Racine Private Schools
1888 Bohemian Schoolhouse
1926 Roster of Faculty and Students, Racine High School, Racine, Wisconsin
Dee's Genealogy Place - Racine and Kenosha
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Racine Unified School District
Early Racine Public Schools
as published in "The History of Racine and Kenosha Counties" (Chicago: 1879), p. 416-420
The first schoolhouse built in Racine was a structure sixteen feet square, located on Main street,
where McClurg's Block now stands, and in it the first school was opened by a Mr. Bradley, in the
winter of 1836. On the 12th day of June, 1837, Benjamin C. Pearce, Amma Clarke and Sidney S. Derbyshire,
School Commissioners, elected April 4 of that year, divided the county into school districts, making
Racine District No. 1, which embraced fractional sections 4, 9, 16, 21 and the east half of
Sections 5, 8, 17, and 20, Township 3 north, Range 23 east. The school district was re-organized in
Racine in 1840, and contained the following described territory: One mile north and one mile west of
he limits, and down the south line of Racine County, as now defined. The first election of officers
was held in the old Fulton House, and there were but six voters in attendance. The whole number
of children in the district, on the first return made by the clerk, was twenty-eight. The village
was subdivided with three districts in 1845. Under the old district system there were four
schoolhouses in Racine, the first brick school was built in 1842, and located on the ground now
occupied for school purposes in the Second Ward on Seventh street. Under the district system, it
was seen that no efficiency could be secured, and little progress could be made. School accomodations
were poor and limited; teachers were embarrassed, and their well-laid plans often thwarted by apathy
or opposition. Schools, public and private, were numerous, but not permanent; teachers were
qualified and self-denying, but not successful; and while money was liberally
provided, it was uselessly expended; so that many began to look with disfavor upon public schools,
and if not unwilling to try the experiment of a thorough organization, they were not willing to
cordially cooperate and earnestly labor to carry it to a successful issue. April 14, 1852, the
districts and part districts within the corporate limits of the city were consolidated, and one
district formed. Soon after, the Mayor and City Council appointed two Commissioners from each
ward in the city, to constitute a School Board. These, as provided by law, were divided into two
classes, one class going out of office in one year and the other in two years thereafter. A
Commissioner was elected annually in each ward, and a City Superintendent by the city at large,
the former holding office two years and the latter one year. It was made the duty of the City Council
to raise by tax such sums as might be determined and certified by the Board of Education to
be necessary for educational purposes. The City Superintendent was the executive officer of the Board,
and it was made his duty to examine teachers, exercise a general supervision over the schools,
and to perform such other duties as the Board might direct. At the same time, the City Council
were authorized to procure a site for a high school, and issue six bonds of $1,000 each, payable
in ten-years, upon which money was borrowed to erect a high school building. The
by-laws of the Board, regulations of the public schools, and school law of the city of Racine were
copied from the Rochester, N. Y., school law. In December, 1853, the High School was opened and
the intermediate and primary departments organized. The plan of organization is as follows: The
city constitutes one district, and all residents of the city between the ages of four and twenty,
are entitled to admission into that department for which they are qualified. There
are four departments - primary, intermediate, grammar and high school. The high school and grammar
school districts embrace the whole city; there are section districts for the intermediate, and
subdistricts for the primary schools. These districts are formed with reference to the accomodation
of those residing in the vicinity of the different schoolhouses, and pupils are required to attend
the school taught in their respective districts. John G. McMynn was the
first Principal of the High School under the graded system, has been City Superintendent, School
Commissioner and State Superintendent of Schools. He has taken a deep interest in school matters,
and to him is the city of Racine, perhaps, more indebted for her present efficient schools than to
any other man. When the schools were organized, only nine scholars were found qualified to enter
the High School, and the attainments of others admitted to this department were
of such an uncertain character that it was found impossible to secure a thorough classification. It
was found necessary to give instruction in the elementary branches during the first year in the
High School, and since the commencement of the school it was thought necessary to have a preparatory
class in connection with it. December 12, 1853, the schools as then organized, consisted of five
primary schools, one intermediate and one high school. The number of pupils in
attendance was about seven hundred, and the number of teachers employed was thirteen. It soon
became apparent that increased school accommodations were necessary, and in 1855, the City Council,
with commendable liberality and foresight, provided the means for building three ward schoolhouses.
These were located in the Third, Fourth and Fifth Wards, respectively. In each of these was
organized a primary and intermediate school, so that at the commencement of
1856 there was an addition of three schools, 200 scholars and four teachers. In 1857, the
City Council purchased the old Presbyterian Church, on Wisconsin street, which was converted
into a schoolhouse, accomodating 150 pupils. The following table will show the location and
cost of the site, size, character and cost of building, valuation of lots and
buildings, and date of erection of the respective schoolhouses, up to and including 1858, as taken
from John G. McMynn's report of the Board of Education, 1857-58:
The city real estate was taxed 1 per cent to erect these school-buildings. A general idea of the
organization of the schools may be obtained from the following table, showing the boundaries of
the different districts, the names of the respective schools, the number of seats in each
school-room, the average number of members in each school for the term
closing April, 1858.
Alterations were subsequently made on the High School Building accomodating fifty to sixty more
scholars, at a cost of some $500. After the High School was erected, the little, old brick
schoolhouse built in 1842, and standing close by, was torn down. There were two school buildings
in what was originally the Third Ward, which was afterward divided, making the portion, where the
small wooden building stood, on West street, betweeen Tenth and Eleventh Streets, from
thence forward the Sixth Ward. In 1868, the First Ward Schoolhouse (the old church), was sold to
the Odd Fellows. The same day, the frame building in the Third, now the Sixth Ward, was purchased
by James Fielding, the present Sheriff. During the same year, a fine two-story brick school
building was erected in the Sixth Ward, at a cost of from $16,000 to $18,000. It consists of a main
building and two wings, having, in all, six school-rooms. The next school-house was built
in the Fourth Ward, on St. Patrick's street, in 1874, at a cost of about $11,000, including the ground.
The frame schoolhouse, located in the Fourth Ward, known as Mt. Pleasant School, was built by the
Township School District, but became the property of the city of Racine when the city limits were
extended, embracing the territory on which it stood.
The new building for the free High School, located in the Second Ward, adjoining the old high
school building, now the Second Ward School, fronts on Wisconsin street, and was completed and
occupied at the opening of the school year, in September, 1878. Though plain and unpretending,
it is well and economically built, and supplies a long felt want. For the first time, the city has
a building exclusively for high school purposes. The cost of the building was in the
neighborhood of $8,000. There are now owned by the city, eight school buildings of an estimated
value of $57,000, and Father Mathew's Hall is under lease at $100 per annum, making nine school
buildings, under the care and control of the Board. Forty-four teachers are employed in these buildings,
of whom, five are gentlemen, and thirty-nine ladies. Professor O. S. Westcott, an experienced educator,
has been engaged during the past two years as Superintendent of Schools, and Principal of the High School,
fulfilling his duties to the satisfation of the Board; the schools have made decided advancement in
scholarship, efficiency and enthusiasm under his management. In this, he has had the fullest
co-operation of the Principals and teachers of the various ward schools.
The school census taken last August, by order of the Board, shows the while number of school
children, over four and under twenty years of age, resident in this city, to be 5,287,
(2,576 male, and 2,711 female; total, 5,287). The whole number of children, over four and under
twenty years of age, taught during the year in the public schools, was 2,297, viz.: 1,179 male,
1,118 female; total 2,297, while 2,179 is all the schoolhouses can accomodate. This makes very
apparent the fact that the present school buildings are inadequate to accomodate the children
who should attend school. To partly supply this want, and especially to provide for those
temporarily occupying Father Mathew's Hall (the lease of which expires this year, and cannot be
renewed), the Board decided to put an addition to the Fifth Ward building, as the ground gave
sufficient room for an addition, and it seemed the most economical and practical arrangement that
could be made. Thereupon the Building Committee of the Board, under instructions, prepared a
suitable plan for such addition, with necessary alterations of the old building, which was
approved, and the contract for doing the work was let, February 15, to Messrs. Burdick & Jenks,
for $3,944, the lowest of ten bids, they giving good sureties for the faithful performance of
said contract. The oversight of said work was intrusted to the Building Committee,
consisting of James P. Corse, Richard J. Owens and Charles Peck. The contractors are pushing
forward the work with commendable celerity, and the building is to be completed and ready
for occupation by the opening of the next school year.
The Board of Education, last elected by the people, surrendered their respective offices,
May 3, 1879. The School Commissioners are hereafter appointed by the Mayor of the city, subject to
the approval of the Council, according to an act of the Legislature passed during the last session.
The present Board consists of Louis C. Klein, Commissioner, First Ward; Judge E. O. Hand, President
and Commissioner, Second Ward; Judge W. C. Allen, Commissioner, Third Ward; Paul Bohn, Commissioner,
Fourth Ward; T. G. Fish, Commissioner, Fifth Ward; G. W. Sporat, Commissioner, Sixth Ward.
The following-named gentlemen have served as Presidents and Clerks of the Board of Education
since 1852, the actual starting-point in the history of the Racine schools, viz:
1852 - Robert Cather, President; A. C. Barry, Clerk
1853 - Edwin Gould, President; M. P. Kinney, Clerk
1854 - Charles Clement, President; M. P. Kinney, Clerk
1855 - Champion S. Chase President; M. P. Kinney, Clerk
1856 - Edwin Gould, President; M. P. Kinney, Clerk
1857 - Champion S. Chase, President; O. O. Stearns, Clerk
1858 - Chester White, President; H. G. Winslow, Clerk
1859-63 - Chester White, President; D. W. Emerson, Clerk
1863-65 - Mr. Flint, President; D. W. Emerson, Clerk
1865 - Mr. Miller, President; D. W. Emerson, Clerk
1866-68 - Clark Nettleton, President; D. W. Emerson, Clerk
1868 - W. W. Vaughan, President; W. H. Baker, Clerk.
Upon the death of Mr. Baker, H. T. Taylor was appointed Clerk pro tem., and afterward
elected to that position. He resigned in September, 1869, and was succeeded by L. D. Coombs.
Then came J. M. Tillapaugh, as Clerk, in 1869, followed by J. De Baufer and A. Fixen, in
1870; D. W. Emerson from 1871-74; W. W. Vaughan occupied the President's chair during all
these changes. In 1874, A. P. Dutton was elected President, and A. C. Fish, Clerk; Mr.
Dutton held his position until 1876. In 1875, R. H. Tripp became Clerk. In 1876, L. F.
Parker was elected President, and M. Clancy, Jr., Clerk. In 1877, G. W. Sproat was President,
and M. Clancy, Clerk. During 1878 and the spring of 1879, B. B. Northrop was President, and
A. C. Arveson, Clerk. We do not mention in this connection the names of School commissioners
as they may be found in the list of city officers.
The last meeting of the retiring Board of Education was held at the city council chamber,
May 8, 1879, at which time bills were presented and reports rendered. The report of the
committee appointed to visit the high school, consisting of J. G. Meachem, Chairman, R. M. Boyd,
G. W. Mathews and J. Rowley, was read. The committee said that they found the high school
well organized and well filled, and were pleased with the good deportment, attention to
study, and the cheerful spirit manifested in each department and every recitation. They found
much to commend and but little to criticise unfavorably. They thought the high school under
its present management was a great honor to the city.
A. C. Fish reported the condition, of the Second Ward school and building, and said the
school was progressing favorably, and the teachers doing faithful and excellent work.
William H. Jenks reported the condition of the schools of the Fourth Ward. The schools
in the old Fourth Ward building are under the direction of Mr. George Skewes, as Principal,
and four assistants. Pupils are making rapid progress in their studies, and everything
running smoothly. The new building in the Fourth Ward, under the management of
Miss Kittie L. Murphy, as Principal, and three assistants, is running nicely, and the
various schools in the building are models of good order and deportment, and pupils
are making rapid advancement in their studies.
Commissioner J. P. Corse, of the Sixth Ward, made a report relative to the building and
school in his ward. He reported the building, out-houses and fences in good repair, and the
school in a prosperous condition.
The Superintendent read the report of tuition receipts for the present year, to and
including, May 3, 1879, which amounted to $391.
List of teachers and others employed by the Board:
Superintendent of Schools - Prof. O. S. Westcott, A. M.
Free High School. - Principal, Prof. O. S. Westcott, A. M.; First Assistant, Miss Ellen M. White;
Second Assistant, Emma A. Kelley; Third Assistant, Delia Knight; Half-day Assistant, Lydia Hubachek.
Second Ward Grammar School. - Principal, Miss Eliza Christie; Assistants, Christine Corse,
Kate A. Evans, Carrie L. Lingsweller, E. J. Lewis, A. E. Lane, E. J. Houghton, Ida A. Jennings,
Lizzie Jones; Model Primary, Mrs. I. M. Black.
Third Ward Grammar School. - Principal, L. W. Gammons; Assistants, Lizzie A. Bliss,
C. A. Nichols, L. A. Smith, Alice A. Braid.
Fourth Ward Grammar School. - Principal, George Skewes; Assistants, Julia McEachron,
Kate Fountain, Fannie Barker, Agnes Clancy.
Fifth Ward Grammar School. - Principal, F. Beede Assistants, Stella Carroll, E. M. Lockwood,
Abby A. Ralyea, N. AL Pasquier.
Sixth Ward Grammar School. - Principal, M. L. Smith; Assistants, A. L. Thornton,
Eliza Evans, Kate E. Scanlan, E. S. Phelps, Sara E. Aber, Hattie Shaw.
New Building, Fourth Ward. - Principal, Miss Kittie L. Murphy; Assistants, M. E. Near,
Kate E. Murphy, J. Hendrie.
Father Mathew Hall. - Principal, Miss M. F. Barr; Assistants, M. L. Davies, Maggie Knight.
Mt. Pleasant School. - Principal, Miss Kate Carey; Assistant, L. A. Coffey.
Janitors. - High School and Second Ward Building, John Brooks;
Third Ward Building, Michael Noe;
Fourth Ward Building (old), Mrs. Kate Mills;
Fourth Ward Building (new), George Ripka;
Fifth Ward Building, J. Glaze;
Sixth Ward Building, C. Rapps;
Father Matthew Hall, Mrs. Fahey;
Mt. Pleasant School, Mrs. Hill.