What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895
Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade
education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade exam in 1895?
This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA. It was taken from the
original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and
reprinted by the Salina Journal.
8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS - 1895
Grammar(Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph.
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of ‘lie,’ ’play,’ and
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6. What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of
the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic(Time,1 hour 15 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50 cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. for
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven
months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.
U.S. History(Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided.
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.
Orthography(Time, one hour)
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication”.
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate
4. Give four substitutes for caret ‘u.’
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final ‘e.’ Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post,
non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the
sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane, vain, vein,
raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks.
And by syllabication.
Geography(Time, one hour)
1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia , Odessa , Denver , Manitoba,
Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernadez, Aspinwall
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S. Name all the republics of Europe and give
the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.
[Gives the saying “he only had an 8th grade education” a whole new meaning, doesn’t
it?! No, we don’t have the answers! And we don’t think we ever did! But we did figure out that
“Orthography” was handwriting.]
1. Alvin Edward Rudisill (second from left in back row) completed his eighth grade education in
1913 in this one-room school in Grandview School District #21 in Harding County, South Dakota.
Rudisill is the father of our GLEANINGS editor, Dr. Alvin Eugene Rudisill.
1. Estabrook in 1949; Joseph Estabrook was the head of the Normal from 1871 to 1880.
2. Roosevelt (on campus) and Lincoln.
3. Head Start – developed and tested in Perry School; participants were tracked over time.
4. George Cavender who succeeded William Rivelli.
5. Prospect became Adams; Harriet became Perry; and Central became Kingston. Adams and Kingston were
Ypsilanti educators. Dr. Lawrence Perry was a local dentist and member of the Ypsilanti School
6. Roosevelt athletic teams and the school newspaper.
7. The Seminary.
8. 1959, East and West Junior High schools later to be renamed Middle Schools.
9. They were younger; females could be admitted at 16 while males had to be 18.
10. The Grapefruit.
11. High School principal – Ypsi High (Wiltse) and Roosevelt (Menzi).
12. Ypsilanti High School Drum and Bugle Corps.
13. “Snob Hill” – in the mistaken belief that it was a rich kid’s school. In fact, the
school population was carefully managed to reflect the area’s population. Many standardized tests
were developed using Roosevelt students. In order for these tests to provide accurate results, the
test populations had to be similar to the school populations that would later use these tests.
14. The synchronized swimming team at Roosevelt was one of the first and best in southeastern
15. The bust of Teddy Roosevelt displayed in the Roosevelt Library. While “on leave” Teddy
attended athletic events and was guest of honor at student parties.
16. Penmanship. The school quickly added a number of other business classes.
17. Michigan State Normal College admitted women since its inception. The first woman was admitted
to the University of Michigan in 1866 to study Greek.
18. Mark Jefferson was a geographer who did some of the first geographic studies and maps of South
America and served as Chief Cartographer for the U. S. delegation to the Paris Peace Talks following
World War I. Jefferson could have secured a post in the most prestigious universities but stayed at
the Normal believing that training teachers in geography was crucial to the success of pupils
throughout the country.
20. The first kindergarten in Ypsilanti opened in 1888 at the Normal Training School. The concept of
creating learning environments for very young children originated in Germany.
Test your knowledge about Ypsilanti schools, their histories, and why this was known as "the town
where education and commerce meet."
1. What was the name of the first school built on the west side?
2. What local schools were used for student teaching in the 1940s through the 1960s?
3. What ground-breaking social/educational program originated in Ypsilanti?
4. Who was the Michigan Band director who got his start in the Ypsilanti Public Schools?
5. Which elementary schools changed names?
6. Who were the Rough Riders?
7. What was the name of the first high school established in Ypsilanti?
8. When were the first junior high schools opened?
9. Other than gender, how did females entering the Normal in its early years differ from the
10. What was the name of the April fool's special issue published by Roosevelt High School?
11. What positions did Norris Wiltse and Leonard Menzi hold?
12. Which school marching band wore kilts?
13. How did Ypsi High students refer to Roosevelt High School?
14. Who were the Sinkopaters?
15. What object was regularly "stolen" by Roosevelt High students?
16. Patrick Cleary established a school in Ypsilanti to offer instruction in what skill?
17. Which institution of higher education accepted women first, the University of Michigan or
Michigan State Normal College?
18. Who was Mark Jefferson and why is there a building named for him at EMU?
19. What year did St. John's High School close?
20. When and where was the first kindergarten opened in Ypsilanti?
Today Cross Street Village, senior housing, stands at 210 West Cross Street. This building is
still known to many as Old Ypsi High. For many years this building was the high school. The use of
this building, for senior housing, is the first time since 1844, that a building on this site has
been used for purposes other than education.
When someone talks of the history of the buildings that have stood on this site, the result is
likely to be confusion, for this is the story of not one building, but of four. Of the four
buildings that have occupied this site, two have been completely destroyed by fire, while the third
was damaged by fire and rebuilt. The last building was later demolished to make room for the west
wing of Old Ypsi High, the fourth building.
All of these buildings were used as schools, and were a major reason for Ypsilanti having a
reputation for excellence in education for many years. The first of these buildings, however, was
the result of a business folly.
During the 1830s, a railroad was proposed linking Tecumseh to Ypsilanti, where it would connect
with the Michigan Central. To house the patrons of the railroad, a hotel was built at Ypsilanti
called the Tecumseh Hotel. The railroad was never built, so there were no patrons, and the hotel
failed. Charles Woodruff, who was running an academic school in Ypsilanti, moved his school into a
portion of the hotel in 1844. The school, he wrote, was “at an awful distance from the thickly
built portion of the village.”
Woodruff continued the school at that location until 1848, when the building was purchased by a
company headed by the Reverend L.H. Moore, pastor of the Baptist Church. After the sale, Woodruff
went into the newspaper business, as editor of The Sentinel. The Rev. Moore began operating
a private school in the building, called The Ypsilanti Seminary, designed to provide students with a
That same year it was found that the old White School House on North Washington Street was
inadequate. At the annual meeting of School District Number Four, $1,000 was appropriated for the
erection of a new building. This attracted the attention of contractors, and there was much talk of
a new school house. Instead, the board purchased the Tecumseh Hotel building from the Rev. Moore,
for $2,400. Changes were made to the building during the summer of 1849, better adapting it for use
as a school. The school opened in October of that year.
“The Seminary Building,” wrote Harvey Colburn, in The Story of Ypsilanti, “was a
plain three-story brick edifice built close to the sidewalk and in the form of an ‘L.’ The
longer arm extended westward from the corner and the shorter northward. The roof was surmounted by a
cupola with a bell. Attached to the west wing was a two-story frame building, originally used as a
This may have been the first “graded school” in Michigan and, because of the moderate
tuition, it attracted students from outside the Ypsilanti school district. The terms union
school and graded school are interchangeable. The upper floors of the school were used
as dormitories for the out-of-town students, called the “foreign students.”
Soon the rooms were filled to capacity while more students were seeking admission. To make room
for more students, an addition was added in 1854. This three story brick addition ran north on
Washington St. for about 60 feet. The first and part of the second floor of the addition were
finished as class and school rooms, while the rest of the second floor and all of the third were
used as dormitories. These rooms were soon filled, and the school was prosperous beyond all
expectation. Then disaster struck.
On the morning of Sunday, March 29, 1857, the building was found to be on fire. In spite of
heroic efforts with every means available, the building was soon nothing but ruins. Several of the
teachers and many of the students suddenly found themselves homeless. Fortunately, the school had
closed the previous Friday, for the nine-day spring vacation.
“As the inhabitants gathered around the ashes.” noted The Michigan Journal of
Education of October, 1858, “some of the children wept, and the purses of the rich shuddered
a little, but all consoled themselves with ‘Well, we will have a better school now.’ At once
arrangements were made for temporary locations for classes, until a new building could be built.
