Taft School, Circa 1910
Front: Orlie Smith, Annie Taft,
Unknown, Violet Kast, Lucy Taft, Nell Huffman,
Della Calloway, Grace Taft, Vere Huffman, Ike Huffman, Orile Coleman
Back: Mae White (Teacher), Harry
Taft (my Grandfather), Ben Standorff,
Willie Huffman, Bessie Huffman, Ella Calloway, Florence Taft, Dewey Calloway,
Charlie Smith, Ben Taft
Taft School Souvenir - 1907
HISTORY OF MY SCHOOL DISTRICT
The following history was written by Evelyn Lester, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Dave Lester and took first prize at the County Fair last fall. Evelyn is a granddaughter of the late Absalom Taft as is also her teacher, Miss Grace Taft.
On looking over the 5th and 6th grade entries in the fair list, I decided to write a history of my school district. I obtained much of my information from my grandfather, Absalom Taft, whose father, Alanson Taft was one of the pioneer settlers in the district.
My grandfather came to Crawford county from Pennsylvania with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alanson Taft. They settled on the farm, now known as the Wallin-Taft farm.
Alexander Dowling, Bradford Gyst, Wm. Brickner, H.C.C. Kast, Jas. J. Holden, Alanson Taft Sr., Jacob Fortney, John Fortney, Alexander Wilkins, W.T.N. Kast, the first settlers of Joint district, No. 12, came to Wisconsin during the years from 1850 to 1860. They were all Americans except Wm. Brickner, who was German. They all came from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, except Jas. J. Holden who came from Vermont.
They journeyed part of the way by railroad. The balance of their journey was made with ox and horse teams. The length of time required to make the journey was from four to six weeks. The roads for teams were only Indian trails. The rivers were crossed by means of ferry boats, poled across the rivers by using long poles used by men or with tread power run by horses. The new settlers settled on land they bought or entered from the government. The Kast and Dowling families settled on the west side of what is now the town of Scott. The Taft, Forney, Brickner, Gyst, and Holden families settled on the east side of what is now the town of Haney. The new settler’s houses were built of logs, roofed with shakes 30 inches long, split from oak timber with a froe. The cracks between the logs were filled with sticks and clay mortar. Some of the houses had only earth floors; others had split logs, flat side up. A stone fireplace warmed the house and answered the purpose of a cook stove.
The furniture was all hand made. All of the clothing was made at home. Neighbors lived three and four miles apart. They often visited each other during the winter months. They would hitch a yoke of oxen to a homemade sled and drive three or four miles, make a visit, drive home at midnight and unyoke the oxen. The neighbors were very friendly to each other, no strife existed in those days, the school district contention (connection?) existed among them. As the people lived farther apart in those days, the school district extended over many more miles than they do at the present time.
The school district extended from Crow Hollow to the present farm of Mrs. Jennie Childs. The schoolhouse was a log structure standing just between the present farms of Walter Mindhain and Lowell Lathrop. Mr. Elic, McBurney and Wyan were teachers in that school. More settlers moved into the district. As they did, the need for a new school was felt. The Supervisors of the town of Haney and Scott met on the __ day of May, 1887 (1867?), and established Joint school district No. 11 and No. 12. The supervisors of Haney were Alanson Taft Sr. and James Mulaney. Those of Scott were H.M. Meyers and M. Ferrick. The first meeting of Joint district No. 12, towns of Haney and Scott was held at the home of James J. Holden on the 1st day of June, 1867 at one o’clock in the afternoon. The first school board in joint district no. 12 was: Chauncey Kast, Clerk, Wm. Brickner, Director, Alanson Taft Sr. Treasurer. The new schoolhouse was located across the road from the present home of Jas. J. Meade.
Everyone helped to build the new schoolhouse. The building was a one story structure about 18’x20’ made from hewed logs. Alanson Taft hewed the desks which were large enough for two pupils. The floor was made of wide boards. The stove was large enough the burn 3 foot wood. The blackboard was 7x3 1/2 feet made of pine lumber, by Alanson Taft Sr. and painted black. Wood at first was gotten by donation. Later, it was purchased for 40¢ to 60¢ a cord. Miss Alice Beales, Boscobel, a young lady about 16 years of age, was the first teacher. The wages at that time was from $12 to $14 a month. The length of the school term was at first 6 months, 3 months of winter and 3 of summer. Alanson Taft taught school for five winters. Other teachers were: Maggie Bannen (Barnum?), Lois White, Mattie White.
