Organization and History
of the Grand Haven Town and Township Schools
 

 

Akeley Institute

Healy C. Akeley, an attorney in Grand Haven from the east in 1858, and in the thirty years that followed he did much that shaped the history of that town. His work in the lumber and shipping industries was integral to the financial success of young Grand Haven. In 1871 the Boyden and Akeley Shingle Mill was the world’s largest and his steam barges, including the H. C. Akeley, transported goods to every corner of the Great Lakes. Furthermore, Akeley was a civic leader and served as the town’s mayor from 1882 to 1884. By1888, the lumber trade along the Grand River began to wither, so Mr. Akeley made plans to leave Grand Haven for Minneapolis to begin the Akeley Lumber Company. He took with him his Grand Haven born wife and daughter. It was Akeley who in 1882, at a cost in excess of $20,000, provided the Unitarian Church with its first permanent housing, and it was Akeley who, before departing in 1888, provided the Episcopalian Diocese in Western Michigan with the means to begin the first private school for girls in that half of the state.

In 1888, Mr. Akeley reached an agreement with Bishop Gillespie of the Episcopalian Diocese that the Akeley mansion, then valued at $47,000, would be used to honor Akeley’s deceased daughter through its conversion into a facility to educate young women. In memory of his daughter, it was named Blanch Hall. A similar offer of bequest was first made to the Presbyterian Church, but it was rejected.

Because of their respect for Akeley’s eminence in the community and because of their foresight to recognize the potential of the school, many local leaders gave the new school their complete moral and financial support. Names included on the list of original trustees were Dwight Cutler, Grand Haven shipping clerk turned millionaire, hotel owner, banker, lumber baron and Grand Haven Mayor in 1869; George W. McBride, First Lieutenant of Company F. of Michigan Militia; and William P. Savidge, Spring Lake’s lumber-man and State Senator. Church support was also quite evident. Churches throughout the diocese sent gifts and awards. By 1887, $40,000 had been collected from church members for upkeep and expansion. Bishop Gillespie himself advanced the school money when needed. The school opened its doors for the first time on September 12, 1888, with 11 boarding students, 40 day and music students, and five resident teachers. When the school reached capacity, the Bishop on August 18, 1891 dedicated a new building known as Lathrop Hall, in honor of his wife. However, it was more popularly known among the students as Gillespie Hall. Described as a large and handsome edifice and one of the most complete school structures in this part of the state, presenting many architectural features of attractiveness in school publications, it enabled the school to expand from 20 to 50 boarding students and maintain the 40-person maximum of day and music students. The new building was dedicated on August 18, 1891. Kitchen, dining, and assembly facilities were on the first floor, a music practice hall and gymnasium with a 16-foot ceiling were on the second floor, and St. George’s Chapel was located on the third floor. At the building’s dedication various persons broke ground and read an appropriate verse from scripture. Later that year the Slayton home on Washington was acquired to serve as a music building with rooms above for younger children’s bedrooms. Called St. Margarets, it housed fourteen pianos including a concert grand. With that acquisition the whole block which is now the City Square was institute property.

Each year the course of instruction was improved until the institute ranked with the leading schools in the west. This reputation allowed it to acquire a nationally representative corps of students. Though primarily a finishing school, it had a special curriculum for entrance to the University of Michigan. Since most of the faculty was from the finest eastern colleges, the girls were presented with an opportunity for certifying their admission to those schools also.

For $650 a girl was housed and allowed to study the required class-work in the arts; cooking, sewing, mending and general housework; and the "Swedish System" of physical education, including basketball, tennis, and golf, and several foreign languages.

Also mandatory were reading, writing, and arithmetic.

The girls received the finest instruction in voice, piano, dance, and drama from a permanent staff and visiting practicing professionals. Because of its excellent academic reputation the school was tagged with the misnomer Akeley College. The institute felt it was attracting too many girls interested in college preparation, so the administrators began the area’s first kindergarten and made other attempts to attract younger girls.

Commencement was naturally the year’s high point for the girls, and every effort was made to make it a splendid affair. Girls practiced oratory and musical performances in anticipation of that day. It was attended by the Bishop, clergy from Grand Rapids and Muskegon, and local civic leaders. Until her death in 1901, a special seat was always reserved for Mary A. White, the area’s first schoolteacher and the sister-in-law of the city’s founder.

Upon departing from Akeley, many girls went on to make fine records for themselves both in colleges and in special callings after their college work had been completed. They were able to excel as journalists, lawyers, missionaries, librarians, and in other professions in an age of marked sexism.

The girls attended services in St. George’s Chapel each day and on Sundays they could be seen in uniform passing two by two across Washington Street to St. John’s Episcopal Church. Several girls became members of the St. John’s choir. To do so, they were carefully chaperoned to and from school, Every All Saint’s Day was a holiday at Akeley Hall because of the annual arrival of the Bishop. After the death of Bishop Gillespie, his successor, Bishop McKormick, continued this tradition and took an equally active part in the institute’s board.

Because of it location the school could advertise "splendid recreational facilities for long hikes in the woods, beach parties, rowing, skiing, skating, and sliding." However, the school prospectus failed to mention the character, which any such adventures necessarily took on. Whenever the girls left the school campus they were greeted by raucous boys yelling, "rooty-toot, rooty-toot, here comes the girls from the Institoot," and similar taunts. Generally, the presence of the school principals, the Yerkes sisters, seemed sufficiently dignified to these boys to get a glimpse of the girls and to leave notes for them in the hymnals. The trees and bushes of Grand Haven’s Central Park were also used as repositories for notes. The most daring young men climbed the walls of Blanche Hall to fling notes in, or they would serenade the girls from below. Neither method was entirely successful, although not for lack of Zeal; one never was quite sure whose window he was addressing. Neighbors of the Akeley property can recall the vision of girls in their long blue-skirted uniforms sneaking out the windows and down the

drain-spouts of Akeley Hall ‘for God knows what deviltry."

It is difficult to long discuss Akeley Institute without high lighting the lives of the Yerkes sisters. Their attitudes and interest typified the ideal that Akeley

sought to impart to its students such intellectual and cultural curiosity, pride, position, and excellence. As its co-principals, they devoted their lives to the last twenty-six years of the Institute’s operations. They were born in the eastern United States, where they were educated, and they spent several years in European study, particularly art and modern languages in Munich, Paris, and Italy. Mary H. Yerkes began teaching at Kemper Hall, Kenosha, Wisconsin, while her sister, Susan H. Yerkes, was beginning her career at St. Mary’s in Fairbault, Minnesota. These were probably the two best known of the pioneer church schools in the Midwest. For nine years Mary Yerkes was Head Mistress of Kemper Hall before receiving the tile of Vice-Principal. She was the first person to be so honored by Kemper Hall. Susan soon left St. Mary’s and for eleven years was Preceptoress of the Staten Island Academy in Richmond Borough, New York City. The two Yerkes sisters became associate principals of Knickerbocker Hall, Indianapolis, Indiana. Because they multiplied the attendance of Knickerbocker Hall thirteen times, they were chosen to lead Akeley Hall.

In Grand Haven they surrounded themselves with a teaching force notable for culture and high educational training. It was under their direction that Akeley Hall attained the unique place among institutions of its kind, which it held until its demise in 1928.

The City of Grand Haven greatly profited from the presence of Akeley Institute, yet Akeley never made much money. Businesses profited from the expenditures of the girls and the school. The girls uniforms were manufactured by Peter Van Lopik, whose factory was located upstairs in the Cutler House (later the Masonic Temple). The construction and maintenance of the Institute’s buildings were awarded to local firms, including John Van Dongen and Sons, who did the masonry; Mr. Helcub, who did the stone cutting; and Simon Stuveling, Fred Groenevelt, Bernard Mool (Mull), Cornelius Glerum, and Adrian Verkerkmoes I, who did the carpentry.

Furthermore, Akeley served the people of Grand Haven as a center for social and cultural life. Many were the delightful costume parties, charming musicals, clever plays, and inspirational lectures and entertainment hosted there. Professor Sparks of the University of Chicago conducted a series of lectures on American History, which the townspeople attended in numbers. Other such lectures were common and were the forerunner of the extension service so widely offered by colleges today. Many adults found the place useful for continued education; mothers of grown children often went back to school.

Elsewhere in the community the Akeley faculty actively contributed their social and cultural resources. The first Woman’s Club meetings were held on Saturday so that teachers at Akeley could attend. They were charter members. The Yerkes sisters were members of both the Women’s Club and Tuesday Musicale. Even after the Institute’s closure they continued to tutor students and substitute teach at Grand Haven Public High School in English and foreign language courses until their deaths. Susan Yerkes died in 1937 of a heart attack at her sister’s home on Sheldon Street, and Mary Yerkes followed in 1939.

Several factors contributed to the demise of Akeley Institute. Of primary importance were the exorbitant costs of modernization, the retirement of the Yerkes sisters, and the loss of local student attendance because cultural classes were adopted by public schools.

After the last Akeley class graduated in June, 1928, there was some discussion of what to do with the property. Eventually it was sold by trustees and the proceeds were invested, the income from which continued to be used to advance the education of young women in the Western Michigan Diocese of the Episcopal Church. In 1892, a quit claim deed had been given canceling all restrictions on the property; nevertheless, the trustees felt compelled to carry out the spirit of H. C. Akeley’s trust.

In 1929 Bell Telephone bought one portion of the property for $13,000 to build its present offices; in 1933, the City purchased the remainder for $18,000. The St. George’s Chapel furniture was donated to St. John’s Church; one piece, the litany desk, is still used. The suggestion to use the city-owned land for a hospital was rejected in favor of a City Square. Today, very little remains of Akeley Hall to remind us of those innocent and exciting days. [Adapted from an article by Brian R. Morrison.]

 

Beech Tree [Beechtree] School

Beech Tree School known as the Fourth Ward School, was built on the northwest corner of Pennoyer and Beechtree Streets in 1882 [1881]. It was attended by children living on the east side of Grand Haven from that time to the early 1900’s. The structure, originally located at the present site of Bolt Park, had about 30 students who were warmed by a pot-bellied stove. In 1916 the building was purchased by Otto Glueck and moved to 1511 Pennoyer to be used as a residence.

The Grand Haven Tribune on August 25, 1913, ran the following story: "The old ‘Beech Tree School’ has outlived its usefulness. After housing the youngsters of the fourth ward section of the city for many years, the old building has been abandoned, and the structure sold. The building will be moved off of the historic ground, and the present generation of children will be housed in the new building on Pennoyer Ave."

Although the old ‘Beech Tree School,’ was perhaps not a sanitary building with modern appliances for comfort, it never the less contains many memories of sweet childhood for many men and women of Grand Haven. The out-of-the-way corners of the old building still contain the initials of many old time boys and girls; whose memory is now the only proof of their existence upon earth. Even the stately old trees in the school yead contain the names of former pupils, carved by jack knives on childish hands.

To those who in their childhood attended the school, there comes back a flow of memories, memories of old time chums and childish sweethearts, recollections of happiness and visions of almost forgotten tragedies. Men and women all over the United States have memories of the early days in old ‘Beech Tree School’ and their stories of school days under the old roof would make and interesting book.

The school grounds, beautifully cool and shaded within a stones throw of the winding channel of the old Grand, have been the scene in many a childish games. Voices, which have echoed in the old trees in the days gone by, have long since been stilled by the ever advancing Reaper of man. Voices once raised in the songs of childhood are still singing on in sweetness of mature years.

The old historic school ground once trampled and kicked by copper-toed boots, themselves long discarded and almost forgotten, in the games of ‘pull away,’ ‘prisoner’s goal,’ and ‘bull in the ring’ will be presented to the city as a public park, and the old time memories will be, in a way, preserved.

I would be a good plan for the former pupils of the old school to gather there occasionally for reunion and picnics to recall the day which have passed.

Bignell School

Located near the southwest corner of Ferris and 152nd Streets in Grand Haven Township, Bignell School at one time had 52 children and one teacher for grades one through eight. The teacher was paid $65 a month. The school was named for the Bignell family, which had owned acreage in Section 11 of Grand Haven Township. Around 1900 James Bignell took tile to 170 acres in the Potawatomie Bayou area. Hattie Bignell, his wife, was the first teacher at the school.

