District History

History of the Cardington School District

Cardington-Lincoln Schools were established as the Cardington School in February 1858

By: Evelyn Long

When the Class of 2012 received their diplomas they became the 132nd class to graduate from Cardington-Lincoln High School.

The first class of seven members graduated in 1877. There were no exercises held in 1879, 1885 or 1892.

The history of the school dates to the very beginning of the village’s founding.

Their children’s education was a priority with the early settlers. One of the first structures erected was a cabin used as a school house on the west end of the cemetery. It was built by Slocum Bunker, son of Isaac Bunker, the community’s pioneer settler.

Shortly thereafter, in 1824, a log cabin was built along the river off of West Main Street (behind the first building west of the railroad tracks on the north side of West Main Street). There was a spring nearby, ideal for children spending many hours in their classes. The benches were hewn from logs and greased paper covered the windows.

Log cabins continued to house the students when a site on East Main Street became the settlement school. The lot was owned by Anson St. John. There are no records indicating who taught them but the first teacher, oddly enough, was a man named Poe- but it is told that he could not hold his own with the students and did not keep good order. All of these buildings were of log construction.

The first frame building was constructed in 1840 on the corner of Second and Center Streets, serving as both a church and school. It was the only school building in the village for the next 14 years.

Another frame building (a little larger) was built on East Walnut Street in 1853 and used as a school for over 15 years before being sold in 1868 and converted into a two family dwelling. It remains a residence today and is located two houses west of the building housing the Academy of Rising Stars.

That same year, 1868, the village, then 34 years old, realized its first brick building — an impressive building and the most modern structure of its kind in Morrow County. The Union School was built on Nichols Street at a cost of $40,000 which included equipment and grounds grooming. It was a three story edifice used until 1924 when a new school was built on the same site encompassing much of the Union School.

The late Carrie Philbrook, who graduated from the Union School in 1909 and then returned in 1914 to teach in the district 42 years, wrote of her memories in 1950 of that building and era.

“When I came to Cardington in 1914, there were 12 teachers on the faculty including the superintendent and principal, who were the only men, but all of the lady teachers had the title of “Miss,” there being no married women.”

“In those days, it was an offense to the laws of the school boards if anyone decided to change the title from “Miss” to “Mrs.” during the life of her contract. Though one teacher was bold enough to try it and held the deed in secrecy to the end of the term. Married women were taboo on the Cardington School faculty until the wars came on, creating a teacher shortage.”

“In 1914, the county was divided into three supervision districts, each under a district superintendent making three district superintendents, while now (1950) the county is under the supervision of one superintendent.”

“At that time, the superintendent, principal, and two other high school teachers carried the high school schedule. A writing and drawing teacher taught these subjects through the entire school.”

“There were seven grade school teachers, the only combination of two grades being the sixth and seventh. As the fourth and fifth were divided for the first time that year, I was employed for the fifth grade. There were between 200 and 300 pupils, some of whom lived in the Cardington Corporation, and some high school students from around the county.”

“The building was a three story structure, the first, second, third, and fourth grades occupied the first floor along with a lunch room where children who lived too far to go home for lunch could eat at school. Another small room was where the janitor, “Dad” Carter kept all of the janitor supplies. We teachers christened it the ‘gab room’ as we all congregated in that room before the ringing of the first bell in the morning and at noon to compare notes and discuss current events. Today, we wouldn’t be able to make use of such a room if it were provided as work begins as soon as we set foot in the portals of the halls of learning.”

“There were four rooms on the second floor used for the high school and the superintendent’s office was located in a small room in the northeast corner of the second floor while a small room in the northwest corner of the same floor served as the laboratory. Needless to say, experiments were not so extensive in those days as now. A few years later, a laboratory was established in one of the rooms on the east side of the hall.”

“On the third floor was a trash room, where everything was stored that could not be used. They cleared that room and converted it into a classroom for my fifth grade, that being the first use as a classroom. A fire escape was also constructed from a window on the west side of the building which was cut into a door that made it a safe place to conduct school. The room was quite dark with only two outside openings. We had one gas light suspended from the ceiling which had one burner with only a mantel, no shade.”

“The sixth and seventh grades occupied the southwest room of the third floor while the eighth grade, the south half of the auditorium which extended along the entire east half of the third floor. When there was use for the auditorium, the eighth grade room was included. About 1917, the sixth and seventh grades were divided and so was the auditorium to make the north half of it a classroom for the seventh grade. The first partition was curtains so that they could be shoved to either side throwing the rooms into one.”

“A small room in the northwest corner of the third floor was used for a sewing room when Home Economics was first placed in the high school course.”

“There were two winding stairways from the third floor to the second, then three from the second to the first, all with beautiful wide banisters of black walnut. There was a fire escape in the form of a Y from the sixth, seventh and eighth grade rooms at the rear of the building.”

“An old square piano sat under the front windows of the hall on the second floor. A pianist from the high school played a march while some good rhythm maker beat the big triangle for the entire student body to evacuate the building from third floor to first at time of dismissal and woe unto the offender who did not make a good soldier in the march.”

