OUR PUBLIC SCHOOL
(By F. J. Lohr)
A complete historic narrative of the beginning and continuation of schools in the Dutch settlement depends largely on some particular persons. The author begs not to be taken amiss if he will make use of the names of those men who are the able and prominent members of our local school board at present.
In the first place mention should be made of A. Van der Meide, Esq. who – and this should be said – is also a member of the Board of Supervisors, a member of the town council, and to make it short, is known favorably as vademecum (a guide book) for many. Mr. Van der Meide has been closely related with the school system from the beginning whether it was a secretary or as member of the Board. His advice should always be heeded, as it is always directed to the improvement and well being of the interest that lies so close to the heart of each true Dutchmen: that of education. His healthy judgment aided many to solve a difficult problem, especially where it concerned finanacial matter, and where buildings had to be erected and where education had to be carried on.
We are happy to mention now the name of John Van de Steeg, Esq. at present, and for many years, the able president of the Board of our Independent District. These two members have served since the organization of the District in the spring of 1884, and the honour which they received by being elected by the people was a credit to the people themselves.
To the earlier history – from the settlement of the colony to the organization of the Ind. District, when the writer took a working part in the matter – I can only point, since written documents are wanting. I have just heard it by word of mouth; it can well be that I will make mistakes that need correction. In the beginning of the existence of the County the southern part was known as Buncombe township, which has been divided so many times meanwhile, that the name (once representing hundreds of our beautiful sections) only covers about 12 sections on the banks of the Sioux. Holland township took a large piece from it right away, yet ceded this to West Branch and other townships. But enough of all this geography; only this, our people tried as quickly as possible to control their own matters.
When the pioneers had barely constructed about half a dozen of the necessary buildings, the first school building was constructed on block 18, the present “old school place,” in the northwest part of town. This was in the summer of 1870 and I believe that A. Lenderink was the architect. This building gave service for several years, until the time when a ward building was judged necessary, which little building was erected on the southeast corner of the Courthouse square, which later was moved to the yard of Hotel Betten.
This information pertains only to our town, but in other parts of the colony people were not idle, because the Herald of July 18, 1873 , remarks: “A. Lenderink is busy building 6 schools” and also mentions “an urgent need of teachers.”
In 1877 Holland and West Branch townships were split so far as school matters were concerned. In 1881 our township built the two-story wooden building of 4 class rooms which is still standing at present.
In 1888 on that same block a ward building was erected with two class rooms. Soon after that these two buildings proved to be insufficient, and other classrooms had to be rented in town. In 1890 the story of the main building was altered, but this did not satisfy. In 1892 the Board decided, after serious deliberation and many meetings, to put up a sturdy brick building. Block 28 was bought for $1500 and there our present handsome school building was erected. The people had voted for a $10,000 school building, but it turned out to cost $16,000. The matter was settled, but the Board spent much time and effort on it, without having received a penny compensation, and from some not even a grateful word. One whole year the building proved to be wholly satisfactory. Then the ward school had to be used again, and very soon with each rebuilding a sigh is heard: “Again no place left.”
The first teacher, in 1871, was Jno. Van de Steeg. Then, Cornelius Hospers and P. Eernisse. In 1873 Jno. Van de Steeg taught again; the number of pupils was 60. Later, Simon Kuyper. After that Douglass, John Kolvoord, J.J. VanZanten, Emma Colton, up to the time of the organization of the Ind. District in 1884. In the little building the assistants were: Sarah Coon (now Mrs. H.J. Lenderink), Nellie Pas (now Mrs. Teunis Tysseling), S.M. Ollenbeck (now Mrs. De Lespinasse), Gerrit Bolks and possibly others. In the spring of 1884 the teaching personnel consisted out of Emma Colton, Clara Seward, Amanda Hesse and Jessie Campbell. In the autumn J.C. Trainer became principal and remained that for 4 years. He was succeeded by M.M. Mishler who served three years, and he was succeeded by R.W. Olmsted, who also labored for three years. The present principal is D.W. Gross with 9 assistants, while in 1884 three had been sufficient. The pupils have increased in even larger proportion.
In chronological order I will mention the names of those who have been employed as teachers here, except those I have already mentioned: Ellen Richards, Irene Stanton (now Mrs. C.A. Dodge), Jennie Nyland, Gertie Bolks (now Mrs. A. De Bey), Annie Johnson (now Mrs. W. S. Palmer), Nellie Doolittle (now Mrs. F.J. Lohr), Ellen M. Pryor, Laura A. Doolittle, R. Maude McManus, Katherine Deuell (now Mrs. R. McCorkell), Julia Henry, Henrietta Zwemer, Nettie Van der Krol, Mattie Mishler, Stella Barret, Lulu West, Mary Brooke, Ida Orebaugh, Louisa Collin, M. Grace Hunter, Libbie C. Singer, Nellie Johnson, Flora C. Smith, Hubert Rhynsburger, Ruth L. Adsit, Mari e Bruner, Nora Held, Sue Johnson, and Gerrit J. Muilenburg. A few names now follow of those who have assisted: Jno. Spaan, Geo. Bolks, Herman Oggel, Mathilda Bolks and Cora Fisher. The year the following have been appointed as new teachers: Bertha Ysseling, Katie Vos and Josie De Booy.
In 1884 members of the Board were the following: A. v.d. Meide, J. v.d. Steeg, A.J. Betten, Jr., W. Hospers, C Mari s and H. Spaan. The first mentioned was elected president; H. J. Van der Waa was elected secretary, and Henry Hospers was elected treasurer. In 1885 J.M. Oggel succeeded C. Mari s. In 1886 H. Spaan was succeeded by H. Slikkerveer. In 1888 M. Rhynsburger succeeded Wm. H. Hospers and F.J. Lohr became secretary. In 1891 M. Rhynsburger was succeeded by J.A. De Spelder and J.M. Oggel was succeeded by H.P. Oggel. In 1894 C. Wormser and K. Noordhoff were elected in the place of J.A. De Spelder and H.P. Oggel, and in 1895 C. Hospers, A.J. Kuyper and A.F. Geselschap were elected to ro replace H. Slikerveeer, A.J. Better,Jr., and K. Noordhoff. This shows that A.J. Betten served eleven years and H. Slikkerveer nine years, and everyone knows that both these men have always had the best interest of the school at heart.
Of our teachers the following have been elected as superintendent: Simon Kuyper, John Kolvoord and J.C. Trainer, Jno. Van de Steeg was the first to receive his certificate from Eli Johnson. A.K. Webb, Simon Kuyper, John Kolvoord, D.W. Auperle, A.W. Grissell and J.C. Trainer, consecutively, have served as superintendents.
In all these years (despite the hardships of pioneer life, the destruction by grasshoppers, prairie-fires, blizzards and hurricane) the school system in the County was developed to its desired end. In this labor the Dutch settlement has been leading from the beginning on, and it is to be hoped that the following twenty-five years will show a similar growth in everything that relates to education and the formation of good citizens.
First School in Orange City and also used as the first church.
Orange City 's First Public School
A. Vander Meide, Esq.
J. Van de Steeg, esq.