PORTAGE June 7, 1966 - When the Portage Village School closes its doors this week for the last time, it will be the climax of what was begun in 1833, when Collister Haskins built a log cabin adjoining what was then known as the Drain dwelling on the south bank of the Portage River. The Cabin was later used for school purposes.
Mr. Haskins, who may well be called the father of the Portage Schools, was a director until the close of the Civil War. The last pupils who called this school Alma Mater were Cynthia Knaggs, E. P. Clough Wealthy, Cressie and Henry Haskins, and William and Joseph Eberly.
When it became evident that the town of Portage was not going to be built along the Portage River as was first supposed, it was deemed not best for the school to remain at the present location. In 1840, a new school was built on the Jacob Eberly farm on what is now the garden spot at the Frank Seiple farm. This school was in use until a frame building was erected about 1847, back of what is now the old Methodist Church.
Jane Dubbs and Almon Pray were teachers in 1848 and Samuel Johnson taught 4 months in 1849 at a salary of $15 per month. Nancy Kelly taught over two months for twelve shillings per week. In 1851 there were 18 male and 19 female students.
This building was razed in 1856, and a new two story brick building with two rooms was erected. The lower room was used for the primary and the upper room for the high school. Mr. Haskins presented a deed of the lot on which the school was built, and his school tax was cancelled that year in recognition of his liberality. June, 30, 1859, the Portage school was called Corporation of Portage School District, and the directors were J. K. Harrison, J. H. Dewitt, Z. F. Williston, J. L. Roller, Samuel Patterson and Mr. Haskins.
In 1861 E. H. Hull taught high school for $1.25 per day and boarded himself. Jane Cook taught primary for 50 cents per day. In 1866 the total receipts of the district were $321 and there were 48 male and 45 female students. In 1871, when the old records closed, active board members were Dr. McCracken, William Sargent, E. P. Clough, H. Frank, A. Besanson and A. G. Harrison.
The brick building served for a number of years, but in 1890 it was deemed inadequate and was sold to the trustees of the Methodist Church for $75. A condition was that said trustees should donate a half acre of adjoining land for a school building. In 1896 the school was erected. Great care was taken in the architectural designing, both interior and exterior.
After 19 years of use, the school has grown so rapidly in enrollment that state authorities directed that additional room was necessary.
Accordingly, in 1916 the interior of the building was changed and where necessary and a new addition added, conforming to all requirements. Great care was used to preserve the exterior architectural beauty of the former building. The teaching force consisted of a superintendent, principal and four grade teachers, and was under direct supervision of the county superintendent. The district contained approximately seven and a half square miles with a valuation of $1,124,620. The charter was second grade.
When smaller schools started to merge, the Portage School District applied for admission into the Bowling Green School District. This became effective July 1, 1950.
The first high school graduates from Portage were Elmer Dienst and Everitt Freyman, in 1898. The largest class of 16 graduated in 1824. The last class to graduate from two years of high school was in 1936, after which only eight grades were maintained. For the past few years six grades were housed in the building.
Teaching in the old frame building were J. N. Baker and Alvin March. In the new building were W. F. Toan, J. P. Burson, J. F. Smith, W. V. Wales, Adam Houston, C. H. Brisbin, G. F. Putnam, C. M. Meek, C. C. Adams, Lola Hollopeter, Clifton Falls, Charles Clucas, L. T. Stratton, C. C. Rodocker, Vernon Layton, L. R. Pugh and J. T. Kelbaugh who served eight years, longest of any of the teachers.
Among the janitors were Sam Long, Alf Hampton, George Winton, Silas Kingsley, Mack Evans, Dick Shroyer. Jake Young, Ralph Knepper and Earl Philo. Mr. Winton, who was a drummer boy in the Civil War, will be remembered by the older students who marched from the school building at the close of the day to the beat of his drum.
From the high school days the school turned out 28 school teachers, 10 registered nurses, a minister, a doctor, a scientist and three chemists.
Going back to the old days, one thinks of the teachers who had to go to school early to build the fire in the coal stove to have the room warm for the pupils. To quench the thirst of the pupils, there was a water pail and one common dipper, and fortunate was the boy who escaped his studies for a time by permission to pass the pail up and down the aisles until all were satisfied.
Pranks were played then as now: pepper in the registers, setting the clock ahead when the teacher left the room, putting a cat in the back of the old organ, a tack on the teacherís chair, a mouse in his desk, were al a part of the school days.
The social activities consisted of Literary Societies which ere held every two weeks with readings, music, debates, etc. A Band of Mercy started by Miss Ella Strawn of the grammar grades taught the pupils to care for dumb animals. On Memorial Day there was a picnic on the front lawn in which the town folk were invited and it was one of the big events of the town.
There is a sadness in the hearts of the older students when they realize the old school is no more, but precious are the memories they hold in their hearts.