Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

May 17, 1995, Page 36

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.

Index of "Oldies" Articles 



Good Old Days


By Dee Zimmerman


This is graduation week for the Clark County high schools.  The first Superintendent of Schools was James O’Neill in 1854, when Clark County was called Pine Valley and only a portion of the county’s present size.  The first school report on County records was recorded in 1873.  In 1874, the school district was formed.


Geo. E. Crothers

Superintendent of Clark County Schools, 1890


A county publication of 1890 featured the following article written by Geo. E. Crothers, the county superintendent, “To the man who is seeking for a home, there is no subject of greater importance than the educational, sentiment and the condition of schools in the land he intends to make his home.  The presence or absence of the school, its progressive character, or its low and backward condition determines largely the future of his family.  For mercenary motives alone, the investors in lands may look sharply to school facilities in the vicinity where he places his money, for he well knows the cash value of schools, and the extent to which their proximity and prosperity enhance the value of his property. 


The fathers of our state laid the foundation of a magnificent school fund, which is constantly increasing, fed by several different sources without adding a cent to the taxation of the people.  This fund is carefully invested, and the interest is divided annually among the school districts in proportion to the number of children of school age.


Local management of the school matters is directly in the hands of the people.  The annual school meeting is held on the first Monday in July at this meeting all matters of interest to the school are discussed, district officers elected, provisions made for building and repairing school houses, purchasing supplies, etc. and taxes necessary in addition to state fund income are raised.  In all matters pertaining to schools, women as well as men are allowed to vote.


The district board consists of three members who have immediate management and control of affairs in each district.  The organized districts are under the general supervision of a county superintendent, who examines and certifies teachers, inspects schools, etc.  At the head of the schools, to counsel and direct, stands the state department, which consists of the state superintendent and his assistants.


Since the schools are supported in part by local taxation, their condition may be taken as an index to the prosperity, liberality and public spirit of the people; hence citizens of Clark County point with pride to the white school houses that dot the green sword or the playgrounds, at short intervals along every highway.  In many districts the first school house was built of logs, as it could be quickly and cheaply constructed.  But few of these remain, and the neatly painted frame buildings and the substantial brick structures put to shame many older communities in less progressive lands.


In 1879 there were 63 school districts with 3,264 students and in 1889 there were 106 school districts with 6, 396 students in Clark County.


The year of 1889 recorded three high schools in the county, those of Humbird, Colby and Neillsville, as well as Unity which was represented by one-half of the county in its territory.  The Humbird, Colby and Neillsville high schools graduated a total of twelve students in 1889.  Those graduates could pass into the State University without further examination.


In addition to the public schools there are several well-sustained parochial schools in the county those are mostly under the auspices of the Catholic and Lutheran Churches.”


One of Clark County’s oldest school buildings still stands intact at Owen.  Being erected for use in 1921, this photo shows the fine high school building in its early existence.  A citizen’s group, striving to save the old school is actively working toward that goal.  A school building of that era and fine construction is worth the effort as most have been demolished, leaving nothing for historical appreciation in years to come.


 Colby’s first school building had two departments in 1890, one room was for the high school and the other by the district grade school.  The school board members were J. D. Wicker, H. J. Blanchard and Andrew Flaig.


The Graded School House of Greenwood, circa 1881, was divided into three departments with three teachers.  Built for four departments, it was utilized for that as the population grew rapidly in the 1890s.


Shortly before the founding of the village, the Thorp School occupied a building that was later used by the Baptist Church.   The above school facility was completed for occupancy in 1884.  The Thorp School had four departments and three teachers in 1890.

Granton High School students of circa 1920s:  Left to right, first row: George Williams, Ruth Pietenpol, Anita Schoengarth, Myrtle Knorr and Rex Beeckler; Second row: Daphne Beeckler, Elsie Johnson, Myrtle Cole Thayer, Sadie Wagner Wilke and Elsie Nietzel Short; Third row: Jennie Ackerman, Bernard Pietenpol, Ralph Marsh, Pearle Lavey, Pearle Berg Cole and Lloyd Kimball; Fourth row: Fern Williams Hales, Mariah Davis Mortimer and Herb Knickle.  Teachers at back of the room: Max Gumer and Miss Hart.  (This photo was taken in 1911 or 1912)



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