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Early history of Yellow Springs schools

Excerpted from a Yellow Springs News article
of October 15, 1926, compiled by Towne Carlisle and J. Howard Adams

Early schoolhouse on Bryan Road


During all these years it must be remembered that the people of Yellow Springs did not maintain a separate school system, but were a part of the township school system. The children of the village attended the township school located in the district where their parents lived.

The Elm street school was built in 1845 and it did service alone until 1855 when conditions demanded more school room.

In 1855 Wood's school was built and in 1856 a high school was built.

In 1858 a movement was set on foot to create a separate school district for the town. It must also be remembered that until the constitutional convention of 1851, strictly free public schools as we know them today did not exist. The parents of children of school age were all expected to subscribe a certain amount toward the upkeep of the schools; nor was attendance compulsory...

April 2, 1858
"Met according to adjournment; all present. On motion the following were elected examiners: J. B. Weston for three years, F. D. Leonard for two years; and A. Kellogg for one year. A motion being made, it was agreed to divide the district into three grades-number one, High Street, corner of South College and High streets, to be composed of those scholars more advanced in orthography, reading, algebra, history, physiology, and botany; No. two, south of Fairfield pike and between Walnut and High streets, called Wood's School, to consist of all the scholars of grammar, geography, physiology, arithmetic, reading, and writing; number three, center the school still on Elm street, alphabet, reading writing, and so forth. These three schools being established, the next thing to do was to elect the teachers. 'Resolved, that we employ E. Jay as superintendent of this special school district, and he to take charge of the South school at a salary of $400 per year consisting of forty-four weeks of school. Voted to accept Miss Morris as teacher for the Intermediate school, known as the Woods school, and Miss Emma Botsford as teacher in the Elm school. After these elections a general change of plans was made as follows: 'Voted to place the primary school in the Elm street school house, secondary in Little Antioch, preparatory in the North, and higher departments in the South."


August 4, 1858
"Met according to the adjournment. H. H. Hopkins, clerk. Minutes of the last meeting approved. Resolved, that the schools be divided into four terms of eleven weeks each. Passed. Resolved that the treasurer-elect of the Yellow Springs school district be and hereby is authorised to collect all the school funds due said district from the former treasurer as soon as the law will allow the same to be done. Passed. Resolved, that we employ a superintendent with an assistant for the South school and teachers for the Center and North schools. Schools to commence the first Monday in September. Passed. Resolved, that we hire E. Jay with his furnishing an assistant for $525 for forty-four weeks. Passed. Application handed in from Miss C. B. Brown, Miss Morris, and Miss Botsford to teach school. Passed to accept Miss Morris' proposition. Passed to accept Miss Botsford's proposition.
H. H. Hopkins, Clerk


The Yellow Springs school records of 1863 give us a good insight into the operating cost and the size of the school population at that time. Comparing it with the present it must seem to us at first glance as being ideal in economics. But in 1863 the schools were governed on the home rule plan and were not hampered as now by numerous laws and regulations with which the state has seen fit to surround them until at the present time the school board, teachers, and even the parents have little influence in the cost and regulation, and any effort on their part to lessen the burden seems futile.

The records of 1863 give the enumeration returns of the Yellow Springs school district of youth tween the ages of five and twenty-one years taken and returned to the county auditor between the first and third Monday of September.



The teachers' salaries for nine months in 1863 were $1,206.00 while in 1924 they were $10,349.59.

Although the examination of school teachers was not as rigid then as now, they were men and women of good education and must have been able to control and direct their pupils efficiently. It is doubtful today whether the modern teacher has any better grasp of the common school subjects than the teacher of three generations ago, but for a general knowledge of a greater variety of subjects or a complete knowledge of a special subject, superiority is conceded to the modern teacher.

There were five teachers employed in 1863 at the following salaries: R. Milliken, superintendent, $42 per month; Mrs. Milliken, teacher, $23 per month; Miss Condon, Miss Anderson, and Mr. Early each at a salary of $23 per month. Five teachers at a combined salary of $134 per month to direct and instruct 530 pupils. How the teachers of yesterday with so many pupils and so little equipment today, could have carried the gigantic burden of their tasks so cheerfully fo twenty-three dollars a month is amazing. Mrs. A. L. Anderson taught primary school in Yellow Springs for thirteen years and many are the gray-haired men and women in this community who learned their "A, B, C's" under her tutelage. They can also remember that her schoolroom was neither a picture gallery nor a play house. But the pupils soon learned that about everything that occurred from the time they entered the school room in the morning until they were dismissed in the evening was known and its motive understood by Mrs. Anderson.