Central School

In early 2000’s the third Central School building still occupied a spot in the block bounded by Sixth, Seventh, Clinton, and Franklin Streets, which had been set aside in 1860 for that purpose. In that year a two-story Union School, Grand Haven’s third school building, was erected facing Clinton Street. The first Central School opened on the highest crest on this site in 1871 to house grades five through high school. Students in the lower grades continued to attend the nearby Union School, which eventually was razed. The new brick building, which cost $50,000, burned down on March 5, 1901, and its replacement opened the next year, only to burn down in 1963. This building, too, was replaced, and became Central Elementary School. In 1871 the first Central School, a three-story structure, was built on the southeast corner of Franklin and Sixth Streets, and was destroyed by fire in 1901. A year later Union School was razed to make room for a much larger Central School, also a three-story structure with an impressive bell tower. It accommodated grades K through 12, and a one-year normal teachers college. This building burned down in 1963 and was replaced by an elementary school building, housing grades kindergarten through six. In the same block, a brick high school opened on Seventh Street in September, 1922, and Central was converted to serve kindergarten through eighth grade.

Christian School

606 Jackson Street was the site of the first Grand Haven Christian School, founded in 1880 with an enrollment of 85 students to ‘teach the Christian faith, the Dutch language, reading, writing, and arithmetic.’ Emket Luinenga was the primary force behind the formation of the school, and he became its first teacher and administrator. The small frame building at this address was constructed by the congregation of the First Christian Reformed Church in 1867 at 413 Columbus and moved to this site in 1872. The congregation of an African-American Church purchased the building and used it for a few years. When the church failed, a local resident and member of the congregation by the name of Hezekiah Smith bought the building and rented it to the Christian School founders for fifty cents a week. In 1883 the City of Grand Haven bought the building from Smith and opened it as a public school.

William Baker donated land at 513 Jackson to the Grand Haven Christian School, and a small, frame school opened on December 1, 1883, under the leadership of Mr. Luinenga, who was principal and administrator of the school. Luinenga died on August 14, 1884, at the age of 32. The same year the first Christian School Board was organized with representation from both the First Reformed and the Second Reformed Churches. Within a few years the Grand Haven School Board took over this building, and operated it as a public school.

After the Christian School vacated the building at 513 Jackson, it offered classes in the basement of Pertersen’s Store at 530 Jackson. At the time P. R. Holtman was the teacher and administrator. A few years later, a basement was built under the First Christian Reformed Church at 418 Fulton, and the Christian School moved there.

The two-story frame building that served as the County Court House beginning in 1857 was purchased by the Christian School in 1893 for $248 and moved to 800 Columbus, where it served as a Christian School for 26 years. The School Board purchased two lots for the school at a cost of $500, and the cost of the move was $50. The frame building was replaced by a two-story masonry structure in 1919. The brick school had four upstairs classrooms, with two grades using each room, and was built to handle up to 160 students. The main floor contained and assembly room, kitchen, bathroom, and a large furnace for central heating. In 1938 a ninth grade was added. By 1950, 200 pupils were in attendance. Forty-five to fifty students jammed each classroom, and the kindergarten was moved to the basement of the Second Christian Reformed Church on Columbus to ease the crowding problem. Clarence Diephouse, who became principal in 1945, was in charge when a new building was constructed at 1102 Grant Street in the early 1950’s.

Ground was broken for a new Christian School on five acres at 1102 Grant on September 6, 1950. It opened for classes a year later and was dedicated on April 10, 1953. The original building was L-shaped, 315 by 137 feet, had seven 24’ by 32’ classrooms and a 24’ by 40’ kindergarten, and included a kitchen, library, teacher’s lounge, and auditorium-gymnasium that seated 500. People such as Louis Rycenga and Harold Ringelberg lent their talents to the construction project, and a number of contractors, including Rich Prins, John Dirkse, Clarence Ruiter, and Bob Brosseit volunteered their special skills. Enrollment continued to grow, and by 1957 it was necessary to build a 115,000 junior high school along Colfax Street, making the school U-shaped. The addition had seven classrooms, a library, combination science-lecture room, and a music room. More additions were made over the years, including a gymnasium, in response to ever growing enrollment. The Eunice Circle, initially called the Pray and Work Society, was organized on September 23, 1919, to provide support for the school.

 

Clinton Street School [see Union School]

Columbus Street School

Built in 1881 at a cost of 5,000, the Second Ward School, usually called the Columbus Street School, was located about halfway between Second and First Streets on the south side of Columbus [Lots 12 and 13]. Torn down in 1930, the frame building had a yellow brick facade and slate roof, and it contained three large and comfortable classrooms, all on the ground floor. The cupola and bell tower made the building a landmark easily discernible in some of the early photographs of the area. The school covered grades one through four. Lou Ingraham was a teacher and principal at the school.

Ferry School

The school at the southwest corner of Ferry and Pennoyer Streets opened its door for the first time in September, 1913. Then known as the Fourth Ward School, it replaced the smaller Beech Tree School, located on the northeast corner of Pennoyer and Beechtree. The five acre building site was purchased for $1,600 from Lena and Henry J. Bolt, who had a garden and cow pasture. The first school building was made of brick, and the main entrance faced Pennoyer. The first floor, a few steps below ground level, had a boiler room, bathrooms, one classroom, and a kindergarten room. The main floor contained four classrooms, and the principal’s office was on the third floor, because that person also was the sixth grade teacher. The high school used an athletic field at the Ferry School site, which included tennis courts. The first teacher-principal was Ella Mulder, followed by Myrtle Cherry. Cherry and Julia Soule were in charge of training high school graduates to teach. The school was completely rebuilt in 1926, and during wet periods it was the only useable high school football field in the state, thanks to its excellent drainage. In 1927, under Superintendent E. H. Babcock’s watchful eye, an addition was begun at a cost of just under $127,000. The foyer was built of caen stone, rinsed with hundred of gallons of sour milk to give it a soft, antique look, and had a terrazzo floor, wrought iron railing, and recessed benches for visitors. The new classrooms reflected educational innovations of the time, with movable student seats and shelves for library books. Expansive windows, soft colored walls, and floors covered with battleship-gray linoleum ensured a restful environment. The kindergarten room had a fireplace at one end, low seats along the wall so that young legs could reach the floor, drinking fountains set at the right height for that age group, a cloakroom, and private bathrooms. Also included were large auditorium gymnasium with a kitchenette, which could be used for a variety of functions, including social gatherings. The addition was dedicated on December 14, 1928, the same year that the name of the school was changed to Ferry, to honor Grand Haven’s founding family. A spectacular fire on the morning of April 3, 1936 destroyed the school’s east wing, which was replaced the next year by a $40,000 addition, $5,000 less than the insurance settlement for the loss. In January, 1971 a six room annex was completed, containing five classrooms and a furnace room. Two years later, in March, another fire started in the art room on a school day. All the children were safely evacuated within a few minutes. A third fire, this one in August, 1975, was started in the kitchen by vandals who had ransacked the office,. After thorough cleaning and repainting, the school opened on schedule. The first Parent Teacher Association began in November, 1919.

