In the 1860's, barely a decade after the founding of Lowell in 1852, the citizens were standing proud by their new school building on Main St. in Lowell, on the same site as the present old school building east of the Lowell Public Library. [2001 note: The building that housed the Lowell Public Library in 1991 now houses the Lowell Town Hall.]
Rev. T.H. Ball, Lake County historian and pioneer, wrote the following in 1872: "The school house at Lowell is of brick, a large two-story building, the largest and best furnished school house in the county. Cost of house and furniture, $8,000."
Melvin Halsted, the founder of Lowell, who was very interested in proper education, supervised the construction.From a faded photograph, it's a guess that the building was about 75 feet in width, with twelve large windows on the wings, one larger window over the door, and a decorative bell tower on the roof. (This building was demolished to make way for the larger school building still standing on the site.)
Recently the Three Creeks Historical Assn. received, as a gift, a large leather bound book which contains reports of the teachers from that old school, beginning with the year 1887. Very fine records were kept for the eight lower grades and for the two high school classes.
That year C.A. Segur was superintendent, and he also taught all the high school classes in one room. Other teachers listed were Frank Doak, Sada Starr, and Alice George. In each of the four rooms, attendance varied from 40 to 60, with a total enrollment of 225, while the list of students greatly resembled a roster of local pioneer families.
Students from these early families were listed: Lynch, Spindler, Clark, Burnham, Mee, Slayton, Post, Purdy, Berg, Ackerman, Bacon, Garrison, Brannon, Shurte, Nichols, Gragg, DeWitt, Taylor, Dickey, Vosberg, Wood, Pattee, Ragon, McNay, Castle, Hepp, Hayden, Hack, Ashton, Burhans, Ceiga, Bryant, Turner, Halsted, Bisig, Staff, Minninger, Farwell, Henry, Cleaver, Wood, Rumsey, Maxwell, Klein, Palmer, Gordon, Bixenman, Miller, Ennis, Gregg, Kimmet, Driscoll, Viant, and Ault, all names that have been mentioned in the "Pioneer History" column through the years. (The Old Timer found his mother's name on one of the pages -- Tracy Berg.)
The following notation was on one of the pages for the 1887-88 term: "During the year, one was removed from out school by the hand of death, Edith Viola Halsted, Died May 7, 1888, aged 11 years, a pupil of grade five, room two." She was the daughter of Theron Halsted, the son of Melvin Halsted.
For the 1888-89 term, the high school was extended to three years, with Freshman, Junior and Senior classes, still all in one room. A new list of teachers included G.A. Hawkins, superintendent and high school teacher in room 4; Lizzie Grant, room 1; Mary Sargent, room 2; and Belle Livingston, in room 3. Subjects taught in high school were: history, algebra, arithmetic, geometry, Latin, rhetoric, physiology, physics, literature, composition, bookkeeping and penmanship.
Of the 49 students in the high school room, 15 of them were not promoted! But this was sometimes due to the lack of attendance, for many of the older farmer boys stayed home on the farm some days to do the chores and harvest the crops. In other rooms, grade school pupils were also on a long list of those not promoted.
Geology was soon added to the high school agenda. There were notations in the old volume stating that some of the students not living in Lowell paid a tuition of $1.50 for six weeks.
The following were listed in the Senior Class of 1890: Ruth Bacon, Maud Sherard, Lottie Field, Etta Clark, Albert Post, Achilles Davis, and Urvie Spindler. The Superintendent's report for that year showed a total enrollment of 248, with the daily attendance down to 159, time loss by tardiness, 1,103 minutes, 30 days loss by sickness; only 115 promotions made; and 9 pupils paid a total of $68.50 for tuition.
The 1891 high school graduates were: Ruby Bacon, Winnie Death, Blanche Dickinson, Maud Sanger, Bertha Maxwell, and Bessie Purdie. The graduates in 1892 were J.W. Belshaw, Mabel Purdy, Lillie Wood, and Gracia Nichols.
Frank F. Heighway took over as their leader in the fall of 1893, when the school term started on Sept. 25 and ended May 18.
One entry shows that a lad of 17 "remained in grade six," and one 14-year-old girl remained in grade five. Most of the first graders that year were "put back" in the same class the following year, evidently due to an epidemic, for they were shown on the attendance records as absent during most of their first year in school.
The total enrollment for 1893-94 was 270, with the average daily attendance at 199, and only 133 promoted. The Class of 1894 included Helen Putnam, Chas. W. Warner and Ruie Post. Teachers were Lizzie Grant, Grace Gordon, W.L. Sanger and A.G. Slocomb.
A note written by Heighway in the 1894-95 records stated: "Prevalence of mumps during three months greatly affected the attendance and caused some to withdraw from the school."
The Class of 1895 included: Alice Ebert, Edith Ebert, Zada Ackerman, Anna Johnson, Daisy Dinwiddie, Ethel Nichols, Jessie Hill, and Mamie Hill. Of the total 1895 enrollment of 273, only 172 promotions were made.
In the fall of 1895 school began on Sept. 9 and closed in the spring on May 8, The following were in the Class of 1896: Maud Hoshaw, Pearl Nichols, Dollie Lee, Mary Bixenman, Mamie Nichols, William Davis and Clyde Foster. Of the 278 enrolled, 162 were promoted.
In the fall of 1896 William Sheets became the superintendent, with a total of 321 students enrolled. In the year of 1896 a new school was being built, and again the whole area was proud of their new "house of learning." Colfax Lodge 378 of Lowell, with Edward P. Ames as deputy grand master, conducted the cornerstone laying ceremonies on Aug. 1, 1896, assisted by officers from Crown Point, Hebron, Hobart and Merrillville.
Again quoting from Rev. Ball, who wrote in 1896: "In Lowell a twelve thousand dollar school is going up rapidly, which, if not the largest and most costly in the county, is expected to be equal to any in modern style and convenience."
Because of the change in moving up to four years of high school, there was only one graduate in the year 1897, Wililam D. Davis. The 1898 class of the four-year high school included Goldie Nuckles, Emma Miller, Mae Lawrence, Ray Nelson, Frank Love, Frank Stuppy, Herbert Michael (he never missed a day of school that year) and Albert Hayden. For the school year ending in 1898, there were 322 enrolled, with average attendance of 247, and 198 were promoted.
For 1900 the graduates were Benjamin Lynch, Harry Sanger, Judson Sander, Hal Viant and Fred Tillotson.
The old book containing these reports was furnished by Charles Van Nada of Lowell, and will soon be available to interested readers at the Lowell Public Library. A list of the Lowell High School graduates from 1890 and thereafter can also be found in the old Lowell high school year book, "Echos of 1921."
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