In December, 1865, another interesting report regarding the schools is recorded. It follows:

Teachers' Report for Nine Months

School Teacher Enrollment
North Miss Clara Leonard 69
Elm Miss Kate Miller 82
Primary Miss Emma Roberts 130
Dayton St. Mrs. A. L. Anderson 134
Mr. M. Marshall 23
Total Enrollment 438

The town's population had grown to fifteen thousand. The Hunster Hotel, The Yellow Springs Hotel, and the Neff House were filled with summer visitors. Yellow Springs was at the height of her career as a summer resort. Trainloads of excursionists from as far away as Cincinnati and Columbus came as "picknickers" to enjoy the beauties of the Neff grounds and drink at the famous Yellow Spring. Eminent men and their families enjoyed the hospitality of the hotels. Business men and their friends came from surrounding cities to enjoy a week-end. Famous men like Emerson, Hale, and Greely in their lecture tours had been guests of Antioch. Murat Halstead, General Rosecrans, and General Smith had homes here. Those were gala days that mellow as they age.

So we find that in the early sixties the school trustees had begun to ponder over the erection of a school building that would accommodate all of the Yellow Springs schools under one roof.

On March the 12th, 1866, the matter of a union school was discussed and all agreed that it was important for the interest of the school to have one at the earliest possible day.

June 12, 1871.-"On motion, H. H. Hopkins and Joseph Hutcheson were appointed a committee to consider the expediency of attempting to build a union school building this season and to report at the next meeting."

June 20, 1871.-"The building committee reported it expedient to make arrangements for building a union school building as soon as material could be secured."

July 3, 1871.-"Stewart and Hutcheson were appointed a committee to inquire into the cost, size, and style of a building we need for a union building."

August 17, 1871.-"On motion, resolved, that the time has come to decide on providing more school room. On motion, resolved, that Birch and Hutcheson be a committee to contract for about one hundred and seventy-five thousand brick for the purpose of building a union school house. Passed
by unanimous vote."

September 4, 1871.-"Birch and Hutcheson reported and presented a contract with J. W. Hamilton for one hundred and seventy-five thousand brick, more or less, delivered at the time and place ordered by the board, at six dollars and fifty cents per thousand, paid in advance. The contract accepted by the board. On motion, passed, that an order be drawn in favor of J. W. Hamilton for the sum of $1,137.50. Resolved that F. Birch be appointed a committee to ask the Legislature through our representative Hon. John Little for a law authorizing the Board of Education of Yellow Springs, Ohio, to borrow by issuing bonds the sum of six thousand dollars at eight percent interest to enable said school board to complete a union school house, bonds to run from two to six years. Passed by unanimous vote."


April 17th, 1872.-"On motion resolved and passed that Sizer and Birch be a committee to look out for a suitable lot of ground for the union school building, with instructions to procure if possible the Grinnell lot on Dayton Street. Also to report if any other location can be had and the price asked, and report to the board as soon as possible."

April 29th, 1872.-"On motion the committee on securing a lot was authorized to close a contract with Grinnell for his lot on Dayton Street not less than one nor more than two acres at a rate not exceeding seven hundred dollars per acre."

April 30th, 1872.-"Birch and Sizer reported that they had closed a contract with Grinnell for a lot on the north side of Dayton Street immediately west of Mr. Teney's residence two hundred feet front on Dayton Street, running north three hundred feet more or less to Union Street at the rate of seven hundred dollars per acre. Confirmed by the board. On motion Stewart and Sizer were appointed a committee to look around at other school buildings and get up a plan suitable to our wants and report as early a day as possible."

May 14th, 1872.-"Frank Grinnell presented the deed from Moses H. Grinnell for the school lot purchased of him. On motion the board accepted the deed and ordered that an order be drawn on the treasurer for the amount in full as per contract, ($1124.00).

