TKAA Historian Cindy Middlebush
A School in the Wilderness
(Excerpt from Middleville Graduates 1881-1998)
Thornapple Heritage Association, 1998
In the early 1880's, when Middleville was named Thornapple and was surrounded by wilderness, one of the first thoughts among its citizens was the education of their children. Pioneers made sure their children got the "book learning " to go along with the other lessons of life.
The people of the tiny village were willing to provide a building and a teacher for their children. The village was founded in 1834 by Calvin G. Hill. By 1838, Middleville's children were taking lessons in its first school from its first teacher, Sarah Paull, who was Hill's daughter. That school, a log house also used as a church, was one mile north of the center of the village along the Thornapple River and boasted nineteen students.
By 1840 the students were being taught in a frame house. Later in 1854 on the east side of the village, a two room red brick school house was built in what now is Calvin G. Hill Park on the property donated by Mr. Hill. In 1871 that school was replaced by a three -story white brick building remembered as the Union School. Parents of non-residential students paid a small tuition fee to attend the school, for they could readily see the advantage of having their children educated in the Middleville School. The first twelfth grade graduating class in Middleville was in 1881. With 200 books in the library, the school was clearly a place to seek enlightenment. The Union School was large enough for all the village children until 1931 when consolidation became necessary.
In the 1930's, the Thornapple Township country schools with the help of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation consolidated into one school district. The new school district held its first organizational meeting on January 12, 1931. Over the next dozen years, twelve more schools in the outlying areas were annexed. With the gathering of the country schools into one large district, it became necessary to build more buildings. In 1931 a building was built at 509 West Main and was called the Thornapple W.K. Kellogg Rural Agricultural School.
Watch this space for more history of the
Thornapple Kellogg Schools...