Among the notable teachers at the school was Irene Bolt, a granddaughter of the Henry J. Bolt who had donated the land for the school. Irene was a student at Ferry, and came back to teach there from 1930 to 1935. Another was Laura Wuennecke, who came to Grand Haven in 1911 as a grade school teacher in rural Ottawa County and elsewhere, and became Principal at Ferry School in 1927. She retired in 1943. Eva Mae Sanders taught at Central "Dick and Jane," and Ferry Schools from 1960 to 1974. Her husband, Frank Sanders, taught at the Senior High School and was playground director at Ferry Field. He retired in 1969. Also remembered was Stephania Yurick, who taught at Ferry from 1935 to 1941 and again from 1955 to 1972, when she retired. In between the teaching assignments at Ferry, Yurick was at Grand Haven Junior High. Elizabeth McCracken taught at Ferry from 1945 to 1966. The next year she transferred to the new Griffin Elementary School, where she retired in 1974. Another teacher-principal was Lloyd McLaughlin, who came to the area in 1938 to teach English at the Grand Haven Junior High School. He joined Ferry school in 1943 as a sixth grade teacher and Principal. In 1952 he was relieved of his teaching responsibilities to devote all his time and energy to being Principal.

First Street School

Like the first school, built on Second Street in 1836, the structure erected at approximately 121 South First Street (Lot 70) in Grand Haven had no special name to set it apart from later ones, although Lillie referred to it as the Select School. When the building on Second Street was vacated about 1851, the home of Timothy Eastman on First Street was altered for use as a school. Emma Brayton, in her Early Days in Grand Haven (1907), was one of the students. She described it as having two floors, each with one large room and a small ‘recitation’ room. High school students met upstairs, while the lower classes met below. The "school master," Mrs. Brayton wrote, "sat enthroned in state, some of them, alas, with the ruler only too close at hand." As usual, a wood-burning stove furnished necessary heat, and on cold mornings the students were only too glad to congregate around the source of warmth and comfort.

German Lutheran School

The large German Lutheran community, in the vicinity of 168th and Warner in Grand Haven Township, built a school on the southeast corner of those roads. Frank Hendrych later purchased the school and made it part of his property, just across the street on 168th Avenue. It served as the Grand Haven Township Hall until the mid-1950’s, and then went through a number of different owners, including nearby neighbor Ken Watson, a motorcycle club, and Mark Reenders, who bought it in 1999 to use it as an office.

Grand Haven High School

In September, 1922, a brick high school for grades nine through twelve opened on Seventh Street, and old Central was converted to serve kindergarten through eighth grade. In 1953 a high school was built on land owned by the School Board since at least 1938, near the south end of Seventh Street in an area called Green Hill, used for sledding and for baseball and football games. The old high school was used for awhile as a junior high school, and then razed when a new junior high school opened on Griffin Street in 1967. In 1977 a $32,000,000 high school campus, built for about 2,200 students, opened its doors at the northwest corner of Ferris Street and U.S. 31. A detached swimming pool was added two years later.

Griffin Elementary

Built in 1967 at 1700 South Griffin and named for Henry Griffin, this elementary school was built to relieve Ferry of some of its student population. The school served grades kindergarten through sixth. Jim Kemer was the school’s first principal.

Indian School

Although Lillie does not give it an official name, he refers to a school organized for local Native Americans at Battle Point, about six miles up the Grand River from Grand Haven. Rev. Bartlett, a Methodist-Episcopal circuit preacher, established the school in 1855. A "comfortable school house" was built, and a woman by the name of Maxwell ran the school [possibly Martha Maxwell from the Eastmanville School]. More than 20 Indian children attended.

Jackson Street School

The school located at 606 Jackson was a one-room wooden structure located on the south side of the street. It held about 20 students, and like most small schools, it had a wood stove that the teacher was required to maintain. The small, frame building at this address was constructed by the congregation of the First Christian Reformed Church in 1867 at 413 Columbus and moved to this site in 1872. The congregation of an African-American Church purchased the building and used it for a few years. When the church failed, a member of the congregation by the name of Smith bought the building and rented it to the Christian School founders for fifty cents a week. In 1883 the Grand Haven School Board bought the building from Smith and opened it as a public school. The Christian School moved to 513 Jackson.

Monroe Street School

In the 1800’s a school was located on Monroe between Fifth and Sixth Streets.

Normal School (Ottawa County Normal training Class)

A normal school was a place of instruction where teachers were prepared by imitation, that is through the use of model teachers, practice teaching, and pedagogical critiques. Such schools set the "norm" for accepted teaching practices. A normal school was formally established in Grand Haven by act of local school board at its meeting on March 20, 1906. At that time Edward P. Cummings was Superintendent of Schools, Neal McMillan was school board President, Jacob Glerum was Secretary, and Peter Klaver, Edward Moll, Henry Baar, and Albert Rysdorp were members. Grand Haven residents had approved the establishment of the school the previous December 12 by a vote of 585 to one, and state approval was received from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Patrick H. Kelly, in a letter dated March 7.

County normal schools were relatively new in Michigan, having been established by the State Legislature in 1903. The purpose of the schools was to train teachers for rural schools. In those early years of the twentieth century, only 6% of rural teachers in Michigan had a year or more of professional training. An eighth grade education was sufficient to qualify a person to teach in the one-room schoolhouses that dominated the rural scene. Normal schools were intended to offer free instruction "in principles of education and methods of teaching." The local school district had the obligation of providing teaching staff, "heated rooms," furniture, and a portion of the operating costs. The state would contribute $1,500 for each teacher-trainer, up to a maximum of two, while the county and school district shared the remaining costs. Enrollment in each school was to be limited to 25 students.