Sizer and Stewart get further verbal instructions to proceed and get a draft and specifications of a building containing four rooms on the first floor and three on the second floor with a twelve foot hall through the center. On motion resolved that notice be posted up for proposals to be received for excavating the basement of the new school building. Bids to be returned up to Monday next at 10 o'clock a.m."

May 21st, 1872.-On motion the bids received for excavating the cellar and foundation of the Union school building were opened, being eleven in number running from eighteen to twenty-nine cents per cubic yard. The bid of John Wolf being eighteen cents per yard and the lowest it was accepted. On motion, resolved and passed that A. V. Sizer and J. M. Stewart be appointed a building committee and instructed to proceed at once and put the building under contract and push the work on as fast as possible advising from time to time with the board when they deem it necessary. F. Birch reported that he had contracted with a firm in Cincinnati for one hundred blank bonds to be gotten up in good style for the sum of forty dollars. Accepted."


June 24th, 1872.-"The object of the meeting being to agree on what terms we would sell the Elm street school house and lot. The question being asked by the vestry of the Episcopal Church in Yellow Springs through Dr. Elihu Thorne. On motion resolved and passed that we would take one thousand dollars reserving the desks, tables, stove and maps, in the following payments; four hundred dollars paid in hand, three hundred in one year, and three hundred in two years, secured by note and mortgage on the property, the note bearing interest from date. Dr. Throne on the part of the church accepted our proposition with the proviso that if they should pay one or both of said notes on or before the first day of January, 1873, that no interest should be required on said note or notes when paid. H. H. Hopkins on motion was appointed a committee to consummate the above agreement with the Episcopal Church."

June 10th, 1872
.-"The object of the meeting being to examine bids for the basement and foundation walls of the Union school house. Eight bids in all being examined it was found that Washington Sroufe made the lowest bid, nine dollars and thirty-five cents per perch, the work was awarded to him by unanimous vote. The building committee were requested to enter into contract with Washington Sroufe."

June 21st, 1872
.-"The drawings and specifications of the new school building prepared by Leon Beaver of Dayton were examined and passed that the building committee advertise to receive bids up to July 9th for the work according to the drawings and specifications of said Beaver."

"Board of Education met July 11th, 1872. Members all present, President Hopkins in the chair. All the bids for the erection of the new school building were opened and examined. Only one bid on the brick work rejected. Carpenter work awarded to Dress and Thornhill at $4531.00; galvanized iron work by Bounsyer and Co., at $1275.00; cut stone to Hinton and Co., at $602.00; plastering twenty-three cents per yard to Mike Musselman at $725.00; paintings and glazing to William Baker at $647.00; stone work to Washington Sroufe at $1061.00; excavating cellar to John Wolf at $228.00."

In September, 1872, the enumeration of youth was as follows:

Total Enumeration.........................480


In 1863 there stood near the sidewalk on the south side of Dayton Street opposite John Dell's residence a frame building that had done some service as a private or paid school. This building is now the back part of Mrs. Sutton's house. Here on September 23, 1863, the first colored school was established. Annisted Early was employed as a teacher. While the enumeration of colored children was given as fifty, the attendance at times was very small. In 1871, J. M. Logan was selected as first colored principal and in 1874 Addison Cooper as principal, had an assistant, Miss Maggie Hunter. In 1874 the colored school was located in the old High School building on High Street where before its final abandonment a principal and three teachers were employed.

During these passing years teachers salaries had grown from $23 per month in 1857 to $40.00 per month in 1873 and the principal's salary from $25.00 to $100.00 The new Union School was opened for the first session January 16, 1873. The building while not of an elaborately artistic design was roomy, comfortable and sensibly planned inside and out. Located near the center of a large yard and play ground the two-story structure with its huge belfy has proven itself to be by its years of service a substantial and serviceable structure. The lower floor today is just the same as it was when the building was first occupied but the second floor which originally consisted of two rooms and an auditorium had been changed to suit the new school conditions. The old auditorium which originally occupied the entire back part of the upstairs has been cut up into two recitation rooms and a small library and now on special occasions the opera house can be utililized as an auditorium.