“A plan for a building was presented,” reported The Michigan Journal of Education,
“by Jordan & Anderson which so well pleased all, that it was adopted by unanimous vote of the
The new building, built on the site of the old, was dedicated August 17, 1858. The architects
were Jordan & Anderson of Detroit, and the builders were McDuff & Mitchell, who were also of
“The entire structure,” noted Colburn,” was architecturally satisfying and even
“This edifice stands in the center of a beautiful square in the central part of the city of
Ypsilanti,” reported The American Journal of Education, “one of the most attractive
healthy and flourishing towns in the State of Michigan. The building has a transept of 120 feet and
a depth through the transept of 95 feet, and through the end compartments of 68 feet.” The
building was in the Italianate style of architecture, and had a height of 59 feet. “The quoins in
the corners,” noted The American Journal of Education, “the window and door caps and
stills, the cornice, the architave moldings, belt courses, &c, are finished in imitation of
brown free stone––the remainder being of hand-pressed brick.”
The American Journal of Education published a print, plans and description of the
building. This was republished in the Michigan Journal of Education in October of 1858, and
later used in other publications.
The first floor of the building was 6 feet above the lot, “leaving a lofty basement story under
which was the heating apparatus, storage and fuel rooms.” The first floor was 20 feet high, and,
the center of the building had a large room, or chapel, 90 by 45 feet, used for commencement and
other public exercises. It was then the usual practice to place assembly rooms on the highest floor
of a building, possibly because of interior load bearing walls limiting space. It was considered an
advantage to have the chapel on the first floor. “This in infinitely more convenient and safe,
than it is to require an entire congregation at commencement or other exercises, to climb up to the
top of a high building. It is also more desirable, as the infant children can be taken into the room
on all occasions, without danger to them, which in ordinary cases, tutors are afraid to do.”
The chapel had no columns or pillars to block the view of the stage. Fears were expressed in 1866
that the building was unsafe. Inspection found the building to be structurally sound. Even so, four
pillars were placed in the chapel.
The first floor had two corridors one of each side of the chapel, each 12 feet wide and running
from the front to the rear of the building. The first floor had four primary rooms, two on each side
of the building. Between each of the primary rooms was an entrance in the center of each side of the
building. Each of the entrances opened to a clothes room.
The building had four more entrances to the first floor, two at the front and two at the rear,
opening into the corridors on each side of the chapel. A total number of six entrances allowed the
younger children to enter and leave the building separate from the older children. The number of
entrances also allowed for the separation of the students by sex, as it was then considered best to
keep the boys and the girls apart as much as possible. The interior arrangement of the rooms allowed
the boys and girls to come together when necessary, and to separate again when returning to their
classrooms without confusion or inconvenience. This structure stood until 1877 when it was destroyed
By August of 1878 the School Board and Building Committee had closed a contract for building the
new school on the site of the old, with Spitzly & Bro. of Detroit. The Ypsilanti Commercial of
August 10, 1878 reported, “The masons began laying the foundation of the new Union school on
Wednesday. The building will be enclosed before winter.” The building was ready for use at the
beginning of the school year of 1879.
The new three story building was different from the old one. The most striking difference was the
one-hundred- foot high tower with clock and bell. For many years this was the only town clock the
city had, with the bell striking the hour with remarkable accuracy. A challenge for the boys,
although it was strictly forbidden, was to sneak into the bell room, and be there when it tolled the
hour. The sound was deafening, but every boy was expected to do it at least once before
Another change from the previous building was the placement of the chapel on the third floor,
instead of on the ground floor. Light for the chapel was provided by a skylight in the roof. Some
would come to see the skylight as the building’s fatal flaw.
A two story addition, measuring 23 by 23 feet 8 inches, was added to the north wing of the
building in 1893. “The sewer from it,” reported The Ypsilanti Commercial of August 18,
1893, “passes under the whole length of the main building and thence diagonally to the south-east
corner of the grounds, connecting at the Cross and Washington street manhole.” When digging the
ditch for the sewer, workers uncovered the ruins of the old Seminary building that had burned in
Students had just taken their seats and settled in for an afternoon of study, on Thursday, May 3,
1893, when a terrible crash was heard from the chapel on the third floor. The sound frightened
everyone in the building. Those in charge of the building quickly went up to the third floor to
investigate. They found the entire ceiling of the chapel in flames. Outside the building, flames
were seen leaping in sheets thirty feet high, from a spot on the roof north-west of the tower and
near the chapel skylight. It was the sound of part of the ceiling falling into the chapel that had
frightened everyone. The building was ordered evacuated, and was soon empty of the 600 students and
teachers. A few students suffered minor injuries, when they jumped from windows on the second
Fire fighters were soon on the scene plying the flames with water from their hoses, but pressure
from the mains was inadequate for the streams of water to reach the fire. To fight the fire, fire
fighters had to wait until the fire had burned down low enough to be within reach of their hoses. It
did not help, when the hoses busted three times. Some of those present, said the fire fighters could
have made good use of a ladder.
At 2 p.m. the bell in the clock tower tolled the hour for the last time, as soon after the tower
caught fire. Then, with one or two last clangs, the bell fell by stages to just above the main
entrance, the landings having prevented a terrible cash.
At 2:45 p.m. the Ann Arbor Hose Company received a request for assistance and, with hose, hose
wagon, and three men, for a total load of 4,000 pounds, covered the distance in 28 minutes. They had
a stream of water playing on the fire within two minutes of their arrival. The team of horses, the
grays, showed the effect of the hard run, being covered in foam. “The horses,” reported The
Ypsilanti Commercial, “were skillfully and carefully cared for and soon seemed none the
worse for their record-breaking run.” The fire was brought under control by 4 p.m. and fire
fighters continued fighting the fire until a hard rain fell that night.
“The most plausible theory of the cause of the fire,” reported The Washtenaw Evening
Times, of Friday, May 5, 1894, “is that the prismatic shaped skylight on the roof and the
plain one which lights the chapel below made possible a concentration of rays of the sun, that body
being at the time about in its zenith, upon some cobweb hanging from the lower skylight and this set
fire to those minute things which by nature’s aid could result in disaster.” A more likely
cause, said others, was a combination of boys and cigarettes.
Less than an hour after the discovery of the fire, even before the flames were under control, the
Superintendent and several members of the school board were making arrangements for space to be used
as temporary classrooms so classes could continue. The day after the fire, the school board traveled
to Northville, to see if they could get school seats
Unlike the previous two buildings, this building was not a total loss. The walls of the building
appeared undamaged and could be reused. Then the west wall fell, carrying two rooms with it, after
the insurance was adjusted.
The third floor was a total loss, as was most of the second, but for two rooms that were not too
badly burned. “The north wing,” reported The Washtenaw Evening Times of May 4, 1894,
“was the least damaged and could be put in shape at a moderate cost.”
The first floor seemed to have suffered little damage, and the library, for the most part, was
saved. “The bell and clock,” reported The Ypsilantian of May 4, 1894, “are a total
wreck, the former being cracked so as to be of no value except old metal. The cost of the clock was
$1,500, and was an excellent timer.”
Insurance companies paid an award of $16,589.91 on the building and $5,250 on the furniture and
fixtures for a total of $21,839.91.
It was decided that the new building would be built along the plans of the old one, but with some
modifications. “The first change,” noted The Ypsilantian of January 10, 1895, “a
teacher would observe is the quieting of the building. This is secured by thoroughly deadening of
the floors, a thing that was not well done when the building was first erected.”
The first floor was little damaged by the fire, so remained much as before. The greatest change
was found on the second and third floors. The former winding stairways were replaced so as to have a
platform landing between the second and third floors. “The stairs and the second and third stories
are beautifully finished in natural oak,” reported The Ypsilanti Commercial of December
26, 1894, “except two rooms on the second floor which were not burned, and in these the woodwork
is being grained in imitation of oak. The stair was is no longer lighted by a skylight as was the
old, but the light for the second floor is borrowed from the school rooms on either side by means of
double winders. It was this sky¬light which came so near making the old building a death-trap. By
adding some new windows and lengthening others two of the rooms on the third floor are greatly
improved. On each side of the building, and on each floor, are large pipes connected directly with
the city water works. At the end of each is a long hose and nozzle, so that in case of fire at any
point of the building, one needs only to turn a valve and water will flow.”
