Milwaukee Schools

Source: History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
The Western Historical Company, Chicago; A.T. Andreas Proprietor, 1881

First Village Schools
The germ of the present admirable system of education which graces and improves the City of Milwaukee to-day was planted in the virgin soil and this region in 1835. The children of Mirandeau, it is true, had, long before that date, experienced the advantages of father's training, obtained in an European college; but no direct relation can be traced between the culture of his mind-let to grow rank with disuse and indifference-and the organized effort of 1835.

The children of Solomon Juneau were instructed in simple rudiments in a small frame building, which stood near what is now the southwest corner of Wisconsin and East Water streets. This first private school was opened, in 1835, by a Mr. Heth. The Winter following, a village school was opened in a building situated in the vicinity of East Water street, between Michigan and Huron streets, on the ground afterward occupied by G.P. Hewitt & Son. The first teacher was David Worthington, who subsequently became a Methodist clergyman, and settled in Illinois.

Soon afterwards another school was opened on the West Side, on Third, a short distance north of Chestnut street-or rather, in the woods then. It was taught by a Mr. West, who subsequently resided in Appleton. The number of scholars attending the village schools at that time did not exceed a couple of dozen, all told.

The First School District

The first school district in Wisconsin was created under the old Michigan School Law, soon after the territorial organization of July, 1836.

The villagers, however, were too busy in building up the new country to pay much attention to the town schools; but when the East and West wards had united, and a municipal organization was being broached, the question of education assumed importance. As an index of the general sentiment, the following is taken from the Sentinel of April 25, 1845:

"It appears by returns on file in the office of the Town Clerk of Milwaukee, that there are 713 children in the East Ward of the city, between the ages of four and sixteen. The simple announcement of the fact naturally leads one to imagine what is being done for he education of these children * * * * We are informed that hitherto there have been but three schools in the East Ward supported at public expense--that about two hundred scholars attend these three schools. There are also several schools supported by the tuition received from the scholars, and in these last it is estimated that there are from one hundred and fifty to two hundred scholars * * * * If, in the rapid growth of the town, common schools have been somewhat neglected, let the citizens make amends for the past by immediate attention to the subject. * * * * The common school, we fear, has not received from the great mass of the people throughout the Territory that attention which its importance demands."

The Board of School Commissioners.

Under the act of incorporation in 1846, a Board of School Commissioners-three from each ward- was appointed by the Common Council. This organization has continued to have the superintendency of the public schools of the city. The system acquired such magnitude by 1859, that the creation of the office of Superintendent was made necessary. The Commissioners now number two from each ward; in addition to whom is a Secretary of the Board. They are still appointed by the Common Council, and with the Superintendent of Schools are responsible to their constituents for the proper management of a very elaborate and perfect system. The details of the gradual progress will be found in the succeeding chapter.

As stated, the first Board was organized in 1846.
See 1848-49 Schools as listed in the 1848-49 Directory
See 1857 Schools as listed in the 1857 directory.

The Five Ward Schools

In the First Ward a room was obtained in the basement of the Catholic Church, placed at the disposal of the city by Bishop Henni. In the Third and Fourth wards, rooms were hired, and in the Second and Fifth, the houses already in existence, although inadequate, were occupied; one at Walker's Point and the other at Kilbourntown. The schools were opened in June and were so well attended that before Fall the rooms were uncomfortably crowded. The attendance the first year was as follows:
Average Attendance No. Enrolled
First Ward................50..................80
Second Ward...............45.................113
Third Ward...............125.................200
Fourth Ward...............50..................85
Fifth Ward................85.................170

The law recognized the imposing of a general tax of one-quarter of one percent, for the maintenance of public schools, but this was soon seen to be insufficient to meet the requirement of new buildings. In October 1846, another school was opened in the Third Ward and one in the Fifth. The former was taught by H. R. Wilcox, the latter by Thos. Koegh. Again, in February, 1847, it was necessary to increase the accommodations of the schools and a rom in Dr. Loomis's building, corner of Reed and Florida streets, was added to the Fifth Ward list, and a room in a frame building on Chestnut, west of Third, was also rented for school purposes.