The "School Hall" as the Union School Auditorium was called was in the seventies and eighties our only Opera House, so that in addition to the school service it was the public hall for political meetings, traveling theatrical companies and home-talent shows. The stage and scenery still hold a place in our memories. Laughter and tears paid their tribute to "Uncle Tom's Cabin," "Rip Van Winkle," "Handy Andy," "The Bell Ringers," "Alf Burnett," and the "Great Indian Medicine Shows," crowded the hall to suffocation. The Democratic and Republican clubs soiled their political machinery there. The country would certainly go to the dogs or to the everlasting bowwows unless you cast your vote as directed by the red faced perspiring orator as he blew his party's horn. The first graduating exercises were held there. Who of those graduating classes, but can remember the seriousness of the occasion as they gesticulated wildly and talked rapidly at the tin lamps that hung on the rear wall. The flowers, the sheepskins and the congratulations, the stepping out into the world with a feeling of freedom and strength.


Among the many interesting superintendents who, each added their share to the worth of the school, we find the name of William Haffner a product of our own schools. Mr. Haffner had grown a reputation with the passing years for discipline. There were plenty of good boys and girls in schools but those who were bad were usually very bad and deliberately plotted to "Run them out." But Dr. Haffner would not be bluffed by their cave man tactics and could play that game himself and rather enjoyed it. The majority of these young school roughs were eighteen or twenty years old and it meant a battle to master them. Supt. Haffner had successfully lined up this element in the Ireland school, where other teachers had resigned and left, and his reputation for fearlessness secured him the Fairfield School at eighty dollars per month, a high wage at that time, but the school had been closed for some time because no teacher had been found who could handle the situation. Dr. Haffner required only one week to bring the school to a sensible understanding of who was master. Many amusing things are told today by these old pupils of his wholesome methods, and at the "Home Coming" week a few years ago Dr. Haffner was one of the idolized guests, the boys whom he had thrashed soundly were his greatest admirers. In the Yellow Springs School his task was not so hard but there is no question but that he allowed the rod to fall hard upon some proud spirits here too.


Antioch College contributed to our Town and Township schools a generous supply of teachers. Many of the young men and women who were attending Antioch found it necessary at times to lay aside their college work and teach for a year or two to secure funds to complete their college course. Just so in later years High School graduates were to be found teaching in the lower grades of the village schools or were given charge of a township school.

The Hirst family holds a unique position in this respect. J. L. Botsford was clerk of the School Board in 1888 when the first Village School Board was organized. His two daughters the Misses Hattie and Emma and son, Ulysses, were all school teachers. Miss Emma had already taught some years in the Township schools and was one of the first teachers to be employed by the village school board. Miss Hattie, who later became Mrs. T. C. Hirst had taught in town and township schools. Mr. T. C. Hirst who had also taught school was always active in school and educational affairs, served as a school board member while his two sisters, Miss Cosmelia Hirst and Miss Cornelia Hirst spent many years of their long and valuable lives in teaching school. Miss Cosmelia in the latter years of her life has written many charming and interesting articles for the press which only a vigorous memory could produce. Reliable in their data and vivid in their descriptions, covering subjects that are of immense interest to the public these articles found ready readers among her many friends and neighbors. Miss Anna, Miss Clara and Miss Edith Hirst, daughters of Mr. and Mrs. T. C. Hirst were all teachers.

Miss Clara Hirst, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. T. C. Hirst, is at present in charge of the Music Department of Antioch College, Antioch Academy, and our public schools, while Miss Edith, the youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. T. C. Hirst, after teaching school a few terms became the wife of County Auditor R. O. Wead who has served such a long and successful term as Superintendent of the Yellow Springs Public Schools. Surely the Hirst family deserves a high place in the school history of this locality.


In the last six years the business of operating the schools in every county in the state has become a task demanding great skill. In order to accomplish what the state desires the teachers, superintendents, and county superintendents must work as nearly as one unit as possible. Mr. Aultman, who was selected for County Superintendent in 1916, has worked and striven to bring and hold Greene County Schools to the requirements. It was a fortunate selection for state, county, teachers and pupils that his services were acquired.

