Advance SchoolA brief history of Advance school and other early schools in Bethel Township

Taken from the History of the Bethel Township and New Carlisle Schools, Clark County, 1802-2002, written by Bill Berry.

As early as 1805, according to Beers 1881 history, a schoolhouse was erected here in Bethel Township on the farm of Captain McPherson, located on Section 21, near the present site of Tecumseh High School. Another was located on the farm of George Lowman, Section 35, near the juncture of present day Addison-Carlisle road and route 235. Both were landmarks and points of reference to early settlers. These early schools were supported by private subscription and rate bills paid by the parents whose children attended. The people were fast realizing though that in order to have a fair and equitable educational program, available to all children in all communities, the tax-free school was all important and invaluable, but it would be quite slow in coming.

The first effort at introducing the common school system in Ohio was the passage of a law in January of 1821, entitled “An Act to Provide for the Regulation and Support of Common Schools.” This law authorized the division of townships into school districts, and for the election of district school committees who were authorized to erect school houses and levy a school tax not greater than one-half the State and County tax. While the law committed the State to the idea of taxation for the support of schools, it was a permissive, not a compulsory law. Modifications in the tax rate continued for the next 30 years or until 1853 when the whole system of general taxation for school purposes was revised.

At the conclusion of the Civil War, the local school board increased the area of sub-districts to eleven schools, located approximately two-mile equal distance from each other. The two-mile was considered a reasonable distance for students to walk to their assigned school, although many children rode horses or were transported by horse and wagon.

Helmer School copyAt about this same time, Bethel Township Board of Education was discussing the need to build a common school building to house students in grades 4 through 8. Meetings were held with citizens throughout the township to explain how this would be beneficial to the advancement of the educational pursuits of their children, and preparing them for higher education. The board’s efforts in convincing citizens of its importance were successful and in 1873 Olive Branch was constructed to house grades 4 through 8. Part of the compromise with the citizens included the construction of new buildings throughout the district to house grades 1 through 3. Over the next five years the following new school buildings were constructed. Mt. Pleasant on 235; Centennial on Lake Road near Crystal Lake; Bethel (now a part of Bethel Baptist Church) on New Carlisle Pike; Tecumseh on route 40 near Tecumseh Road; Donnelsville on North Hampton-Donnelsville Road; Valley, located on the South side of the Valley Pike across from where South Hampton-Donnelsville Road dead ends into the Valley; Union, located on the Valley Pike and southeast corner of Union Road; Helmer at Valley and Osborne Road; Medway on Middle Street; and Advance.

Mt. Pleasant SchoolAdvance School, to be known as sub-district No. 7, was located in the southeast corner of Section 23, Township 3, Range 9, about one-half mile east of present Funderburg Road on the New Carlisle Pike. According to an 1818 tax list, there appears to be some evidence that a building had been erected at this same location for school purposes as early as 1818, and possibly even earlier. Further evidence that a building, used for school purposes, was located on this parcel of land appears in deed book volume 38, page 370, December 28, 1850. Both the 1870 and 1875 Clark County atlases also record that a school existed in the southeast corner of Section 23.

The Frantz family owned much of the land east of New Carlisle on both sides of the New Carlisle Pike. Much of this land in and around the school was covered by orchards consisting of cherry, apple, peach and other types of fruit trees.

The District Board of Education consisted of eleven members, one representing each of the eleven sub-districts. In addition to this central board, a local board committee cared for the needs of each school. For a number of years E.E. Frantz represented Advance School on the township board.

The earliest available Board of Education minutes making any reference to Advance were in 1899. In June of that year Superintendent Homer Longfellow recommended to the Board of Education the employment of Jesse E. Barnhart as teacher at the Advance school for a salary of $50 per month for nine months. Mr. Barnhart continued in the employment of the school district through school year 1902-03. The enrollment for the Advance School in June of 1899 consisted of 27 males and 23 females; ages 6-8, 9; ages 9-14, 17; ages 15-16, 9; and ages 17-21, 25 students.

In August of 1899 the township Board authorized E. E. Frantz and the Advance school committee permission to make all necessary repairs to the ceiling and the roof. In December of that same year the township board approved the purchase of an American flag and pole to be installed at each of the district school with the exception of Helmer who already had one in place. The following year Fred W. Huston was elected Superintendent of schools for the 1899-1900 year at a salary of $90 per month. He served the district as Superintendent for two years. Alfred Ross was employed as the new Superintendent in June of 1901, and he would serve the district for the next six years.

On September 6, 1901, assassin Leon Czolgosz shot President William McKinley in Buffalo, New York. His only explanation for his actions was that he wanted to kill a “ruler.” McKinley was so loved and admired by the people of the country that a day of mourning was observed throughout the nation. On September 16, 1901, the Bethel Township Board of Education cast a unanimous ballot for the following resolution: “Be it hereby resolved that on the sad death of President McKinley and pursuant to the proclamation of Governor Nash, the Board authorizes the Superintendent to arrange a special Patriotic program for Thursday afternoon, September 19th.”

The sub-district boards were responsible for determining the financial budget of each of their schools and were required to present this information to the Central Board. The budgets presented by the sub-districts provided the necessary information (salaries, care of building maintenance, and other necessary expenditures) to the full board to enable them to determine the amount to be levied for a General Tax Levy at the April election each year. The Advance levy for 1900-01 amounted to $550. The grand total for taxing purposes for all eleven schools was $9500.

Schools opened at 8:30 a.m. and closed at 3:30 p.m. Janitors were employed at a rate of $4.00 per room for cleaning and were further allowed $4.00 per month for general services as a janitor. In a number of the schools the teacher and a few of the older students handled the cleaning and care of buildings.

The full Township Board approved for the first time in July of 1902 the hiring of W. G. Warner as a traveling music teacher. He was to provide music instruction and lessons for each grade level in the schools once a week for a period of 45 minutes duration. His salary was set at $50 per month for a nine month contract.

Cora Souders was employed in June of 1903 as the new teacher at Advance replacing Jesse Barnhart. Her salary was to be $50 per month for a nine month contract.

The Board of Education closed the Advance school in the spring of 1921, after forty-three years of continuous operations. Over the summer, in preparation for the 1921-22 school year, most of the former Advance students were assigned to the Olive Branch Primary/Grammar School building while others were assigned to Donnelsville and Medway.

The building was closed, later to be used for storing farm equipment, and finally to be purchased and taken over by the Free-Will Baptist Church. It remained in their care until it was deeded over to the New Carlisle Historical Society in November of 1998, a 501 © (3) incorporated agency, who was to partner with the Clark County Retired Teachers Association, for the purpose of restoring the school. The Teacher Association’s goal was to establish an opportunity to pass on to Clark County School children, for years to come, what an average day consisted of in the life of a one room school. As children visit the school they learn about the joys, the sorrows, and the rigors of life in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The children take part in a day at school similar to what their grandparents and great grandparents would have experienced. They learn how the children became like family, a community, and how they had the advantage of learning from one another listening and experiencing the recitations of the various grade level (usually grades 1 through 8) lessons being taught.

The building restoration was completed in 2003, coinciding with the State of Ohio Bicentennial. It was dedicated on Saturday, the Sixteenth of August, 2003, and for the past 12 years teachers associated with the Clark County Retired Teachers Association have conducted their “Dream Project” reaching hundreds of student throughout Clark County and beyond preserving a rapidly disappearing segment of a unique and important part of Clark County history, the one room schoolhouse.

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