In August 1887, a special school meeting was held to discuss building a new schoolhouse. The plans adopted were drawn by Alanson Taft Sr. It was voted to raise $75 for building purposes. A special meeting was called again in January 1888. The motion was made and carried to build the new schoolhouse the next summer. It was to be completed in time for the winter term. The new school building was built on land donated to the district by Alanson Taft Sr. The site for the new building was just south of the farm buildings of the Alanson Taft farm. From 15 to 23 pupils attended school. Many of the older boys and girls attended school the winter months and helped with the farm work during the summer. Teachers wages in those days were much lower than at present ranging from about $30 to $40 per month. Many happy picnics and programs were enjoyed by both parents and children. My mother attended this school until she finished the grades. She graduated under Miss Alma Langdon (now married and residing in California). Mr. O.B. Porter now a lawyer in Madison, was superintendent. Serena Taft and Stella Cooley are two teachers my mother still mentions. At my mother’s graduation, Mr. John Lowe Sr. an old resident, said benediction and Willard Lowe a minister, presented the diplomas. Two other girls, Ruth Calloway, and Millie Vanderport (both gone to their rewards) graduated at that time. Other teachers in this school were Rose Colley (Mrs. Vern McDowell), George Samson, Myrtle Taft (Mrs. Neil Kimmel), Geneva Withee, Elta Philips, Florence Douglas, Mary Campbell, Mae White (Mrs. Ira Holden), Winifred Dunbar (Mrs. Allen White).
In the year 1928 the patrons of the
Taft school district felt the need of a better and more modem school building.
At the annual school meeting, July, 1928 it was voted to move the building
to a more suitable location. Accordingly, it was moved east of the
old location. No pleasanter and more beautiful spot could have been
chosen for a building. In October, 1928, the new equipment was moved into
the new building and school started. The modern building equipment
and beautiful surroundings are something of which everyone in the district
can be justly proud.
1. “Joint district No. 12 has a poor log building, situated on section 13. Number of pupils, twenty-seven.” Source: History of Crawford and Richland Counties, Wisconsin, 1884, Union Publishing Co., Springfield, IL, Pg. 614.
2. “The [Alanson] Taft [Sr.] homestead was on Sunny Ridge and comprised 540 acres of land, originally nearly all timber. Oliver Taft lived on it until his death, now his daughter Bessie, Mrs. Herbert Wallin does. The Taft school is on the homestead.” Source: Turning Back the Pages with H.E. Roethe, Fennimore Times, 25 Nov 1931.
3. “Alanson Taft [Jr.] (Uncle Lanty) as he is endearingly called, was born April 26, 1850…He served as town clerk 12, and as school clerk for 35 years, also many years as justice of the peace. His long term as school clerk must be ascribed to the fact that as a young man he taught school for nearly a score of years – five years in his home school, the Taft; West Fork, Johnstown near Towerville, Barnum, Campbell Ridge, Coalburn. Crow Hollow, Sand Creek were some of the other schools. The pay was $25 to $30 a month, and the terms of school from three to five months. At Barnum they raised his wages $5 if he would consent to teach a month extra. The ages of his pupils ranged from 6 to 21.” Source: Turning Back the Pages with H. E. Roethe, Fennimore Times, 25 Nov 1931.
4. Evelyn Lester, born 1920’s in Crawford Co., WI, was the daughter of David and Bernice “Kitty” (Taft) Lester. Source: Family history of David W. Taft.
5. The Taft School was located in the Southwest part of Section 13, Township 9 North, Range 4 West, Haney Twp., Crawford Co., WI. Sources: Historical Atlas of Wisconsin, Snyder, Van Vechten & Co., Milwaukee, 1878 and Standard Atlas of Crawford Co., WI, George A. Ogle & Co., Chicago, 1901-2.
6. My copy of this history is from a typed transcript, which may have errors. I have added (??) to some of the sections I believe in error.
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