SCRAPBOOK - PAST & PRESENT
The building on this hillside used to be either the
destination or starting point for many a long walk for children
who attended the Beebe School in the late 1800S and early 1900s.
Some of the names of the students from the school can be found
in an old teacher's book which Will Pekrul brought into the Resorter
by L. Scott Swanson, Editor Straitsland Resorter
One hundred years ago children named Passino, Lapeer, Griswold,
Wakeford, Hungerford, Schoolcraft, Galbraith, Beebe and Richards
studied reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, language, grammar,
history, physiology, civil government and spelling at the old
Beebe School near Afton.
The students are gone today and the school building is now a home,
but some of the memories remain in an old teacher's grade book
which Will Pekrul salavaged after the school closed.
When schools were first founded in northern Michigan, several
small schools dotted the Cheboygan County countryside. Among them
were the Beebe School on the corner of Afton and Beebe School
Roads, Koehler School #1 which eventually became the Afton School
on Quarry Road, Koehler School #2 by Parrott's Point, the Montgomery
School on Montgomery Road, and the Gorbutt School on M-33.
Eventually all of those schools consolidated into the large two-Afton
School on Quarry Road. Later, the Afton school became part of
the Inland Lakes School System.
Back in the early 1960s, a few years before the old Afton School
burned down, a man bought the building and was going to have some
work done it. Pekrul worked in the heating business at the time
and was called to come and take a look at the building. While
there, he found the old school book and some old pictures. The
man was going to throw out the items, but said Pekrul could have
them if he wanted them.
The book is the teacher's grading book and includes information
about the Beebe School from the fall of 1898 through the spring
of 1904. Beyond the students and their grades, the book also offers
insight into how small country schools operated at the turn of
In 1898, the school had 19 students, when they all showed up.
Showing up for school was something of a hit and miss proposition
in those days. There were no school buses so students got to and
from school the best way they could, which for most meant a long
Josephine Hanel attended the Afton School, but says her mother,
Edith O'Connor, attended the Beebe School. Hanel's mother said
she and her siblings walked to school in the fall and continued
going to school until the weather got too bad in the winter. Then,
either the school closed, or if it was open some of the children
didn't attend, until spring.
In the teachers book, the teacher often made notes that talked
about students, particularly the younger ones, coming to school
only on an irregular basis.
The old country schools apparently changed teachers on quite a
regular basis. Nine different teachers are listed over the years
covered in the Beebe School teaching book. At the end of each
semester, the teacher would make notes in the book in a section
titled "Teacher's Report to Successor." In the report,
the teacher talked about the progress of individual students and
needs of the school.
According to the report filed by Dormer in 1901, Beatrice Wakeford
had completed the Third Reader and Roy Wakeford was ready to begin
the Prince's Arithmetic book.
Apparently the district also needed a new school building in 1901.
According to the report, "The most important thing needed
in this district is a "school-house." It would be an
easy matter for the teachers to raise money and obtain a library,
which is very much needed, if there was a building to keep it
in, but it would be useless to try to keep one in a building which
anyone can enter at any time."
Another need the school had in 1902 was new maps. Apparently that
need was met. Bruce and Shirley Blanchard bought the old Beebe
School building in the early 1970s and converted it into a house.
The Blanchards say the building wasn't much more than a shell
when they bought it, but Bruce had always had it in his mind that
he would like to renovate an old school house.
According to the Blanchards, they didn't find much left in the
building when they bought it, but among the things they found
were some old maps, the kind that were in a roll above the blackboard.
Bruce says he also found some old ink well bottles buried in the
yard out behind the house. He also found an old water pail with
a spigot in its side.
The Blanchards say its not uncommon for people to drive slowly
past the house as though they're looking to make sure they're
at the site of the old school. Bruce, whose family background
in the area goes back generations, enjoys local history. He says
he's considered putting up some type of sign telling a little
bit about the history of the site and the old Beebe School.
Hanel, who is now in her 80s, is writing her memoirs. Although
she didn't go to the Beebe School, she went to its successor,
the Afton School. When the Beebe School and the other four schools
combined, they became what was called the Afton Agricultural School.
Eventually, that school was absorbed by Inland Lakes, although
technically Inland Lakes consolidated with the Afton School because
the Afton School was already a pre-existing consolidated school.
|There's no date to be found on this photo, but
it shows the students and teacher at the old Afton Agricultural
School. Josephine Hanel, who brought the photo in, says she has
many fond memories of her days at the school.
When Hanel attended the Afton School, it only went up to the eighth
grade, although it later went to tenth grade. Near the end of
eighth grade, students came into Indian River to take a state
exam, kind of that era's version of the MEAP or ACT. "That
was a big day in our lives," Hanel recalls. After a three
or four week wait, students found out whether or not they'd passed
the exam. If they passed, they took another trip, this time to
Cheboygan to receive a diploma from the superintendent of schools
for Cheboygan County.
Although the Afton School did eventually get to the point where
it went all the way to the tenth grade, for most of the time if
a student wanted to go to school past eighth grade they either
had to go to Onaway, Cheboygan or Petoskey. There were no buses
to those schools. Students either moved into town and lived with
someone or found a way to and from school. Hanel says she was
fortunate in that her parents had a car and valued education.
Not only did they make a way for their children to go to school,
they let two other boys from the area ride to school with them.
As she writes her memoirs, Hanel says she has wonderful memories
of the old country school. "It just seemed like school was
more interesting. I don't know what kids who go to school now
will remember about the school."
The Afton School had two classrooms, the "big room"
for the older kids and the "little room" for the younger
kids. Hanel says she liked being in class with kids from older
grades because she could kind of pick things up.
Pekrul enjoys the old teacher's book because it offers insight
into life at that time. "I've been reading Little House on
the Prairie. There are a lot similar things in there. That's the
way people lived back then."
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