FROM THE ARCHIVES: Fuller School operated for 100 years
Nineteen years after Luther Lincoln settled in what would become Montcalm Township and six years after Montcalm County was organized as a separate county, a school district was organized in Montcalm Township’s Section 25.
School District No. 4 was organized on Sept. 3, 1856. A log school building was erected on the farm of Obediah E. Fuller about 40 rods east of the Fuller residence.
“One of the most interesting schools in this vicinity is that of School District No. 4, of the township of Montcalm. It is probably better known as the ‘Fuller School,’” the Greenville Daily News said in 1933 when announcing the school’s annual reunion.
The article noted some “interesting information in connection with the school, down through the years. This information is in the shape of a book containing the secretary’s record from 1856 to 1908, year by year.”
Harvey Allen was the first assessor of the school, Henry Osmun was the first director and O.E. Fuller the first moderator.
In the first minutes was this decision: “It was moved and seconded that there be a three months qualified female teacher.”
At a later meeting came this action: “On motion voted that all persons who send scholars to school shall furnish 3/4 of a cord of good stove wood, and that a tax of $10 be raised for repairs on the school house.”
In 1865 $100 was raised by taxes to build a frame school house.
The article continues, “At the annual meeting in 1867, it was voted to raise $200 for school purposes. At that time the district mill tax amounted to the sum of $22.10. Primary school money received amounted to $18.
“In 1869, the total school budget amounted to $305.62.”
In 1873 Montcalm County Superintendent of Schools E.H. Crowell requested of the Greenville Independent’s editor, “Allow me, through the columns of your paper, to give a brief report of the schools and school-houses of Montcalm County.”
His “brief report” consisted of an 11-part series that continued for nearly three months in the Independent. Part 3 concerned the schools in Montcalm Township.
“This township is divided into nine school districts, all of them having comfortable school buildings with one exception.” (The exception was District No. 6, which had “a small log house in the pine woods, hardly comfortable in winter.” All the other school houses were of frame construction.)
“As a general thing the schools are all well sustained, but there is a lack in most of the districts of that deep interest which should be shown in a work of so great importance.”
Howell marked each school in such categories as order and deportment. The key to marking was 1 as perfect, 5 as total failure.
District No. 4 with D.H. Fuller as director received this report: “Pupils enrolled, 37; present, 29; order, 1; deportment, 1; studiousness, 2; house is frame, but too small; blackboard is too small; apparatus — charts; text books uniform; grounds small, not fenced; two out houses, badly located.
“I see a marked improvement in the school since my last visit; the same teacher for 3 terms; I once designated this as ‘the whispering school’; now it is quiet and orderly.” Howell also said he “listened to a very good recitation in grammar.”
The Independent’s 1933 article said, “In 1879 Miss Halstead’s teaching salary for three months was $60 — we imagine she was boarding around in those days.
“And in 1895 we notice under the signature of R.B. Ferris, director, that nine months school would be held, and oak wood was being furnished the school at a cost of $1 per cord.”
“Another interesting feature is the fact that John DeSpelder is a surviving member of the first class at the school in 1856, coming to the Fuller school in 1856 from the Baker school.” DeSpelder was 87 in 1933. He lived another five years, passing away on Dec 1, 1938, at the age of 92.
Fuller School also served as a place of worship for a time in the 1880s. The Little Denmark Evangelical Lutheran Church of Montcalm County divided into three parishes about 1879. One parish was known as Dannebrog, which later also was divided. The north part became St. John’s parish, also known as North Sidney, and the south part continued as Dannebrog (also called South Sidney) with services being held at Fuller School until the church on Muskrat Road was built in 1888.
Fuller School closed in the 1950s and the property reverted to private ownership.