31 March 2016

Last Day Local: 1834 Log Schoolhouse, Battle Creek, Michigan

Imagine pre-statehood Michigan, an area where land wasn't deemed suitable to be given as bounty land to the War of 1812 veterans.  An area that was thought to be swamp land, much like the Everglades in Florida. This is the land where the first Battle Creek log schoolhouse was built in 1834.

Obviously, the surveyors of the time got it wrong as Michigan was developed and became a state in 1837.  The area around Battle Creek, at this time, was one of wilderness with a few Indian villages. The log schoolhouse is no longer in existence and all that stands in its place is a parking lot and a historical marker denoting it.

The transcription of the markers is  "Near this spot, facing the Indian Trail, the village's first public school was erected in 1834. Built of logs, its floor, desks and benches were constructed of lumber floated down the river from Bellevue's sawmill. Warren B. Shepard, the first teacher, had a dozen pupils. The pioneers paid eighty dollars for their schoolhouse, using it also for religious services, debates and other meetings. Sometime friendly Potawatomi Indians dropped in to watch the strange doings."

The log schoolhouse held classes and other community events from 1834-1838, when the school became overcrowded.  The school was built by Deacon Salter, who received $80 to build it, on logs that were floated down the Battle Creek river from Bellevue. 

During this time the log schoolhouse had two teachers: Warren B. Shepard and Sarah Phelps.  The residents who sent their children to this school included: Judge Sands McCamly, General Ezra Convis, Moses Hall, Deacon Salter, Daniel Thomas, Isaac Toland, Nathaniel Barney and Nebediah Angell.  The population of Battle Creek, at the time, was less than 400.

The school became overcrowded and in 1837 the residents voted to build a bigger school and appropriated $500 for the building.  The new school was known as the Frame Schoolhouse and it was built in a new location.

The Historical Marker for the Log Schoolhouse may be found on East Michigan Avenue, in downtown Battle Creek.

Last Day Local is a blog prompt I use to celebrate the history of Battle Creek, Michigan, my hometown for the past 26 years.  I try to post one article on the last day of the month about the heritage and history of Battle Creek, The Cereal City!


  1. Are there any records of the students that attended this school?

  2. Dear Linda, I checked with Local History Librarian at the Helen Warner Branch of Willard Library in Battle Creek, George Livingston. This was his reply: Your best bet for historical information on the old log schoolhouse is in the tens of thousands of pages and dozens of volumes of the "Michigan Pioneer
    and Historical Collections." A complete set with index is located at the Helen Warner Branch of Willard Library. The records tend to be anecdotal but illuminating nonetheless. Worldcat.org would let you know what library has the collection close to you. Check archive.org for an online copy as well. The index can be found here: https://archive.org/stream/michiganindex1to15michuoft#page/n7/mode/2up