Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, January 19, 2020, pg. 7

Occasionally in this column we'll feature one of the small rural country schools which once dotted our townships up to the 1960s. This week we are featuring the Gay School. Yes, that was its name. It was located at 16420 29 Mile Road a few miles north of Albion on the east side of the road between H and J Drives North.

The school was named after John Gay (1803-1888), a rugged pioneer (he fought with a bear) of Sheridan Township who settled 110 acres of land in Section 12 in 1836. Its official name was Sheridan District No. 2, and was organized before the Civil War. The original schoolhouse was located on the northern edge of Mr. Gay's property. One former student in the original building, Peter Messner, recalled in 1939: "The teacher's desk stood at the east end, and the room was heated by a large box stove placed near the center of the room. The pupils ranged in ages from 6 to 20 years. The school was ungraded and there were no written examinations. More attention was paid to spelling, arithmetic, geography, and grammar. Recitations were mostly oral. Sometimes the spelling lessons were written. The school year consisted of a winter term of 16 weeks beginning usually the 1st or 2nd Monday in November, which was the only time the larger pupils who helped at farm work could go to school. There was a summer term of 8 or 10 weeks for the younger children."

That building was replaced in 1872 by a new schoolhouse, also erected on the Gay farm, 1/8 of a mile south of the original structure. William Boyd, Leslie King, and Nathan Lane were among the Directors of the district in the late 19th century. As with many other country schools, Gay School was also a community meeting place for many types of activities which included spelling schools, clubs, and religious meetings.

In the early 1960s, country schools were encouraged to annex into neighboring city school districts. Discussions began in 1962 with the Springport school system about possible annexation, with Springport taking the position that they felt the Gay district to be in their service area. In 1964, the Albion Public Schools tried to woo the Gay district into its boundaries, as Albion felt the Gay district was in their area. Tugged between two districts competing for students and tax dollars, the Gay district held off making a final decision. Albion won out and the Gay School district was annexed into the Albion Public Schools on July 1, 1966. The original school bell was given to Glenn Riever for taking it down, according to the June 10, 1963 annual minutes of the Gay district.

After closing, the school and property was transformed into a private residence. Unfortunately, it was abandoned in recent years and deteriorated to the point where it became a public nuisance. The Gay School was the first structure demolished under Sheridan Township's new "Dangerous Building Ordinance," on April 19, 2018. Walter Obrinske was the contractor who did the demolition.

From our Historical Notebook this week we present an October, 1939 photograph of Gay School. How many of our readers went to the Gay School?

October, 1939 photograph of Gay School


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