Along this same vein of thought comes Mary Margaret Farrington Byrd who graduated from CHS in 1926, and after obtaining her teaching degree, returned to her alma mater, also, to spend her teaching career.

She remembered those musical marching exits this way “Helen Farrington and Ernestine Nichols played duets and Bob Sanderson beat the triangle. There were two stairways, two students on each with four coming together at the bottom. We marched out to the big sidewalk on Nichols Street. Another CHS alumnus who returned to teach here was Emma McClenathan Schwartz who described the exits this way:

“The way we marched out of school at the end of the day was unforgettable. When I taught here beginning in 1950 it was always on the tip of my tongue to say ‘Don’t step on the grass in the front lawn.’”

Carrie’s memories continue, “In the basement was the furnace which furnished steam heat for the entire building. The furnace room and another room were later converted into a kitchen and cafeteria.”

“One time the faculty served a chicken dinner in this cafeteria to the public, the purpose being to make money for the purchase of three victrolas and records. One of which was on a stand they used for the march music for dismissal. Two were portable and used by all of the classes in the school.”

The first athletic banquet for the first CHS winning basketball team of the Morrow County tournament was held in this dining room, prepared and served by the faculty.

We were certainly proud of them, too, as they had no coach, had coached themselves in the room on the second floor of the brick building on Second Street, which was the only gymnasium available at that time. The county tournament was then played in Levering Hall, Mt. Gilead.

“It was in this three story building that the first school band was organized under the superintendent’s leadership. They practiced in the hall, in the evening after school, making the building reverberate with music.”

“The junior-senior banquets at that time were held in the home of some member of the class, the banquet being served in the home or sometimes, the entertainment conducted in the home and the guests going in a body to a restaurant where the banquet was served. The last act of the evening was combat at the belfry of the school building where the flagpole was to float the colors of the senior or junior class, whichever came out victorious.”

“The commencements were also held in the Opera Hall as the auditorium on the third floor of the old building was now too small to accommodate the parents and friends of the graduates. A few years’ later commencements were held in the Methodist Church when the Opera hall was condemned. Then came our new school auditorium which seemed so large that it would always accommodate commencement crowds and now it is outgrown.” (That auditorium is now the primary library.)

“The water supply was a well at the southeast corner of the building. No mother needed to prescribe sulphur and molasses as a tonic for her offspring, if they attended Cardington School as they were well inoculated by taking it inwardly and by inhalation. The inhalation part of the treatment was extended to the third story of the building whenever water was being pumped!”

“Rooms for operation of the school became inadequate so in 1924 a new building was erected after the voting of a bond issue for that purpose.”

“The outside walls of the old building were practically all included in the walls of the new building. The auditorium and the two classrooms adjoining it to the west were entirely of new construction. The rooms having the very wide window sills are an index to the part of the building that includes the old walls.”

“The first school bus was an old hearse made into a school bus and drawn by horses.”

“When centralization came, the first one-room school consolidated with Cardington was the Goose Heaven School District in Lincoln Township.”

When the new building was constructed in 1924 the total cost was $135.000 Dedication was held April 3, 1925. In 1939, a four classroom addition and agriculture building were added behind the school (today that is the board office) Expanding again in 1952, another addition was built at a cost of $374,808. This addition to the east end of the building included a two story section with eight classrooms, four rest rooms and an auditorium-gymnasium.

The Fulton School, Lincoln Township, was annexed to the Cardington School District in 1964 when it became the Cardington-Lincoln School District. With increased enrollment in the district, more classroom space was needed. Thirty acres of ground on Route 529, east of Cardington, was purchased from Virgil Shaw and in 1967, the new high school building was completed at a cost of $765,966.

The one story structure contains 17 classrooms, two shops, one gymnasium and one cafeteria. It housed grades 7-12. The class of 1968 was the first to graduate from it. A swimming pool and tennis courts were later built adjoining the property to the west.

With a continued increase in enrollment, the facilities changed again in 1992 when a $4.6 million renovation and new construction project was completed. This project included the extensive remodeling of the Nichols Street building which was then the home of students in grades two through eight. The renovated building then accommodated students in grades kindergarten through five.

The small, original gym was remodeled into an elementary library, the cafeteria was redesigned and a new food preparation kitchen was built. Traffic patterns in the school itself were greatly improved, allowing students to move through the various building additions (1925 -1939 and 1952) with ease. A new main entrance and lobby were also added.

The building, originally built as the agriculture building and more recently used as the music building, was converted into the district’s board offices. The superintendent’s and treasurer’s offices were moved to this building.

Finally, kindergarten students who had been attending school in area churches for the previous 20 years were brought into the newly remodeled building.Likewise, first grade students who had been attending school in the four-room Fulton building were brought to the Cardington facility.

At the high school site, a 34,000 square foot middle school addition was built onto the high school building. The addition included 13 new classrooms, a new gymnasium, music room and library to accommodate students in grades 6-12. Administrative offices were remodeled into a computer lab and two classrooms.

The cafeteria was doubled in size, with an additional food preparation area. Provisions for the recent innovations in technology were also made in each building.

The district serves an area of 85 square miles.

