Forest Twp. #4
Contributed by Nute Chapman,Jim Hall,Sally Beatty
THE HISTORY OF FOREST TOWNSHIP SCHOOLSTOWER SCHOOL - #4By Mary Lyon There was a log school in the village of Tower or what was first called Adalaska, before the two room frame school house was built in 1899 at a cost of $700.00. Ruben Styes, one of the oldest residents of the area has a picture of the log building with students standing in front of it, one of whom was his brother. In 1903 an addition was built on the school house, more than doubling its size and making it a four room building with a ten grade course of study. John P. Hyde was the president of the board and D. M. Sage was clerk when the frame school was built. The village of Tower had been platted in May 1899. The Tower school was located in Block 5, Lots 1, 2, 3, and 4. Today a home now stands where the four room frame building had been. It is on the north side of the highway between Black River Ave. and Barclay Ave. Tower was then a thriving village which was growing with the building of mills along the Black River and Tower Pond. Many people were coming to the area creating the need for the fourth room school. Some of the first settlers were Thos. Finan, James Finan, H. T. Banks, John Barnard, Wm. Gillis. The school employed three teachers during the year 1903-04, W. H. Trafford, Margaret Penoyer and Maud Clark. Many of the teachers at that time came from Cheboygan where there was a County Normal School for teacher training. Transportation was no problem from there with the D & M railroad making two daily trips carrying passengers and freight. Usually teachers boarded at homes of the village or sometimes a group of them would share a house together and then walk to their respective schools each day. For some, this meant many miles walking to and from school. During the winter months, some of the teachers would board with a family nearer to the school where they taught. The school in the village was the center of activity for the area. The teacher of the higher grades acted as principal for all the schools in the township and received a higher salary. The population reached its peak between the years of 1908 through 1914. Later, only two rooms in the school were used as class rooms. I can recall going to school there as a child in the 1920 era and remembering the picture of Ellen May Tower hanging on the wall. She was a Spanish-American war nurse for whom the village of Tower was named. She was the first woman to give her life for the United States while serving the Spanish American war. She died of typhoid fever in December 1898. I often wonder what ever became of her picture. The school had entrance ways from three sides of the building. There was a large woodshed which was an excellent building to play �anti-eye-over� at recess and lunch time. There was room on one side of the school yard for playing ball for the older children and on the opposite side, plenty of room for the smaller childrens� games of London Bridge, Drop the Handkerchief, and Pump-Pump-Pull Away. In the winter one of the unused school rooms made a good place to play marbles. The other unused school room was kept lock and still remained with things in it as it had been used as a schoolroom years before. To have a peek into that room was like stepping into an attic full of memories of the past. Just seeing the perfect handwriting still on the blackboards whetted our curiosity and made us wish we could have been part of the school in earlier years. Patriotism was a very important part of school life. The songs in the old School Song Knapsack included many that stirred our hearts with love of our country. In 1918 when Miss Marie LeGault was a teacher in the higher grades, a local soldier from Tower in World War I, Jerry LeFleur, was the first to die and be brought home from Fort Custer. He had died from the influenza epidemic. Miss LeGault had the children from the school march to the cemetery and sing at the graveside service, an act of respect they never forgot. Some interesting expenditures shown in the records of the 1910 era were for the purchase of forty yards of toweling and having them hemmed at the cost of $5.69 from the Myers store in Tower. A later entry showed $.48 being paid to Mrs. Kennedy for washing towels. Thirty-two cords of wood were provided for the Tower school by Gustave Lietaert for $40.00. A bill of $2.00 was paid to E. M. Crannel for a livery rig to the Buzzell school. In 1911 a sanitary drinking fountain was put in the Tower school on a trial basis. The seventh and eighth grade pupils had a write a state exam each year in order to pass their grade. All children in those grades in the township had to come to the Tower school on the date of their exam. The material for the exams came sealed to the teacher conducting it from the County School Commissioner Office. This material could not be opened until the day of the exam when they were all assembled to write the tests. The results were mailed to the students after being graded in the County School Office. That was a time of great suspense waiting for a letter to tell if you had passed. After leaving the eighth grade meant going to Onaway High School. For some, that meant walking the distance every day or for others, rooming and boarding with someone in Onaway. Perhaps the two greatest improvements in the schools came in 1925 when the Onaway Electrical Light Company wired the Tower school at a coast of $82.25. Later, in that same year, indoor toilets were ordered for all schools open at that time, Tower, Draper, Hyde and Mitchell schools. The cost was $806.00 to be paid out of the State Aid Fund. These of course were chemical toilets since there was no indoor plumbing. Reading through treasurers records for the year 1925, eight towels were purchased from H. Lipshield for $2.00; curtain scrim was purchased from Gumm Department Store for $1.44; Mahoney Brothers Hardware furnished stove pipe, coal scuttle, pump and padlock for $14.40; Standard Oil Co. was paid $5.45 for oil to oil floors at the beginning of each new term. The dust from the dry wood floors would have been more welcome than the strong smell of oil that permeated the room the first few weeks. When the country schools in the township closed in 1941 the children through the sixth grades came to the Tower school. Once again, an unused school room was put back into use and the fourth room was used for preparing hot lunches and activities when the weather did not permit the children to be outside. The township hall was also converted into a class room to take care of the extra children. In 1946, a special election was held giving the school board authority to lay plans for a new school in Tower. Those on the school board at that time were Floyd Walters, President; Raymond Tucker, Treasurer; Dale Lyon, Secretary; Charles LaBelle, Trustee; L. D. Johnson, Trustee. The board approved letting Father Ryan of St. Pauls Church teach his pupils one hour after school, one night a week, They also approved letting the Community Club use the school for school and business activity. By 1952, a new school had been build on Barclay Avenue and when in use the old frame building was torn down by Bill Pollard in exchange for labor on the new building. The new building was operated by the Township Union Schools until 1966, when they became a part of the Onaway Public School system. The building today is used as the Tower Learning Center.