Organization and History of the Polkton Township Schools



Cooper School

The Coopers, who came to this area from New York State, were the first settlers north of Coopersville. They helped form Cooper School in 1885.

Eastmanville School District

When Eastmanville School District was organized many years ago, the school organization was far different from the way we know it today. Then there were no free schools, no highly educated teachers, and no county superintendents.

In pioneer days each township had three school inspectors, whose duty it was to organize districts, apportion school monies to the district, examine teachers, grant certification and visit schools. This system remained until 1867.

The system of taxation at that time for the support of the common schools consisted of (1) a tax of 2 mils on each dollar of valuation of the taxable property, (2) an annual district tax voted t the school meeting not to exceed $1 for each scholar in the district between the age of four and eighteen years, and (3) a rate bill against the person or persons sending children to school, for the amount of tuition and fuel for which he was liable, This rate bill could be collected, if necessary, by distress and sale of goods and chattels.

In 1842 the district later known as Eastmanville, Polkton No. 1, was organized as Tallmadge Township. At that time it also included the present townships of Allendale and Polkton. The district itself comprised all of Township 7 North Range 14 West, lying north of Grand River plus Section thirty-six of Township 8 North Range 14 West. This meant that the district was six miles long, extending from the village limits of what is known as Lamont today, but was then known as Steeleís Landing, to the west boundary of the present township of Polkton. The northern line was the road running east and west a mile north on Eastmanville the extra section of the township north of it is now a part of the Rankins School District. People who later resided in the Red School and South Evergreen Districts were living on land that was part of the original Eastmanville School District.

The three school inspectors for then Tallmadge Township were Dr. Timothy Eastman, Captain Benjamin Hopkins, and Henry Griffin. They notified Daniel Really, who lived where the County Infirmary was located, to notify all the taxable inhabitants of the school district that there was to be an organization meeting at the Benjamin Hopkins at four oíclock in the afternoon of November fourteenth, 1842. He had to notify them personally or else leave a written notice at the place of residence.

The following officers were elected for one year: Benjamin Hopkins, Moderator; Dr. Timothy Eastman, Director; and Henry Griffin, Assessor. The men who were school inspectors were also school officers. They were well educated, intelligent men, and all three played prominent roles in the early history of Eastmanville, Polkton, Spring Lake, and Grand Haven, and were part of early local organizations, such as churches, Masonic lodges, agricultural societies, and county, and state groups.

Eastmanville School is very fortunate in having its school records from the very first year of organization in 1842. Not only were the minutes of the school and board meetings preserved, but the rate bills, lists of scholars and teachers, assessors bond, and other valuable papers also.

The first school was a log building erected in 1844. It stood near where the large stone on the northeast corner of the main intersection later stood. It cost $75, and Dr. Eastman, who was the lowest bidder, did most of the work. Later be bought it back for $5.

The teachers who taught in the log school were Maricia C. Hopkins, Martha Maxfield, and Matilda Angell. In 1848 Maxfield taught 12 weeks for $12.00. School was held only in the summer.

The second year was a frame construction. It was built by William C. Comfort for the sum of $349.50 and was completed by the first day of January, 1849. This building stood just north of the later Ossewaarde & Pratt Garage.

Martha Maxfield was again hired to teach at the school, but this time for a winter term of 17 weeks at $2 per week. Later she taught the Indians who lived at Battle Point.

This school, like others at that time, had a fence around the yard. In the book of instructions the children were forbidden to sit on or climb over the fence.

It seems that the plaster didnít stay on this building very well, because in the fall of 1856 a contract was made with a Mr. Britain to plaster the schoolhouse. It was specified that all the old plaster should be removed from overhead and as much removed from the walls as was in anyway loose; that substantial brown coat was to be put on those parts from which the old plaster was removed; the whole then was to receive a good white coat, and it was to be done in workman like manner. For this work the board agreed to pay Mr. Britain 40. This job, however, was not done in a workman like manner, so Mr. Britain received only $25.

At each school meeting the furnishing of the winterís supply of wood was let to the lowest bidder. Usually the specifications called for one half green wood and one half dry, and usually two and a half feet long.

One item of business at each school meeting was to vote on whether a male or female teacher was to be hired.

In 1859 the whole board resigned soon after taking office. The trouble seemed to be a disagreement over how much to pay the teacher.

In 1862 the three-year term for each board member began. Prior to this an officer held his position one year only. He always had to file his acceptance.

In 1867 113 children attended school; they were not counted twice, and they averaged four months of attendance each. School was in session eight months. The library consisted of 22 volumes.

In 1868 voters agreed to buy a parcel for a new school from Thomas Hefferan. According to the plat of the town it was Block 12. Later in the year another meeting was held at which a motion was made and seconded to sell the old building. However, the minority refused to abide by the will of the majority and for the purpose of keeping harmony, a motion was made and seconded that the vote be rescinded.

The old site was sold to Hefferan for $75 and the old building was moved to another site, where it was enlarged, except for the front entrance that was added later. Marvel Garrison built the school for $1,000 and Daniel Realy laid the foundation for $115. The first term of school in the building was in 1869.

The bell then use was bought in 1856 by Timothy Eastman for $47.50. When board members built around the previous school they didnít bother to remove the old roof, so it remained in the attic. When it was first built it consisted of two rooms. Later the partition was removed, then replaced, but not in exactly the same location.

There is an interesting story in connection with the setting out of the maple trees, which were once so numerous in the school yard. It was voted in 1872 to set out some maple trees. In 1876 it was voted to reset those that had died out. Still the trees continued to die, so in 1879 they voted at the school meeting to approve a contract with the lowest bidder. Charles Brown, to reset 20 hard maple trees on the school ground. The trees were to be two inches in diameter and he was to keep them alive for three years, at the end of which time they agreed to pay him 95 cents apiece for all the trees that were alive. Six years later he collected on all twenty of them.

Eastmanvilleís schoolhouse was divided into two rooms. The south room was the larger and was used as the school room proper. The north room was used as a playroom in stormy weather. The building was raised in the early 1900ís and had a furnace installed in the basement, under the south room. There was an outside entrance in the basement at the back of the building.

There were electric lights throughout the building. Those in the south room were of the very latest design. The south room and halls had asphalt tile floors and the north room a hardwood floor. Later a new entrance was built at the front. On both sides of the entrance hall were cloakrooms and toilet rooms, containing flush toilet and lavatories with running water. A drinking fountain was in the schoolroom.

Later, cupboards were built in the entryway to accommodate dishes, silverware, coffee maker, electric plate, and other items that belonged to the Motherís Club.

A strong backstop was erected on the ball diamond and the school building painted inside and out. Outside play equipment included swings, bars, and a teeter-totter.

Polkton School

Polkton School District Number 1 is the oldest public school system in west Michigan. The first school, located in Eastmanville, was organized in 1842, and built two years later at a cost of $75. Timothy Eastman did most of the work.

Transcriber: Barb Jones
Created: 3 May 2007