Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, March 9, 2003, pg. 5
We go “on the road” again this week and feature the area historically known as “South Albion.” Although the boundaries were never definitely defined, South Albion is generally accepted to be the southern part of Albion Township from both sides of 28 Mile Road (M-99) on the west eastwards to the county line, and south to M-60. 29 Mile Road (once known as South Albion Road) has generally been accepted as the central road of this area, as several landmarks were located here through the years.
South Albion contains rich farmland that was settled in the 1830s by settlers from New York or Pennsylvania. A sampling of some pioneer pre-Civil War family surnames include: Benham, Kinney, Sheldon, Howell, Holmes, Angevine, Houck, Anderson, Ansterburg, Knowles, Fabrique, Farley, Ostrom, and others. Historian John Kinney once wrote, “Once linked by the invisible ties of kinship, church and school, there is here a sense of community separate from that of the township that persists to this day.”
South Albion once had three rural schoolhouses: Benham, Holmes, and Howell. Our focus this week concerns the Howell School (Fractional No. 2), a building which still stands today in the center of South Albion on the northwest corner of 29 Mile Road and H Drive South. It was named after 1835 pioneer settler Ashbel Howell (1793-1870) who donated a 1-acre corner of his 160-acre farm for educational purposes. Albion Township’s first supervisor and school inspector James Sheldon, Sr. put up the $200 to erect a schoolhouse there in 1838. Classes were held here through the Civil War at which time the structure burned.
A replacement Howell School was built in 1867 at a cost of $1,500. Here the children of the farmers and residents of the area were educated continuously for 99 years. Classes were held up to the 8th grade, at which time students had to take a test to continue their education at one of the three area high schools. Improvements were made during the Great Depression which included indoor plumbing, a basement, and furnace. Funding was by the Kellogg Foundation, and labor was provided by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Final classes were held in June, 1966. On July 1, 1966, the Howell district was officially annexed into the Albion Public Schools, but not before the southern chunk of its boundaries across the road were “transferred” to the Homer Public Schools. The remaining 15 Howell students thereby attended Bath Mills School (which had also been acquired by Albion) during the subsequent 1966-67 school year, before everyone went to Albion after that.
Despite its closure, the Howell schoolhouse continued to be used as a South Albion community meeting center and was responsibly maintained by loyal members of the community there. It was used by the Albion Public Schools beginning in 1976 as a Crowell School “Open Classroom” project, and through the 1980s as a learning example of a “country school” which was the mainstay of public education for over a century.
Today South Albion community members are requesting that their historical Howell School be returned back to them. The South Albion community built, paid for, and maintained their schoolhouse for 99 years before it was acquired by the Albion district. It surely should be returned back to them for only a nominal cost. Many years ago the Albion School Board sold the large Dalrymple School in town to a group for only one dollar. Call or write your Albion school board members today and encourage them to let Howell School be returned back to the community from whence it came.
From our Historical Notebook in this internet version we present a March 16, 1993 photograph of Howell School. We’ll feature more stories about South Albion in the future in this column.
March 16, 1993 photograph of Howell School
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic