by Diane Rockall
As the new school year begins for the Stockbridge Community School District, this column looks back at how this community’s schooling structure began.
In 1827 the then Michigan Territorial Legislature passed a law requiring all townships with populations in excess of 50 households to provide a teacher of “good moral standing” to instruct children to read and write. The teacher was also required to have a pen knife and be able to make a pen from a goose quill. The same act required townships of more than 200 families to provide a teacher who could also teach Latin and French.
Both books seem to agree that it is unlikely all townships adhered to any or all of these requirements. When Michigan became a state a few years later in 1835 those rules were replaced. The state ordinance required every township to set aside revenues from the sale of section 16 properties to be used to create a school or schools.
Teacher salaries statewide were low. They also received room and board that often required moving from home to home. Stockbridge’s first school of record was in Section two of the Township. The teacher, Melissa Stephens, was paid 75 cents per week.
Large families paid more as there was a per pupil fee whether their children attended or not. Attendance was not mandatory, but it is generally believed that most people wanted their children to go to school. There was no assigned curriculum.
In an early letter the daughter of Herman Lowe claimed that her brother, Peter Lowe, taught in the first school district in Stockbridge township, so it appears that teacher Stephens taught before the official district system formed or in a private school. Then again, perhaps male and female teachers were considered separate categories, and she was the first female, while he was first male. It is generally agreed that the first school in the district was in Section 2. This included Pekin, which today is Stockbridge.
In 1836 Stockbridge’s school board voted to raise $60 to build a schoolhouse. One year later they changed it to $70 and included $10 for creation of a library. The first $60 was $10 in cash and $50 in labor and materials. Ira Wood, school board assessor, proposed to build a frame structure for $55 and have it completed by December 1837.
The same board voted to hold school eight months of the year, three of those months taught by a male. The salary at that time was about $5 per month.
By 1843, with 51 potential students, the “old” building was too small, so the six-year-old structure of Ira Wood was traded back to him for a new site. The land description puts that brick building on the site of what today is the Stockbridge Activity Center, formerly the old middle school.
In the 1880s and ’90s the high school was organized, and its first class graduated in 1895. The presence of students from outside the district, known as “foreign” pupils, led to the idea of enlarging the district.
In the 1920s once again it became necessary to enlarge and to modify the structure, so the Middle School building was constructed on the same site. It was dedicated Nov. 13, 1930.
In 1952 the Stockbridge Community Agricultural School District was organized with elementary schools in Munith, Gregory and Stockbridge. In 1958 the name was changed to the Stockbridge Community Schools.
The information in this article came from A Corner of Ingham County – Stockbridge published in 1976 by the Stockbridge Centennial Committee and Michigan: A History of the Wolverine State by Willis Frederick Dunbar, 1966.
Since the books were written more than or almost 50 years ago, their story ends here. Perhaps some lifelong resident with memories of these and more recent additions might like to help write or direct research into more recent school history. If so contact this writer at StockbridgeCommunityNews@gmail.com.