The early years of the Midland education system

Editor’s Note: The Midland County Historical Society is partnering with the Midland Daily News for “A Window to Midland’s Past,” which will feature historical pieces in print and online at This particular piece was compiled from the 1884 portrait and biographical scrapbook by retired historical society director Gary Skory.

Since the first schools were organized in Midland County, the education system has undergone a complete change. The big difference between the old and the new methods is obvious. In “old times” the preceptor’s word was the supreme law in his little kingdom, and that law was enforced by a generous distribution of blows from the well-seasoned birch stalk. Executing a pencil sketch on a slate was considered a misdemeanor, or deserving of at least 12 strokes from the same reformer, wielded by the sturdy arm of a furious pedagogue. Asking for help solving a confusing math problem more than twice during school hours relegated the unfortunate student to a seat on the ‘dunce block’, the most watched character, but not the most envied. of the room.

The old straight-backed benches and pine desks, smeared with butter and molasses, and defaced by the “knives” of the big boys, have been replaced by the modern single desk, where every student has every comfort and convenience. the conveniences he may desire.

School textbooks were, at this date, of a diverse character, almost every family having kept the remains of books which their fathers and mothers had studied during their school days and which were now used by their children to save expense , being considered by parents good enough for anyone. Each student had a Ray’s arithmetic, the only textbook of which there were half a dozen. Geography was represented by “Peter Parley” and the Monteith Handbook; readers, by McGuffey, Saunders, Eclectic and Natural series; grammar by Pinneo, Clark’s easy way and Brown’s parsing lessons. Webster’s Elementary, Cobb’s, Worcester’s and Eclectic Spellers were used interchangeably. Scholars could hardly be ranked, let alone ranked. Today, the systematic way of grading students, the uniformity of textbooks with improved methods of teaching by object lessons and the like, give today’s students advantages that would not have been dreamed of a few years ago. at 20 years. Twelve-year-olds are in many cases more advanced in rhetoric, physiology, and mathematics than were less fortunate students who attended public schools for the full length of time mandated by law for only two decades.

Midland County is progressing rapidly in an educational manner. Midland Township leads in student numbers and school property values. There are two brick schools, four frame and one log, with a total value of $28,500. The number of scholars enrolled in the different districts is 863. The amount paid for tuition last year was $4,642.20. The largest school building in the county is in Midland City; it is a magnificent three-storey brick structure, except for the basement which is large and airy. The building is heated by furnaces and special attention was given to ventilation and obtaining adequate lighting during its construction. It was erected in 1869 and cost, with its furniture, $23,000. Six teachers are employed, in as many departments. A beautiful and valuable library, containing 708 volumes belongs to this building, thus adding to the interest of school work.

In the township of Hope there are two whole districts and two fractions. The number of children in the township between the ages of five and twenty is 209. There are two frame and two log schools, and the total amount of money paid for teachers’ salaries for the year 1883 is 938 $.25.

Edenville contains two whole neighborhoods and one fractional. The number of children enrolled is 140. One of these three quarters has a frame and the other two have log schools. The amount of salaries paid to teachers was $718.75.

Warren has three districts. Two of them are integer and one fractional. The number of children enrolled in the commune is 154. Two of the school buildings are frame structures, with modern conveniences, and the rest are made of logs. The total amount paid to teachers is $610.

The township of Larkin paid a total of $940.50 to its teachers for the year 1883, in this township there are five districts, all whole. The number of children enrolled is 94. Three of the schools are frame buildings, while two districts still use the log school.

There are only two organized school districts in Lincoln, both entire. There are only 63 children in the canton who are entitled to school privileges, and among them, only 48 go to school. One of their schools is frame and the other is a log building. $345.00 has been disbursed over the past year for the payment of teachers’ salaries.

In the township of Jerome, there are only 91 children who have the privilege of going to school, and only 45 of them take advantage of this privilege. One of the buildings is a frame and the other a log school. There are only two districts in the township. The total amount of salaries paid to teachers during the year was $303.

In Geneva, 62 children are regularly enrolled in school out of 104, who are entitled by law to these allowances. There are only two districts, both of which have strong and spacious frame buildings. The total amount paid to teachers, male and female, for the past year was $369.

Homer has three whole neighborhoods, all of which have good frame buildings. $572.00 was paid for teachers’ salaries for the school year 1883. There are 572 scholars enrolled in this township.

Lee paid his 1883 teachers the sum of $467.45. It is divided into four districts, all of which are whole and have only 54 scholars.

Greendale has only one school district, which is unclassified. HL Voorhese is director for the current year. There are 18 students enrolled, 12 of whom attend regularly. A beautiful frame building was erected in 1884, costing around $500. School property is valued at $500, and $120 was paid to teachers in 1883.

Ingersoll contains one fractional district and four integers. The number of students as reported by the last school census is 322. Each district has an excellent frame school building with all modern conveniences. Ingersoll paid his professors last year the sum of $1043.83

Mt. Haley registers 103 children between the ages of five and 20, and the three fractional school districts it controls have log homes for school purposes. Teachers’ total salary for the last school year was $530.70

The entire four districts into which Porter Township is divided are furnished with frame school buildings, which are large and spacious and well ventilated. The amount of salaries paid to teachers for 1883 was $651.78. The number of children enrolled was 136.

The Township of Jasper spent $833 on teacher salaries for the last school year. It contains five districts, all of which are whole. The total number of children authorized by law to attend school in this commune is 161. Of the five buildings intended for school purposes, only one is built of logs, the rest of framework.

For a county with less than 7,000 residents, the statement above is quite flattering. It is now settling down with good citizens faster than at any time in its history, and the next ten years will nearly double the numbers shown above.

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