The Lillie School Unveils Memorial To Its Founders
Presentation Is Made At Annual Reunion of
With Fitting Ceremonies
An event of more than ordinary interest in the community, not only socially but historically, was the unveiling, last Saturday, of a memorial boulder, honoring the pioneers who founded the Lillie school, about three miles east of Coopersville.
This school was founded in 1844 and is the oldest institution of learning in the county and one of the oldest in this part of the state.
The memorial consists of a large boulder, which was placed last fall and to which has been added a bronze marker on which are inscribed the names of those who, in the early days made the school possible. This memorial ................................. school at this the twenty-ninth annual reunion of the Lillie School association.
Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the pioneers were present from many points in the state and one of the interesting features of the gathering was that among the great-grandchildren were triplets one and one-half years old.
It is not hard to understand why this has been called the Lillie school when the fact is known that two of those whose names are inscribed upon the memorial, Timothy and Benjamin Lillie were the fathers of twenty-four and twenty-five children respectively, and that twenty or more from each family have been in attendance at the school as scholars, getting the foundation of their education at this historic spot.
After the gathering had renewed old acquaintance with a hearty handshake and words of greeting, dinner was served and to use the expression of those who were so fortunate as to partake of the repast, "such a dinner." Following this, Colon C. Lillie of Coopersville, the speaker of the day, was introduced and his address was of so much general interest that we are giving it in full that those who were so unfortunate as not to be present may have the opportunity of reading it.
Mr. Lillie said:
"I feel the responsibility of this occasion more than
I can tell, I feel that I, in a small way, am a part of it -- cannot do it
It's big; it's significant. It is an event not only in the history of the community --it's more--it's an event in civilization; it's one of the tiny markers of human progress.
I cannot, especially in a few moments time, do justice to those sturdy pioneers whose names appear on the boulder. They came from afar, they breasted the storms and waves of the great lakes, in none too safe sailing vessels, to get here. They landed in primeval forests with their families and their belongings, to build a home; to start a community that was to become a part if a great state and a greater nation, the greatest in wealth, the greatest in defense of the rights of mankind on the face of the earth.
Can you picture in your minds the work and the life before them? Building the log cabins from the trees felled for the first clearing, chopping and logging another small area for growing the necessary food crops among the stumps, splitting the rails and fencing this small patch from the raids of wild animals. Each year clearing another small area as their time and strength would permit, until finally sufficient land was under cultivation to maintain the growing family.
At first it was work, the hardest kind of toil from sunrise to sunset. There was little communication with the outside world, no regular mail, no morning or evening paper, no telephone, no radio -- seemingly not much of anything but work, work, and yet, they had their own family, their own fireside and seemingly, a larger per cent of them were happier than are the people of today. Why? Well, for one thing, they didn't have so many wants, there weren't so many things to be had or desired and they had a fixed purpose in view -- building a good home of their own for their families and building a good community in which all could live and be happy. Few of them even dreamed of wealth or leisure and, therefore, did not desire either. They lived the great outdoor life and communed with nature and with nature's God.
As soon as the individual and family needs were provided, they took care of the needs of the community. There must be schools. Their children must have a chance for an education. In their minds they saw something of the future of their great country and to cope with this future their children must have an education, must have more learning than they, themselves. That was the first thought and the great thought with these hardy pioneers, as sturdy in their prime almost as the rock on which their names are engraved, assembled in 1844 to organize this first school district in this section of the country.
They had confidence in themselves and their children who must be prepared to perform their parts in the onward march of civilization.
Some of us can remember these men whose names are stamped upon this boulder plate: Horatio Dickinson, Timothy Lillie, Benjamin Lillie, Pearly Lawton, Slyvirus Watters and Thomas Healy, Sr.
To many of us there are ties of blood as well as ties of association in the memory of the men and their families. These were not the only influential pioneers who did their part in the upbuilding of this community, but they were the prime organizers of this school district, the first to put their ideas into practice and so to them belongs this distinction.
Much might be said -- and that of interest too -- about these men if time permitted and the occasion demanded. But, my friends, this boulder monument brought here by the glaciers, perhaps millions of years ago, from its far away origin, was not set in this permanent base to especially honor these men -- much as their lives and deeds deserve it. This monument is to memorialize an idea, a thought, a sentiment -- thought prompted by feeling -- which it has been said rules the world, that we memorialize here today. You all remember the old song: "How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood, When fond recollection presents them to view." and that other world wide renowned song: "Home, home, sweet, sweet home, Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."
This is a thought, a sentiment, that appeals to and stirs the hearts of all normal human beings. And Jane Fosget was just the kind of a girl to be moved by this sentiment. And her thought went further and deeper than: "The orchard, the meadow, the deep tangled wildwood."
While she loved these scenes of nature and cherished their meomroy she more deeply loved her early associates, the people, her boy and girl friends of her community and her great desire and deep yearning to see many of them again brought about the White School of Lillie School reunion.
Created: 20 April 2012