03 April 2015

Dickson Township, Michigan One Room Schools

The school information in this post was compiled from information obtained at the Brethren Heritage Museum, which is managed by the Brethren Heritage Association, Brethren Michigan.

The Brethren Heritage Museum has been a wonderful source to discover more about the early days of Brethren Michigan.  My ancestor's, Valentine Graf and Johann August Fredrick, families were early settlers of the area and their children attended one room school houses. 
Valentine Graf Family, date unknown

Valentine Graf and his family arrived in Dickson Township, near Brethren, Manistee county, Michigan around 1900, after the 1900 Census was taken. He settled on property on what is now, Graf Road. Valentine's family, at this time, included:
  • Nancy Mast Graf, his wife
  • Henry Jerome Graf, born 1890
  • Franklin Ernest Graf, born 1891
  • Daisy Ellen Graf, born 1892
  • Mary Ann Graf, born 1894
  • Maggie Jane Graf, born 1899
Two more children: Nina Belle Graf, born August 1901, and Martha Beulah Graf, born August 1905 were born after their arrival in Michigan. 

J. August Fredrick Family in 1922

J. August Fredrick had settled in nearby Manistee by 1875.  He bought his property on Coates Highway, near Brethren, in 1901. August's family consisted of:
  • Louise Zastrow Fredrick, his wife
  • Emma Louise Fredrick, born 1876
  • Otto August Fredrick, born 1878
  • Augusta Fredrick, born 1880
  • Mary Fredrick, 1884
  • William Arthur Fredrick, born 1890
  • Alma Fredrick, born 1893
  • Leonard Fredrick, born 1897
The first school in Dickson Township was in 1880.  It was known only as "Log Cabin School".  This would have been before my ancestors time in Dickson Township.

Brethren School #1, circa 1902-1907

Brethren School #1 opened in 1902.  The above picture shows the school and children attending it.  I believe some of my family has to be in this picture.  I have looked at it with a magnifying glass many times, but I am not able to name which ones are Grafs or Fredricks.

If a child attended school from the age of five to about thirteen, which many rural children did at the time, I believe the following children would be attending the Brethren #1 School in 1902: 
  • Graf Children: Henry (12), Frank (11), Daisy (10) and Mary (8)
  • Fredrick Children: William (12), Alma (9) and Leonard (5)

Brethren School #2, date unknown

Brethren School #2 replaced the #1 school in 1907, because of the growing school age population. The Graf and Fredrick children and ages in 1907 would have been:
  • Graf Children: Henry (17), Frank (16), Daisy (15), Mary (13) and Nina (6)
  • Fredrick Children: William (117), Alma (14) and Leonard (10)
I have an early picture of my grandmother, Daisy Graf, as a teenager and by comparing the pictures, she might be the one in the very back row, in front of the door, second from the left, but I can't be positive.  

Brethren School #3, circa 1917-1921

By 1917, most of the first generation Graf and Fredrick families are too old to attend school.  There were possibly three, Nina Graf (16), Martha Graf (12) and Leonard Fredrick (15).  Brethren School #3 was divided into two classrooms.  This school was only in existence for four years, until 1917, when the school district voted to consolidate schools and closed all the one room schools.  The faces on this picture are almost impossible to see, even with a magnifying glass.

The map below shows the One Room Schools in Dickson Township, Manistee, Michigan.  My ancestors attended Brethren School #1, #2, and #3, which are Numbers 2, 7 and 10 on the map. Those schools were on the corner of North Coates Highway and North High Bridge Road, at the four corners of Brethren, Michigan. Today, the old consolidated Brethren School Building is still standing on this spot with renovation efforts underway.

The Graf family lived on Graf Road, between N. High Bridge Road and the curve of Graf Road.  The Fredrick Family lived the next road up, Coates Highway, between Graf and Leckrone Roads, after the curve.

No one is left in the family to tell stories about their time in a one room school house, but I am sure if they were they would tell a very different story from what my education was like.


  1. I really enjoyed this post, Brenda. My great-great-grandfather, Angelo Merrick Robbins, Sr., taught school in one-room houses in Newaygo County in the late 1800s. My great-grandmother, Nellie May (Concidine) Holst taught in Byron Township, Kent County before she married in 1905. I'm not sure if she taught in a one-room schoolhouse, but it's likely she did.

  2. Thank you, Miriam. I knew when I saw these pictures of one room school houses I had to write a post about it. They are a part of history that I find fascinating. It is interesting to hear about your Michigan connections to them.

  3. Because I attended a one-room school, I have a soft spot in my heart for these vanishing buildings. So, I have begun photographing any that I can find. Can you tell me if the Brethren School is still around or is it gone (condition or use does not matter to me). If it is still here, can you give me directions so I can find it? Thank You!

  4. Yes it's still there! Corner of High Bridge Rd and East Coates Hwy in Brethren.


  5. Thanks, Carissa. I need to take a look at the still standing one room schoolhouses next time I am in Brethren.