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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Schoolhouse Fire

Schoolhouse Fire

GRHC - October 21st, 2009

Grand Rapids Historical Commission and the Community Media Center present "Glance at the Past". Today's episode tells of the disasterous 1849 fire at the 1st School District schoolhouse.



The village of Grand Rapids had schools from its inception. The mission school on the west side served Indians and a few whites, and various private schools operated from homes or rented quarters on the east side of the river.

In May of 1835 the first school district was organized. The first school house in the district, a small frame building, was built in 1839 on the north side of E. Fulton at Jefferson Ave. Today it would sit in the St. Cecelia parking lot. Its first schoolmaster was the son of the governor of Vermont.

The school operated for ten years until fire destroyed it one night in February of 1849. The scene was described in the Grand River Eagle, “The school house was doomed to destruction, for, although many arrived with buckets, as though they had intended to use them, very few appeared to comprehend the idea that water would check the progress of fire. No one was present with authority to organize a direct action, and consequently every one who felt disposed went to work on his own.”

The writer continued, “What has become of the enthusiasm for forming a Fire Company? If our authorities will not furnish us a fire engine, they might be induced to let us have a ladder or two, and three or four hooks, and if they can afford it, a few leather buckets.”

Perhaps the loss of the school awakened a need in the village. Within the next year three volunteer fire companies were organized.


Full Details

TitleSchoolhouse Fire
KeywordsGlance at the Past, school, fire, radio, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission
Pubdate StringOctober 21st, 2009

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