As with the old building, this one had a tall tower with a clock and bell. The dials on the face
of the clock were 6 feet across, and illuminated after dark by electricity. The bell weighed 2,660
pounds, and had a tone that was said to be clear and musical.
The new building was dedicated on the evening of Tuesday, February 5, 1895.
In spite of the history of the site, it was purely by chance that the fire house was built in
1898 across the street from the building. As it happened, it was, for once, good luck for the
building. At 3:50 a.m. of Tuesday, August 16, 1904, the flagpole on the clock tower was struck by
lightning. Firefighters in the firehouse saw the lighting splinter the flag pole. At 4:10 a.m. they
saw the building was on fire. They rushed across the street, to put out the flames.
Damage to the building was slight, mostly caused by water to rooms in the tower. The walls of
these rooms had to be replastered. The clock in the tower was completely destroyed, but the flames
did not damage the belfry enough to harm the bell. The cost of the damage was placed at between
$3,000 to $5,000. The tower was rebuilt exactly as before.
The name of the building was changed early in 1900, from Union Seminary to High School, although
many continued to refer to the old building as The Seminary.
Early in the 20th century it became apparent that the building was overcrowded and lacking in
modern facilities. Plans for a new school building were drawn up as early as 1911. After two bond
issues were rejected by voters, $110,000 for school construction was passed in 1914. The amount was
increased by $12,000 in March of 1915.
Construction of the new building at 210 West Cross began in February of 1915, and opened in
January of 1916. This is the west wing of what came to be known as Old Ypsi High. The old building
at the northeast corner of Cross and Washington streets remained in use. The gymnasium was built
just north of the old building in 1925. The old building was finally demolished in 1929, to make
room for what is now the east wing of Old Ypsi High.
At the center of the building, where the two wings come together, is the main entrance. Above the
main entrance is the clock and bell tower. In the tower is the bell from the old Central High School
building, installed in 1930, as construction was nearing completion. The bell remained in use until
the graduation of the last senior class in 1972.
From hotel, to school, to senior housing, in a sense the site has come full circle.
[James Mann is a local author and historian, a regular contributor to the GLEANINGS, and a
volunteer in the YHS Archives.]
Normal College’s (EMU’s) class of 1888 had two outstanding features. For one, with 115
members it was the largest graduating class since the school’s founding in 1849. But even more
significant was that one member was the school’s first black graduate.
Archie C. Foster was born around 1854 in Arkansas. That state also had a Normal teacher training
school, but one with a poor reputation. When Archie came of age, he made the decision to leave his
home and undertake the expense of living and studying in a distant Northern city.
Students at Ypsilanti’s Normal in 1888 had a choice of five courses of study that included
four-year programs in science, literature, or ancient or modern languages, or a three-year program
in English. Students could also arrange for a special custom program or one that included music
instruction. Graduates of any of the courses were automatically certified to teach in any Michigan
The total cost of study was about $500 [about $12,000 in today’s dollars]. Expenses included
accommodations. Long before dormitories, students had to find their own meal plan and housing, in
one of the city boardinghouses approved by the school. Often run by widows as a source of income,
boardinghouses varied in offering either housing or food, or both. Houses offering both cost around
$3 to $4 per week [$72 to $96]. Students who provided their own food (some local restaurants offered
meal tickets) could reduce their boarding expenses to $2 to $2.50 [$48 to $60].
Archie came to Michigan, located lodgings, and took the entrance examination, which tested
subjects in grammar, spelling, arithmetic, and geography. Archie’s grade school in his home state
was part of a segregated system, with black schools receiving only a fraction of state funding
compared to white schools. Despite this disadvantage, Archie passed the entrance exams and in
September of 1885 began his chosen course of study, the three-year program in English. The campus
newspaper the Normal News printed news items regarding current students. Several news items
mentioning Archie appear during his time at the Normal. None make mention of the fact that he was
the school’s only black student. The November 1886 Normal News reported: “Hugh McDonald has left
school and gone home to teach during the winter.” “Spencer L. Houghton is ‘pa’.” “Archie
Foster lately received intelligence of the death of his father, who lived in Arkansas.”
At the start of his last year of study in September of 1887, Archie also left the school for a
temporary teaching term. The September 1887 Normal News reported, “Archie Foster will teach a term
of four months at Brownsville, Cass County, and return in the spring to finish his course at the
Normal.” The campus paper’s student news tidbits were regularly reprinted in one of the city’s
newspapers, the Ypsilanti Commercial. The May 25, 1888 edition noted, “A. C. Foster, who has been
absent for some time on account of sickness, is again in school.”
Finally Archie’s graduation came in June of 1888. The Ypsilanti Commercial mentioned him in a
lengthy article about the graduating class. “Among its members is Mr. A. C. Foster, who has the
honor of being the first colored graduate of that institution.”
Archie returned to Arkansas and became principal of one of the schools in the black school system
in Lafayette County, population 7,700. Five years later he married Lucy Boyd. The couple would have
four children: Charley, Clint, Pearl, and Lutie. Archie was successful and by 1900 owned his own
home. Teaching talent ran in the family; Lucy’s younger sister Julia lived with the Fosters and
also taught in a local school.
Lucy added to the Fosters’ income by working as a dressmaker. She earned enough to open her own
restaurant by 1920, where her daughter Lutie also worked. Years later the entire Foster family was
honored as pioneers in black entrepreneurship in Lafayette County.
In 1921 Lucy died, and Archie sold the family home and took rooms in a boarding house run by one
Addie McClain. In 1930 he was still teaching, drawing upon his decades in the field.
Archie died September 9, 1945 at age 91. After his death, a local black high school was named in
his honor, and the black community erected a handsome gravestone for Archie and Lucy. The alumni
organization of Foster High School sponsored a memorial stone “honoring our history with
appreciation to Professor Foster for 35 years as an educator for children of color in various
schools throughout the county.”
The gravestone and memorial stone stand today in Old Town Cemetery in Old Lewisville, Arkansas.
Ypsilantians can be proud that one determined man rose above the circumstances of htime and place
and used his Michigan degree to become a person respected and honored by his community.
[Laura Bien is the author of “Hidden HIstory of Ypsilanti” and “Tales from the
Ypsilanti Archives” and is a columnist for the Ypsilanti Courier and the Ann Arbor Chronicle.
The Ypsilanti Historical Society is partnering with the Ypsilanti Tech High School @ Ardis on a
project called Hidden Treasurers. This project is framed in a letter from
the Historical Society requesting that all incoming ninth graders at the school solve a historical
puzzle based on artifacts from the local area as they take on a “Junior Archivist” role. Groups
of students will investigate a box of artifacts that directly relate to an important local
historical person. Each student group will work collaboratively in determining the owner of the
contents and their contributions to local, state and/or national history. They then will create a
narrative to compellingly tell that person’s “story” in relation to the objects associated
with that person.
These budding historians will reflect on what they already know and what they still need to know
in order to successfully complete their task for the Ypsilanti Historical Society. The students will
learn what an archivist is, how to handle historical items, and further develop their research and
analytical skills. Each student group will use the data they have gleaned to determine what family
or person all items in their particular box relate to, and that family or individual’s
contributions to the Ypsilanti area. The students will write individual and group reports as well as
create a video of the investigation, evaluation and conclusion of their particular box of artifacts.
All student course will be aligned to meet Michigan State standards and benchmarks whilst engaging
students on real world projects utilizing 21st century skills.
