end, low seats along the walls so legs wouldn’t dangle, cupboards, drinking fountains at just the right height, cloak room and private bathrooms made it the talk of the town.

The fresh air room was also innovation. It had big hospital windows which swung without causing drafts for the children who were ill and needed to get away from the closer confines of a regular room. This room was used for only about ten years as health practices, changed. (One can imagine a few youngsters who might have found this an interesting diversion as they coughed or complained of stomach aches,)

The big auditorium-gym, large stage, and kitchenette were often used by organizations for school functions. A clinic room was convenient to the gym in case anyone was injured. There was also a dental chair for the convenience of the city nurses, dentists, and doctors.

The dedication exercises for the newly named Ferry School were held on December 14, 1928. Superintendent E. H. Babcock and the Board of Education joined with the teachers and Miss Laura Wuennecke, who was then the principal and sixth grade teacher, to celebrate with the community the opening of the new building.

Rev. Henry Beltman, pastor of the Second Reformed Church, gave the invocation followed by selections from the Girls Glee Club. The formal presentation of the school was made by Warren Holmes, the architect. Acceptance remarks were given by Henry V. Bolt, vice-president of the school board. A flag, given to the school by the Spanish War Veterans Auxiliary, was presented by Mrs. August Hahn. Miss Ardean Rysdorp played a violin solo. The address of the evening, given by Webster Pierce, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, was the main part of this auspicious occasion.

When the Board of Education changed the name of the Fourth Ward School to that of Ferry School, they picked significant name from the history of Grand Haven. It was taken to honor the memory of the family of Rev. William Montague Ferry who founded the city.


To review the history of this notable family, let us recall briefly these historical facts: Rev. and Mrs.William M. Ferry had three children who lived here.  Their oldest son, William Montague Ferry, Jr., was a colonel in the army. Thomas W. Ferry became a United States Senator, and Noah Henry Ferry was killed at Gettysburg.

In the fall of 1834, Rev. Ferry and family, accompanied by C. Duverny and family, arrived in what is now Grand Haven from Mackinac Island. William Ferry had gone to the island as a young man from Granby, Massachusetts, to carry the Gospel to the wilderness. He was appointed a missionary among the Indians of Northwest. He remained at Mackinac Island for twelve years.  Robert Stuart, connected with John Astor’s fur company, had bought land at the mouth of the Grand River. He gave Rev. Ferry several thousand dollars and asked him to look after, and possibly improve, his property. Ferry and Nathan White, his brother-in-law, later organized a company which bought large tracts of land and built a mill and began a logging business. Ferry’s business ventures marked the beginning of a real settlement at the mouth of the Grand River. Miss Mary White, a sister-in-law, was the first school teacher. Rev. Ferry organized the present Presbyterian Church and the family remained in Grand Haven for many years. Thus, it seemed most fitting for the Board to rename the Fourth Ward School after this illustrious family.

In the early morning on April 3, 1936, fire entirely destroyed the east wing of Ferry School. The section burned was the old Fourth Ward School. Parts of the new section were damaged by water and smoke. It started in the lower hall opposite the boiler room. It was discovered after 1:00 a.m. by Joe Bisacky and William Meeusen as they were returning home from work. The fire had already made a great progress and within a short time the entire roof was ablaze, and it was evident that the old wing was doomed. The fire was still burning at eight-thirty in the morning, but by four o’clock in the afternoon it was under control and had not spread to the new section.

It was a spectacular fire with flames mounting high as the roof burned off and the interior of the old section was ablaze. Even though it was the middle of the night many were there viewing the fire. Although the weather was very cold, there was not much wind which was fortunate for the homes nearby. Gerrit Voshel, a volunteer fireman that night, was also a custodian of Ferry School. This was the first serious school fire in Grand Haven since 1902, when the old Central School was totally destroyed on March fifth during a howling blizzard.

There were four hundred children and thirteen teachers using the school at this time. Fortunately the fire happened when no one was in the building.


The building was fully covered by insurance, and the board began making plans to replace the wing with a modern structure to correspond with the main section. Contractor John Kieft was hired to rebuild the burned structure.

In 1943, when Miss Wuennecke retired, there were four vacant rooms. Therefore, some high school history and English classes were held at Ferry School for a few years because of crowded high school conditions. Mr. Lloyd McLaughlin succeeded Miss Wuennecke as principal. He also was a teaching principal for nine years and then was made a fulltime principal – a total of twenty-two years as principal at Ferry School. When "Jack and Jill" in 1953, and "Dick and Jane" in 1957, neighborhood primary schools at the east end on Pennoyer and Park Streets were opened, Lloyd McLaughlin was in charge of them also.

Dr. Mary Kitchel reported that in the early fifties a pilot study for polio immunization was begun at Ferry School. Parents had to sign an agreement for their child to receive either the polio vaccine or a placebo for scientific study. Later, those who received the placebo would receive the polio shot. The program was carried out in the Ferry auditorium-gym. Much earlier, small pox immunization programs were routine at all schools.

Mr. McLaughlin was instrumental in organizing a library at Ferry School. Before this library was available, Ferry teachers went to the high school library every two weeks to select books for their classes. Sixth grade boys would go after the books and return them, using wagons or sleds as the weather allowed. The elementary library books were split between Ferry and Central and were kept in a separate room at the high school. Betty DeYoung, high school librarian, catalogued them.

The Ferry library was set up in part of the old locker room which was revamped into the present library. The library work room and audiovisual room were adjoining rooms off the main library room. (They used to be storage rooms for football equipment, helmets and shoes. It was rumored at that time that the odor from the shoes and equipment clung tenaciously for years.)