The first Principal of the Ottawa County Normal School was Louise Kilbourne of Big rapids, who was hired for $800 a year, beginning with the school’s opening on September 10, 1906. Twelve students were in the inaugural class: Minnie Draeger, Frances Falls, Gertrude Groeneveld, S. Hannah Hulme, Mytle Loosmore, Nellie Moore, Ray E. Muzzall, Lena M. Plant, Gertrude Richards, Hiram Sevey, Cassa Weavers, and Kate Yock. Yock, later married Martin Boon, future Mayor of Grand Haven. Teachers in the opening semester were Maude Isherwood, Emma Chadwick, and Charlotte Willebrand. Each of them received $125 for their year’s work. Superintendent Cummings also taught, and received an addition $250.

Lawrence Van den Berg, who had been Principal at the high school, succeeded Cummings in 1907. John C, Hoekje served the next three years, from 1913 to 1916, and Arthur J. Donineau served from 1916 to 1920, rounding out the duration of the Normal School. After Kilbourne, Julia Soule was Principal of the Normal School between 1908 and 1917. Mary Howe, who was in charge until 1919, followed her. Ruby Larsen and Mildred Doyle were the last principals, Larsen filling in during the first semester of 1919-20 and Doyle serving the final semester of the school’s existence. They were assisted by a number of teachers over the years, including Julia M. Young, Ruth A. East, Ethel Hutchins, Lucy Kellar, Rose Netzorg, Winnefred Warner, Marie A. Winsor, and Agnes S. Wright, plus the three who were there in the first year.

In its first year, the school used classroom space on the second floor (ground level) of Central School, opposite the boiler room and next to the Superintendent’s office. In 1913 classes were moved to the new Fourth Ward School (Ferry School). With the move came a shift in duties. The Principal began to teach academic subjects only, and a critic teacher was hired with the responsibility of teaching educational methods and supervising practice teaching. Myrtle Cherry was the first critic teacher. Four years later the school moved to the Columbus Street School, between First and Second Streets. Julia Soule left the institution, and Mary Howe replaced her as Principal. Ina B. Nelson took Myrtle Cherry’s place. Two rooms were used at the new school. Two years after that Ruby Larsen was named Principal and Mildred Doyle covered the role of critic. Larsen served only the first semester. Doyle, who was principal during the school’s final semester in the spring of 1920, followed her.

To gain admission to the Normal School, prospective students had to complete at least the tenth grade, and beginning with the fall, 1909 semester, they needed to successfully pass an entrance examination. Students were expected to do well in 15 subjects, including arithmetic, agriculture, civics, orthography (correct spelling), physiology, psychology, pedagogy, reading, school management, and school law. In addition to that rather imposing curriculum, graduates needed to show "proficiency" in domestic science drawing, manual training, music, practice teaching and critiquing others, penmanship, primary methods [presumably methods of teaching elementary classes], and the underlined "State Course of Study." Their overall goal was to". . .learn facts basic to teaching, observe good teaching, and have practice in it." There was some interchange with Akeley Hall, but evidently very little.

Graduates who were at least 18 and who successfully completed the course of study were certified to teach all of the first eight grades. They were expected to become community leaders, to prepare a "hot dish for the school lunch." And to live with a family in the school district, usually headed by a member of the school board. The teaching certificate was good for one year in a one- or two room school, and then could be renewed.

The cost of operations increased from $1,300 the first year, to $1,400 in 1908-09, $1,975 in 1914-15, $2,210 in 1917-18, $2,400 in 1918-19 and $2,400 the last two years of operation. The school district, closed at the end of the 1919-20 school year because leaders felt its goal had been achieved of preparing young people to teach in rural schools. In its 14 years of existence, 165 women and ten men from throughout the county were graduated from the Normal School. [Adapted from an unpublished monologue by Fleda Nevins, 1966.]

Peach Plains School

Sometime between 1864 and 1876 the first Peach Plains School was built on a five-acre parcel near the northeast corner of 160th Avenue and Comstock. It was a one-room building with an outside pump, pail, and dipper, and of course outside toilets. During the winter, a large wood-burning stove provided heat and a place to dry wet clothing. As was typical in the early schools, the teacher served as custodian and had the responsibility of keeping the stove fired up. The teacher received room and board at a nearby home of one of the students’ parents. Peach Plains School was not part of the Grand Haven School system until much later. In 1919 about 100 children were enrolled, and one teacher was hired to handle all eight grades. A new school was built in 1922, with inside plumbing and a drinking fountain, but desks weren’t added until a few years later. In 1953 a brick building was put up, which consisted of four classrooms. In 1956, four more classrooms were added, and three years later another was put on, which included a kitchen, multi-purpose room, office space, and six more classrooms. An east wing was added in 1964, which housed the media center (library) and several more classrooms. The 1922 schoolhouse wasn’t replaced until 1965. Three years after that four more classrooms were added, and in 1990 a classroom and more space for the media center were attached. By 1998 470 students were enrolled in the kindergarten through fifth grade school. The 1999 address was 15849 Comstock Road.

Rosy Mound School

An acre of land, purchased for $10, was the start of what evolved into Rosy Mound School. It was bought on March 31, 1861 from Nathan and Adeline Marble of New York State, and was located on the southeast corner of Ferris Street and Lakeshore Drive.

The first school was constructed for the grand sum of $150. It housed 24 children from time to time in the six-months’ session, with 15 of them attending an average of five months in 1862. Minnie Smith Ewald, the first teacher, was paid $52 that year. The salary, schedule went up to $56 by 1863, when there were 25 students between the ages of five and 20 in the district. Eighteen of them attended school an average three and one-half months of the 10 month session.

Hendrict Van Balgoyen of Grand Haven was director of the district, according to the 1863 annual report of school inspectors.

When the school district was born, its home was known as Ottawa Township in the County of Ottawa. Then, on March 20, 1863, the name was changed to Grand Haven Township. It was not until 1867 that the City of Grand Haven and Grand Haven Township became separate entities.

The little schoolhouse, which also was used as a town meeting house, was reduced to ashes on January 9, 1900. The fire occurred during the night, and a Tribune article on January 10, reported, "Fred Saul and other farmers who live near the school were surprised when they woke this morning to find the building in ashes." It was believed that tramps caused the fire. Teacher Alfred Eddy Chappell, of Berlin, reported the school had been locked that night.

The school and its contents were insured for 400 with John Pfaff’s agency. Until the school was rebuilt, students attended the German Lutheran School next to the German Lutheran Emanuel Church, located across from the Town Hall at Warner and 168th Avenue, a structure still standing in 1999. Frank Hendrych, whose farm was across the street on 168th Avenue, later purchased the German School and made it part of his home on 168th Avenue near Warner. The church was moved to Agnew and in 1952 [1955] to its present location on M-45 near U. S. 31.

