|Franklin History Book - Franklin's Schools
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The first school pupils in Franklin were taught by Rev. Newton Cloud, a pioneer minster of the Methodist Church who was later to serve with Lincoln in the state assembly. The school building long stood on Main Street where the Shaaf store was later located. Another famous teacher who wielded the rod and birch over the students of that day was Rev. C. G. Snow, also a Methodist preacher. After a teaching career of 57 years, he wrote a lengthy article for the Franklin Times in 1907 from which we quote: "In the fall of 1852, I was employed as teacher in the school at Franklin. The school house stood about the present location of Shaaf's store. The village was quite small, having one main street running on no cardinal point of the compass. I took charge of the school that fall and boarded at Jack Wright's until the following spring when I moved my family to the village. Our school was a very large one in number and in the 57 years I devoted to this work, I have never had a brighter set of pupils. The appliances for school work were then quite limited compared with the present. Our textbooks were the Elementary Speller, Sanders and McGuffy's Readers, Smith's Grammar, and Mitchell's Geography. I have carefully watched the progress as regards appliances and methods of teaching and have been willing to fall in line with everything I believed to be for the best. Our curriculum of studies in our common schools includes very much more than formerly. Much of the matter and manner of our present system I like, yet I am not in sympathy with everything. I think too little time is spent on the elementary branches of our education. We rush through everything in order to graduate or finish up in our common schools, then perhaps go to college before a proper foundation is laid for higher grades of work. I fear we are not making thinkers to the extent we should." We wonder if perhaps this last observation might not be applicable today.
In 1882, land was acquired on Reinbach Street where Bergschneider's elevator is now, and a three room, brick building was erected with two rooms below and one above. In 1888, a two room addition was added in the rear. In 1915, the entire building was remodeled at a cost of $12,000 and when completed, it had five rooms on the ground floor, four above, and a large basement. This facility served the community for the next few years with the grade school occupying the lower level and the high school above.
The first high school commencement was held in 1897 at the Merchants' Opera House with four students in the graduating class. They were Edith Sevier, Della Mansfield, Maud Bittleston, and Josephine Wright. In 1920, the Franklin Community High School, No. 124 was formed.
On Dec. 11, 1930, this school building was completely destroyed by fire. The blaze was discovered around 10:00 in the evening and was fought by local volunteers with the help of the Waverly chemical truck and crew, but to no avail. Temporary quarters were set up in the Olinger building on Main Street, also in the Burch property, now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Patterson. Plans were soon underway for the construction of new facilities, and in 1931, a new high school and a new grade school were completed in the northwest part of town. Citizens believed that the building needs of the community were now solved for many years. This might have been true had it not been for the enactment of school legislation in 1947, creating community school districts. As a result of this bill, the citizens of Franklin and Nortonville voted to create a consolidated grade school district, and seven members were duly elected to the Board of Education. They were William K. Ransdell, president; Bernice S. Rolston, secretary; Reuel Carpenter, Jerry Langdon, Lowell Wood, Orville Becker, and Harold McDevitt.
With the final formation of Community Until #1 in 1949, a territory of 134 square miles was included with grade schools at Alexander, Franklin, and Nortonville, and the high school in Franklin. Members elected to the board at that time were William Ransdell, president: Leroy Smith, secretary; Gilbert McQueen, F. J. Kaiser, George Robinson, and Cecil Oxley. Bernice Rolston was hired as the financial secretary and continued in this capacity for 25 years. Catherine Boston was hired as secretary in 1960 and has continued to serve since that time.
Mr. Harry L. Fitzhugh came to the Franklin community in 1937 to teach at the Franklin High School. He later became the principal there. In 1948, when the community grade school consolidated, Mr. Fitzhugh was named superintendent. With the formation of Community Unit #1 in 1949, he became the principal-superintendent of the Unit for a period of 18 years. He left Franklin at the end of 1965-66 school year to accept a position as administrative assistant to Illinois High School Association in Chicago to which he was appointed executive secretary in 1968.
Miss Ruth Tulpin, a native of Franklin, was an English teacher and librarian at the high school for many years and also served as principal.
The Nortonville school was closed after the 1953-54 school term ultimately bringing the grade school and high school students together in three buildings, and doing away with approximately eighteen one-room country schools. It became necessary to expand. The citizens of the three communities voted favorably in 1951 on a $550,000 bond issue. This money was used to build a gymnasium-auditorium addition to the Alexander Grade School at a cost of $80,000. The remaining $470,000 was spent on building an extensive addition to the Franklin High School. The new addition provided administrative offices, a gymnasium, toilets and shower rooms, home economics and science laboratories, farm and industrial arts shops, storage rooms, and several additional classrooms. These additions were completed in 1953.
Prior to this building program, the Board of Education used building fund monies to convert the upstairs gym at the Franklin Grade School in to four classrooms, to erect a four stall garage at the Alexander Grade School, and an eight stall school bus garage at the Franklin High School. Approximately six acres of ground adjoining the high school on the west side was purchased from Ralph Dahman, and a lighted athletics field was built in 1952.
Since 1966, the following have served Unit #1 as superintendent: L. E. Laugharn, Victor Funk, Corrine Griefe, Robert Rigney, Harold Klingenberg, and the present superintendent, Richard McAlister, who was hired at the beginning of the 1981-82 school year. Don Dillion is the high school principal, and Ross Myers is the junior high and grade school principal. Members of the present school board are Dee Hocking, Barbara Leinberger, Carl Leak, Janet Heyen, Darryl Sayre, Howard Gotschall, and Edwin Clayton. The schools handle five bus routes, and maintain a staff of five in the school cafeteria.