The Fascinating History of South River Elementary
A meeting was held on October 22, 1874 to find a site for a school for the newly formed Harrison District. Twenty men present at the meeting decided to purchase a corner of the Jacob Hatzenbuler farm on South River Road. The piece of land was "eight chains deep and five and one-half rods long".
The first South River School building was a one-room school, 24 X 32 and 11 feet high inside. Mrs. Juliana Feller was the first teacher, hired April 12, l875 for the sum of seven dollars per week and for the term of three months. She resided in a home located on the site now occupied by the Gowanie Golf Club house.
On regular occasions the boys and girls at the new school could look out of the school's west windows and count five to ten Native American wigwams erected on the banks of the Clinton River by Duluth Street. The Native Americans would come to the area for a few weeks at a time throughout the years to trade, and then they would return to their own villages.
In the 1800's and early 1900's Gratiot Avenue to Detroit was, at best, a muddy trail through dense forest. Consequently, several small passenger boats were used by area businessmen and pleasure seekers from Detroit. A number of small launches carried fishing parties from Mt. Clemens to Lake St. Clair daily in good weather. Commercial boat traffic on the Clinton River was quite heavy at times.
Children often watched small tug boats haul large rafts of logs up the river to a sawmill standing near the Market Street bridge and Broadway in Mt. Clemens. Here the logs were converted to valuable lumber, to be used locally or shipped down the river and lake to the Detroit area where they were sold.
Some famous place and street names of Harrison Township are reflected in names attached to the beginnings of South River School. John Prevost taught the school in 1888 and was followed in 1900 by Miss Janet Reimold. She lived with her parents in the building now occupied by the Eagle's Organization. Their farm extended from the south bank of the Clinton to Crocker Boulevard and included the land now occupied by L'Anse Creuse Middle School Central and L'Anse Creuse High School.
One of the teachers in the original school, Clara Beaufait, lived on the north side of the Clinton River. Each day she rowed herself across the Clinton River from her home to the south bank and walked to school!
By 1927 the small one-room frame schoolhouse had outlived its usefulness. A vigorous campaign was launched to bond the district for $65,000 to construct a new building. Joe Bueschlein, Sr. spearheaded the drive, stating that "he wouldn't hitch his team of horses in the old building." The bond issue was passed with scarcely an opposing vote.
An old well, which had furnished drinking water, was abandoned and bottled water was bought from a Mount Clemens supplier. A large cistern in the basement of the new school caught the rain water from the roof, to be used in the new inside lavatories.
The school board decided the rough boys in the school needed a male teacher, but hesitated to hire one, fearing the scandal that a man and a woman teacher would create. A teacher combination of brother and sister was "just what the doctor ordered." In 1930, Lester Schutt and his sister, Thelma, were employed. She taught 30 children in kindergarten through fifth grade and Mr. Schutt taught the remaining 30 children in grades six through ten. Later Mr. Schutt was promoted from teacher to principal and then to superintendent of all of L'Anse Creuse Schools.
The district showed a steady growth in home construction and school attendance. The first Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) was organized in 1947. In 1950, six classrooms and a basement were added on the east side of the school. A three-bus garage was also built on the north end at this time. The number of grades taught was reduced from ten to eight.
In 1953 four classrooms and a basement were added to the south end of the building. An ultimatum was sent to the five rural schools in this area stating that after the fall of 1955, tuition students would no longer be accepted by Mt. Clemens High School. After much discussion, it was decided to consolidate and become the L'Anse Creuse School District. These five schools were Atwood, Green, Jefferson, Herman Klix and South River. Their districts extended along Lake St. Clair from New Baltimore to St. Clair Shores, and partly around the city of Mt. Clemens.
During 1954-55 there were 78 students enrolled in the eighth grade at South River, some from other schools in the district. The ninth grade attended South River until the high school was built in 1965. Eventually the elementary schools taught only kindergarten through fifth grade.
During 1972, the Lester J. Schutt Wing was added to the front of the building. For the first time, physical education classes were able to be held in a gymnasium.
In 1975, during South River's Centennial Week, a time capsule was buried with current information. It was planned that the time capsule be dislodged in fifty years, in 2025.
In 1999, South River expanded again, adding a new media center and office area. The former library was transformed into a first and second grade multiage classroom. Combing first and second grade provided a separate classroom for our music program. In addition, South River welcomed a new K-2 special education EMI classroom.
129 years of history has brought us a long way!
Last updated: 8/13/2012 11:05:01 AM