At a meeting of the Commissioners in June, 1847, it was determined to declare the school kept by S. Cleveland, in the Baptist church, corner of Wisconsin and Milwaukee streets, a public school for the accommodation of the First and Third wards, which were largely increasing in school population. Assistants were also employed in the First and Fifth wards.

One of the first calls upon the Common Council when Milwaukee became a city, was to fund the debt incurred for the support of schools, and the Council paid out of the ward fund in which the school incurring the same was located. The Board of School commissioners were permitted to meet in the Common Council room, provided it did not interfere with the city business, but among the earliest records of the Board (1851) is a communication from the City Clerk stating that his duties were so laborious that he could no longer act as secretary of the Board, and that the Council would require the use of their room. Inasmuchas the Board met but once a month, it is easily inferred that a conflict of views prevailed.

pg. 520-524 Not transcribed

Records Destroyed
On Sunday morning, December 30, 1860, between 1 and 3 o'clock, Cross's Block, in which the office of the Commissioners was situated, was burned to the ground. Nothing was saved except the contents of the safe, which was taken out of the ruins on the following Tuesday, having been buried sixty hours. The aforesaid contents were evidently undergoing slow combustion, but the records and order books, for the four years preceding, were in good state of preservation. By this fire all the bills up to the time, the monthly reports of teachers, the papers of examinations of teachers, annual reports from different cities, and all the papers of the Board, accumulated for a course of years, were entirely destroyed.

pg.. 524(part)-528 not transcribed

The First Kindergarten
In 1879 the School Board established the first city kindergarten under the management of an experienced kindergarten teacher, Miss Fisher.

See also the Kindergarten System

High Schools
The propriety of establishing a high school in Milwaukee was first called to the attention of the School Commissioners, April 5, 1852, in a resolution offered by Mr. Day. A committee was appointed at that time to consider the subject, but nothing was done by them. Again, in April, 1854, a committee was appointed, "to take into consideration the propriety of establishing a high school in the city." This committee accomplished exactly as much as the previous one. However, in August, 1857, the Board reached some conclusive decision in the form of a resolution, which was adopted, as follows:

Resolved, that the Executive Committee be directed to organize three union high schools in the city; the first to be for the Seventh and Third wards, the second for the Second Fourth, Sixth, and Ninth wards, and the third for the Fifth and Eighth wards, and for such wards as may hereafter be made by dividing the same, and that these schools go into operation as soon as suitable buildings shall be provided for the same.

The Seventh Ward school-house-built for a high school-was completed that Fall, though not for some weeks after the beginning of the school year. J.G. McKindley was employed as principal of what was called High School No. 1 at a salary of $1,500 a year. As his contract begins September 1, it was provided that he was to occupy his time until the school-house was finished, by visiting the ward schools, and thereafter to continue to visit them once a quarter. The Seventh Ward School was located in the same building as the high school and Mr. McKindley was to be principal of them both as long as they were kept together. As the high school-houses in other parts of the city were not built at the same time, children who resided anywhere in the city were admitted. The scholars who entered this department were required to be twelve years old, and to pass a satisfactory examination in orthography, elements of punctuation, composition, Pierron's system of geography questions, outlines of the United States History, Clarke's treatise on grammar, arithmetic through decimal fractions, and simple equations in algebra. Miss Whipple and Miss Lincoln were the first assistants and Frederick Regenfuss was instructor in German and French. A three-years' course of study was prescribed, in which German and French were optional throughout the course and Latin the last year. Vocal music was taught throughout.

In the Fall of 1858 the high school-house in the Second Ward was nearly enough completed to be occupied, and a high school-called High School No. 2-was organized, with E.P. Larkin Principal. This school, was for the West Side children only.

On the 23d of December, 1858, the Seventh Ward High School celebrated the first anniversary at the Newhall House.