During this time the schools have been kept and held in a class the equal of any county in the state. Prof. Aultman's efforts have assured harmony among teachers, admiration from Boards of Education, and efficiency and progress from pupils, recognition from the state for his valued services, secured him the appointment of an Examiner on the State Board of Examiners. The schools of Miami Township and Yellow Springs hold Prof. Aultman in high esteem for his cheerful, prompt and efficient services as County Superintendent, and feel that their progress and advancement have been furthered by his wise co-operation and direction, so Greene County finds herself fully abreast of the times, with the advanced school of the state. This high standard has been acquired in a large measure by the work and wisdom of Mr. Aultman.


To R. O. Wead belongs that highly honorable distinction of having presided longer at the helm of the Yellow Springs Schools than any other superintendent.

This in itself means more to his credit than words can add. He has presided over the entire school life of scores of pupils and his graduates are numbered by the hundreds.

And we, here in Yellow Springs, are as thoroughly proud of his work as he can ever hope to be.

As an active citizen, scholar, teacher, and official, he has shown his worth in all.

Prof. Wead was born in Greene County, he graduated from the Xenia High School and also completed a night course in Xenia Business College in the same year, 1899.

IN 1901 and 1904 we find him teaching his first school located in Cedarville Township and in 1904 he was graduated from Antioch College. In the fall of the same year he was appointed Principal of the Bellbrook School.

In 1905 Yellow Springs secured him as Superintendent of Schools, where he served uninterruptedly for fourteen years, the longest service any instructor has enjoyed in the history of our schools.

In 1919 he was elected to the office of Greene County Auditor and by the records of the State Inspector has proven to be the most efficient auditor in the State of Ohio.

He is now serving his second term as Auditor.

Prof. R. O. Wead possessed that gem of directing sense "in seeing what was most needed and getting it." A better school library was needed. He secured it, furnishing part of the funds from his own pocket. A piano was obtained the same way.

A small but well equipped laboratory was fitted up, better school equipment of all kinds added as the demands manifested themselves.

The school board was loyal to his efforts in their support. For several years Prof. Wead urged the necessity of a better High School building and the foundation he established for it appears in that splendid gift, "The John Bryan High School grounds," this being evidence of Prof. R. O. Wead's untiring efforts in behalf of the Yellow Springs schools.

Unfortunately the World War advanced the price of material beyond the hopes of building at that time, though the necessity still remains and when this beautiful grounds is graced with a modern home for the High School it will be the most picturesque and valuable schools grounds in Ohio.

Prof. Wead is still a young man and with his ability, education and personality, there are ahead of him opportunities for high positions in public life any of which he could still creditably fill.


With the new union school came a more systematized regime in school government, and few changes have been made up to the present time. The school has practically passed out of the jurisdiction of the parent, to the management by the state, and as one man wittily put it; "about all the school board can do now, is buy coal and pay bills."

Mr. John Bryan gave to the town and township a beautiful tract of land; 14 acres in all; and a new high school building was to be built at once upon it. The advance in material caused by the great war made it an impossibility from a financial standpoint.

Some means may be devised by which this building can be erected and a true appreciation of the gift of Mr. John Bryan will get the applause it deserves.

Here on this very land the first cabin in Yellow Springs was erected...[torn away]...when wolves howled at night...deer and wild turkey could be...from the cabin door. This is...great extent hallowed ground...nothing could keep it so, educational institution;...among the trees as a perpetual...monument to its history, its...donor.


Harold Little, who was High School Superintendent, is a Yellow Springs product. He graduated from...Village High School in 1915, entered Antioch College the same year...after his graduation there was...selected as Superintendent of the Yellow Springs School, a position he filled with credit. Harold Little was probably the youngest and most versatile Superintendent the Yellow Springs Schools ever had at their head, for in addition to his educational qualifications he was an athlete of ability and a thorough musician. Leaving Yellow Springs to become Physical Director of the schools of the city of Richmond, Indiana, and now in addition to this work he is Conductor of the High School Band and Orchestra. The Orchestra work of the Richmond schools deserves exceptional mention for with an instrumentality of ninety pieces it is considered to be unrivalled in excellence in the Middle West. Several concerts are given during the school year and it develops upon Mr. Little to select the program, to drill and direct these ninety boys and girls in symphony...

Elm Street School
Image Courtesy Antiochiana

"Little Antioch," now site of the funeral home
Image courtesy Antiochiana

Union Schoolhouse
Image couresty Antiochiana
High Street building
(current view)
Township school on Hyde Road, later converted to residence