"Something of A War" was waged, according to January, 1900 newspaper articles, concerning the location of a new Rosy Mound School. Some people in the district wanted a different site, and a petition to form a sixth district was made in March of 1900. Organizers proposed building a new school, to be located on Beech Tree Road [168th Avenue] on the small plot of land known as Strahgsburg Corner, where Stone School later was located on the southeast corner of Ferris and U. S. 31. The petition was denied on March 26, 1900, because other school districts objected to the removal of property that would affect tax rolls. It was not until 1911 that District 6 was formed. Rosy Mound School was rebuilt on the site for about $600. Sam Struveling and his assistant, Frank Kaatz, did the carpentry work on the 24’ by 36’ structure for $110. The masonry contract went to Isaac Dekker on his bid of $35.

At the annual meeting of July 9, 1900, A. C. Northouse was re-elected director of the school district, and it was announced the new Rosy Mound School would be completed and equipped by fall.

The problem of youngsters crossing the highway and the railroad track was a concern to parents. Even before the new school district was formed southeast of Rosy Mound, another petition on August 16, 1909, was granted for transferring certain students to District 1. They lived more than two and a quarter miles from Rosy Mound, and had to cross the tracks at an hour when trains were due. They transferred to Peach Plains School.

Rosy Mound School was moved north, from Section 9 in Grand Haven Township to Section 4, in 1911. George Bruhn, school director, hired a Mr. Palmer to do the job. The new location was made possible through a gift of three-quarters of an acre of land by John and Margareth Majerus, who stipulated it be used for the school within the year. A daughter recalled that event in a letter to the editor of the Grand Haven Tribune, February, 1961: "Reading of the annexation of the Rosy Mound School to Grand Haven School brings to my mind that my father, John Majerus, of Alhambra, California, still living and 90 years old, gave the first piece of land the old school was built on and where the new one now stands, some 50 years ago so I wouldn’t have far to go to school. We lived in the house across the road then in a fairly nice farm home. Thought the people of Rosy Mound School would like to know why the school was built there." Mrs. E. Seaberg, 610 Elliott Street.

The original acre on Ferris Street, bought for $10, was sold in 1914 for $20.

A library was established in 1914, a furnace to replace the old wood burning stove was installed in 1922, and in 1923 the outside plumbing was abandoned and chemical toilets were placed inside. These were replaced with flush toilets in 1947.

School board members in 1925 had a white pine cut down and fashioned into a 40-foot flagpole for the school. In 1929, swings were added in the play area. Electricity was installed in 1938, so teachers no longer had to light the six kerosene lamps. A telephone was installed in 1950.

Teacher Edith Briggs organized the first 4-H Club in the school district in the 1920’s. The endeavor began again in the 1950’s under the direction of Robert Bottje. The "Rosy Mound Mothers Club" was first formed in 1948 when eight mothers attended the initial gathering.

At a cost of $45,000 a new school was erected in 1952, just north of the 41 year old building, which was then razed. The new school had two classrooms, a 4-H room, office, furnace room, and small kitchen, though it was not until 1959 that a hot lunch program got under way. A three classroom addition was built onto the school in 1956-57 for $70,000, and was ready for school opening in September, 1957.

An additional five acres of land were purchased in 1959, which, with the land purchased at the time of the 1951-52 construction, brought the total to slightly over 10 acres.

Rosy Mound electors voted to annex to the Grand Haven School District on January 16, 1962. There were 128 students in the Rosy Mound School that year, compared to 1936-37, when only three families sent children to school and seven students were enrolled.

Other additions and remodeling changed the school into a sizable complex that soon housed about 400 students.

An undated document, but probably from 1961, recalled a special observance of the school’s centennial celebration: "A reunion of Rosy Mound students, teachers, and school board members from past and present was enjoyed by 450 Saturday. The school was bustling with people who turned out for the gigantic celebration of the school’s 100th anniversary, planned by Mrs. Esther Henning, fifth-sixth grade teacher. Principal Frank Such conducted a program at 3 p.m. when old timers were honored."

"Gifts were presented to Mr. John Walsma (former Hannah DeYoung), the only surviving local teacher who taught in the original school building in 1895-96; Fred Strahsburg, 84, the oldest former student; Mrs. Kathryn Vanderbelt, who taught for the most years (1936-49); Mrs. Lewis (Rose Sonrel) Clark, who was a former student, teacher and school board member; George Bruhn, who was director from 1908-11 and treasurer from 1919-30; Mrs. Edith Viau (formerly Strahsburg), who came the greatest distance to attend. Mrs. Viau traveled from San Bernardino, California to be here for the centennial with her sister and brothers, all of whom had attended Rosy Mound School. They are Mrs. Martha Austin, 212 de Spelder; Henry Strahsburg, Grand Rapids, who also was a custodian at Rosy Mound at one time; and Fred Strahsburg, 1530 Washington, who was the oldest former student attending."

"One room was set aside for exhibits of students’ research on Rosy Mound and the surrounding area. The display included Indian dolls, moccasins, tom toms, an old buckboard and wagon wheel, old school books, in addition to materials collected on the dune, maps and written data"

"’Down Memory Lane’ was another room display of items, from early days. Rocking chairs gave visitors a chance to sit and rest and browse through old albums, magazines and books."

"A pioneer classroom included the old fashioned desks and slates, a pot belly stove, old globe, water buckets and dipper, bench and old books."

"Two hundred people viewed the slides, presented by Mrs. Henning, on her students’ trips to Rosy Mound dune. There was standing room only."

Another document dated 1953, also recalled earlier times: "Memoirs of Rosy Mound," an historical pageant written by Esther Henning, was presented at Mary White School. A report on the pageant continued: Open to the public, the pageant was of interest to all who recalled or liked to recall, the early days in Grand Haven area. There was no charge. Thirty pupils from Rosy Mound participated. All were fifth and sixth graders of Mrs. Henning with the exception of three kindergartens."