The Historical Society has been involved in the planning stages of this project since near its
inception and has made many contributions to its evolution and implementation. Among other
contributions, the Historical Society will provide their expertise to the students through site
visits and possible workshops. Student team members may need to visit the Archives for additional
fact finding information as they develop an engaging story in history. One or more staff members of
the Historical Society will be evaluating the students’ final oral presentations. The three
student groups that best describe and identify the historical person connected to the items in their
box will be videotaped for inclusion via a link on the Ypsilanti Historical Society website for one
The backbone of Ypsilanti New Tech High School @ Ardis’ learning environment is Project-Based
Learning. Instead of handing out daily assignments, teachers assign long-term, real-world projects
with different components. The school uses technology to facilitate these student projects. This is
a great opportunity to immerse our students in the rich culture of the Ypsilanti area and the
History/Tech class of the New Tech High School is excited about working with the community as this
and other projects progress. If you are interested in connecting with the New Tech High School for a
student based project, please contact us at (734) 714-1500.
(Mark Salzer is one of the history teachers assigned to teach at the New Tech High School in
A before-standardization memoir: We learned more than our teachers suspected in the
schools of our childhood.
“School stinks!” we proclaimed when we wanted to say something unkind about our childhood
headquarters, and indeed, the schools of our past did have a unique smell about them. One wonders if
today’s tots enjoy the same sensory experiences we knew in schools that had wooden floors, slate
blackboards, wet plaster walls, oak trim moldings, cork bulletin boards, coal and/or steam heat, and
windows that actually opened. And we had those long cords on the window shades that could be tied
into hangman’s knots! Today’s kids just have iPods.
Our teachers sometimes accused us of “not paying attention” but, in reality, we paid
attention to far more than they realized. We saw, heard, tasted and smelled everything that was
going on. For some unexplained reason, our library paste was laced with mint flavoring, but the
teachers warned us not to eat it. We ate it anyway. We never used “library paste” in the
library; only in the elementary classrooms.
Mimeograph ink was so delicious that, when the teacher handed out new papers (“Take one for
yourself and pass them back!”), it was the custom to bury our face in the top sheet and inhale
deeply. Long before we heard that Morning Glory seeds had a hallucinatory effect, we were convinced
there was some magical quality in the smell of that purple mimeo ink. In those days, “purple”
was an exotic color, only to be used by “fancy ladies.” That was long before rip-stop nylon
backpacks in purple, pink and chartreuse.
A faint odor of peanut butter & jelly wafted from the lockers in the corridor. In some spots
it was mixed with the gentle hint of urine. Old, forgotten sandwiches sometimes mixed into a potion
of ingredients nearly unrecognizable by semester’s end. The bright pink deodorizer cakes in the
bathroom urinals smelled worse than the smells they were trying to cover up, but they were fun to
Old books in the library had a musty, mysterious quality about them. The giant dictionary on a
reading stand had alphabetized thumbholes on the side and, when you riffled the gold-edge pages with
your thumb, the odor of antiquity wafted clear over to the kid doing homework across the table.
These were the most popular reference materials available to us, and contained most of the banned
words that we had been wondering about. They were easy to find; these pages had been opened so
regularly that just placing the book on its spine would cause it to open to the favorite sections.
We had to wash our hands after handling those smelly, old books, but it was worth it.
Wood pencil shavings had an “up north” aroma about them but, when mixed with graphite from
pencil sharpeners (grinders), they made a dirty mix of pine pitch and acrid chemicals that we were
sure were poisonous. At least it killed the plants on the windowsill.
Soft, pink pencil erasers were a “smellifluous” addendum to childhood - until you brushed the
crumbles off the page when they mixed with the former pencil marks. Then they were a minor-grade
poison. Art Gum erasers were the best crumbles to collect. You could chew on them too, but we did
not swallow. Those green or gray kneaded erasers looked like chewing gum, but tasted terrible.
Rubber cement was voted the most volatile smell in the classroom and painting it on your cheek or
forearm and then squeezing it together when nearly dry made the most believable facsimile of a
terrible scar. Walking around with a severe limp added to the wounded-soldier-affectation and
sniffing the cement reminded us to stay in character for maximum effect.
Airplane glue came later, and we quit destroying our brain cells just in time to get into
college. Most of our projects started out soberly but became more sloppy and disorganized as time
went on. We never understood what caused that and blamed it on our short attention spans. Imagine a
skillfully constructed airplane fuselage with wads of wrinkled tissue paper hanging off the tail.
That’s the “designer” taking a nap face-down on his desk. (“Fuselage?” There’s a word we
have not seen since the days of Willow Run!)
The custodian dumped a sweeping compound on the floor and pushed it around with a four-foot-wide
dust mop in an effort to collect the dirt without sweeping the dust up into the air. The compound
seemed to be a mix of reddish sawdust and some kind of sweet-smelling oil. When the custodian was on
call with the “slop bucket,” that usually meant there was a “throw-up” somewhere and the
corridor did not get dusted for another hour. Students could volunteer to dust for the custodian,
but no one ever volunteered to slop the vomits - even though the wringer on the slop pail was great
fun to play with. Throw-ups were a common - but still surprising - smell in the corridors. No matter
what a sick kid had eaten earlier, it always smelled like a mixture of orange juice and tomato
juice. Who do you know who has TWO glasses of juice for breakfast? Today, “throw-up” is a term
used by graffiti artists. Vomits are just called vomits now.
When contractors repaired the school’s roof, we collected their droppings and chewed on tasty
chunks of warm, black tar. The flavor was a lot like Beeman’s Pepsin chewing gum and the blackness
made our teeth look whiter.
Gym lockers gave us the worst and probably most memorable smells. In the days when only women
used deodorants, we brought our own towels to school. Some days there were only two or three
“acceptable” towels available from donors in gym class, and that was enough to convince most
athletes to take theirs home for washing. Long after our gym clothes were washed, the mildew smell
remained since not everyone had the same tolerance level for the stench of moldy towels, shorts,
shirts and jock straps. It seems the acrid odor had seeped into the steel of the lockers, never to
Orange peelings left over from lunch could be placed in the bottom of a gym locker to mask the
smell of athletic appurtenances, but they had to be removed after two weeks - or the fruit flies
made their presence known to the coach. We were surprised to see that orange turned to dark green in
two weeks and most of the smell was gone by the time that green color appeared.
Milk cartons didn’t seem to have much smell about them at first, but if kept in the back of
your desk with a few inches of liquid in them for a week or so, they soon joined the other mysteries
of that dark space as beacons to direct you to your overdue homework.
Dixie cups were a much anticipated school treat and, when the ice cream was gone, it was still
satisfying to keep sucking on the tiny lozenge-shaped wooden spoon that had been stuck to the top of
the original product. If you were able to save the spoon until the bus ride home in the afternoon,
it was a clear signal to everyone else that your class had a treat… and perhaps they didn’t. Not
much flavor was left three hours after the ice cream was gone, but the wet wood had a naturalistic
and subtle flavor that lasted long into the day.
Some of the most exotic smells came from our four-hundred-year-old virgin Latin teacher, Miss
Virginia Dowdy. On warm days she emitted a tangy sour-milk smell. That was the signal to take up a
collection for her annual Christmas present: a blue glass vial of Evening-in-Paris perfume. The
larger bottle would last until near the end of second semester as Miss D slathered the
not-too-subtle hints of a continental lifestyle across her entire torso.
The high school social studies teacher smelled equally wonderful. Mr. Schaeffer wore the most
intriguing tan leather sport coat––often with a Real Bow Tie (not the clip-on kind). Leaning
over his desk with a question, a student could get close enough to smell the leather and maybe even
briefly touch the softness of the former bovine. Such brave and intimate inspection also reinforced
the suspicion of other smells coming from this dapper professor: tiny bits of Sen Sen tried
(unsuccessfully) to hide the fact that he smoked in the boiler room between classes, and Listerine
antiseptic sometimes dribbled from the corners of his mouth. Schaeffer kept a big bottle of the
volatile mouthwash in his largest desk drawer and, as there was no sink in which to spit it out, he
swallowed it. He was always in his best mood for the class that met the first hour after lunch. One
big bottle usually lasted a week.
Similarly, the Home Economics staffer sipped on the giant-size bottle of vanilla extract. She was
one smart cookie and always jolly and friendly.
School students of an earlier age could literally “follow their noses” to a more sensory
education. Maybe we could apply for a grant to open a new charter school to reinvigorate the
“stinky education” we experienced before standardized testing took the senses out of
Addendum by Robert Fox: “Oh yeah, and I remember the smell of the asphalt
playground. Seemed like there was always some kid four years older than me who thought I needed
another taste. The Catholic school paved the playground so it could be used as a parking lot on
Sunday - and there was less mud tracked around. And then there was blood - so much blood. You see, I
didn't like fighting, but I was big for my age and someone was always thinking I'd be a good foil
for testing manhood. I had a rock jaw, but a glass nose - just a touch and my nose would gush. It
became a deterrent. Those bullies with white shirts and ties - as soon as my nose bleed started, I'd
grab the assailant and hug them - making certain as much of their white shirt turned scarlet red as
possible. They looked gut-shot and I'd spend the remainder of the day with a head full of blood
clots draining down my throat. Then there was the taste of dirty, salty snowballs. They stung twice,
like a razor burn when they hit you in the face, and later when we got the paddle for throwing
Scratched onto the upper-left-hand side of the chalkboard, outlined and labeled “Save” would
be the daily vocabulary list with the notice “They’re going to be on the final exam.” So, if
you are up to it here is your list!
Today’s vocabulary list:
Aroma, Bouquet, Fetor, Fragrance, Funk, Odor, Odorus, Odoriferous or Odiferous, Redolence, Reek,
Scent, Stink, Whiff. “They’re going to be on the final exam.”
(Tom Dodd is a retired teacher, historian and author and is a regular contributor to the
Gleanings. He is also the author and editor of the Depot Town Rag.)
Photo 1: A typical early classroom with wooden
floors, slate blackboards, oak trim moldings, and windows that actually opened.
Photo 2: Every day we would have a new vocabulary
list on the blackboard.
Photo 3: Gym lockers gave us the worst and probably
most memorable smells.
(The 50th year reunion of the Roosevelt High School class of 1959 was celebrated on September 12,
2009. Peg Porter, a member of that class, provided the following “the way we were” insight into
life back then.)
Most of us were born the year the United States entered World War II. A number of us lost loved
ones in that conflict. In grade school we learned to “duck and cover,” the mushroom-shaped cloud
was very familiar. While we were in high school, the Russians launched Sputnik. Although we were
young, we were not innocent.
We graduated in the last year of the 1950’s. The year, 1959, was a time of transition from the
conformist and bland 1950’s to the bizarre and hectic 1960’s. Out class reflected that
transition, collectively we were often a mystery to our teachers, our parents, and even ourselves.
We tended to question the established way of doing things. We never had a Student Council President
or a Homecoming Queen. We certainly possessed the qualities of both, but we could not or would not
claim those high school “prizes.”
Our class was diverse in so many ways. That was, in part, because we attended a “Lab School.”
We embraced this diversity and were stronger for it. We got used to being studied, analyzed and
practiced upon. Every semester we had a new batch of student teachers. We tested many of them while
others were accepted almost immediately. They learned from us at least as much as we learned from
Rock and roll entered the mainstream while we were in junior high. We did the Bunny Hop and the
Chicken. During our freshman year a new performer emerged: Elvis Presley. His blending of
“black” music with “white” music fit our mood and rhythm. We listened to girl groups, boy
groups, rhythm and blues, a little pop and a whole lot of rock and roll. For slow dancing we
preferred Sam Cooke, the Platters and early Johnny Mathis. And then there was the idol of one our
classmates: Pat Boone.
Typical teenagers, the boys fixated on sports, cars and girls while the girls obsessed over boys,
clothes and, well, boys. Despite all the interest in the opposite sex, there was relatively little
intra-class dating. The boys tended to date underclassmen or girls from Ypsi High. Some of the girls
also dated underclassmen. Why weren't there more romantic entanglements within the class? One
potential reason is that many of us had known each other since childhood. We tended to regard each
other almost as cousins or siblings. Another reason might be that as one female classmate observed,
most of the boys were "vertically challenged." There are always exceptions to any generalization:
one high school romance evolved into a long, successful marriage.
The 1950's were not known for fashion. And although the girls were fashion conscious this did not
mean we were well-dressed. Petticoats were one fashion fad. They were scratchy and generally
uncomfortable. Two girls wearing petticoats could not get through a door at the same time. When we
sat down at a desk the petticoats got in the way. Still we wore them with elastic cinch belts to
make our waists look even thinner. And then there were cardigans worn backwards, white socks worn
straight up, bucket bags and Pop It "pearls."
The guys favored brush cuts or Princetons with only a few growing their hair a little longer to
affect a slightly "hoody" effect. In a burst of creative rebellion, a group of guys drove into
Detroit and bought velveteen vests in bright colors with taffeta lining. These were worn with dark
shirts and narrow ties resulting in a look that was a cross between a blackjack dealer and a young
pimp. Since they were otherwise neatly dressed no one could complain.
On June 12, 1959 in the Roosevelt Auditorium the school orchestra played a slightly screechy
version of Pomp and Circumstance. As a class we marched in and sat in the front rows. Our parents
and other family members watched as we received our diplomas. Eleanor Meston, who was the first
grade teacher for many of us, gave the address. It was all a kind of blur as we marched out, now
graduates, high school behind us and the world in front of us. It was both a happy and sad occasion.
The 1960s were just around the corner. We each would find a place in that new world, no longer
defined by the way we were but the way we would become.
(Peg Porter is the Assistant Editor of the Gleanings, Chair of the YHS Membership Committee and a
regular contributor to the Gleanings.)
Charles McKenny, President of Eastern Michigan University, (then Michigan State Normal College)
from 1912-1933, is credited with proposing the building of a comprehensive student center in 1924.
Michigan State Normal College would be the first teacher’s college to have a student union on
After the U.S. stock market crash in 1929, plans for the union were altered to reflect the
smaller amount of money raised towards its construction. During the cornerstone dedication ceremony
on January 17, 1931, Mrs. Dessalee Ryan Dudley (MSNC c/o 1900) spoke as the alumni representative.
“The cornerstone of this building is loyalty. Brought into being in part by the fruits of our
labors, it will speak to future generations of the devotion to this school of its great body of
McKenny Union was designed by architect Frank Eurich, Jr. of Detroit. Its design was similar to
the popular Collegiate Gothic style that was common throughout this period, but with a twist. The
architect added Art Deco touches to its central tower and the result is a unique mix of old Gothic
styles and the popular Art Deco lines and shapes. The Charles McKenny Union was dedicated on
Saturday, October 24, 1931.
McKenny Union was first expanded in 1963 and reopened in 1966 with a rededication ceremony on
Saturday, April 30. The new McKenny Union had several new additions including a bookstore in its
basement, and even a bowling alley.
In 1992, McKenny Union was, again, expanded – this time at a cost of $7.6 million. This
expansion was completed in two phases. In the first, the roof was replaced, a loading dock was
expanded and a new bookstore was constructed on the first floor. The second phase consisted of the
installing of a new passenger elevator and the completion of barrier free access to the building. To
mark its reopening, the school held a week long celebration January 11-15, 1993, which included
nightly events in the union. McKenny Union Director Ceil Paulson said of the union and its reopening
in 1993, “Historically, student unions have been called the ‘living rooms’ of the campus,
where students extend their classroom learning experience. That’s what a student union is all
about, a place where the entire campus community, faculty, staff, and students, can come together to
share experiences beyond the classroom.”
Charles McKenny Union was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. In 1999
student leaders designated a renovation of their union as one of their highest rated priorities on
campus. As a result, McKenny Union closed in 2006 for an infrastructure upgrade and remodel. In
November of that year, the new EMU student center opened on campus replacing McKenny Union as the
central hub of student activities on campus. When completed, McKenny Union will house University
operations offices such as Human Resources and Career Services and continue to host events and
meetings in its historic ballroom. Though the EMU student body has outgrown McKenny Union as its
‘student living room,’ this historic structure will continue to play an active role in the lives
of EMU students for years to come.
