Shadyside School

Education has long been an important part of Wisconsin’s heritage. In Manitowoc County, the first school was established in the winter of 1837-1838.

Funding was received from all who had children attending school. S.M. Peake was hired to instruct the children and classes were held in Benjamin Jones’ warehouse at the corner of Sixth and Commercial Streets (now Maritime Drive) in the City of Manitowoc. Twelve students attended this school, which held classes only during winter months.

During those early years, education often began in the home and, as community grew; the one-room school house claimed its place in the history of public education and in the hearts and minds of students and teachers even today.

A typical school day began with the ringing of the school bell in the cupola at 8:30 in the morning – a warning to students that classes would be starting at 9 a.m. This bell also sounded to signal when recess periods ended or when the lunch hour was over. The teacher would begin class by taking roll in his or her daily attendance book, many times indicating the reason why a student was tardy or absent. At times the entire class would be dismissed for a week or more and it was recorded that it was due to cholera or diphtheria epidemic.

This rural school did not have grade levels, but divisions designated as A, B, C, or D. The teacher needed to hold about 40 classes each day, most being 10 minutes in length. Older children would often help children in lower grades who might be having difficulty in their studies. The Three R’s were originally Reading, Writing, and Religion, which was later replaced by Arithmetic. Other subjects taught included geography, spelling, language and music. There was also a fourth reader class, but few students got as far as fourth reader. Those who did were considered brilliant and fit to go into research.

Originally located on State Highway 151 about 5 miles west of the City of Manitowoc, the Shadyside School served School District Number One in the Town of Manitowoc Rapids. Known at various times as the “Irish School” and the “Trainor School” by district residents, it was given the official name “Shadyside” because of the many box elder trees that the shaded the school yard.

The building featured a single classroom with an entry hall where students could hang their outdoor garments. A wood burning stove was the sole source of heat for the building and a woodshed was attached to the school room. Wood was passed from outside through an opening in the wall to the woodshed. Younger children generally sat in the front near the heat of the stove, leaving the older students in the back of the room to suffer with the cooler temperatures. The teacher would light the fire in the stove each morning and would “bank” the fire in the evening to help keep the coals from burning out during the night. This would make stoking the fire the next morning much easier.

Each school had a library case often containing 100 or more books. State law gave each school district a certain amount of money with which to purchase about a dozen library books each year. Books were greatly valued and the school’s library books were read cover to cover by most students before they completed their education.

When the Shadyside School was opened in 1872, paper was usually made from rags and was very expensive. In addition, ink was difficult to erase and spilled easily, so students used slates for math calculations and school lessons.

In the late 1890s a slate could be purchased for between 4 and 8 cents and shared with other family members. Ruled paper at the same time cost between 55 cents and $1.85 per 4 pound ream, plus there was the additional cost of ink, ink blotters, pen holders and pen tips. The first slates or blackboards were just that, slabs of wood blackened with a mixture of egg white and carbon from charred potatoes. A box of 120 pieces of common white chalk cost about 4 cents and erasers for cleaning slates and blackboards sold for 8 cents each. Good penmanship was expected and students practiced for many hours writing sentences such as “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

With many students in one room, discipline in the class room was quite strict. Going to school was a privilege and misbehavior was not tolerated by the teacher. A misbehaving student might be asked to step forward and extend their hands. If it was a girl who misbehaved, she would be struck across the open palm with the teacher’s pointing stick. If it was a boy, he would be struck across the back of his hands, over his knuckles. If a boy was too old to be physically punished, he was sometimes made to sit in the middle of the class, which is usually where the girls were seated.

Other punishments included the wearing of the “Dunce” cap or the student might have to stand with their nose pressed to the center of a circle drawn on the blackboard.

Unlike today’s school year which runs from September through May or June, school terms were set around the times of planting and harvesting so students could help with seasonal chores. For students at the Shadyside School the Winter Term began the day after Thanksgiving and lasted 12-16 weeks. The Summer Term would then begin in May and lasted 8 weeks. Frequently, girls only went to school when their mothers did not need them at home to help with chores or to care for younger brothers or sisters. Most students attending the Shadyside School walked about two miles to and from school each day.

Teachers frequently boarded with a local family and received “provision pay,” which could include grains like flax, oats or corn, hay, bricks, cloth, or farm produce. One teacher’s salary was recorded as being 20 pounds of sugar, 16 yards of satin, 3 pecks of apples, 3 quarters of lamb, 3 yards of red cotton, a fat sow, 30 pounds of butter and 2000 nails. Female teachers were expected to give up their positions if they married and there are many stories of women who kept their marriages a secret so they might continue teaching.

The number of students enrolled at the Shadyside School fluctuated over the years, ranging from 81 students in 1875 to only 24 students by 1945. Among those who attended the school was Hugo Vetting, whose family donated the original 40 acres of land for Pinecrest Historical Village. The school served the district until 1956 when it was closed and its students were made part of the City of Manitowoc Public School District.

The Shadyside School was moved to Pinecrest Historical Village in 1976, at a cost of $5,645, with the support of the Rahr Foundation. A basement to accommodate the 4-H Clubs that had been using the school as their meeting site prior to its being moved to the Village was added. The basement area is presently a storage facility.

Two original outhouses are located behind the Shadyside School. They were moved to the Village by Arno Pleuss and Milton Schwalbe. There is one for the girls and one for the boys. Some schools also had a third outhouse just for the teacher!