Marinette County WIGenWeb - Centennial History - Education

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100 Years of Education in Marinette County

Marinette County has always believed in and financially supported education of the children of the county.

As early as 1850, Dr. and Mrs. Jonathan Hall engaged a Mr. and Mrs. Podulupe to come from Chicago to teach the Hall children and as many of the neighbors' children as cared to come to the Hall residence. The location of this first private school was on the southeast corner of Riverside and Hattie Streets, and school was held during the winter months of 1850-51. There probably had been an informal school in operation in the 1830s when John Kittson was teaching Indians who lived around his trading post, but the school in the Hall residence was the first formal attempt to teach Marinette County young people.

Just across the present Hattie Street bridge in Menominee, a Miss Sue Lyon taught school for four months in1856. She apparently was the first school marm of the area. If any Marinette children attended her school, and reports say some did, they would have had to get to school by boat, for there were no bridges as yet crossing the river.

The next Marinette school recorded is one organized by Dr. J.J. Sherman, and taught on the upper floor of the site presently occupied by the O.A. Haase Shoe Store. the school term was for three months, presumably in the winter, and the tuition was $1.00 per month per child and was collected by the teacher.

Between 1857 and 1858, however, the community apparently decided to support education with public funds and the Reverend J.W. Donaldson was appointed school commissioner. One of the school commissioner's duties was to examine and certify teachers. Thus, Reverend Donaldson certified Mr. Henry Bentley, the son-in-law of Dr. Hall, as a teacher and he was given a one-year's teacher's license for the winter term in 1858-59. School was held in the lower floor of the old Farnsworth and Brush Lumber Company boarding house located at the corner of present Houston Street and Riverside Avenue. Apparently a charge was made to the parents for the first three months of school, for it was noted that the "Town of Marinette received $40.00 from state school funds and so ran the fourth month free."

Mrs. Hall, who had been a licensed teacher in New York State prior to coming to Marinette, received a one year license in 1859 and taught briefly in the summer of 1859 in the living room of her home. Her license to teach in Marinette was signed by Joseph M. Brown, Superintendent of Schools.

Menekaunee received its first school in 1858 when the New York Lumber Company built a small square building about two blocks east of the present Menekaunee School and donated it to the community for school purposes. In 1858 Dr. Sherman, who had previously taught a school in Marinette, opened a school there. This was the first regular tax-supported public school.

About 1859, a Marinette school was built on the site of the present Perry's Cinema and in 1863, without too much opposition, it was merged with the Menekaunee school district and a Union School was built where the Marinette Middle School now stands. With two primary elementary schools and the Union School, the Town of Marinette was moving towards a full secondary school program, and in 1876 the Marinette Free High School was organized. Initially there were 25 students and J.C. Crawford was the first principal and sole teacher. He held the post of principal and also superintendent through 1880. In 1887, when Marinette became an incorporated city, F.R. Utley became the first city superintendent of schools.

Gradual growth of the Marinette school district entailed the replacement in 1882 of the Union School by a newly built high school and then, when that building was condemned in 1914, a new building suitable for 300 students was erected. The Junior High School was added in 1921 and the present Marinette High School was built in 1972. Today, Marinette has a public school enrollment of about 2,700 pupils housed in five city and one rural elementary schools, a middle school and a senior high school for grades 9 through 12.

Almost all of the rural, county-wide schools in Marinette County developed after 1870, although Peshtigo had a school before that date. Prior to 1963, by which time school consolidations were largely completed, there had been 112 rural one-room schools, 19 state graded schools and eight high schools outside the City of Marinette. The only four year high school lost by consolidation was at Amberg, which was attached to the Wausaukee District. Present high schools are at Niagara, Goodman, Pembine, Wausaukee,  Crivitz, Coleman and Peshtigo.

Rural elementary and, to a degree, high schools were under the supervision of the county superintendent. The first county superintendent was Reverend Lyman Winslow and the last was Clayton Lee who served from 1953 to 1965. The office of county superintendent was abolished by Wisconsin statute in 1965.

Catholic education began in Marinette when Our Lady of Lourdes congregation, which was founded in 1868, built a combination chapel and school at the corner of Main and Water Streets in 1872. The school was formally established on September 6, 1876 under the pastorship of the Reverend John Chebul. Four Sisters of Notre Dame were engaged as teachers and 40 pupils were in attendance. Sometime during the period of 1883-1888 a new school building was built at a cost of $6,000 and in 1891 St. Mary's Institute was organized as a finishing school for the education of young ladies. Many of the lumbermen, it was said, sent their daughters to this school.

Our Lady of Lourdes High School probably held its first graduating class in 1883, for it was the first Catholic high school in Wisconsin. In 1911 the high school needed more space and, after a very heated debate, it was decided to build the present three story building containing 12 classrooms and an auditorium. In 1957-58 Lourdes High School became Catholic Central High School and additional facilities were built. Present enrollment varies between 250-300 students taught by a staff of 21. Catholic elementary education is now provided through the three buildings that are a part of the Holy Family Grade Schools.

The Trinity Evangelical Lutheran School was organized prior to 1925 and, with the exception of one year, had been in operation ever since. Today, it has a K-8 program taught in a very modern building.

Education is not only for young people; it is also for the adults. Marinette County and neighboring Menominee County were responsible for developing the Northern Marinette Chautauqua Assembly at Pine Beach in 1897. The programs were topical, educational, entertaining and sometimes political in nature and were open to young people and adults for a fee of 25 cents per program for adults and 15 cents for children. When William Jennings Bryan spoke on August 5, 1899, a crowd of 6,000 people heard him.

(Marinette County Centennial 1879-1979, p. 14)

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