The Schools of Ironwood, Michigan
From the writings of Luther L. Wright in the Schools
first Yearbook. (1911)
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School Dist No 1 of the Township of Ironwood, then in Ontonagon County, was organized in the winter of 1885-1886. The first district meeting was held at the Webb House.
Nels Vroman, D. Roach, and Patrick Dorman were elected trustees. The meeting determined upon the erection of the school building, voted to issue bonds and made the necessary contracts.
The building was West Vaughn street, which used to be occupied as the Salvation Army barracks, was the first school building errected in the township of Ironwood.
At the last of March 1886, Miss Gertrude Fitzsimmons began to teach school in the new building. thus founding the educational system of Ironwood.
The building which stood on the south side of Vaughn St. was unfinished. It was lathed, but not plastered. There were neither platform nor steps: the pupils and teacher climbed up into the front door by the aid of an inverted barrel. There were no sidewalks, and no apparent street.
Miss Fitzsimmons only succeeded in getting to the schoolhouse through the swamp, which then occupied the present business part of Ironwood, by jumping from one stump to another.
There were about forty pupils present
but they had no books and neither did they have any for about a month.
A few second-hand books were gathered through diligent search and inquiry among the early settlers...but the books were few and poor. Still, by changing them from hand to hand, quite a considerable work was accomplished. Miss Fitzsimmons taught until the following June.
During the summer the town grew rapidly, and in the fall of 1886, Mr. O.H. Carus, a graduate of Michigan State Normal School was chosen as principal, with Miss Ella Atkinson and Miss Margaret Vichie as assistants. The wonderful growth of the town during the winter of '86 and spring of '87 made the little building on Vaughn entirely insufficient, and it was proposed to erect a new building.
I, Luther L Wright was engaged as superintendent in July of 1887 and came to Ironwood in August of that year.
The Central School building was erected on it's present site and finished ready for occupancy in Sept, 1888. So little did the then inhabitants of Ironwood appreciate the great natural resources of their area, that the board was criticized for erecting such a large building ... many thinking that it would never be used.
In the winter of 1887- 88 the Jessieville school was built and occupied. The annual meeting of 1890 voted to build three new school buildings, now known as The Ashland, Norrie and North Schools. They were built and occupied.
The annual meeting of 1892 voted to build the buildings now known as the Newport and Froebel Schools.
The Aurora School was erected about 1898. The Luther L. Wright School was completed in 1900 and since that time we have built the Domestic Science School, the New North School, the Manual Training School and the New North Pabst School.
In the twenty years that elapsed since September 1887, the Ironwood public schools have grown from ten teachers with 600 pupils to 80 teachers with 2,900 pupils.
When I came to Ironwood 24 years ago, on the first Monday of September 1887, 600 children presented themselves for admission. We had one frame building with a room downstairs that would accomodate 43 pupils, and one upstairs, reached by a ladder-like outside staircase, which with crowding, would hold as many more.
What to do with the 510 was somewhat of a problem. Buildings were few and rents were almost prohibitive. We succeeded in getting Mullen's Hall opposite the Curry Hotel on Aurora St, in which we put 250 pupils and 4 teachers, one class in each corner.
We rented a church, a saloon a store and in various ways managed to take care of all after a sort. The next year the central School was finished. We established a high school. The sessions were held in a small room on the second floor of that building (Central).There were 25 pupils and I taught them all.
This school district has been most fortunate in it's officers. They have been progressive, able and honest and as a rule school affairs have been conducted with economy, integrity and prudence, The community has always been most loyal to the schools. It may be my ideal of a school community.
This has been an ideal community in which to live. The country is rough and rugged, the face of nature of nature is scared and seamed by gaps and cuts and caves; but I love it's ruggedness and it's hills. It's summer climate is not surpassed in this world.
It has nearby natural scenery which is unsurpassed. I love the rugged and warm hearted people who partake of it's climate. MY friends and neighbors are in Ironwood, my home is there, and my heart will always turn to the Lake Superior country as my home and abiding place.
The first class graduated in 1890 and the school has had 254 graduates. Some of their occupations are as follows: those actively engaged in teaching at the present date numver 30: engineers 13: doctors of medicine 5; lawyers 6; there is one clergyman, one mining superintendent and one newspaper reporter.
In 1893 there was no graduating class because the course of study was changed from a three-year to a four-year course.
The members of the 1982 class were all boys but one.
The members of the class of 1894 were all girls.
In the total list of alumni for 20 years, there have been 9 deaths.
I have been associated during this term of years with a great number of teachers..as a rule, with the highest order of personality, ability, and high purpose. Four of them have died in service: Mary Nichol, who was the first assistant in the high school; Edith Mott, the first kindergarten teacher employed; Sophia Bray, kindergarten asistant; Flora Richards. They were all noble specimens of womanhood. Many others are now residents of the community and in most cases the real and responsible head of the family.
Yours very truly,