Crawford County, Iowa, IAGenWeb

School Histories

Denison High School

1920 History

The year of 1857 marks the beginning of the public school system in Denison. In the winter of 1857-58 the first winter school was held. The building was very small, being about fourteen by twenty feet in size, and stood where W. A. McHenry's residence now stands. The first teacher was a man named Thomas Aldrich.

The second teacher was a lady whose name cannot be ascertained, but whose fame spread throughout the country and drew many students from the neighboring counties.

This building was found to be too small and in the winter of 1859 the school moved to the lower floor of the courthouse, and was later moved upstairs to the court room. In 1861 a one-room brick school was built in the west part of town on the site of the present Lutheran parsonage.

In 1871 the west brick was erected at a cost of $15,000. At this time Denison had a population of 600, and the school was considered one of the very best in the western Iowa.

Some of the students enrolled in the high school in the middle '70's were: Louis De Wolfe, Henry Stovall, Charles K. Meyers, Ella Familton, Carrie Fegtly, Nellie Wightman (Mrs. Fred Penny), Issora Palmer, Josie Welch, Mattie Wagoner (Mrs. R. Shaw Van), Nellie Cowdry (Mrs. Ashby), Carrie Wygant (Mrs. Pollard), Alma Herriman (Mrs. J. W. McAhren), Lucy Miles (Mrs. M. E. Jones), Carrie Plimpton (Mrs. T. E. Fegtly), Marcus Jones, Lonnie Chapin, Frank King, Mary Pett, Mary Burk, Mary Maloney (Mrs. Ed Phelan), Mary Palmer (Mrs. Wade), Nellie Morrill, Adelbert Jones, Wm. Wakeham, Fred West, Morris Wygant, Ernest Scott, Edmund Woodruff, and Dennis Woodruff. Prof. Z. T. Hawk was the teacher of the high school at this time.

In 1876 the addition of a Manual Training and Domestic Science course was proposed, but the idea was far in advance of the times for money was very scarce; besides there were no trained teachers in these courses to be had, so the proposition was abandoned for the time being.

In 1879 a new frame building was erected on the site of the present Central Building, and in 1882 an addition was built to accommodate the high school. At this time, Prof. C. W. Von Coellen, ex-State Superintendent of Public Instruction, was chosen as Superintendent of Schools. In 1883 Professor Von Coellen resigned and Prof. Z. T. Hawk was selected to fill the vacancy.

In 1884 the course of study was revised and printed copies were placed in the hands of the students and patrons. This marked the beginning of a new impetus which was given to education in the Denison schools.

The high school course was then as follows: First year: Arithmetic, Physiology, Grammar and Composition, Bookkeeping, Natural Philosophy

Second year: Algebra, Natural Philosophy, Rhetoric, General History, Physical Geography and American Literature.

Third year: Geometry, Zoology, Geology, Botany, American Literature and English Literature.

In the year 1885 a Music course was added and the first supervisor of Music, Mrs. D. E. Clapp, was employed.

The year 1886 is memorable in the school history from the fact that in that year the first class was graduated from the high school. The class was composed of F.W. Meyers, Mattie Bell Molony (who had the record of never having been absent or tardy in her whole school course), Lillian Plimpton, Emma Raine and Fanny Fullick. It was a great day for Denison, when on June 4, 1886, the class was given diplomas. It has been claimed that 800 people were crowded into the opera house to hear the High School Chorus, led by Mrs. Hattie Boynton, and to hear the orations of the graduates. A great many bouquets and baskets of flowers were showered on the happy graduates.

In 1890 a new high school building was erected in the north part of town at a cost of $14,000. This building was considered ample to care for all the high school for years to come.

We now have on file among the school records the grades of the students of 1892-93, and find that some of our prominent citizens had grades in Deportment as high as 98-99 per cent.

In 1898 the old frame building was removed to make way for the present Central Building, which was erected at a cost of $26,000. A number of new teachers were added to the faculty. A popular demand arose at this time for a fourth year to be added to the present three-year course in order that the graduates from the high school might be admitted to the universities without having to do preparatory work.

In 1900 H. H. Savage was elected Superintendent. During the period 1900-1905 the school rose to one of the best schools in the state. Superintendent Savage was succeeded in 1905 by E. W. Fellows, who was succeeded by our present Superintendent, C. E. Humphrey, in 1913.

In 1906 the Manual Training Department was added to the school and Mr. Jacob Johnson was the first instructor. In 1909 the cherished dream of the progressive citizens was realized in the establishment of a Domestic Science Department.

In 1917 a Commercial Department was added. This school is one of about two thousand schools in the United States, which has a full Commercial course consisting of Typewriting, Shorthand, Commercial Law, Commercial Arithmetic and Bookkeeping. Mr. J. Webb Stump was the first Commercial instructor, and was followed in the fall of 1918 by Miss Leona McLean, who has brought the department up to its present high standard of efficiency.

In the fall of 1918 the Junior and Senior classes were moved to the Denison Normal School Building, which had recently been purchased by the school district with the intention of establishing a junior college. In the fall of 1919 the Sophomore class was also moved to the college building.

The Vocational Agriculture course was organized in 1918 under the supervision of Mr. W. W. Stanfield and has proved a great success. Many boys from the country have taken advantage of this splendid opportunity for learning the science of farming.

The first symptoms of athletic activity was a girls' Indian Club Class which first appeared in public at the 1889 commencement. Since that time our school has been forging to the front with all forms of athletics, and has been turning out a winning team regularly.

In the Literary Department have been instituted annual debates and oratorical contests in which Denison representatives have always received high honors.

In the fall of 1917 Mr. S. D. Gratke organized a High School Orchestra which has been of great benefit to the school and the pupils. At one time the Orchestra was composed of over fifty pieces. Credit is given to those of the organization who show themselves worthy of such.

The people of Denison and vicinity are proud of this school and are ready to work toward ever keeping it in the front ranks of modern education.