Bayfield County Press

Compiler's Note: Currie G. Bell, my great-grandfather, became the editor and publisher of the Bayfield, Wisconsin weekly newspaper, the BAYFIELD COUNTY PRESS, in the fall of 1882. The paper remained in the Bell family until July 1927. In addition to the usual birth, marriage and death announcements, THE PRESS printed local "chit-chat" columns that provided snippets of information on the residents of Bayfield and the surrounding towns. On a time-available and experimental basis, we have decided to post some of this data in the hopes it may be of use to family historians researching their Bayfield county ancestors. --John Griener


Miss Gussie M. CURRIE, the Lincoln High School 1903 reporter to the PRESS provided the following history of the Bayfield schools that was printed in the PRESS December 4, 1903:

"Up to the year 1858, Bayfield had no school. As the white population grew and the Indians learned to speak English, the need for a school was felt. The present public library stood on the corner occupied now by the Bayfield Pharmacy. The rooms on the first floor were used as a grocery and notion store by S. S. VAUGHN, and the rooms on the second floor were fitted up for the first school of Bayfield. The school room was not very large, was furnished in the plainest way and was not as warm as the bright, modern school rooms which we occupy today.

Miss Rebecca MACABOY was the first teacher and the number of pupils enrolled in 1858 was twenty. School was held in this building for one year, then it was removed to the building now used as a dwelling house by Mr. SHEPHERD. Glancing at the SHEPHERD home with all its modern conveniences, we can hardly realize that this building was once used as a school, Methodist church and dwelling house many years before electric lights, which now brighten the entrance in the evening, were introduced into Bayfield. Mr. PEET, the Methodist minister, was the teacher. The lower rooms were used for both church and school and the upper rooms as dwelling rooms by Mr. PEET and his family. School was held in this building for many years, then as the number of pupils increased, the rooms were found to be too small and the present office of Mr. DOWN's was fitted up. School was held there for several years with Miss MAHAN, of Cleveland, as teacher. In 1867, the room on the first floor of the AUSTRIAN building, now SARGENT's hardware, was remodeled and furnished so that it might be used the following year as a school room. At this time, the number of pupils was sixty, including all Indian children who could speak English and who shared the same rights as the white children. Mr. L. E. WEBB, Indian agent, took a great deal of interest in the school work and helped as much as he was able to. Through the efforts of him and Mr. GUNROE, many of the Indians were encouraged to send their children to school. Miss PATRICK, who became Mrs. VAUGHN, was the first teacher in the AUSTRIAN building. She taught for several years, and one of her school records, containing the names of her pupils and the attendance record is in the possession of Mrs. N. LaBONTE.

It may be of interest to us to know who some of her pupils were: Nellie TYLER (Mrs. RYDER) Bell, Emily and Eddie NOURSE, Tillie LaBONTE, (Mrs. N. BACHAND,) Julia and Hattie BONO, Rosa LEY, Elizabeth, Freddy and James HERBERT, all well known in Bayfield. Mr. NOURSE taught school after Miss PATRICK resigned and during his term as teacher, much interest was taken in spelling contests and short programs. Father SHEBEAU, the priest here at the time, was a faithful worker in promoting the improvement of school work and always showed his interest by being present at all exercises. Many things of interest could be written about the school of the past but time does not allow a lengthy description of every little thing, so we will follow the school work and improvements.

The AUSTRIAN building was soon found to be too small, so the town hall was then used as a school. It was in this building our first high school was organized. Complete courses of high school work, as we have now, were not taken up, but year by year new studies were added. The first class to graduate consisted of two, Phoebe LEIHY (Mrs. Peter HOWDER) and Etta SILVERNAIL who is now Mrs. NOURSE. Messrs WARNER, SHERMAN, and DENSION were the first three professors.

During this period Bayfield was growing both in size and wealth, and in 1885, it was found that we needed and could afford a school building, so the plans were made and in 1887, the Central School was built. A very few years passed before this building was also found to be too small for the large classes and the kindergarten which was started at that time. The high school took possession of the upstairs rooms in the court house where sessions of school were held until the Lincoln High School was built in 1895. Then with many a heart throb of thankfulness, the high school pupils accompanied by the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, took possession of the new building where there seemed to be room enough for many years to come. But we high school pupils of today think if the numbers increase in the next five years as they have in the past five, we will need another high school for the eighth graders already claim some of our room and privileges. We are proud of our school and our work and we appreciate the kindness of the Bayfield people to allow us to have such a chance to secure one of the best high school educations. By calling on Mrs. NOURSE or Mrs. N. LaBONTE, one can learn many interesting things concerning the school, schoolwork and teachers of the past.

The writer is indebted to both Mrs. NOURSE and Mrs. LaBONTE for her information."

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