Project seeks photos of missing country schools
Jewett School, the one-room schoolhouse among the historic buildings of the John Pahl Historical Village in the Allegan County Fairgrounds, has been a repository for documents and photographs relating to Allegan County country schools dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Each year during fair week, volunteers make the original documents available to the public for looking up schools they or their relatives attended, and in some cases, classroom photos of the students who attended them.
Fourth grade classrooms from today’s elementary schools also get to attend the one-room schoolhouse each day during fair week to get an idea of what it was like to study the Three Rs (reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic) in a country school that typically included grades 1-8 all under one roof.
“The documents cover 250 Allegan County country schools,” said David Thompson. “There was one country school for every square mile.”
With Jewett School housing the original photographs and documents, the history of these schools were getting worn and faded from the public handling them and were subjected to being lost forever by being destroyed by water or fire.
In June, volunteers David and Bette Thompson and Keith and Marsha Behm, worked with Scott Kuykendall of the historical society and Cindi Kurtz of PJ Printing to scan and digitize all the school documents and place them in new binders at the Jewett School so in the event of any loss, they can be reprinted. The original materials will be safely stored at the Old Jail Museum.
Keith Behm credited Thompson for doing most of the work, utilizing his skills as a retired communications, information and technology officer at Borgess Medical Center to digitize photos and documents.
The effort required 100 hours to scan 3,500 documents to computer files and collate the information into 12, three-ring binders for the new prints. Now when looking up schools during fair week, if the school is in the master list, it will index where other detailed documents related to it can be found.
For instance, browsers might find photos of the 1912 graduating class of Allegan High School—all three of them—or photos of as many as 50 students proudly standing together on the steps of their one-room schoolhouse. Some photos identify the students and some do not. Photographs also show the school itself usually standing in a farmer’s field and often named for the person whose land it occupies.
If a school is not in the master list, that means photographs are not available.
Unfortunately, there are 43 schools that have no exterior photos for the collection. Check the list to help complete the project. If you have a photo and would like to share it, please contact David Thompson at (269) 673-4136 or Keith Behm at (269) 673-4672. Copies will be made and the originals will be returned.
The Allegan County Fair is Sept. 7-15 this year and the Jewett School will be open each day manned with volunteers to help the public access some school history.
Have a picture of one of these missing schools?
Angell: section 36, Wayland Twp.
Base Line: section 24, Cheshire Twp.
Bellingham: section 15, Gun Twp.
Berry (aka Beechdale): section 15, Casco Twp.
Briniger: section 17, Valley Twp.
Burrows: section 19, Lee Twp.
Chase: no address available
Crittendon: 58th St., Manlius Twp.
Diamond Springs: Section 21, Salem Twp.
Doster: no address available
Frayer: Section 1, Heath Twp.
Gardner: Section 15, Wayland Twp.
Gregg: Section 26, Wayland Twp.
Gregorville: Section 10, Wayland
Gun River: Section 23, Martin Twp.
Hartzig: Section 6, Dorr Twp.
Hamilton: Section 6, Heath Twp.
Hopkinsburg: Section 27, Hopkins
Hopkins: Section 29, Hopkins
Huver: Section 1, Leighton Twp.
Indian Trails: Section 9, Salem Twp.
Kibbie: Section 33, north side of Base Line Rd.
Lohman: Section 35, Martin Twp.
Mack’s Landing: Section 26, Saugatuck area
Morrell: Section 36, Gun Plains Twp.
Neely: Section 1, Doster Twp.
Nelsen: Section 32, Leightown Twp.
Oakshade: Section 28, Martin
Osborn: Section 6, Watson Twp.
Rice: Section 6, west side of 70th St.
Rummery: Section 21, Doster Twp.
Scherien: Section 26, Dorr Twp.
Shelbyville: Section 32, Wayland Twp.
Simpson: Section 4, Watson Twp.
Sheldon: Section 18, Wayland Twp.
Singapore: no address available.
Swan: Section 25, Watson Twp.
Truax: Section 12, Hopkins Twp.
Viers: Section 9, Gun Plains Twp.
Weber: Section 17, Leighton Twp.
White: Section 17, Gun Plains Twp.
Wicks: Section 35, Hopkins Twp.