“The Light is with Us”
Perhaps many who now look upon the modern building and see the finished product of the Liberty Graded School think little of its beginning, yet much of interest clusters about the almost half a century of its history.
The year 1866 may well be taken as the starting point in the growth of our beloved alma mater. On August 24 of that year the legal voters of the town of Liberty were called together in the public school house. The purpose of this meeting was to consult in regard to the school interest of the town. Willard Windle, president of the School Board was called to preside.
At this meeting a motion prevailed to elect two teachers to teach the coming fall and winter term of the public school for the corporation of Liberty, the trustees being empowered to procure one assistant if necessary. Wellington Dawson was chosen principal at a salary of three dollars per day, and Maria Craft assistant at a salary of two dollars and twenty five cents per day. These teachers held their positions until 1868 when C. D. Seward was chosen principal with John D. Peter and Miss E. Bunting as assistant. This was the last term the teachers were chosen by the voters.
In two years the school outgrew its accommodations and the basement of the old Methodist Church was rented for the primary department these taught by Miss Catherine V. Smith. Again in the year 1870 the school had become so crowded t hat measures were taken to erect a new building. The project however was deferred, but additions were made to the old house making it temporarily large enough to accommodate the pupils.
In the year 1869 H. K. W. Smith was elected principal and superintendent. Mr. Smith was a graduate of Princeton and held his position until 1873 when R. W. Wood was chosen as his successor. Mr. Wood tendered his resignation in July 1881 when he accepted the superintendency of school at Milton. Since the resignation of Mr. Wood there has been an unbroken succession. During Mr. Wood’s administration the school again outgrew its accommodations and in 1875 it was decided to commence the erection of a new home at the earliest practicable date. At that time the School Board was composed of James P. Kennedy, James McClurg and Aden K. Bates. All of them have passed to their reward, but the present school building is a monument to their energy and their faith.
The new quarters were nearly completed by January first of the following year and were formally opened by a supper and public entertainment December twenty-ninth and ____ the 1875.
Many prominent people took part in the dedication services among whom may be mentioned, Mr. Wm M Casterline, now living in Los Angeles, California and the Rev. J. W. Mellender, then pastor of the Methodist Church.
In 1875, the Centennial year, the Odd Fellows of Liberty took the lead in planting the large shade-trees on the school grounds and at different times since trees have been planted, some by pupils, some by classes, and others by directors of the School Board.
The first class of the High School was graduated in the year or 1876. The total number of graduates to leave the school, including the present Senior Class, is two hundred and ninety. These are scattered all over the United States from the Lakes to the Gulf, and from Washington, D. C. to California.
Under the present management the High School Course has been extended and the High School itself commissioned by the State Board of Public Instruction. Also the number of rooms occupied by the school has been increased. At that time there was an assembly room, since partitioned and now occupied as school rooms and the Library.
At first there was no Library and dictionary excepted not a reference book in the school. Soon after t he Library was established Mr. Joaquin Miller gave a public reading from his own works, the proceeds of which, amounting to about thirty dollars, he gave to the Library. New books have been added at different times until now we have a Library of over a thousand volumes embracing besides works of reference, books on nature, animals, fiction and many works of the best poets the world has ever known.
When the school was first started there were no means by which a pupil could demonstrate to himself the laws and principals of Physics and Chemistry. The teachers of these branches made the necessary experiments before the class; now in Physics we have the experimental Cabinet where the pupil, may work for himself. In Chemistry a Laboratory has been fitted up where each pupil has a desk with all the appliances for personal experimentation.
To these Music and Drawing have been added under the supervision of trained specialists and every effort is being made to give the young people of Liberty and vicinity such advantages as well provide and adequate preparation for the ordinary duties of life.
Well may we say:
“The light is with us! Read and lead!
The larger book, the loftier deed.”
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