HISTORY OF THE WALNUT SCHOOL
BY GAYLE STUART
[Material for this article was taken from “Walnut Memoirs” by Roma Arndt and from newspaper clippings found in the Walnut Bureau.]
In 1872, school in Walnut was held in the southeast room of the Dew Drop Inn, the old Walnut Hotel, located one block west of the business district, north of the Green Bay Lumber Co. (The Walnut Fire Station is now on the site of the lumberyard.) Miss Jennie Hall was the first teacher.
The first school was built in 1875, at a cost of $5,000. Twenty-five pupils were enrolled. The teacher was Miss Kate Williams, who later married Mr. J. C. Spangler. It opened as a district school, but in the fall of the same year was changed to a graded school with a principal and two assistants.
On April 7, 1881, there was a meeting held to retain Principal Hubbard for another year at a salary of $75.00 per month and the number of school months was fixed at nine. It was ordered that Kirk and Belfield’s arithmetic be used for the ensuing year. It was also decided to use Reed & Kellogg’s grammar and Hutchinson’s physiology. Upon a question of the adoption of a new arithmetic, Messrs. Linfor, Emmons and Lebeck were appointed as a committee to examine the merits of the different publications. [Editor’s Note: Messrs. was used as the plural of Mr.] A tax of $1,200 was ordered levied for a schoolhouse fund, $700 for a contingent fund, and $1,200 for a teachers’ fund.
The building was a two-story building, and in 1882, it was the largest and only school building in Layton Township with graded classes. The building was 78 feet by 51 feet and was 28 feet high.
In 1882, there were 230 pupils enrolled, with a daily attendance of approximately 120. Professor William Hubbard was the superintendent and he had three assistants. The first, or primary department, was taught by Miss C. E. Johnson; the first intermediate department, by Miss G. A. Orcutt; the second intermediate department, by Miss F. Perrigo; and the grammar department was taught by Professor Hubbard.
The first annual commencement exercises of the public schools of Walnut were held May 31, 1889 at the opera house. The graduating class numbered four and consisted of the Misses Maud Bruce, Ada Boiler, Belle DePew and Elton Carey. The opera house was completely filled, showing that the people of Walnut took an interest and had great pride in our public schools. The event was a pleasing one to all interested and concerned of the community.
In July, 1891, notice was given that sealed bids for the building of an addition to the school would be accepted until 9 o’clock on July 6, 1891 at the office of the board secretary. (Plans and specifications might be seen.) At that time the contract would be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.
An ad in the Walnut Bureau on September 23, 1897 asked for bids on furnishing 40 to 60 tons of good soft coal, delivered to the coal houses at the school grounds. All coal was to be weighed at the time of delivery. The board reserved the right to reject any or all bids.
The first piano, a Schillar, was purchased in 1904.
At the time of the 1905 census, there were in Layton Township, not counting Walnut, 200 children of school age, with 108 males, and 92 females. In the town of Walnut, there were 304 children of school age, 154 males and 150 females.
Teachers at the Walnut school in 1909 were: superintendent, R. M. Lampman, high school principal, Miss Helen Packard; assistant principal, Miss Grace Hendricks; special penmanship and drawing, Miss Laura Kail; eighth grade, Miss Elizabeth Dunn; sixth and seventh grade, Miss Ora Johnson; fourth and fifth, Miss Margaret Cissna; second and third, Miss Gwendolyn Laugher; primary, Miss Laura Eroe.
On January 9, 1913, the school building burned to the ground. At the time of the fire, about 12:30 p.m., there were a few students and 2 or 3 teachers in the building. It started in the basement near the front entrance and under the high school stairs. Because of the smoke, the fire was concealed until it had gained such headway that it could not be put out.
Professor Lampman was able to get the high school records out and some of the lower grade records. Following the fire, classes were held in the German Hall, in the vestry of the German Church and in two rooms at the August Ketelsen residence.
After the fire, the school was rebuilt during 1913 for $24,364.00. That school building is the middle section of our present school.
The bell that was in a tower of the old school building was used for years as a flower planter in the backyard at 607 Walnut Street. The home was formerly the home of Hugo Karstens, then the home of Bob and Izetta Dierking, and now the home of Jeff and Peggy Fell. The Dierkings donated the bell to the Walnut Creek Historical Museum. Pictures of the fire are also on display there.
In 1919, the local board of education re-elected the following teachers for the coming school year. Superintendent, D. F. Dickerson of Cumberland; Miss Florence Packman, Miss Mae Howell, Miss Wilma Parker, Miss Winifred Cronbaugh, Miss Kate McGrath, Miss Naomi Robinson, Miss Edna Lodge and Miss Laura Eroe. Superintendent P. E. Pyle, Mrs. Chas. Kerk and G. A. Parriott, having made arrangements elsewhere, were not applicants for re-election.
On June 3, 1926, the proposed auditorium and gymnasium were presented to the people of Walnut. The estimated cost of the structure was to be $22,000.00. The building was to be brick with steel sash and steel roof trusses with no posts intervening. The new building was 60 x 100 feet with a stage off the east end and a basketball or playing floor 58 x 79 feet. The entrance and ticket office were at the front, or west end, with an addition on the back 18 x 32 feet, including two dressing rooms off of the stage.
The basement under the stage was to have a boys’ locker room, 18 x 31 feet, with shower baths and toilets, and a girls’ locker room, 18 x 36 feet, with the same equipment. Under the dressing rooms outside the main buildings were to be located the heating plant and fuel receptacle. (How many of you remember these?) The cost ended up being $25,000.00.