When in 1860 the high schools were discontinued, the principals were allowed the free use of the rooms, furniture, etc., and continued the schools as private institutions, supported by tuition paid by the scholars. The Seventh Ward High School was continued only a short time, but the one in the Second Ward was maintained for several years. James MacAlister, at that time Principal of the Fourth Ward School, was permitted to organize a high school class, which he did, and maintained it for about two years with from twenty to thirty pupils.

The Present High School

In accordance with an "act to establish a high school in the City of Milwaukee,: approved by the Legislature, March, 1867, the present High School was opened on the first Wednesday in January, 1868, and during the first year one hundred scholars were enrolled, with an average daily attendance of sixty-eight. The school was opened in the same place-the Seventh Ward school-house-in which a high school had been established ten years before. The school remained there, however, only a year, when it was moved to the First Ward school-house, corner of Division and Van Buren streets. The building was burned in 1873, and the school was removed to the old Baptist church, on Sycamore street, between Third and Fourth, where it remained until the Spring of the following year. In the mean time the First Ward school-house had been repaired, and was occupied by the High School again until 1877. In that year the High School ceased to be itinerant, and has since been settled on the corner of Cass and Knapp streets, in a building purchased of the trustees of the Milwaukee Academy.

Normal Department
In May, 1858, Mr. Chapman introduced before the Board, a resolution providing that the examining committee inquire into the expediency of attaching a Normal School Department to the high schools. In the following year, November, 1859, Mr. Bade introduced another resolution calling for the appointment of a committee of three to act with the superintendent, "to consider and report on the expediency of establishing a Normal School Department, for teachers, in the high schools." (part) not transcribed

The Study of German
In April, 1857, Ferdinand Kuehn, then a member of the School Board from the Sixth Ward, introduced before the Board a resolution providing for a teacher of German for his own district; but the committee to whom the resolution was referred reported that "the Executive Committee was authorized and instructed to appoint a teacher whose duty it shall be to teach the German language in the Sixth Ward school, and such other schools as may be directed." The teacher was to receive a salary of $600 per year, and was directed to instruct as follows: One lesson to each reading and writing in the German language, one lesson to teach English grammar in the German language. No ward other than the Sixth profited by this arrangement, and even there instruction was discontinued in 1861. Nothing further was done until 1869, when the subject was again taken up by the Board, and after considerable discussion, it was decided to make a teacher of German one of the regular staff of each full graded school in the city. At this time the only effort to regulate the study was an enumeration of text books to be used. In the latter part of 1870, a series of rules for government was adopted, and the course of instruction revised; but as each teacher felt at liberty to pursue his own course, no uniformity was attained. In 1872, the study of German was put under direction of a standing committee, with Commissioner Trumpff as Chairman. From this time steady is perceptible. A revised code of rules put the study upon an entirely different basis. The standard of requirements for teachers of German was raised, uniformity of text books was required, and the schools were arranged in two divisions-one embracing those in which the pupils were mostly of Berman parentage, and the other including those attended largely by children on American origin. The scheme of instruction was adapted to meet the wants of those different divisions. In 1873, the rules were again revised, being made more special and authoritative, and the graded course of instruction was expanded into nearly its present form. Since that time, by careful attention to the minor details relating to it, the subject has been pursued in a complete and satisfactory manner.

The Present Public Schools
As is well known, and as has been previously stated, the public school system is controlled by the Board of Commissioners and the City Superintendent.

See James MacAlister biography, Superintendent of Schools.

During the first few years the Superintendent of Schools acted as the Secretary of the Board, having merely a clerk to assist him. As the system became more cumbersome, however, a change was found necessary, and in the Winter of 1872, the office of Secretary was made distinct, its occupant to be chosen by the Commissioners. Thomas Desmond filled the position of Clerk, and afterwards Secretary of the Board from 1866 to 1880, when Mr. Schattenberg succeeded him. To the former's good judgment may be traced much efficiency which marks workings of the office.