Information for this article was gleaned from the YHS archives and EMU’s McKenny Union Virtual
(Pamela German and Veronica Robinson are graduate students in the Historic Preservation Program
at EMU and serve as Interns in the YHS Museum and Archives.)
(Note: Peg Porter, YHS Membership Chair, has indicated that her parents, Don and Ruth Porter,
were married in the formal lounge in McKenny Union on February 10, 1937, and celebrated their 50th
Anniversary there in 1987.)
Photo 1: President Charles McKenny of the Michigan State Normal School (served, 1912 –
Photo 2: Construction of McKenny Hall, C. 1931.
Photo 3: Completed McKenny Hall, C. 1946 – 1950.
So asserted the Rev. G. I. Foster in 1857 and, measured by tangible resources, one might well
agree. Twenty years after the incorporation of Ypsilanti, the Catholic parish of St. John the
Baptist was barely 130 families whose place of worship was open timbers without a roof. It would
take another year to complete it — and even then would still lack doors, pews and steps,
“the entrance formed by an inclined plank (Mann, 27).”
But there has been a Roman Catholic presence in Ypsilanti from the first. LaSalle and the French
fur trappers almost certainly were the first Europeans to traverse Washtenaw County, and where they
went, the Jesuits were with them. The Parish of St. Anne was founded along with Detroit in 1701 and
divided pastoral administration of the lower peninsula with St. Ignace. The first permanent building
in Washtenaw County was the trading post established in 1809 by Gabriel Godfroy, Francois Pepin and
Romaine DaChambre, three Frenchmen from Detroit, who located on the Pottawatomie Trail at what is
now Ypsilanti. Born at Fort Ponchartrain in 1758, Col. Godfroy was a devout Catholic and one of the
leading men in the Parish of St. Anne. Missionary priests are presumed to have stopped at Godfroy's
trading post from 1809 to its abandonment in 1818 (Beakes, pp. 539–40; 750); unfortunately, no
church records survive to substantiate that any of the priests in the Michigan territory ever
visited the post.
Irish immigrants began settling in what would become Ypsilanti as early as 1820, and missionary
priests from Detroit continued ministering to the needs of both this new flock and the French and
Native American converts that remained. The earliest recorded names of missionaries serving the
Catholic community from Detroit are the Reverend Fathers Montard and Montcoq, although, again, the
records say little about their activity. Father Gabriel Richard, who was both pastor of St. Anne's
and Vicar General of the territories around the Great Lakes, appears to have given some thought to
the changing ethnicity of the mission congregation. In a letter from the summer of 1829 he writes
that Fr. Patrick O'Kelly, from Kilkenny, Ireland is working with him. Father O'Kelly ministered to
southeast Michigan until 1835 from a home base in Northfield, where he also founded a parish. He was
joined by Father Morrisey who also resided in Northville. By 1836, the year before Michigan became a
state, Ypsilanti was a town of 1,000 inhabitants, 50 of whom were Catholic.
The first resident priest of Ann Arbor was the Reverend Thomas Cullen, who came to the city in
1839 or 1840. Fr. Cullen was also an Irishman, native of Wexford, who had come to America as a
seminarian in the household of Edward Dominic Fenwick, Bishop of Cincinnati, of which the diocese
Detroit was then a part. He accompanied Bishop Frederic Rese when the Diocese of Detroit was created
in 1833, was ordained in 1836 and received a missionary assignment in 1840 in which he was given the
task of creating permanent parishes. His district extended across southern Michigan along the Ohio
and Indiana borders and for the next ten years he saw to the spiritual life of the various towns in
the area. In 1848, Fr. Cullen was joined by Fr. James Hennessy who worked with him founding churches
in the surrounding communities, including Dexter, Jackson and Marshall. Ann Arbor's first St. Thomas
Church was built in 1843 and Fr. Cullen remained pastor there until his death on September 7, 1862.
The parish of St. John the Baptist in Ypsilanti was founded by Fr. Cullen the following year, 1844.
Names of the original parishioners — Cosgrove, Kirk, Keegan, Casey, Kelley, Boyle —
attest to the predominantly Irish makeup of Ypsilanti's early Catholic community.
There is some confusion regarding the first Catholic place of worship in Ypsilanti. Initial
arrangements were temporary, with services occurring in private homes. Sources describe a small wood
frame chapel built in 1839 on Ballard Street, possibly by Fr. Cullen, but there is no information as
to its location (Weber). It was not the site of the present church, as records agree that Fr. Cullen
(or, more correctly, Peter LeFevere, then Bishop of Detroit) bought that lot on April 26, 1844 from
one Charles W. Lane for forty dollars. The following year a frame structure was built on it
measuring 24 × 16 feet. The poverty of the parish was such that at first they could not
purchase windows, and blankets had to be hung in winter to keep the wind from blowing out the
candles. Because of the missionary nature of the parish, services were held only once a month for
the next thirteen years (Colburn: p. 122; Mann: p. 27).
Rectory built by Fr. Edward Van Paemel. Constructed in 1863, it remained in use until
1932, when it was replaced by the present rectory.
A Tastefully Planned Edifice
By the 1850's St. John's had outgrown its wood-frame church and in 1855 the parish approached Fr.
Cullen about building a more fitting structure; he demurred, believing the burden of the cost would
be too great. A delegation then went to Bishop Lefevere and, with his encouragement, $500 was
pledged within two weeks. The parish purchased an adjacent lot in 1856, and on May 25, the bishop
laid the cornerstone for a new brick church, an Italianate structure large enough to seat 500
members. Work began at once, but did not proceed smoothly. “The walls and the timbers for the
roof were put up, and there the work has rested,” Rev. Foster disparagingly reported the
following fall. The reason for the delay in construction is simple, however: Bishop Lefevere's
support carried the stipulation that there would be no parish debt.
Progress was sufficiently along in 1858 to dedicate the church to St. John the Baptist (see photo
of church on page 5). According to oral reports recorded 50 years later by Fr. Kennedy, the first
mass, held on the feast day of St. John the Baptist (June 23) also included the marriage of John and
Margaret Kennedy. On the occasion of this first mass, the church still had no doors, no pews and the
bride was obliged to enter from the back by way of a plank. The church was completed for Christmas,
1858, fully paid for.
1858 also saw Father Charles Lamejie named the first resident pastor. He served for 14 months and
was succeeded by Father J. Kindekins, later Vicar General of Detroit, from 1860 to 1862. Father Van
Jeniss of Dexter visited Ypsilanti once a month in the interim.
Fr. Edward Van Paemel was appointed pastor in 1862. Belgian by birth, Van Paemel immigrated to
Detroit while still a seminarian and was ordained by Bishop LeFevere on May 27, 1853. He remained
pastor until 1871, adding considerably to the physical plant of the parish during his tenure.
Shortly after his arrival in Ypsilanti, Van Paemel purchased the lot next door to the church on
Cross Street. A rectory was erected there the following year, 1863; it remained in use until
During the Civil War years, the parish of St. John under Van Paemel took upon themselves the
welfare of troops housed in the Thompson Building. In gratitude the 129 soldiers of the 14th
Michigan Infantry subscribed over five hundred dollars toward the improvement of church property
before leaving for the war. It is generally understood that the money was used to purchase land for
a Catholic cemetery in Ypsilanti, the nearest Catholic burial grounds until then being either in
Northfield or St. Thomas Cemetery in Ann Arbor. The St. John Cemetery grounds were located at the
foot of St. John Street, north of West Forest Avenue. The cemetery included a watch house, an eight
foot square structure used by family members to guard at night against body snatchers who had an
active trade with the University of Michigan medical school.
