Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, April 2, 1995, pg. 19
On the northwest corner of Erie and Gibbs Roads in Parma Township in Jackson County, just a few miles east of Albion, sits the former Riceville School. This particular rural country school structure was used from the early 1850s until its closure in June 1962. The school and area was named after the Rice family, one of the pioneer families that lived in the area at the time. The location had been deeded for use as a school in the 1830s. The present structure is of Greek Revival style built in the early 1850s, and probably replaced an earlier structure.
The geographic boundaries of the Riceville district were strange, compared with other rural schools. The Riceville boundary followed Erie Road, and was shaped like a long rectangle, rather than a usual square with a schoolhouse in the middle. The Riceville district followed Erie Road all the way to the Calhoun County line, and up Finley Road in Parma Township, to the southern portion of what today is Amberton Village.
An unfortunate scenario for the Albion Public Schools occurred in 1962 when the financially strapped Riceville district requested annexation into the Albion Public Schools. Albionís schools were overcrowded at the time with the baby boomer generation. The bond proposal for a new high school had been defeated twice, and there was no room for more students. When the Riceville district requested annexation into the Albion schools, the Albion school board refused their request, citing the fact that Riceville was in Jackson County and Albion did not want to cross that line.
So the Riceville district promptly turned to the Concord Public Schools, several more miles away, which happily annexed the area. When the Albion Public Schools was able to make a policy change and let Jackson County districts annex to Albion (i.e. Wright and Bath Mills Schools), the former Riceville district was found to reach far into the natural geographic territory of the Albion Public Schools. This unfortunate situation exists to this very day.
The Concord Public Schools boundary regrettably goes all the way to the Calhoun County line on Erie Street--less than 1 mile from Harrington Elementary School! This is just another example of where Albion has let others draw boundary lines for us--and we are paying for it today.
The refusal to annex the Riceville district came back to haunt the Albion Public Schools when the Amberton Village subdivision was constructed in the late 1960s. The boundary of the Concord (Riceville) district was found to bisect the area, even down the middle of houses. The "Battle for Amberton Village" began. After a series of tactical moves and appeals, the State Board of Education set new boundaries, with Concord getting to keep most of it. Thus, people who live in the southern portion of Amberton Village and on Finley and Erie Roads have the luxury of an Albion phone, an Albion address, but Concord Schools. And it is all our fault--it could have been part of the Albion School district if we had just said "yes" in 1962.
If you wish to learn more about this particular topic, consult my book A History of the Albion Public Schools pages 137-140. By the way, this book is still available for Albion High School class reunions coming up this summer. If you would like copies of this book at your reunion, give me a call to make arrangements.
The reason I am bringing up the Riceville School issue this week is because the building has been donated to the Paddock-Hubbard House Museum in Concord by its owner, Eugene Boehlke, who lives on a farm on Gibbs Road north of the school. The structure is being dismantled and will be place don Michigan Street in Concord behind the Museumís carriage house. There it will be restored and furnished with authentic rural school materials. Total estimated costs for the project is $54,000.
The non-profit Museum foundation is now taking donations for the project. If you are interested, call chairman Earl Schultz at (517) 524-8595, or John Kinney at (517) 629-2705.
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of the Riceville School in the process of being dismantled beginning the week of March 20, 1995.
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All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic