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Frank O. Robbins
of Origin of Niles Schools
Written by Frank O. Robbins, Class of 1875, in 1915.
Ed. there have been no grammar corrections.
“In the limited time I have taken to look
up the history of the Niles schools, I have been unable to learn
anything of the actual organization of School District No. 8,
nor have I found anyone who could tell anything of its history
previous to 1842. The earliest record now in existence is a minute
book of the directors’ meetings and the first entry therein
is as follows:
Pursuant to previous notice, the householders in District No.
8 in Weathersfield Township, Trumbull County, Ohio, met for the
purpose of electing three school directors. The meeting being
called to order by appointing WilliamMcKinley, Jacob
Robison and James Dempsy to the chair, they then
proceeded to the election of officers. After counting the votes
given, it was found that William McKinley was elected school director
for the term of three years and Doc. Miller Blachly for
the term of one year. The said directors then proceeded to select
one of their members for district clerk and the treasurer, which
eventuated in the appointing of William McKinley to that office.
This done, the oath of office was administered
by James Dempsy, Esq. Meeting adjourned Friday, September 16th,
1842. WM. McKinley, Clerk.
Drawing of 'White School House'.
McKinley, who signed this record, was the father of our martyred
President McKinley, who was born in the following year. I have
not been able to learn whether the building known as the ‘White
School House,’ standing west of the Presbyterian church,
had already been built, but presume that it had. as it is referred
to frequently in the records as a meeting place for the directors.
At this time teachers were hired for short terms,
three months, or a little longer. Wages varied from $5.50 to $15.00
per month, part to be paid out of the school fund and balance
to be paid in bar iron at a specified price per pupil and to be
furnished by the patrons. There was but one school, ‘the
White Schoolhouse’, in the district at this time, and the
branches taught were thoseof a common English education: writing,
reading, arithmetic, geography and grammar.
William McKinley's first grade teacher, Miss
Sandfordriding in carriage in front of the Allison Hotel, later
the Antler Hotel, at the corner of Main Street and Park Avenue.ca
interesting to note the names of some of the people who either
taught the school or who served on the school board: In 1844,
we first meet the name of H. H. Mason as director and
clerk; in 1845, we find on the Board, the name of J. G. Butler,
the father of J. G. Butler, Jr., known to all of our citizens.
Under the new school law, in 1849, three directors were elected.In
the fall of that year, Amos Allison, H.H. Mason and J. G. Butler.
The first instance in the records telling of
the hiring of two teachers was in March, 1847; these teachers
were Alba Sanford, known to the old citizens as ‘Santa
Anna’ and his daughter. Their compensation was $20.00 per
month. I can not learn whether they both taught in one building
but the presumption is that they did.
In the fall of 1851, an enumeration of the white
youth over four and under twenty-one in District No. 8, showed
that there were within the district 110 males and 92 females between
these ages. You will notice that in those days there were no boys
and girls, only males and females. In a meeting of the house holders
April 12, 1852, held at the White School House, a committee consisting
of William Ward, William Hunter and J. G.
Butler was appointed to inquire into the propriety of having
the school divided and conducted thereafter upon the Union system;
we can say nothing relative to this report but it is probable
that at this time, the school house later known as the Niles High
School, was built at the western end of what was then known as
James Street(Church Street).
“The Ohio legislature passed a modified
Ohio School Law in 1853. As a result of the new law, the state
collected a uniform property tax across the state, which it then
redistributed to each school district based upon the number of
students enrolled. The Ohio School Law of 1853 also provided money
for school libraries for the first time in Ohio’s history”.
Anna Marie Beagle
Postcard of Central High School
In 1867 there were
three schools in District No. 8, one high school taught by Andrew
Dienst; the old White School, taught by Miss Olive Allison,
now Mrs. George Harris, and one taught by Miss Josie Hardman,
either in the old Town Hall or in the old Furnace office, which
stood in the southeast corner of the present Union School yard.
An election on the Union School law under act
passed by the legislature of Ohio in 1849 was held on April 12,
1869 resulted in 102 votes being cast, 101 being for and 1 against.
By this vote, the schools within the village of Niles were consolidated
and on April 29th, six directors were elected They were Josiah
Robbins, Jr., T. C. Stewart, S. D. Young,
Col. Wm. Davis, Wm. C. Mann and Wm. Campbell.
This board had its first meeting in the Town
Hall on the evening of April 30th and organized. On the following
day another meeting ofthe Board was held, at which H. H. Mason
was present as delegate from Sub-district No. 6 to petition that
portion of Sub-district No.6 not within the limits of the corporation
of Niles be included in the Union School District. Mr. Mason’s
petition was granted. The Niles Union School District in the beginning
comprised only the 6th and 8th Districts of Weathersfield Township
and was extended with the corporation limits. It was not until
about the year 1912 that District No. 9 west of town was taken
into the Union School District.
On May 4th, 1869, action was taken by the Board
to purchase from Mrs. Elizabeth Heaton what was known
as the old furnace property, whereon had stood the charcoal furnace
built by the Heatons. This was said to be the second iron industry
in the state and first in the Mahoning Valley. At a meeting of
the qualified voters ofthe District, held on the evening of Saturday.
May 22, 1869, it was unanimously resolved that the Board of Directors
be empowered to purchase a site and erect thereon a suitable school
house and authority was granted to levy a tax of $15,000.00 on
the District for this purpose.
School picnic in front of Central High School,
formerly Union High School. ca 1895. PO1.1221
1878 graduating class: Elmer Wilson, A.J. Bentley,
Thomas Robbins. PO1.1613
In September, 1869,
Rev. T. 0. Stewart was selected by the Board as first
Superintendent or acting manager of the Niles Union Schools. On
March 1, 1870. the electors of the District empowered the Board
to make an additional levy of $10,000.00, as the Board had found
that at least $25,000.00 would be required to erect a building
suitable for the needs of the District.
On May 18, 1870, the Board let the contract for
the Union School building to a Cleveland firm of contractors for
the sum of $27,950.00, payment to be made in 8 per cent bonds.
The heating and furnishing increased the cost of the building
to approximately $31,000.00.
The first Board meeting in the new school building
was held on March 10, 1871, and the building was accepted May
24, 1871. In the new building, the High School occupied the entire
west side ofthe second floor and continued to occupy that room
until the holiday season of 1888, when the crowded conditions
ofthe schools necessitated abandoning the third floor as a ‘Union
Hall’ and converting it into school rooms.
L.L. Campbell was elected Superintendent
April 24, 1871. He was succeeded by Miss Stewart in the
fall of 1875, whose occupancy lasted only two terms. She was succeeded
by Mr. Hitchcock in the spring of 1870. Mr. Hitchcock
was succeeded as Superintendent in the fall of 1879 by Mr.
Bulla, who served until 1883 when he was succeeded by Mr.
Wight. In 1888 Mr. Wight was succeeded by Mr. Roller,
who guided so ably and satisfactorily the affairs ofthe Niles
schools for 22 years. He was followed by Mr. W. C. Campbell,
the present Superintendent (1915).
Under Mr. Campbell’s efficient management,
the Niles Union Schools are rendering a great service to the youth
of the community and occupy a front rank among the schools of
the state. There is an enrollment at present of 1752 pupils, of
whom 240 are members of the High School and 120 are in the grammar
grades. These 360 now occupy the Central building. This building
for ten years has been condemned by the state authorities as unsanitary
and as a veritable fire trap.
Construction of McKinley High
ca 1916. PO5.52
On May 12, 1913, an election was
held on the question of a bond issue of $195,000.00 at 4-1/2,
per cent, for a new High School building and for improvements
on two of the Ward buildings.The election carried, there being
427 votes for the issue and 203 against. Later the Board purchased
the present site for the new school for approximately $40,000.00,
and on July 6, 1914, ground was broken for this fine High School
building which will cost complete, ready for occupancy, approximately
$160,000.00. Ed. This McKinley High School later
became Edison Jr. High School.
Central High School had several
classroom fires and was torn down in the early 1920s. In 1928,
Central Park with a pavillion and wading pool was dedicated.
Board of Education, 1906
Board of Education, 1906
Room No. 1
Union School Building
October 2, 1888
|Development Of Niles
School System From 1871 Until the Present Time(1934).
Six Teachers In 1871; Four Schools Here
Schools occupied and important place in the community life following
the creation of the Union School District and the completion of
the Central Building in 1871. The increase of the school population
soon required that a capable superintendent and school staff be
hired and that a more adequate school term be provided.
When the Central school opened in 1871 there were, for that building,
six teachers and a principal. A school report in the Western Reserve
Chronicle in 1876 indicated that at that time there were two schools
in Niles, valued at $40,000.00, and that the school staff totaled
ten. The first extensive school report after 1871 is dated 1889,
the first year of Superintendent Roller’s twenty-two year
In that year the school force consisted of fifteen teachers and
the superintendent; 901 pupils were enrolled for a term of thirty-six
weeks, but the average attendance was only 85% of the enrollment.
The following table indicates the increase of enrollment, 1889-1934:
The above table indicates that school enrollment
increased gradually until 1912, since when it has increased more
than 195%. The largest proportionate increase has occurred at
the high school, where as late as 1906, the enrollment was but
78, and the largest graduating class 18 in number, as compared
with a high school enrollment of 1210 and a graduating class of
181 in 1834.
4 Schools in 1890
To provide for this increasing enrollment has been one of the
difficult problems school boards and superintendents have had
to meet. In 1890, four school buildings were in use: the Central
building, the old wood school on Leslie Avenue, a two room school
on Walnut Street and a two room structure on the South Side.
5th School Added
In 1891 the brick school on Leslie Avenue was added, and at various
times for short intervals before 1905, schoolrooms were provided
as follows: Bert Street 1-room, 1896-1897; First Street-1 room,
1900-1905; and Park Avenue-1 room, 1905-1905. Of all of these
schools, only the Leslie Avenue building remains and it is no
longer school property.
Present Niles Schools
The public school buildings now in use and the dates of construction
are: Jackson, Warren Avenue-1893 (enlarged 1911); Lincoln, Cedar
Street-1896 (enlarged 1905); Monroe, Bert Street-1905; Garfield,
Third Stree1905; Jefferson, South Bentley Avenue-1911 (enlarged
1913, 1925);McKinley High School-1914; Roosevelt, Madison Avenue-1919;
Washington Junior High, Hartzell Avenue-1924; Harrison, McKinley
Heights (acquired as addition to school district-1920); Administration
Building, Church Street-1930. In addition to the public schools,
the St. Stephen Parochial school, built in 1901, provided for
480 pupils in 1933-1934.
The period 1874-1934, saw the evolution of the modern curriculum,
with most of the changes coming after 1900. Before that date the
work in the upper elementary grades consisted of reading (from
McGuffy), writing, arithmetic, spelling (from Harvey) and geography.
The only innovation was the introduction in 1891 of United States
History. The early high school curriculum included business arithmetic,
algebra, and plane and solid geometry, two years of rhetoric and
one of literature, two years of Latin, and for parts of a year:
botany, physiology, physical geography, Physics, English history
and ‘science of government’. The first addition was
bookkeeping in 1891, and ten years later: music, drawing, writing,
and German was added. The remainder of the modern curriculum and
recognition of extra-curricular activities came later.
The interests of pupils in the earlier part of the period seem
rather remote from those of today. Literary societies aroused
great interest and frequent debates, recitations and essay writing
contests were held. At one of these programs described in the
‘Trumbull County Independent’ in 1886, thirteen pupils
read Whittier’s ‘Snowbound’ from memory before
three judges; a vocal solo was interspersed between every second
Sometimes, however, the program was of a social
nature as when on January 1, 1886, the literary society entertained
at a social held in the Falcon skating rink. The literary programs
were good preparation for graduation, as each member of the graduating
class was expected to give a commencement oration upon some patriotic
or other lofty subject
It was an age when reform movements, dissipated
by the Civil War, were again gathering strength. In 1886, the
entire school population ‘took the pledge’ in writing,
to abstain from use of tobacco or liquor, and to cultivate ‘clean
and pure living.’