From 1956-62, Miss Fleda Nevins who was in charge of the school testing program, shared a section of the old locker rooms which was partitioned off on the other side of the library. Her office contained some lockers, but no showers, although there were two drains in the floor – which made cleaning easier as it could be hosed down. To make the office more presentable she had a rug adroitly covering the drains. One time the sewer backed up and ruined the rug which eventually dried and was cleaned. The most imposing item in the office was her name plate handsomely done up on mahogany with her name in gold leaf.

During McLaughlin’s principalship, the playground was revamped with the help of teachers and the PTA. They needed a place for the kindergartens to play as well as a larger area for the older children to accommodate the growing numbers.

Mr. James Kremer, who had taught fifth and sixth grades at Ferry School for seven years, succeeded Lloyd McLaughlin and remained as principal for twelve years. He also supervised the two neighborhood schools.


There were also three sixth grade classrooms at the First Presbyterian Church which were his responsibility. Jim Kremer and the Ferry faculty worked with the planning of Griffin School which he supervised until it became a separate unit in the fall of 1968.

In January of 1971, the present six-room annex to Ferry School was completed. It contains five classrooms and one furnace room. With this new addition came the conversion from coal to gas heat.

On March 12, 1973, a fire started in the art room during the school day. It was discovered at 2:00 p.m. and the children were evacuated within three minutes. The second and third floors were heavily smoke-filled. Mr. Kremer and Maurice Boon, a teacher, searched that area with great difficulty. The blowers in the heating system carried smoke throughout the school which was closed for the rest of the week to get the building cleaned up.

Again, in 1975, two weeks before school started, there was a fire at the school. Started by vandals who also ransacked the offices, it began in the kitchen. The school had been cleaned and ready to open. It all had to be repainted before school started. Mr. Kremer said he would remember always the cooperative spirit between parents and faculty working together for the good of children. He felt he was part of a great team to help children learn.

Dr. John Crozier became principal in the fall of 1977. He organized the Open Classroom which contained eighty children from within the school district. There were three teacher in this innovative program with each teacher responsible for three grade levels. In the fall of 1979, another Open Classroom was added. There are present6ly 460 children enrolled in the school with twenty faculty members.



1919 to 1980

1919 Mrs. Bert VanDenBosch    
1920 Mrs. Bert VanDenBosch 1954 Mr. Leon Ruiter
1921 Mrs. Tony Kooiman 1955 Mr. Marvin Satter
1922 Mrs. R. A. Smith 1956 Mr. Marvin Satter
1923 Mrs. Royce 1957 Mr. Don DeGlopper
1924 Mrs. J. E. Kinney 1958 Mr. Don DeGlopper
1956 Mrs. John Michener 1959 Mr. Edgar Murdock
1926 Mrs. John Michener 1960 Mr. Edgar Murdock
1927 Mrs. G. Rosso 1961 Mr. Edgar Murdock
1928 Mrs. G. Rosso 1962 Mr. Vern Markle
1929 Mrs. Gus Cohrs 1963 Mrs. Caroline Polich
1930 Mrs. Glenn Olson 1964 Mrs. Ruth Bush
1931 Mrs. Clarence Austin 1965 Mrs. Ruth Bush
1932 Mrs. Harry Swanson 1966 Mrs. Ruth Bush
1933 Mrs. Harry Swanson 1967 Mr. Don Tague
1934 Mrs. Josie Laczynski 1968 Mr. Glenn Gay
1935 Mrs. Frank Ryder 1969 Mrs. Judy Ralya
1936 Mrs. Frank Ryder 1970 Mrs. Judy Ralya
1937 Mrs. Wayne Arkema (Wayne, Cheri) 1971 Mr. & Mrs. Precord
1938 Mrs. Wayne Arkema 1972 Mrs. Ann Banks
1939 Mrs. Lawrence Rolloff 1973 Mrs. Theresa Harden
1940 Mrs. Lawrence Rolloff 1974 Mrs. Jackie Reilly
1941 Mrs. George Marshall 1975 Mrs. Sharon Yonker
1942 Mrs. George Marshall 1976 Mrs. Sharon Yonker
1943 Mrs. A. Grevel 1977 Mrs. Sharon Yonker
1944 Mrs. A. Grevel 1978 Mrs. Barbara Rowe
1945 Mrs. William Vaxter 1979 Mrs. Barbara Rowe
1946 Mrs. William Vaxter 1979 Mrs. Judy Henshaw
1947 Mrs. Gerald Reenders 1979 Mrs. Judy Klont
1948 Mrs. Gerald Reenders 1980 Mrs. Judy Henshaw
1949 Mrs. Maurice Ruster 1980 Mrs. Bonnie Klont
1950 Mrs. Maurice Ruster    
1951 Mrs. Maurice Ruster    
1952 Mrs. Joe Weavers    
1953 Mrs. Joe Weavers    



Mr. Edward P. Cummings 1906-1913
Mr. John Hoekje 1913-1916
Mr. Arthur Dondineau 1916-1921
Mr. Lawrence VanDerBerg 1921-1925
Mr. Earl Babcock 1925-1952
Mr. Ralph Van Volkinburg 1951-1970
Dr. William Bocks 1970-1975
Dr. Joseph Zapytowski 1976-


Miss Ella Mulder

Miss Margaret Robertson

Miss Myrtle Cherry

Miss Laura Wuennecke



Miss Laura Wuennecke 1929-1943
Mr. Lloyd McLaughlin 1943-1965
Mr. Jim Kremer 1965-1977
Dr. John Crozier 1977-


Transcriber: Barb Jones
Created: 1 February 2007