Ironton City Schools
The Schools from the Beginning
The first school in Ironton was taught during the winter of 1849-50, in a house built by Berdine Blake on Front Street. The little brick house was next to Dempsey’s flour mill. The town had only been named six months when the school started.
Dr. J. J. Wood was the first teacher and established his school with thirty scholars. Fees were charged by those able to pay. The nearest school was taught by S. P. Calvin, near Kelly’s cemetery, which is now part of the Ironton incorporation lines.
During mid-winter, a meeting of citizens was called at the Blake home for the purpose of building a schoolhouse. John Campbell presided, with S. R. Bush, secretary. Others in attendance were P. Murphy, D. W. Voglesong, M. Gillen, Berdine Blake, John Haney, James Smith and perhaps others. Resolutions to build a school were adopted.
The Ohio Iron & Coal Co., offered a lot on the corner of Fourth and Center Street which was accepted. John Campbell, Shepherd Luke, and William D. Kelly were named trustees, and raised $440. Gifts to build the frame building were as follows: John Campbell, $100; W. D. Kelly, Stephen Daniels, James M. Merrill, Irwin J. Kelly, and James W. Means, $25 each; Morris Jones, $20; H. Crawford, W. E .R. Kemp, Caleb Briggs, and John K. Smith, $10 each; and other smaller gifts.
The first teacher at this building, which became known as the “Pioneer” School, was Josiash McClain. It is interesting to know that this first school later became the home of Jerre Davidson, a former postmaster, and also the law office of Col. Carmi A. Thompson, M.W. Russell, and was last owned by and occupied by Atty. Earle E. Stewart. It was on the location of the Ohio Power Co. building, after being moved there when the Odd Fellows temple was erected.
When the fall term for 1850-51 started Mr. and Mrs. J. McClain had over 100 students enrolled, and were assisted by a young man named J. W. Roberts. Before the end of the term Roberts went to Iowa and was married, and returned with his bride. He was elected the Recorder of the Village of Ironton and died the night of his election, April 19th, 1851 at the age of 24. His body was removed from its first burial place near the tunnel location to Kelly’s cemetery.
Miss Lucy Young took over the advanced girls and taught them at her home which was just above town, now the location of Monroe Street. On Saturday night,
May 10,1851, Mr., Andrews, chairman of the executive committee of the State Teacher’s Association came to town in behalf of Union School System. Following his visit, an election was held on Thursday, May 22nd to vote on the school issue. This first election was held at the schoolhouse.
Jonas Roadarmour was chairman, T. S. Kirker, assistant chairman and Fletcher Golden, clerk to count the ballots, 36 in all, with one vote against the school. On June 2, there was another election to choose a Board of Education. John Peters presided, S. R. Bush was secretary and Thomas Murdock, J. T. Langshore, S. E. P. Parsons were Judges, with J. N. Kidd, clerk.
The men elected to the first school board were John Campbell and John Peters for three years; James Kelly and W. D. Kelly for two years and S. R. Bush and Thomas Murdock for one year. The first meeting of the Board took place in the Iron Railway office, June 7,1851. Three Examiners were named, Dr. C. Briggs, Neal McNeal, and Dr. J. P. Bing.
At the meeting on August 30th, 1851, Charles Kingsbury was employed as superintendent, salary $600 per year. He was authorized to employ William Ward as teacher for $300 per year. The school year was divided into two terms—September 1st to March 1st, and March 15th to July 15th. As the school house was owned by those who subscribed money to build it, the basement of the Spencer Chapel was rented for the first Union School, but the basement was over crowded and classes were held in the Pioneer Building with Miss Emily Wait, teacher.
The first official visitors named by the Board were Rev. Jos. M. Chester, Presbyterian minister and Rev. W. T. Hand, Methodist minister. R. M. Stimson, editor of the Register was named to fill a vacancy on the board of examiners.
The term of 1852 began with two more teachers being added to the staff,
Miss E. A. Rankin and Mrs. Moore. By the end of the term of 1852, 304 pupils were enrolled. In March, the Board decided a school building was necessary, and the Ohio Iron & Coal Co., again was called upon and gave the Union School System the lots of Sixth Street between Vernon and Washington streets to Seventh street.
