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Written by Marie Darrow
Compositor - Ben Penkivich, for the Gillett Public Library
Scanned and contributed by Jennifer Bumann
Family Site  Researching Oconto County surnames


(Page 26)
The   first  school   in  Gillett, located on the corner of North Elm and W. Main was literally  a   "little red schoolhouse."     Built in 1865, it was more than a school,  it was a community center.
On  Sundays,   whenever  a   circuit   preacher   came   through,   church   services  were  held  in   the   school.     The   first   town   elections   in   1868 were  held   in   the  schoolhouse.     It was   the  site  of  many   gatherings, usually   attended  by   everyone   in   the   community.     This   little   red building  served   the   community   in  its  many   capacities  until   1884  -  when a  larger  schoolhouse  was  built  where   the   present  Mary  Schultz's home   is   located  on  South   Elm.

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    The  little  red schoolhouse was  moved  up  near the  new  school  and became  a woodshed.

    The  population boom following  the   completion  of  the  railroad from Oconto to Clintonville   forced   the   construction  of   an  even  larger  the  Thibaudeau blacksmith  shop.

    An   addition   to   the   grade   school  was   built   in   1909   and  high  school courses  were   added.   Before   this   time,   students who  wanted  a  high school education had to attend school in Oconto   Falls.   At   this   time  they were transferred  to  the new high school and graduated here in 1910.   The   first   classes  were   small  with  only an average  of one graduate  per year. World War I  depleted  the school of boys  eligible for  service,  so in 1919   the graduating  class  was  made up entirely of   girls. Many of the boys resumed  their  educations after they re-turned to Gillett following  the war.

(Page 26)

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    The population of Gillett had grown from approximately 400 to about 1000 the time it was  incorporated as a village in 1900 until the 1920's and it continued to grow during the prosperous years following World War I.  Soon the school was too small to accommodate both the grade and  the high school classes and plans were made for the construction of a separate high school.     The present high school building was scheduled for completion during the summer of 1923 but was not quite ready when September came. Moving came sometime in November of that year, and each child piled his arms  full of books and took the first of his daily

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walks west of Main Street to the present location.    There was no bus transportation then,  so many of the students from the rural areas stayed in town and helped with housework and cared for children to pay for room and board.  Some students walked several miles to school in the morning and home in the evening.

    The population explosion slowed down in Gillett but a greater proportion of young people have attended high school in the years since the construction of the first separate high school,  necessitating an addition to the building in 1955.

    Many of the small rural schools have been closed and the children been trans-ported to Gillett,  creating a classroom shortage at the grade school.  In 1950 an auxiliary building was constructed near the old grade school,  and in 1955,  the seventh and eighth grades were moved into the new addition of the high school.

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    The present building as it stands today has been remodeled three times since its construction.  In the late 1940's, the old gymnasium was enlarged;  in the 1950's the east wing was added which now houses the 7th and 8th grade classes as well as two high school English rooms and the Home Economics department;  and the final remodeling took place in 1961 and 1962 when the building was encircled with additions such as the new gymnasium,  the library, the front office and the 5th and 6th grade class rooms.

(Page 28)

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A classroom in the Gillett Grade School in the early 1900's. Third from right is Blanche Jewell. Second from right is Eva Shier.

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