FIGG RURAL SCHOOL
DISTRICT NO. 4
HISTORY OF THE FIGG SCHOOL
Written by Pauline Hough
The old country school known as the Figg School was first reported in 1859 with Edward Figg as school inspector. School at this time was probably in one of the homes of some of the pioneer settlers or in a log school house.
The first settlers of this part of Michigan was Samuel Hoyt and Peter Kine in 1836. When the influx of settlers started, men of the families generally came first to seek suitable lands for farms and to make certain that the rigors of travel would not be to great for their "weaker kin". These land lookers were searching for good soil and land that might be opened to farming. They came on foot with packs on their backs or riding Indian ponies. Those coming from Ohio followed the Clinton Trail, a well established Indian trail from Toledo to Muskegon, now known as M-50 to the Sunfield area.
The typical settlers family came to the area by sending Dad and the oldest boy first, each with an axe to chop down brush and to toss rocks in the largest holes on the trail. Those who came in early spring or early fall fought mud, sometimes axle deep, so deep that it took them whole days to travel six or seven miles. The wagon was loaded with the bare necessities of life plus a few treasures that were prized family possessions. This included a wooden plow of course, crates of lamb or small pigs, perhaps a crate of chickens, Mothers chest filled with quilts and bedding. There were also kettles, buckets, and simple tools, things which could not be made or easily purchased in the new land.
In 1842 Sunfield Township separated from Vermontville Township. In 1844 resident taxpayers according to the assessment roll were the following: Edward C. Smith, Clesson Smith, Squire N. Billings, O. M. Wells, Joseph Young, Josiah Wickham, Samuel Hager, Wm. A. Wells, Abram Chatfield, Thomas Pringle, Avery Pool, Willis Barnum, Daniel Barnum, Cornelius VanHouten, Samuel Hoyt, C. W. Wells, George Andrews, Hiram W. Green, Lewis Barnum and John Nead. It was voted at their meeting to raise as much for the use of the schools as the law would allow. In 1865 there were three districts but only two reported. District #1 had seven children. The teacher received $4.75 per month. School was held one and one half months. District #2 (Figg) had 3 children. The district had three months of school and paid their teacher $4.35 per month. By 1870 the school had 27 pupils. They had 7 months of school. John Wells was the director of the school. In the township a library had been established with 73 books.
On February 1, 1872 a lease was given by Thomas and Amelia Prindle for the building of a school. This was given with the stipulation that it was for a school and as long as school was held there, then the land would revert to the owner of the property. The lease was signed by Thomas and Amelia Prindle, J. Wells, and A. Bark. The transaction cost $5.00.
On August 25, 1877 taxable inhabitants of District #2 called a meeting for the purpose of buying land for a schoolhouse of T. J. Spencer not to exceed $50.00. The motion carried. The following people were appointed as a building committee: J. W. Crane, Isa Stinchcomb, Alexander Figg, George Thorp, L. W. Litchfield. They also called for a vote on the size of the building to be 26 x 34 with wardrobes in the front corners to the entrance of the building. That vote lost 2 to 5. Another vote was held to pay T. J. Spencer $75.00 for a "piece" of land located on the Southeast corner of section #2 of the township of Sunfield. The vote carried. Another vote was held that day to raise by direct taxes $300.00 to pay for building the schoolhouse and for the school lot. September 13, 1877, a meeting was called to order to vote to build a schoolhouse 24 x 34. The motion carried. So now a new school house was on its way to being built. On November 13, 1877 they voted to issue $50.00 or the board to buy sets and a teachers desk for the school. It was moved and supported to buy 120 books. They ordered a stove from E. E. Orville Co. for $20.90. Joseph Figg was to supply 13 cords of maple wood cut 20 inches long for $7.89. On December 28, 1877 Gideon Stinchcomb began teaching as the first teacher of the new school for $33.00 per term. The following textbooks were used:
Readers . Sanders
Grammar ...Wells & Clark
It was very interesting to note that Algebra was taught in the eighth grade. The report cards were marked with numbers as 75 to 100.
With the building of the new school the enrollment of the school in 1880 had risen to 42. They had 120 days of school. They usually hired the teacher for three months at a time. Men received $45.00 and women $35.00. The population of Eaton County had risen to 31, 225 people.
Teachers wages had risen sharply by 1900 to $234.00 They were able to hire just one teacher and held 180 days of school. Wm. Peck was director of the school. They raised $125.00 district taxes while they received $92.76 in primary state aid.
The greatest change came about in teachers salary in the next three decades. By 1930 it had risen to $1125.00 Other changes had taken place as well---by 1910 the report cards which had always been marked with numbers changed to letters. (E-95 to 100, G+ 90 to 95, G- 85-90, M+ 80 to 85, M- 75 to 80, P- failure). Again in the late 1920s the letters used for marking were changed to A, B, C, D, E, which is still used for marking through out the country. The seventh and eighth grades were required to take County exams in the Spring. These exams decided if the pupil passed or failed. They were tense times for teacher and pupils.
Progressive education was practiced even in this little school. The interest of the pupils were considered and subjects correlated with their interests. They dramatized many plays which they created from their studies. P. T. A. was organized and the school became the social center for the neighborhood. The first hot lunch program was initiated in the form of potato soup or bean soup made each day by the teacher and older pupils. In the midst of this atmosphere the rumblings of annexation with the Sunfield schools began. The advantages and disadvantages were discussed. The attendance had fallen. In 1946 the school district voted to annex to Sunfield school by a vote of fourteen to twelve. So the Figg school had come to an end of its service as a district school.
In 1953 and 1954 the Sunfield school used the school house for a Kindergarten room with Pauline Hough as the teacher. After that it was used for a Boy Scout club house. In 1965 (according to the provisions in the original lease) school no longer being held there the land and building reverted to the owners which was Lynn and Bernice Peabody. They in turn sold it to Robert and Mary Aspin. It is now a private home.
As I gathered this material I found many students and teachers with nostalgic memories of happy days spent there. Some as old as ninety and some as young as twenty. So we can say, the Figg school has served her district well.
TEACHERS OF THE FIGG SCHOOL
|1877||Gideon Stinchcomb||$84.00 November 1877 to April 1888|
|1878||Clara Stringham||$33.00 3 months|
|1879||Amandy McDowel||$20.00 2 months|
|1880||Will P. Griffin||$72.00|
|1900||Jennie Benedict||$25.00 -- $30.00 x 3 --- $28.00|
|1901||Jennie Benedict||$25.00 -- $28.00|
|1902||Jennie Benedict||$35.00 x 8|
|1903||Carrie Murphy||$95.00 -- $30.00|
|1905||Frances Hathaway||$35.00 -- $26.00 -- $25.00|
|1906||E. W. Taylor||$950.00|
|1906||Rosa Benedict Stinchcomb|
1877 FIGG SCHOOL OFFICERS
Martiner Trim - Director
L. M. Peck - Moderator
E. W. Taylor - Assessor
1878 FIGG SCHOOL OFFICERS
Clark Richards - Director
Alexander Figg - Moderator
1884 FIGG SCHOOL OFFICERS
T. J. Spencer - Assessor
A. J. Davis - Director
1885 FIGG SCHOOL OFFICERS
Wm. P. Kent - Moderator
1886 FIGG SCHOOL OFFICERS
Henry Figg - Assessor