On July 9, 1859, three men, Elias S. Terry, William P. Mulholland and Pembroke S. Cornelius laid the foundations for what is now the City of Tuscola.


At this time, there were no buildings, dwelling houses or improvements whatsoever, with the exception of the Illinois Central Railroad. The present site of the City was covered with prairie grass, weeds, and was virtually a swamp.


The town grew rapidly, and in a short time it became apparent that there must be some means of education for the children of the community.


It was then that Tuscola's first school, a one-story frame building, was erected. It was located on Daggy Street, immediately east of the Baptist Church.


Through the rapid growth of the town, the building soon became too small to accommodate the pupils, and a two-story building was erected on Niles Avenue. The construction of this building was very poor, and rapidly disintegrated, the walls sinking, window frames and glass breaking, and the stairway becoming teetering on dangerous.


The building, therefore, was condemned and torn down.


The citizens of the town, desiring to establish better schools than could be obtained under the state school law which was inadequate, applied to the Legislature for a special charter.


At their behest, the Legislature passed a Special Act, establishing territory, comprising about nine sections in all.  In 1871, this district constructed a brick building, made up of three stories and a basement, on its school grounds on Niles Avenue.


This building was constructed on the site of the building that had been torn down, and its cost was approximately $45,000. It was in constant use from the date of its construction until October 12, 1921, when the entire building was destroyed by fire.


In addition to this building, the district some years before had constructed a ward building in the north part of the city to accommodate the children of the first four grades.


A building was also added to the brick building on Niles Avenue, which contained a gymnasium, domestic science and manual training departments, and heating plant.


For many years, the high school conducted in the building on Niles Avenue was the only high school in Douglas County, and many of the businessmen and women of this section of the county obtained their education in that school.


Around 1916, a township high school was established here, but after it had been in existence for about a year the district was dissolved. The schools had grown by this time until there were about 700 pupils.


It became evident that there was a crying need for better facilities with which to educate them.  An election was held in December 1919, on the proposition to establish a community high school.


This proposition carried, and the district was bonded in the sum of $165,000 for the purpose of procuring money with which to construct a building and equip the same. Teachers were elected for the school year, and temporary quarters in which to conduct school were rented from the Tuscola Union School District.


Two entire blocks know as the Johnson-Riley site, situated at the corner of Sale Street and Niles Avenue, were purchased for the site of the high school, and the construction of the building was begun in the summer of 1921.


The general contract for this building was to James P. Moorehead, of Tuscola. The architectural work was done by Liese & Ludwich, Architects of Danville, and the legal work performed by Chadwick & Chadwick, and W.W. Reeves of this city.


On the 12th day of October, 1921, the large three-story building in which the high school and the grades for the children who lived on the south side of the city were being conducted, was totally destroyed by fire.


The County Board of Douglas County generously rented the lower floor of the courthouse to the high school district, and the high school is now being maintained there.


An election was held for a separate building for the grade school, and such building is now being erected on the old site on Niles Avenue.  At the present time there are 163 pupils in high school.  


This school is an accredited institution, and the graduates thereof are admitted without examination to practically any college or university in the country.


Much credit should be given to the members of the Board of Education of this district, which is comprised of Messrs. George E. Black, Carroll C. Jones, George L. England, C.E. Hitch, and Dr. George H. Fuller.


It is a far cry from the little frame schoolhouse in which the children of the pioneers of Douglas County were educated, to the magnificent edifices which are now being erected for the purpose of educating the children of the present generation.


The Tuscola Journal

June 26, 2007 Sesquicentennial Edition

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