This article traces the origins and development of the Hemlock School District, also known as District Number Four, in Richland Township. Initially shrouded in mystery and tradition, the district’s history becomes clearer through the discovery of an old record book. The article details the establishment of the district in 1863, its early challenges, including a rapidly growing population due to nearby sawmills, and the evolution of its educational facilities over time. From humble beginnings with a small enrollment, the district expanded to accommodate the educational needs of a burgeoning community, reflecting the community’s commitment to education despite financial burdens and differing opinions on its value.
Hemlock School District Organized
by Lorenz H. Loesel
In the last chapter, we discussed the history of the Lunney District or more commonly known as District Number Five. We are now ready to follow the gradual development of District Number Four, also known as the Hemlock District.
I had a most difficult time finding any material that would give me at least an outline of the history of the Hemlock District. It seemed as though its history was buried in tradition.
One day, as I was conversing with Erdman Wardin, I learned that there might be an old record book dealing with the history of District Number Four. Fortunately, I was able to locate this book, and some of the unsolved problems gained their proper perspective.
The following notice gives the answer to the problem at hand:
“Pursuant to notice, the Board of School Inspectors met at the Cone School House for the purpose of setting up a new school district which is the one shown in the School District Map, and also made the annual report to the town board.” A. W. Porter, Town Clerk
Even though District Four is not mentioned specifically and the map is not available, it becomes quite apparent that this refers to District Number Four. This is the first time that this district appears on the township records, and the same figure and date are given in the township treasurer’s book. So the first record of this district read:
“District No. 4, Amount raised $52.00; two mill tax, $7.43; From unorganized territory, $6.72; Total $66.15. Showing a census of 14 scholars – 1863 A.D.” We are fairly safe in assuming that this district was organized in 1863 and was known as the Hemlock District.
Now we are confronted with another problem which is rather perplexing, namely: Where was the first schoolhouse of District Number Four located? Some people claim that it was south of M-46. Others would place it in the neighborhood of our present school. There is no record to substantiate these claims.
We do know, however, that its enrollment was small as indicated in the above report. Since the community of Hemlock had several sawmills in its immediate vicinity, its population increased, and the little school had to be replaced. This is substantiated by the census report below:
“Census Record of Persons between the age of 5 and 20 September 7th, 1869, 36 names listed; August 27th, 1870, 69 names listed.”
This list of boys and girls and the sharp growth within one year are an indication of the fast growth of Hemlock and its district. This record reflects the condition as it prevailed in the early 1870s. Two attendance records are given — one for the summer term and one for the winter term. The summer term lasted thirteen weeks, including the months of May, June, July, and part of August. On the other hand, the winter term extended from November through to the month of April.
This followed the usual pattern that the school year was divided into two terms. But within a short period, this method was discontinued, and a school term of nine months became customary in most schools. It almost seems ironic that lady teachers were employed for the summer term and men teachers for the winter term. The implied theory was that a lady teacher was not able to cope with the students as well as men teachers. The records clearly indicate that some of the lady teachers were equal to the task at hand, and many a youngster had ample proof this was so.
The following were the teachers listed in the District Record Book of Richland, District Number Four, their terms, wages, and year of service:
Nettie E. Lewis, 13 weeks, $4 per week plus room and board, 1869;
J. H. Bailey, 16 weeks, $15 per week plus room and board, 1869;
S.A. Wright, 16 weeks, $5 per week plus room and board, 1870;
Mina A. Sawyer, 16 weeks, $35 per month, 1871.
Previously it was mentioned that a new schoolhouse was needed to replace the one-room school. The records definitely show that in the year 1879, $702.29 was paid for building a schoolhouse. This second schoolhouse was located on the site where Mr. Mearl Thomas presently lives. Several people told me that they have a vivid picture in their mind, recalling a two-room school with a board fence around the schoolyard. Later, this building was moved to the lot where the Gosen Hotel now stands. William Earl stated that it adjoined another building and served as a store for many years.
On June 2, 1894, a special meeting was called for the purpose of building a new school. This brings us to the third school building that served the Hemlock District. Again, this school was built on the identical spot where the second schoolhouse stood. Many people in this community attended this school, and many fond memories are theirs.
The school which is being remodeled and the new school are matters of recent history and create no particular difficulty in establishing the year and date of their dedication. Their influence and impact on the lives of our boys and girls, however, are of extreme importance.
As we view the history of our schools in this community, one is particularly pleased to note the love and devotion that this community evidenced in its educational system. No doubt there were many sharp words exchanged about the cost of education and its burden to the taxpayer.
But in spite of criticism and shades of varying opinions, the community moved ahead, determined that their sons and daughters shall receive the best that they were able to provide. There is no doubt that the education of our children is far more important than crass materialism, which often leads to discontent and frustration.