(Second in a series)
The grade schools that were the building blocks for Kiel High School were public and parochial and were spread over a variety of townships.
As you look back at the landscape of the early and mid 1900s, it seems churches, taverns, butcher shops/ cheese factories, and grade schools dotted the countryside. The students came from six Catholic schools and 20 public schools.
The complete history of the public schools is documented in the book mentioned in last week’s article written in 1948. This book, “1848-1948 A Centennial History of the Manitowoc County School Districts and Public School System,” is available in the Kiel Public Library and it documents the founding and development of the schools in the townships of Manitowoc County. Of course, some of the Kiel grade schools were in Sheboygan County, so they were not outlined in this book.
Some of the smaller communities had a public school and a Catholic school such as Spring Valley and School Hill. In some cases, the school no longer exists; in some locations the school has become a home; and in some cases the school may just be an abandoned building. In any case, many students were educated inside those walls and great memories were created.
Mark Sherry, editor of the Tri-County News, asked if there are any pictures of the schools. We have a few and if they are reproducible, we will try to include them. If anyone has pictures of the schools or students we feature, it would be great to receive and archive them. If you have some and are willing to share them, please contact either Mark Sherry at 894-2828 or Jack Lechler at 894-3081.
This week we will highlight Sts. Peter & Paul Grade School (now Divine Savior) as shared by Ken Bruckner and the schools of Spring Valley described by Charlene Bennin Lulloff.
If you have other remembrances or memories of any of the schools you would like to share, please send your thoughts to Mark at Delta Publications.
When I started school in 1949 at SS. Peter & Paul Grade School, the school consisted of a two-story cream-colored brick building that was located on the southwest corner of Fremont and Fifth streets where that portion of the building still stands today. The portion of that building facing to the north consisted of four classrooms. Eight grades of education were provided to the children of parish members. Each room was occupied by two classes and all classes were taught by Franciscan nuns all the years I went to this school. The south portion of the building behind the classrooms was the nuns’ living quarters.
In 1951 an addition was built adding four more classrooms on the second floor of this addition as at that time enrollment had increased requiring additional classrooms. The first floor included a gymnasium, a stage, changing rooms, showers, and bathrooms.
With the completion of the addition, basketball was started with intramural teams composed of the upper grades and a school team was organized that competed against other parochial schools in the outlaying vicinity.
I don’t remember how many classmates we had in our graduating class in 1957. The majority of the graduates continued their education at Kiel High School. Several went on to parochial high schools and several went into the religious field and continued their education in their desired profession.
Some of my former classmates remained in the area or have moved back. Others I have not seen again since the day we graduated together from eighth grade.
—Ken Bruckner
The school district of Kiel consisted of many rural, elementary schools, small in size and student number. These historical markers were either privately owned or government funded institutions. They sadly are no longer in existence. As the rural population grew and the socioeconomic environment changed, schools were consolidated and/or closed to be replaced by larger institutions. These new schools were built to accommodate a greater population of the district. This was the demise of St. Fidelis School, a rural, Catholic school affiliated with the St. Fidelis Catholic Parish. This is the school that I attended from grades one through eight.
St. Fidelis School was located in the southern part of the town of Meeme, Manitowoc County. It consisted of two separate classrooms each holding four grades, first through fourth and fifth through the eighth grade. The Bay Settlement Franciscan Sisters provided the teachers, one for each classroom and a sister as the manager of their living quarters (housekeeper). A total was documented of 50 students in the school in 1950.
The first parish church was built in 1856 by German settlers and was referred to as the “log church.” As tradition holds, the church was named in honor of St. Fidelis Sigmaringer, a Capuchin priest who died a “martyr’s death” in the 16th century. A new church was constructed in 1875 and enlarged in 1916. There is no official record of the construction of the first school; however, it is believed that it was built in 1858. The second school was constructed in 1880. The second construction added an addition to the two classrooms, the living quarters for the Sisters of St. Francis, Bay Settlement, Green Bay.
In 1950 St. Fidelis Parish remodeled the church. Photograph #1 exhibits the church structure and school before the renovation. Photograph #2 exhibits the remodeled structure and school, the major change being the structure of the steeple. The latter photograph of the school is the one that I attended and graduated from in 1957. A memorable teacher was Sr. Juliana shown in photograph #3 in the parish church on my eighth grade graduation. She taught grades fifth through eighth being responsible for all subjects—math, reading, spelling, history, etc. This was a considerable responsibility and dedication to the school. She would move from one subject to another for all four grades in one day. Each class knew and had to be prepared for their lesson time. The others would need to tune out and focus on their studies. This was a good exercise in learning to focus on one’s work. There was no interference with electronics as there were none. The classroom was noisy, yet we managed to use our time wisely. This discipline was and still is a valuable attribute in my life.
