History of our School
A History of Pickford Area Pioneer Families 1973 (Pg 9-10 retyped)
Courtesy of Mrs. Hanna Follis Graham Second Edition 1972 and many others.
The first school began in Pickford in the year 1880 when Miss Emma Pickford, later Mrs. Pascoe, taught a group of children in a log building on the corner lot where the former county Garage now stands. This however, was not an organized school. About 1882, a school board was organized and a building erected on the northwest corner of the farm now owned by John Stirling, Jr. Some of the earliest Board Members were Miss Millie, Earl Laer, Mrs. A. W. Taylor. About 1886, that building was moved to the site where the garage owned by Morrell Thompson is now located.
About the same time the Kennedy school South of Pickford was started. Also, 2.5 miles North of Pickford the school known as Roe School opened. In 1895, the Roosevelt or Lindberg (as it was later called) School was built. Other schools in the vicinity were Blairville, built about 1890, Cowell, Maple Ridge, Stirlingville, Munuscong Bay, Fairview, Sunshine, Tripp, Kelden, Pleasant Park, and Dunbar in 1915.
About 1900, there were more children than the one-room building would accommodate and plans were made for a four-room school. In 1903, a fraction of Marquette Township was added to the Pickford School District and the four-room frame building was erected. Mr. Dave Beacom was a member of the Board at this time. Then in 1909, the Ninth and Tenth grades were added with Miss Budd as teacher. In 1911, the Township District System was changed to the Unit System and a board of five trustees was elected. In the year 1917, the frame building burned to the ground and the students were moved into buildings around the village for the remainder of the year.
Then, in the spring of 1917, a bond issue was voted for the building of a new two-story brick building, but there was strong opposition and the bond issue was voted down. Then the Board rented the upstairs of Fred Taylor’s hardware store and divided it into four classrooms and the students attended school there for two years. Mr. Schuyler was Principal when the school burned and Mr. McCullogh was hired the next year. He was the first man to organize a basketball team and Harold Taylor was Captain.
Then in the Spring of 1920, a bond issue was passed and a one-storey four-room building was erected on the site where the present elementary school is located. On February 19, 1922, this building went up in smoke and Pickford was without a school again. Not only that, the people had a big debt on their hands. Fortunately, there were enough public-spirited citizens to roll up their sleeves and start out again on a drive for another $20,000. When this issue was passed, the present two-story elementary building was erected on the same foundation on which the burned building had been standing.
Mr. F.J. Smith was Secretary of the Board of Education during those two building programs and deserved a vote of thanks for the many hours he put in for the welfare of the community’s children.
Sandwiched between these two bond issues was another event of considerable importance in the story of improved education services in Pickford. In 1921, Pickford became a 12 Grade school and a class of six students graduated in 1922.
In 1922, the first superintendent, Mr. George Newman, a Pennsylvania Dutchman, was hired. He remained until 1931. While in Pickford, he married Miss Ann Demerest, a primary teacher. He is no longer living.
The members of the first graduating class were Clayton Morrison, Etta Warren, Lucille Beadle, Minerva Hughes, Oliver Rye, and Charles Cowell. Three of these are still living in Pickford: Clayton Morrison, Minerva Hughes (Mrs. John Wise), and Oliver Rye (Mrs. Clifford Taylor).
Etta Warren (Mrs. Henry McFadden) now lives in Detroit. Lucille Beadle (Mrs. Carl Howell) now makes her home in Flint. Charles Cowell recently retired as Principal of McKinley School and lives in Sault Ste. Marie. In 1957, the class of 1932 held a reunion at the time of the dedication of the new school and marking the 35th Anniversary of their graduation. All members and spouses and Mr. Newman and his wife were present. In May 1972, they held their Golden Anniversary Reunion and again all members and their husbands or wives were present with the exception of the McFadden of Detrioit.
In February 1922, the school was destroyed by fire, so classes were held in different places in town. C.W. Beamer, Superintendent of Sault High, was the guest speaker at the graduation exercises in May.
In 1923, Pickford High School was put on the University of Michigan approved list.
In 1927, the Pleasant Park School closed for one year. Art Ames drove a closed sleighbus. Harry McConkey brought those who couldn’t be accommodated on Mr. Ames’s bus. The next year they reopened their school for three years.
In 1930, the Roe and Maple Ridge Schools North of Pickford closed. A bus was purchased and the students brought into the village school. The Kennedy School (South of Pickford) has also been closed and those children transported to Pickford.
Gradually, the other schools were closed, the last being the Blairville in 1945 and the Cowell School in 1943 from Marquette Township. They became part of Pickford School District in 1954.
From 1931 to 1933, Mr. D.L. Benfeer was Superintendent. From 1933 to 1937, Mr. Eino Honkanen was superintendent.
In 1936, Pickford became a Rural Agricultural School District. Shop work was added to the course of study and with a few other changes in the program, more attention was possible for the educational program of those who did not go to college. At the same time these changes did not interfere with the efforts to continue to improve the program of those who were planning on college entrance.
With the transportation of more and more children to the village school in Pickford, it soon became apparent that a new building was needed. Since it was the middle of the Depression, every resource was tried to get government help. When these attempts failed, a building and site fund was established and a sum of $15,000 was eventually accumulated. With the help of a $30,000 bond issue passed by the voters of the township, contracts were let in 1937, and a new building completed in 1938.
As had frequently happened in such building programs, the actual costs exceeded the original estimates, and the Board of Education soon had a $20,000 debt on its hands. When a second bond issue to take care of this obligation was turned down, members of the Board signed their personal notes in payment for some of the work.
Members of the Board of Education at the time the high school building was constructed were Mr. William Stevenson, President; Mr. George Raynard, Secretary; Mr. Clayton Morrison, Treasurer; Mr. W.F. McDonald and Mr. David Batho. Mr. E.A. Bowers was Superintendent of Schools.
The building was constructed by MacDonald Construction Company, Bowd-Munson Company were the architects, with Robert E Dodd as associate architect.
From 1937 to 1945, Mr. E.A. Bowers, a graduate of the University of Illinois and former Principal from 1926 to 1929, was Superintendent. In 1945, Mr. Jack Malette of Sault Ste. Marie advanced from Principal to Superintendent, remaining until 1954. Mr. Max Hamilton, graduate of Western Michigan University, M.A. from Michigan State University, was superintendent from 1954-1956. In 1956, Mr. Webster Morrison, high school principal and head coach, became superintendent. Mr. Morrison received his B.S. Degree from Northern Michigan and his M.A. from the University of Michigan.
On March 25, 1955, the taxpayers went to the polls and defeated the bond issue for an addition and remodeling by a vote of 180 in favor and 196 against. In 1956, the voters approved the addition to the school which was to be a gymnasium, locker room, lavatories, and office for Superintendent, High School Principal’s office. Extensive remodeling and a new central heating plant were also included. The first game in the new gymnasium was with Brimley Boys on February 12, 1957, which the Panthers won.
The new building was dedicated on May 24, 1957. The Morrison Gymnasium was dedicated to Clay Morrison, a school Board Member. Other memorials dedicated at that time were the glass doors on the exhibit case in the main corridor in memory of Miss Eleanor Olsen, Kindergarten teacher for many years. This was given by her sister and many friends. The scoreboard is in memory of Bernard Morrison by the Quinnell Family.
The Southeast bleachers were presented to the school by the Pickford Amvets in 1959.