Fr. Van Paemel opened the first parochial school. On May 30, 1867, he purchased two lots on
Florence Street from Patrick Kelley, and either remodeled the Kelley home or — more likely
— constructed a new building to house a school. This was a one room frame structure, spartanly
furnished with long wooden benches and a box stove. Instruction was confined to elementary courses
(it being customary for most children to leave school by the age of twelve), and judging from the
pre-dominantly Irish ancestry — Sarah Foy, Elizabeth Foy, Maggie Murphy, Bridget Monaghan and
Michael Morin — the teachers seem to have been drawn from among the parishioners.
The parish grew to 136 families by 1868. One of Fr. Van Paemel ‘s final improvements was to
enlarge the church to accommodate this growth by extending the front (north) entrance to the street
Fr. Marcius Pieter Uyt Willigan was pastor for one year, 1871–1872, followed by Fr. Patrick
B. Murray for the next three. He was replaced in 1876 by Father William DeBever. “Father
DeBever, a Hollander by birth, was a devoted pastor, strict in his standards of living and church
observance and stern in his rebuke of laxity, yet genial and kindly. He was a familiar figure
driving about the town with his phaeton and fat black pony ‘Fanny’ presented to him by
his congregation (Colburn, p. 216).” Part of the reason for the carriage was that, as earlier
pastors had done for the nascent parish of St. John, Fr. DeBever acted as visiting pastor for
communities in Milan and Whittaker. The parish of St. Joseph in Whittaker was established June,
1889, but continued to function as a mission of St. John's until Rev. John F. Needham was assigned
as their first resident priest in 1904; until that time the fourteen mile trip had to made regularly
by priests from Ypsilanti.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the year 1892 witnessed the beginning of the long and
notable pastorate of Reverend Father Frank Kennedy, during which the congregation was to more than
double. Father Kennedy, during the long years of his ministry, held a unique place in the affections
of Ypsilantians. He was deeply concerned in all the best interests of the town and found friends in
many circles. (Colburn, p. 261–562)
During the early pastorate of Fr. DeBever, renovations to the interior of the church were
completed, including the addition of a small chapel and installation of an organ. As William Beake
describes it, “the interior with its frescoes, candelabra, statues, organ and beautiful altar
will compare favorably with any church in the State. This building is a great credit to the small
congregation and even to the citizens (1170).”
In 1880 the membership of the parish numbered around 500 (240 families), the church was valued at
$18,000 dollars, and St. John the Baptist Parish set about preparations for the expansion of its
school. Fr. DeBever secured six Sisters of Providence from Terre Haute, Indiana to teach, marking
the start of formal parochial education at the parish. A square frame house next to the school was
purchased on November 4 as a residence for the teaching sisters and the one room school-house
continued to serve until 1884, when it was replaced by a two story, four classroom brick structure.
Under the Sisters of Providence the curriculum was expanded to include high school classes. Courses
included algebra, chemistry, geometry and botany as well as music and needlework for the girls. The
Sisters also provided a dormitory of fourteen beds for girls who attended from the surrounding
townships. The first class — five girls — graduated in 1887.
The Panic of 1893 left the community with insufficient funds to retain the Sisters' services. Lay
teachers were again hired to provide elementary instruction at least, but times were so bad that
even the lower grades had to be discontinued. The school remained open only until 1895, when as
Colburn so succinctly puts it, “owing to discouraging conditions it soon closed.”
(Colburn, p. 238)
In 1892, poor health made it necessary for Fr. DeBever to step down. His replacement was a 28
year old native of Brighton — the first American-born priest to serve at St. John — the
Reverend Father Frank Kennedy (1866–1922). Kennedy was intellectually precocious; having
passed the state board teacher examinations at the age of 11 (the teaching certificate reluctantly
awarded to him was never used). In seminary at Assumption College, Sandwich, Ontario, he was twice
promoted for being first in class for ten consecutive weeks. The rule which allowed these promotions
was abolished to prevent Kennedy from finishing his coursework in a single year. Graduating cum
laude, he spent three years as a member of the diocesan college of St. Mary's in Monroe before
completing training for ordination at St. Mary's, Baltimore. Frank Kennedy received holy orders
August 18, 1889 and served at parishes in Niles and Dearborn before being assigned to St. John the
Baptist in Ypsilanti.
One of the first alterations Fr. Kennedy made to the parish grounds was a renovation of the
rectory. It had been neglected and needed repair, and had accumulated several horse sheds at the
rear of the building which had become objectionable. But it was the cupola that apparently set Fr.
Kennedy off — he considered it unattractive and unnecessary and asked that it be removed. This
was the impetus for a much larger remodeling campaign which added a kitchen and living room to the
rear of the house (the horse-sheds came down to make way). A recreation room was created on the
third floor and a library on the second. The rectory yard was landscaped using dirt hauled from the
recently evacuated cemetery. (Poor drainage had made the Forest Street location unsuitable and Fr.
DeBever purchased the present location on River Street near the end of his pastorate.)
Normal College Catholic students were welcomed by open houses at the rectory in the
autumn, and Fr. Kennedy's tenure is remembered for outdoor socials which included an orchestra on
the front porch and dancing on the rectory lawn.
Normal College Catholic students were welcomed by open houses at the rectory in the autumn, and
Fr. Kennedy's tenure is remembered for outdoor socials which included an orchestra on the front
porch and dancing on the rectory lawn.
The school building stood empty for a few years, but with the growth of the Normal College,
parishioners refurnished one of the rooms and made it available to the Catholic students and faculty
for meetings of the Catholic Students Club. This drew interest from other social organizations and
the school soon was leading a new life as St. John's Club House, one of the most popular meeting and
recreation spots in town. Besides the Catholic Students Club, the Young Ladies Sodality, the
Ypsilanti Study Club, (an offshoot in 1901 of the Ladies' Literary Club), the Kiwanis Club and the
newly-formed Rotary Club all met at the Club House. The second floor was refurbished for dancing and
dinners and the Rotary Club held its weekly luncheons there until the Huron Hotel opened in 1923 and
the club moved to the larger quarters the hotel offered. (Fr. Kennedy seems to have been as skilled
a carpenter as he was an academic. He took an active role in the remodeling, laying flooring and
rebuilding the staircase. He had done similar labor on the rectory, and built a pulpit for the
church whose artistry was highly regarded by the parishioners.)
Aside from his work in the church, Fr. Kennedy was actively involved in the civic life of
Ypsilanti. A prominent member of the Ypsilanti Rotary Club, the Country Club and the Knights of
Columbus, Fr. Kennedy was a frequent and popular speaker, and his support was sought out — and
usually given — for most local public undertakings.
St. John was involved in the Ypsilanti cultural scene to the point of producing at least one
theatrical production at the Ypsilanti Opera House: Daniel O'Conner by John Wilson
Dodge, a musical melodrama. (It should also be noted that the Club House was furnished in part with
proceeds from a theatrical at the Weurth Theatre put on by the men of the parish.)
Fr. Kennedy was appointed Diocesan Superintendent of Schools for Detroit in 1918, overseeing
around 100 parish schools with an enrollment of 75,000 children. His concern was to standardize the
parochial curriculum with public instruction and raise the standards of parochial education in
Detroit. Anti-foreign sentiments generated during World War I and the Red Scare, which reached its
height in 1919–20, translated into hostility against the eastern and southern Europeans who
were immigrating into the area in large numbers during the first decades of the century. Many of
these immigrants were Catholic which fostered anti-Catholic sentiment as well. Attempts were made in
1920 and 1924 to outlaw parochial school systems at the state level. It was in this climate that Fr.
Kennedy was striving to turn out “good, educationally well-equipped American
Fr. Kennedy also had responsibility for the needs of the scores of nuns who attended the Normal
School over the summer (a single summer's estimate of nuns requiring accommodations through the
church was 150 from nine different orders), and an annual influx of about three hundred Catholic
students placed additional strains on the parish staff. At the close of the summer session of 1921,
Fr. Kennedy suffered a complete breakdown from which he never recovered. He was treated at St.
Joseph's sanitarium in Ann Arbor and sent to convalesce in Arizona but failed to improve. Fr.
Kennedy returned home to Ypsilanti in December and died February 18, 1922.
