— Part 1 of 5 —

James Deneen and Elizabeth Miller Deneen and their five children under the age of seven settled their homestead at the corner of Van Dyke and Hollow Corners Roads in early November 1828. The Deneen’s were alone in Almont until late 1830 when Oliver Bristol’s family and Jonathan Sleeper’s family settled just south of the Clinton River. Additional settlement was slow in 1831 and 1832 but picked up substantially in 1833.

By early 1834 the Territorial government determined that the area around Almont had sufficient population to conduct the organization of a township. Ira Saunders had been appointed by the Territorial government to be the “Justice of the Peace” for the area around Almont. He conducted the organizational meeting at Daniel Black’s tavern (northwest corner downtown) on March 7, 1834. The first order of business was to elect township officers. There were only about 13 qualified voters at the meeting. Oliver Bristol was elected supervisor and justice of the peace, Jonathan Sleeper as clerk, Daniel Black as treasurer, Nicholas Richardson and Elisha Webster as assessors and James Deneen as highway commissioner. Elisha Webster suggested the name “Mia” to honor his daughter (Mya Webster born March 3, 1833). This name was approved.

The first known building constructed as a school building was built in the summer of 1834. It was a log cabin constructed on the southeast corner of what are now Branch and W. St. Clair Streets (location of the old Town Hall behind the businesses on the southwest section of downtown). That same year, Elisha Webster constructed his sawmill near the corner of Shoemaker and Webster Roads.

In the country, neighbors grouped together to create one-room schools. One of the families would donate a small parcel for the school– usually one to two-acres. If money was available, milled lumber would be purchased from a nearby sawmill and used to construct the school building. Most times, money was not available, so logs cut while clearing their fields were taken to a sawmill and traded for the lumber. A construction bee was held to construct the school building.

Initially, the school teacher was one of the mothers or an adult daughter. Very shortly, a young lady, who was not a member of any of the families, was hired. Compensation was room and board and a wage of about 35 to 50 cents a day.

The school houses were the main public spaces within the community and were used for group and public meetings. In 1838, the First Congregational Church was formed in the Hough School, which was located on the northwest corner of General Squier and Shoemaker Roads. This was also a log cabin. The church members would conduct services at the Hough School or the Townsend School, which was located on the south side of Bordman Road about a quarter mile east of Fisher Road.

The West Berlin Methodist Church held services at the McGeorge School located on the northeast corner of Holmes and Almont Roads. The church was part of a circuit of nine locations where services were conducted. All of these locations were in one-room school houses. The Methodist Church referred to each of these locations as a class because they were located in school houses.

There were many one-room school houses throughout the township. Listed below are the ones of which I have knowledge. The “Hough”, “Townsend, and “McGeorge” schools listed above. The “Smith” School which was located on the northwest corner of Kidder and 37 Mile Roads. The “Scotch Settlement” School located on the northeast corner of Marr and Scotch Settlement Roads. The “Mackie” School on the east side of Mackie Road, north of Almont Road. The “Howland” School on the southeast corner of Howland and Dryden Roads. The “Rider” School on the southwest corner of Farley and Hollow Corners Roads. The “Webster” School on Webster Road in front of the cemetery. The “Spangler” School on the southeast corner of General Squier and Sandhill Roads. The “Muir” School which was located on Muir Road. The “Retherford” School on the west side of Glover Road south of Dryden Road. The “Allenton” School on the south side of Almont Road just west of Capac Road. “Robb” School on the west side of Cameron Road about half way between Dryden and Tubspring Roads.

Some of these buildings no longer exist. Some of these buildings have been moved from their original sites and most have been extensively renovated.

In 1844, the log cabin school on Branch Street was replaced by a wood framed school located at the southeast corner of Church and School Streets (School Street was named for the presence of the school). With the population growth of the Village, a larger school was needed.

That same year Reverend Eliphelet Parker, who had been the minister of the First Congregational Church from 1842 to 1844, constructed an “academy building” on the south side of East St. Clair Street just east of the church. He opened an academy which was a private high school. Rev. Parker was a graduate of the Yale University Seminary. Upon being ordained, his mission was to minister to a church and open an academy to teach his beliefs.

Sometime in the late 1840s or early 1850s a second academy was opened. It was located directly to the east of the Baptist Church (now Potters House) on the north side of East St. Clair Street.

Rev. Charles Kellogg, who was the minister of the First Congregational Church from 1846 to 1855, was one of the teachers at this academy. His progressive views got him in trouble with the church elders. The elders conducted a “heresy” trial and Rev. Kellogg was acquitted. In 1854, Rev. Kellogg constructed a third academy on the north side of East St. Clair Street. The building was the Spangler House and is now the First Congregational Church’s parsonage. He charged $600 or $800 per semester.

Sometime during the Civil War, the Village school bought the Kellogg academy building to use as the school’s high school. The one-room school houses in the country only went through the eighth grade, so students from the country schools came into the Village to go to high school.

Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s various books can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or jrwade49@ gmail.com or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.