When the fall term of 1853-54 started, Supt. Kingsbury was back and new teachers added were Watson Clark, C. T. M. Kemp, Miss Wheeler, and Mrs. Beach. The school building was completed in April, 1854, and the first teachers J.W. Metcalf, Misses Moxley, Newton, Watkins, Turney, Wakefield, S. J. McConnell, C. A. McConnell, Henshaw, and Dudley—four of whom taught in a frame house where the West Ironton school was established that year.
From this time on, the schools advanced and improved each year. New buildings were erected as the town grew until today; the city has among the finest schools erected in the state. The Ironton High School, erected in 1922, it without question the most complete unit to be found anywhere—a school with an auditorium seating of 1,500, with modern stage and all entertainment facilities—a cafeteria, kitchen, home economics rooms, work shop, gymnasium, and swimming pool all under one roof. Adjoining is the athletic field, clubhouse, and stadium seating 3,300 under roof and adjoining this is the vocational building, one of the most completely equipped in the state for big undertakings.
The two most recently constructed school buildings are Campbell and West Ironton, which were replacements under federal grants for older buildings. These were erected and dedicated since 1939. Other buildings include the modern Kingsbury, Lombard, Whitwell, Central, and Lawrence Street building, which is the oldest.
The first graduation exercises of the schools were held at Spencer Chapel, June 27th, 1867, the graduates were Misses Mercy Gibbons, Lou Phillips, Mary Richey, Helen Rucker, Julia Shepard, and Charles E. Walton, who became a doctor at Hamilton, Ohio, and in 1888 was a noted surgeon in Cincinnati. Miss Phillips became principal of one of the Columbus schools.
There were no graduates in 1868. From the class of 1869, George W. Steece became a lawyer of ability in Minnesota; Thomas W. Raine a successful business man in Pennsylvania; John O. McDonnell, a physician at Delaware, Ohio; James H. Winters, a Regular Army captain; Charles F. Creighton, a Minister and was Professor of Moral Philosophy at Nebraska University. Other members of that class were Misses Edith Leete, Sarah Corey, Anna E. Dean, Evelyn Hamilton, S. W. Morris and James E. Lawton.
Members of the class of 1871 were 8 girls and no boys. Two of the ladies employed in the school, Misses Jessie Johnson and Miss Sarah Ross. Miss Ross started teaching in 1872 and retired in 1908. The class of 1872 listed 8 girls and no boys and the class of 1873 six girls and no boys. Of this class, Misses Emily Johnson and Martha Thomas became teachers and taught until 1906.
The class of 1874 broke the spell and one boy graduated, and became Dr. Theodore Livesay, who was prominent in Columbus until the twentieth century. In 1875, the schools adopted a four-year high school course instead of a three; hence there were no graduates. The class of 1876 was known as the “Centennial Class” because of the great Exposition that year in Philadelphia. Seven girls of this class departed from the usual custom and wore calico dresses, much to the discomfort of Supt. Farwell, who delivered the diplomas in dress coat and white kid gloves. There were 14 in the class of 1877 and in 1878 the record was broken with 23 graduates.
The Alumni Association was organized June 12,1880. In 1888, when the new Kingsbury school was completed, the building was used for the first time by the Alumni, and at that meeting, honorary membership were voted Mrs. Harrie Burr, who later gave the city a home for the Briggs Library. S. B. Steece, a Civil War Veteran, who later served three terms as postmaster and built the Ironton Cement Co. E. S. Wilson, Civil War Veteran, who for a third of a century edited the Weekly Register, and became editor of the Ohio State Journal. These memberships were voted because there were no high school diplomas at the time they graduated.
During the past three-quarter century, the St. Joseph High School, and the Parochial schools of both St. Lawrence and St. Joseph churches have graduated many outstanding citizens. The present fine St. Joseph high school was erected in 1924.
From 1849 to 1900, nine men only served as superintendent of the Public schools—Charles Kingsbury, J.B. Beach, C. A. Hunt, A. M. Vandyke, A.H. Farwell, J. S. Wilson, C. F. Dean, A.J. Surface and J. B. Smith. Since 1900, the superintendents have been S. P. Humphrey, T. Howard Winters, N. J. Niters, A. F. Hixon, James T. Beggs, Charles E. McCorkle, I. Q. Swan, E. L. Porter, Harper C. Pendry, Carl Larson, John Miller, Paul C. Gunnett and the present Supt. E. S. Harrison.