"Mrs. Henning had gained recognition with earlier pageants about the area, having successfully written and produced ‘Voice of the River,’ about Eastmanville in 1951; and ‘The Soil Speaks,’ for the West Ottawa Soil Conservation at the Marne Fair Grounds six years ago. The four part pageant, with some 17 scenes, took about 75 minutes to enact. Three back drops provided the scenery for the pioneer setting. The Indian scenes were depicted by painted wigwam, trees, owls, pottery, etc..,. and there was a log cabin scene and a one-room schoolhouse background. Part 1 included eight Indian scenes from 1700 to about 1840. They concerned the Potawatomie and the Ottawa tribes, and how they were gradually pushed out by the pioneers. ‘Feast of the Dead at Crockery’ showed how the tribe mourned the dead for two days every May before leaving for Mackinaw. Food in bowls was placed on the graves. Chief Shiawassee wanted to kill all the whites at Grand Haven, as shown in one scene. Chief Old Rock, however, was friendly with Reverend Ferry and refused to attack. Chief Shiawassee left for Canada and never returned, history relates. The Ferry home was depicted in Part II, telling of the long wait for food to arrive after a ship carrying provisions was ship wrecked in the winter of 1835-36. ‘The Old Grandville Road’ was featured here too, for older residents of this area to reminisce. In the pageant, Jean Baptiste Parrisien carried the first mail in 1835-40. At this time, the road was the western terminal road from Detroit, known as Grand River Road. Humor was injected into the pageant in the one-room school scene and when the merry Oldsmobile broke down in 1915."

Characters portrayed in the pageant include the Rev. William Ferry, Nathan White, Amanda Ferry, Mary A. White, the Duvernays and Elizabeth and Eleanor Griffin, as well as Indians, lumber-men, pioneers and families of present day residents. David Werner narrated the pageant and Mrs. William Wilte provided the musical accompaniment. Mrs. Henning director, had makeup and costume committees working for her. The cast included Laura Anderson. Cynthia Vincent, Bob Diedrich, Suzanne Sonrel, Douglas Newton, Gerry Endenburg, Ricky Mason, Mark Bottje, Larry Holzinger, Larry Moore, Barbara Hyde, Kerry Schroeder, Larry Meyer, Jimmy Aysk, Dianna Mason, Ruth Mason, Debra Dewitt, Sandra Bredehoft, Charlene Peters, Jane Soltys, Judy Reenders, Barrie Brosseit, and Kindergartens June Marvel, Donnie Bottje and Linda Coverly. Included in the cast also were Owen Schroeder, Shirley Mason, Don Allred, Marja Enderbuirg, Sharon Coverly and Doug Morrison.

School children from selected groups saw the pageant Thursday and Friday afternoon, and any adult who could not come to the Thursday or Friday night performance, was invited to attend the 10 p.m. show Thursday and Friday."

Henning died at a nursing Sparta home around June 7, 1996. Beside Rosy Mound, she also taught at Eastmanville, Delany, and Ravenna Schools. [Tribune, June 7, 1996]

Letters from former teachers provide more insight into the early years. One was written by Anna O’Beck, who taught at Rosy Mound School in 1893 and 1894, when it was at its Ferris Street location. It was written for the 1953 "Open House," noted above.

"Greeting to all the girls and boys attending Rosy Mound School and may every success be yours, in this, your unique venture.

More than one hundred years ago, sturdy industrious, honest women and men settled in this part of the country, clearing the land, establishing their homes, founding churches and building school houses.

Today you have one of the most beautiful and best equipped rural schools in Michigan. Your teachers are well trained and able to direct, guide and teach you, and your parents more than willing to provide the best of everything for you. Your inheritance is certainly a rich one.

I am reminded of a day many years ago when I taught in Rosy Mound School, and am wondering if you would like to go with me, in an invisible form, as I start out to work.

Early one September morning, wearing a simple cotton dress and heavy shoes, and carrying a small lunch basket in one hand, and a portfolio of supplies in the other. I left my home with a happy heart, I was going to teach, and that was the one thing I wanted most to do.

The walking was not so bad, until I came to the corner of what is now known as Sheldon Road at Robbins Road. No more sidewalk or grassy path—nothing but heavy sand and deep ruts in the road. After I had passed the second turn in the road, a small girl came running to meet me. She had a small pail in one hand and school supplies in the other hand. She greeted me with the words, "You are the new teacher, aren’t you? My name is Minnie McComb." The gay chatter of her voice and the lilt of her laughter, as we walked along, made me think less of tired feet, heavy sand and distance.

The Vincent trio, each member carrying a little tin pail and books, joined us as we were passing their gate. The conversation became more animated now and as we entered the deep woods at the base and east side of Rosy Mound, they tried their best to show me they were not afraid of any armed bandits or wild beasts, that might be hiding. I for one was glad to get out in the sunlight again.

The Nordhouse girls, each wearing a R..M. Badge, met us as we came out of the woods, and together we climbed the corduroy road, which was a hard job, but not nearly as bad as if it were all ruts and sand. Pearl Nordhouse and her brother, properly labeled, were waiting for us at the top of the hill. The walking was easier now, since there were grassy stretches on either side of the road. Coming up from his home in the valley, we could see black eyed Frank Bradenhof [Bredehoft], wearing his badge running to be in time to meet us at his gate. The last children to join the group were the Vos trio. This was the assembly pattern we followed for the next one hundred and seventy-nine days of the school year, and the jaunt home it was followed in the reverse order.

Not to long after the addition of the Vos children, the school house came into view—a dingy white beggar sunning by the roadside.

A number of the children, who lived in the eastern part of the district, had gathered around the door, eager to enter the building. I had walked exactly four miles. I brushed some of the dust from my clothing and asked them to remain out of doors for a few more minutes. I wanted to experience the transforming power that a group of enthusiastic children would have on the interior of the building.

I walked into the vestibule. Against the north wall was a large pile of wood and near the south wall, a pump and dipper. The floor of the schoolroom proper was made of rough wide boards, and wainscoating high with large spikes, driven in at regular intervals, about three feet above the floor. A large rusty box stove, four rows of double seats, a home made recitation bench, a cheap desk and chair for the teacher, furnished the room. A small black board hung on the east wall and there were windows on the south and north sides.

After freshening up a bit at the pump, I opened the door. I have seen more happiness and enthusiasm in children than this crowd displayed. Hanging their pails on the big spikes, they covered them with their wraps and took their seats, ready to begin at the signal. By ten o’clock we were on our way to the end of the school year.