The values taught both in academics, faith, and self-discipline proved to be essential in juggling the many demands of life. What appears to be unique to that time was the freedom to be responsible for my work, the freedom to organize outdoor recess games such as baseball, the freedom to experience failure, and the freedom to learn how to be responsible without my parents making those decisions as whose parents had time?
In 1957 the then bishop of the Green Bay Catholic Diocese, Bishop Stanislaus V. Bona, ordered that the St. Fidelis Church and school be closed. It was a dramatic and emotional time for the parish families. The parish priest in 1957 was a kind and gentle man, Fr. John Baum. I remember the meetings and hurtful words being directed at him in an attempt to save the parish. He was immensely hurt after serving the parish for seven years. As will happen, the Green Bay Diocese removed him and sent a “military experienced” priest, Fr. Loehr. I remember him standing in the church basement, tall and confident (everyone was tall to me), addressing the parish families. It was not the decision of the family members to close the church and school. The decision rests with the bishop. In 1960 the last Mass was read in the church. The school and church were officially closed. The parishioners and remaining students were merged with St. Isidore Church and school in Osman. The buildings were razed and what remains is the St. Fidelis cemetery. From a distance one can see the cross on the top of the hill that looms over the many gravestones. It remains a signature of a past community that brought security, values, and education to many rural children.
Photograph #4 is the graduating class of 1957 from St. Fidelis School—(from left) Bernice Schwartz (deceased), Luann Seigel (deceased), Elaine Schneider (deceased), Charlene Bennin, and James Florian.
The parish consisted of approximately 30-plus families. Names of families that dominated the parish were Schneider, Wagner, Schwartz and Koenig. St. Fidelis was a mission of St. Isidore Parish in Osman in the latter years. The St. Fidelis church and school were attended by the German settlers and the St. Isidore Parish was attended by the Irish settlers of that region.
The village of Spring Valley is an unincorporated community located in the town of Meeme, Manitowoc County. The village was so named because of the many natural springs that are found in the valley. It was and still exists as a very small community in which Pioneer Road acts as the main and only road defining the village.
In 1918 official names were given to the schools in the town of Meeme. The school located on Pioneer Road about one-fourth mile south of the village was named the Spring Valley Public School.
The school was organized about 1850 and then included sections 13, 14, 15, 23, 24 and parts of sections 9, 3.0, 11 and 22. There are no written school records of this district before 1900. The historical facts were obtained through county records and story-telling. There was a total of three schools constructed. The location of the first school is not known. The second structure was built in 1871. Records state that “it was 24 by 30 feet with a little storm shed attached at the entrance.” The student population is not recorded, but one wouid surmise the number to be considerably small. In 1903 an addition to the building gave it about 16 feet more in length. There were two outdoor toilets. Imagine running out in the cold of winter to use the bathroom. Eventually the school was abandoned and torn down.
The third school was built in 1920. It was constructed of brick and was the last school building during the open years of the school. Photograph #1 depicts the school. This building had all the necessary amenities for a comfortable learning environment.
The school was described like this: “Two doors open into a large classroom furnished with single desks, sand table, steel filing case, a piano, radio, maps, globes, and adequate blackboards and bulletin boards. An open alcove library addition on the west houses the hundreds of library and text books. A well-equipped kitchen is a part of the building in a small room next to the library. Running water is available throughout the building, making the Meeme No. 2 school one of the modern schools in Manitowoc County.”
The documented enrollment of the Spring Valley School district changes through the years. The small two-room grade school during the years of 1903 to 1910 was about 70 students. In 1910 the school classroom became one room and the enrollment is thought to have averaged between 50 to 60 students. The average daily attendance was around 40. This was attributed to the attendance of older students only during the winter months, leaving the spring a time when they were needed on the farm. Enrollment dropped in the later years. When the 1920 building was erected, enrollment averaged about 30 students. This was attributed to the establishment of the parochial schools in the district.
The 1920 school building still stands on the same location on Pioneer Road. It no longer functions as a school; rather it has been converted into a home. The exterior appears to have little change, the same building dimensions constructed of brick. The date of the last graduating class is not documented in the Manitowoc records that I have accessed.
As a very young student, I had visited the school and remember how the classroom appeared very large and comfortable. All eight grades were together, different from the school that I attended. Its enrollment was less than the Catholic schools in the area, explaining the eventual closing.
Later Meeme sported an elementary school of fine quality located close to the once small Spring Valley Public School. Time marches on.
Pioneer settlers in the Meeme No. 2 school district are recorded as follows: A. Herr, W. H. Smith, H. Kolwey, A. Kleiber, C. Conway, M. Madigan, W. Lorfeld, C. McCarthy, F. Bohne, P. Horffman , C. Wilmas, and Hubert Simon.
County records were researched and names of school board members for the Spring Valley School are as follows: Peter Phillips, E. Conway, John Hertel, Paul Hertel, and John Bertsche. C. F. Heckmann served on the board for 25 years.