The school’s two athletic fields and three gymnasiums have been named in memory of residents or alumni who contributed their time and talent to the school.

The athletic field on Nichols Street was named in memory of Dick Pace, Class of 1944.

The gymnasium in the Nichols Street building is named the Patterson Gym in memory of Lowell Patterson, Class of 1925, who served the school as principal and superintendent from 1932 to 1964. The football field at the high school is the Merle Fisher Field in memory of Mr. Fisher, Class of 1930 and the high school gym is called the Murphy Gym in memory of Dr. Lowell Murphy, who was the athletic team doctor for many years during his 37 years of medical practice in the village. The middle school gym was named for Gerald Goodman in memory of Mr. Goodman who was active with the school’s sports department and was a school bus driver for many years.

There have been 13 superintendents of the district and one interim administrator. They are G. O. Brown, A. L. Banker, R. H. Morrison, L. I. Morse, N. D. O Wilson, F. H. Flickinger, Walter J. Bankes, W. L. Atwell, M. J. Almack, C. M. Beitler, Roland Thompson, J. Cline Slack, J. L. Patterson, William Hall, Frank Cochran, (Interim Adm.), George Nash, Frank Perry, Patrick Drouhard and Mark Wilcheck.

Note: W.L. Atwell died while serving the school – he lived on East Walnut, the site now of the First United Methodist Church sanctuary – and his wake was held at his home – where the entire student body marched from the school to his home to pay their respects.

Following are memories of the late Lowell Patterson, a 1925 graduate of CHS who then returned to teach, and serve as principal and superintendent of his alma mater until 1964. Joining him on memory lane was the late Milton Klingel, a member of the last class to graduate from the old Union School in 1924. The men shared their memories for me when the 1992 renovation of the Nichols Street building was being done.

When Milton graduated that spring of 1924, construction of the new building was to begin that summer. Lowell was a junior that year and was a member of the first class to graduate from the new building in 1925.

Milton began working for the contractor, Hassler and Summer of Bloomville, the day after his May 16 graduation. “I pushed the wheelbarrow carrying mortar for the bricklayers for eight hours a day for about $.50 an hour,” he recalled.

The men said they could remember every nook and cranny of the old three story building where the three floors were topped with a belfry. Its bell echoed across the village and to the outer area, calling the district’s youngsters to school, and was described in the 1880 Morrow County History book as an ‘ornament to the town’. It was built at a cost of $40,000. Its dimensions were 85 by 70 feet with 10 classrooms and a hall that would seat 500 persons.”

“During the 1992 remodeling, portions of the outer brick walls of the Union School were revealed, when an inner wall was removed from a classroom on the first floor. Exposed was an arched window, bricked in, which once looked out from the east side of the building,” said Lowell.

He went on to explain the old basement was filled in and the floors and ceilings all raised so that the old brick windows, once on first floor of the Union School are now midway between the first floor and ceiling of the classroom. This room became the principal’s office in the 1992 renovation. Today it is the music room.

Walking a line about eight to ten feet in front of the west entrance door, Milton and Lowell said the foundation of the Union School’s front wall lies buried in that area. They said the front of the building was cut off from the first windows and the top third of the building was removed.

The only room retaining the original dimensions of the 1868 edifice is on the southwest corner of the second floor and was the classroom of Carrie Philbrook as described in her memories above- and later as a study hall until the school became the home of only elementary and junior high school students. (This room still retains the same dimensions as it did in 1868).

Milton and Lowell recalled marching from school at lunchtime and afternoon dismissal to the tune of a march played by one of the students on a large square piano located on the second floor.

“Someone kept time on a triangle as we marched,” said the men, who recalled circular stairways on each side of the west vestibule at the school’s entryway. Each floor was a copy of the first floor, with wide vestibules at the site of the stairway. The top floor was an auditorium and also had the fifth and sixth grade classrooms.

The auditorium was condemned in the early 1900’s and it was later divided by a curtain with the seventh grade on one side and the eighth grade on the other.

The men laughed remembering the Halloween prank when a buggy was placed on top of the old Union School.

The building had no indoor plumbing and almost everyone went home for lunch.

There was no basketball floor, so each fall when school opened, students would clear off a small court behind the school and play basketball there and baseball on the school diamond until the weather got bad.

Klingel worked the entire summer of 1924 on the building and said they stripped the old school of everything, just retained the brick walls. When the weather was too bad for brick laying, Klingel said he helped lay the hardwood for the new gym.

Lowell was a member of the first basketball team to play on that gym floor which was completed in 1925. He said they played Bellepoint, the Class B champs in 1924 and 1925 and CHS lost 21-7. He said the floor wasn’t completed so they drew chalk lines. When the school closed for vacation that Christmas, they stayed closed for four weeks so the construction could be completed.

During the school year, classes were held in different business places uptown, some being held on the second floor of business buildings.

One female member of the Class of 1925, who shall remain nameless, said she remembers attending classes upstairs across from the pool hall on South Marion Street – and with the warm weather the windows were open and all she heard all day from the pool hall was the playing of the song, “Yes, We Have no Bananas!”