See A.H. Schattnberg's biography, Secretary of the School Board.

The High School-This higher department of the public school system is domiciled in the fine building corner of Cass and Knapp streets, known for years as "the Milwaukee Academy." It is a spacious three story brick edifice, with a tower to give it character. The building fronts on Knapp street, and was erected in 1865, its value being $18,000. It contains nine rooms, which have a comfortable seating capacity of 350. Nine teachers are employed, and the institution is everything to be desired as a means of imparting an academic or classical education which may serve as a basis of social and business and professional life.

See John J. Mapel, A.M. biography, Principal of the Milwaukee High School.

Normal Training School-Is situated at the corner of Seventh and Prairie streets. The Normal Department was formerly conducted in the High School building, but the system became so popular under Miss S.A. Stewart's administration that separate quarters were required. The building at present occupied was purchased by the city for $5,000. It has six rooms with a seating capacity of 236. The new Principal, Miss Hughes, has under her three teachers. Under the Normal plan the kindergarten system is included.
First District, formerly known as the Juneau school building, is situated on Cass street between Brady and Pleasant. It was erected in 1874, at a cost of $24,000, and is one of the finest educational edifices in the city. It contains twelve rooms, capable of seating 723 scholars. To instruct them thirteen teachers are employed.
See Walter W. White biography, Principal of the First District School.

First District Branch- is situated corner of Maryland and Prospect avenues; was erected at a cost of $2,000; accommodates 71 pupils and employs two teachers.

Second District (Webster) is located on Fourth, between Chestnut and Prairie streets. The building was erected in 1857 (originally as a high school), at a cost of $21,000; contains ten room; accommodates 663 scholars. Thirteen teachers are employed.

See Michael H. Cooke biography, Principal of the Second District School.

Second District Primary, located corner of Ninth and Chestnut streets. The building contains ten rooms, and has a seating capacity of 823. Twelve teachers are employed. The edifice erected at a cost of $30,000.

See Diedrich C. Luening biography, Principal of the Second District Primary School.

Third District School (Jackson) is situated corner of Detroit and Jackson streets. This building has not a superior in the city as regards convenience and sanitary precautions in its construction. It was erected in 1878-9 at a cost of $30,000; can accommodate 708 children with its eleven spacious rooms. The school is governed by thirteen teachers.

See Patrick Donnelly biography, Principal of the Third District School.

Fourth District School (Plankinton) is located at the corner of Eighth and Sycamore streets, and employs thirteen teachers. The building is valued at $14,000, is among the oldest structures of the kind in the city, and accommodates, with additions which have been made since, 770 scholars, who occupy twelve rooms.

See William M. Lawrence biography, Principal of the Fourth District School. (not yet transcribed)

Fifth District School (Mitchell)-Corner of Hanover and Park streets; building erected in 1862-3, at a cost of $15,000; has a seating capacity of 424, containing eight rooms. The number of teachers is nine.

See William E. Anderson biography, Principal of the Fifth District School. (not yet transcribed)

Fifth District Primary-The building, well adapted for its purpose, is situated on the corner of Greenbush and Walker streets; was erected at a cost of $8,000, contains seven rooms, which will accommodate 517 scholars. The guardians of the pupils are seven teachers.

Sixth District School (Humboldt)-Located on Fourth, between Court and Galena; estimated cost of property, $20,000. The building, containing fifteen rooms, will shelter 1,222 scholars. Nineteen teachers are employed. The structure is one of the old ones.

See Jacob Wahl biography, Principal of the Sixth District School. (not yet transcribed)

Sixth District Primary-Corner of Fourth and Beaubien streets; value of property, $12,000. The building, containing ten rooms, will seat 619 pupils. Eleven teachers are employed.

See Patrick H. Shaughnessy biography, Principal of the Sixth District Primary School. (not yet transcribed)

Seventh District School (Hadley)-Situated on Jefferson between Martin and Division. The building, erected for a high school in 1857, will seat 683 persons, containing, as it does, ten rooms. Thirteen teachers are employed. The property is valued at $25,000.

See Lindsey Webb biography, Principal of the Seventh District School. (not yet transcribed)

Eighth District School (Douglass)-The main building was erected in 186203, and is situated corner of Seventh avenue and Mineral street. Its twelve rooms will seat 752 pupils. Fourteen teachers manage the institution.

See Charles F. Zimmermann biography, Principal of the Eighth District School. (not yet transcribed)

See C.J. Whitney biography, Professor and teacher. (not yet transcribed)

Eighth District Primary-Building located corner of Fifth avenue and Madison street, which, with grounds, is valued at $11,000. The Principal if Miss Charlotte Bergwall. The school was opened January 1, 1881.

See Miss Charlotte Bergwall biography, Principal of the Eighth District Primary School. (not yet transcribed)

Ninth District School (Quentin)-Located on the corner of Fourteenth and Galena streets; number of rooms sixteen, and capable of seating 1,026; value of property, $34,000. Sixteen teachers are employed. The building was erected in 1862-3.

See Louis Hillmantel biography, Principal of the Ninth District School. (not yet transcribed)

Ninth District Branch-Corner of Twentieth and Brown streets; cost of building, which contains four rooms and accommodates 150 scholars, $1,500. There are two teachers.

See Daniel Corcoran biography, Principal of the Ninth District Branch School. (not yet transcribed)

Tenth District School (Washington)-located corner of Twelfth and Lloyd streets; value of property $28,000. The building was erected in 1874, contains fourteen rooms, which can seat 838. Sixteen teachers comprise the corps.

See John A. Diederichsen biography, Principal of the Tenth District School. (not yet transcribed)

Tenth District Branch (Teutonia) Corner of Twelfth and Center streets; value of property, $1,500. The building has two rooms, accommodates 143 scholars, who are instructed by two teachers.

See William J. Zahl biography, Principal of the Tenth District Branch School. (not yet transcribed)

Tenth District Primary-Situated corner of Tenth and Walnut, value of property $7,000. The building will seat 408 persons, has six rooms and a teacher to each room.

See David W. MacKay biography, Principal of the Tenth District Primary School. (not yet transcribed)

Eleventh District School (Franklin)-Corner of Tenth and Forest Home avenues; value of property $12.000. The building is planned to accommodate 669 attendants and has ten rooms. The number of teachers is nine.

See William Walthers biography, Principal of the Eleventh District School. (not yet transcribed)

Twelfth District School (Lincoln)-Located corner of Hanover between Mitchell and Lapham streets. The building was erected in 1877, contains ten rooms, presided over by nine teachers and capable of accommodating 871 pupils. The value of the property is $30,0000.

See Wade H. Richardson biography, Principal of the Twelfth District School. (not yet transcribed)

Thirteenth District School (Union)-Corner of Center street and Island avenue. The building was erected in 1877, at a cost of $32,000. This with the Third and Fourteenth District schools, is considered the most complete edifice of the kind in Milwaukee. It has twelve rooms and will seat 656 scholars. Thirteen teachers are employed.

See Frederick C. Lau biography, Principal of the Thirteenth District School. (not yet transcribed)

Thirteenth District Branch (Round House)-Situated corner of North street and Humboldt avenue. The building, which will accommodate ninety -four, is rented by the city. There are two rooms and two teachers.

Fourteenth District School-This stately edifice which favors this section of the city was erected in 1877-cost $40,000-and is situated on Cedar, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth streets. It is a model in every respect. The building has accommodations for 847 pupils, who enjoy the most spacious play grounds of any school in the city, and also the services of fourteen teachers. It contains fourteen rooms, and a large exhibition hall.

See Charles E. Spinney biography, Principal of the Fourteenth District School. (not yet transcribed)

Fourteenth District Branch-Is situated on Twenty-seventh street, south of Grand avenue; will accommodate seventy-one scholars; has two rooms and one teacher. The value of the property is $5,500.