Very early in the term we began to anticipate the need of entertainment during stormy weather, so I brought from home a strong jumping rope, bean bags, and story books—The Chatterbox, Black Beauty, Aesops Fables etc. The children furnished small balls, jack-stones, jack-knives, and marbles and doll clothes, quilt patches and carpet rags for the girls. When we could not go out of doors, the furniture was moved and we had quite an indoor play ground. One corner of the floor was reserved for mumble-peg and the boys soon began to dig down to China. Carpet rag sewing proved a boon to the girls, who each day had to sew a certain amount by evening story or play games. They began to wish for rain every day.

We had very good time, working, playing, and eating together. The girls and boys did me untold good and my prayer is that I might have helped them to become good citizens. And so another school year rolled along."

Sincerely yours, Anna O’Beck

In addition to the description of the old school that burned in 1900 as told by Anna O’Beck, Mrs. Ed Haan added the following: "The building was lighted by kerosene wall lamps with reflectors. The stove stood towards the back of the room and had a shield around it. There were three windows on the south wall and on the north. A hand bell was used to call the children in. A wood shed was built against the school. There were halls inside. There was one outside door and above it in white letters were the words ‘God Bless Our School.’" She remembered the school as being bluish green in color.

Frances Seifert Bronson wrote some interesting retrospectives about the school as she remembered them when she taught at the school in 1907 through 1908. "Teaching a district school 55 years ago was a rugged experience in several ways. There were very few automobiles in those days, and no improved highways. The Rosy Mound School where I taught was at the old Rosy Mound site, and although it was situated only five miles from my home, it was necessary to board in the country during the week because there was no other transportation except by horse and buggy. Every Friday someone called for me, and Sunday afternoon they brought me back. When the spring floods came, the roads were sometimes flooded up to the horses bodies. In the winter, our horse Dick would flounder through the snow, hardly being able to keep his balance as he plunged his hoofs into the deep snow. My first year at Rosy Mound School, I boarded at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Herman Schmidt, on a side road only a quarter mile from the school. The second year I boarded with the John VanDoorne family on Beech Tree Road. This was one of the happiest families I have even known. There were at home two daughters, Marie and Gertrude, one grown son, and a younger girl, Renee, who attended school. School lasted only eight months, so a good deal of the term was during the colder months. It was a one room school with two entrances. We had a flat topped oblong wood burner to heat the school. I think the boy who did the janitor work was Lawrence Bredehoft. He must have been a faithful worker, because don’t remember ever coming to a cold school house. The children all enjoyed singing. We had a little printed book of words called ‘The Knapsack.’ We gave a Christmas program each year. There was very little public entertainment in those days, so the parents as well as the children, enjoyed these amateur programs. There was no P. T. A. either, but the teacher was supposed to call on each family once a year. Most of it was done on foot. That was a lot to expect from a teacher who was paid only $40 a month. At the close of my second year at the Rosy Mound School we had a picnic and ball game. At the time there were several nice farms along the Rosy Mound Road, but the sand from the Dunes has blown over many of them. My own Uncle Fred Saul and Aunt Rosa once lived next door to the school, and as a child, I can remember the lovely rose and flower garden, and the red raspberries we picked on their farm. I visit my relatives in Grand Haven each summer, and reminisce as we drive along the highway. It is quite different from the days when I taught at Rosy Mound."

[Most of the history of Rosy Mound School was adapted from an article written by Mrs. Robert Brady and Mrs. Robert Sonrel, who took on the research project by scanning old township records and Tribune microfilm and talking to former teachers and students.]

St. Patrick’s Catholic School

The school operated by St. Patrick’s Catholic Church was located on Fulton near Eighth Street in Grand Haven. It opened its doors for the first time in September, 1919, under the jurisdiction of the Grand Rapids Diocese. At the outset seven grades were provided, but for five years grades one through ten were made available, then grades one through eight.

Second Street School

Grand Haven’s first school did not have an identifying name. The frame building on Lot 186 [approximately 16 South Second Street] was a plain, 24’ by 30’ one room structure that was used as a public meeting house, church, public building, court house, and school for Mary A. White’s classes. It served as Grand Haven’s only school for the next 15 years, and as many as 120 students were in attendance at one time. It was replaced by a school on First Street, not far from Clinton.

Select School See First Street School

Stone School

In 1900 parents were distressed over the problem of children crossing railroad tracks to get to Rosy Mound School. On March 15, 1900 those who lived east of the tracks petitioned to form a new district. It was denied and the students continued to travel by foot to Rosy Mound. Approval finally was granted in 1911, and a bond issue for $1,500 was sold to the Grand Haven State Bank on April 1 of that year for a new school district in Grand Haven Township and a new building. A total of $294.34 was paid to the new District Six by the Township Clerk according to the number of children transferred from Rosy Mound’s District Two.

The site at Breech Tree [Beechtree/168th Avenue] called ‘Strahsburg Corner,’ was purchased from William Strahsburg for $100. Ruiter & Groenevelt, who were paid $1,163.50 for their work, began construction in June. The outhouses cost $136.00 extra. At the end of the year, total cost of the school, including desks, books, stove, coal, and miscellaneous items, was $1,495.40. The building got the name "Stone School" from the concrete blocks that were used to construct the one-room schoolhouse, which housed kindergarten through eighth grade.

Stone School students, once removed from Rosy Mound District because of hazardous transportation problems, in 1962 were recombined and became part of the Grand Haven School District. Stone School was converted to an educational materials center and the students were relocated to Rosy Mound.

Transportation was no longer a problem, since bus service was inaugurated for the benefit of children in the outlying areas of the Grand Haven district. Eventually the school building was sold and converted to office space.

A well known graduate of Stone School, Dr. Anthony Radspieler, born about 1927, was appointed American consul at Franklin Germany by President Kennedy. He had been reassigned the previous April to the American Consulate General in Frankfort Germany, where he was Chief of the Economic Affairs Section. He also has served with the Department of State in Washington, D. C.

Union School of Grand Haven

A "Union" school was one that merged districts or buildings. In 1860 the Clinton Street School, also known as the Grand Haven Union School, opened on the block bounded by Seventh, Sixth, Franklin, and Clinton Streets, land for which the schools paid $1,200. The school Board then raised $10,000 to begin construction, and the large, frame structure soon opened, allowing the school on First Street once again to become a residence. The total cost of the Union School was $50,000. In 1862 Charles W. Cushman was Principal, assisted by Nettie Hubbard and Sarah Middlemist.


Transcriber: Barb Jones
Created: 3 May 2007
URL: http://ottawa.migenweb.net/schools/grhaven/schhistory.html