The funeral of Frank Kennedy is probably the largest in Ypsilanti's history — or rather
funerals, as there were three separate requiem masses held to accommodate the large number of
mourners. Detroit Bishop Michael J. Gallagher presided at the requiem high mass on February 22, with
over one hundred priests in attendance. Fr. Kennedy's honorary pallbearers included two governors
(Alex J. Groesbeck and Alfred Sleeper), three senators, judges, mayors and the entire city council.
All stores in the city were closed the morning of the funeral. The Daily
Ypsilantian reported nearly two hundred automobiles in the funeral cortege, and the church
could not hold the crowds assembled to pay their last respects. “I doubt,” said Bishop
Edward Kelly of Grand Rapids, who delivered the funeral sermon, “if any other man in the
entire state ever did more to break down religious barriers than Fr. Kennedy.”
The early twenties were a period of prosperity in Ypsilanti, and when the Rev. Dennis Needham
arrived to replace Fr. Kennedy, he decided to utilize that prosperity to rebuild the church. The
growth of the parish under Fr. Kennedy combined with the increased student presence from the Normal
College had made Fr. Van Paemel's brick edifice insufficient, and a new building program was begun.
Fr. Kennedy had himself considered a new church, and gone so far as to spend the summer of 1914
abroad studying Catholic architecture and drawing some initial sketches. Although nothing concrete
came of this work, friends of Fr. Kennedy did promise financial support to the project providing the
new church was built. These included Arthur D. McBernie, the Hon. Fred Green, later governor of
Michigan (1927–1930), Hon, Fred Chapman, mayor of Ionia and Hon. John S. Haggerty, head of the
Wayne County Republican Party organization and Secretary of State under Green.
Initial designs were produced by the firm of Van Leyen, Schilling, Keough & Reynolds of
Detroit in 1923. These were for a Spanish Rococo church seating 700 and intended to be a cultural
statement within the growing academic community — “a building reminding students coming
from all parts of Michigan that the Church has not ceased to foster true art,” as the Ypsilanti Press described it… During the razing and initial phase of
construction, mass was held first in the club house and, when that building was partially
demolished, in the Wuerth Theatre. The basement was completed in March of 1924, and officially
celebrated with a St. Patrick's day banquet; services were held there until the project's completion
Unfortunately for the original designs, Fr. Needham also chose this time to reopen the parish
school. Van Leyen, Schilling Keough & Reynolds were again the architects and engineers. On
November 8, 1924 the cornerstone to the new school was laid. The school was expanded to nine
classrooms and the building was completely renovated, the interior being partly preserved, and the
exterior stripped and refaced with new brick and stone masonry. The Dominican Sisters of Adrian were
secured as teachers and the school reopened in 1925. The church again purchased property as a
residence for the sisters; 309 N. Hamilton functioned as a convent until the construction of the
current school building. The renovation cost approximately $50,000, and the convent added another
$10,500. In order to accomplish this, funds intended for the building of the new church were used.
Church construction halted, and for the next ten years the home of St. John the Baptist Parish was
their roofed over basement. Fr. Needham did not live to see the new school open; he died July 10,
1925. The building was renamed Needham Hall in his honor.
Fr. Charles Linskey replaced Needham as pastor in September, 1925. Fr. Linskey was the Detroit
Diocesan Superintendent of Schools when appointed to St. John and continued to hold that position in
conjunction with pastoral work until 1929. In poor health for most of his pastorate, faced with
mounting parish debt — the start of the Great Depression also marks his tenure — Fr.
Linskey died of illness following major surgery on October 29, 1931, the third pastor to die at
Ypsilanti in ten years.
Prospects for the parish were grim when Rev. G. (George) Warren Peek assumed the pastorate. The
basement had proven to be poorly designed and faulty in construction, the school debt had grown to
$17,000, the rectory was in such disrepair as to be considered unsanitary and a discouraged
congregation was facing the Great Depression. Fr. Peek appears to have been quite an optimist; he
believed the best course for the parish was that the church be completed as soon as possible —
the construction would give work to some of the unemployed and the cost of labor and materials might
not be so low again for years.
Rather than continuing with the original designs, new plans were drawn by McGrath and Dohman,
Architects and Engineers, 2231 Park Avenue, Detroit. These follow the footprint already established
by the basement's construction, but the elaborate Rococo traceries were abandoned and a Romanesque
design proposed in its place. The revised plans included a new rectory which would harmonize with
the church exterior. The construction firm of Bryant and Detweiler, Detroit, was retained in June of
1932 and work began at once, starting with demolition of the rectory.
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church may well have been the only building of
significance built in southern Michigan during the early Depression
The cornerstone for the present church was laid by Bishop Gallagher on September 11, 1932. In it
was placed a copper box with photographs of the church it replaced and the four preceding pastors
who had built the parish to this point, then-current editions of the Ypsilanti Press,
Detroit Free Press and Michigan Catholic and a list of 320 parishioners
“whose contribution… made the church possible.” The copper box also contains
photos of the four non-Catholic benefactors whose generosity in memory of Fr. Kennedy had made the
Construction was completed by the following May and the new Catholic Church of St. John the
Baptist was dedicated Sunday, June 4, 1933, Bishop Gallagher again presiding. The date was chosen to
honor Fr. Peek, marking his fourteenth anniversary as a priest,
The church is a pure Romanesque design and early commentators were struck by its dignity and
“simplicity which is almost austere.” The roof peak rises 61 feet above the ground and
is 53 feet above the main floor. The original layout was estimated to seat 1100 persons. The
clere-story is open beamed and lit by a row of stained glass windows, six to the side. The main
processional entrance is dominated by a rose window and the chancel contains a combination of three
windows, each a memorial to the pastors LeBever, Needham and Lindskey. Stained glass medallion
windows in the nave illustrate the life of Christ. The main altar and matching side altars were made
in Italy of Botticino marble. Their green and white facings contrasted with the black and honey
colored sanctuary floor, cut from blocks imported from France, Belgium and Italy, and with the
communion rail of bronze and Numidian red marble. Stone carvings adorning the door frames and
exterior of the building are the work of Parducci of Detroit.
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church may well have been the only building of significance built
in southern Michigan during the early Depression The cost of construction, including the rectory, is
variously given at $98,000 to $100,000; the appraised value of the buildings was placed at $252,000,
according to the Free Press for November 4, 1933. At the time of its dedication,
the parish of St. John numbered 360 families. That so much was accomplished by such a small
congregation during the worst financial downturn of the twentieth century is evidence of their
dedication, determination and faith.
Peek remained pastor until 1940. He was succeeded by Erwin Lefebvre from 1940 to 1943 and Rev.
John Larkin for the following ten years. The decorative painting still seen on the ceilings and
exposed beams were commissioned by Fr. Larkin in 1949, as well as mural work on the clerestory and
within the chancel. The lot opposite the church at the corner of Cross and Hamilton was purchased in
1942 as the site for a Shrine to the Virgin Mary. Fr. Larkin also eliminated the church debt,
leaving a surplus toward expansion.
This new construction once again focused upon upgrading the school.
Needham Hall was adequate through the Second World War, but post-war growth in the Ypsilanti area
and spreading population from Detroit rapidly increased the size of the congregation to over a
thousand families, and the Baby Boom taxed available classroom space. When Fr. William Mooney
arrived in June, 1953, he immediately accepted the charge to expand the parish's educational
program. An addition was necessary to provide more classrooms; a new convent would also be required
to house the additional nuns needed to teach. But even for a parish the size of St. John's the cost
of two new construction projects was prohibitive. The problem was resolved by designing a
combination building, a two-story block with classrooms occupying the ground floor and basement, and
a convent-complete with roof garden — on the second. This new building would triple enrollment
from 200 to over 600 students and the convent provided living quarters for 16 sisters — twice
the number crowded into 309 N. Hamilton. With cost reductions from combining the projects the new
school/convent came to $300,000. Through pledges from approximately half the congregation, the
$150,000 needed to go forward was exceeded over a two year period, and the new school was dedicated
in 1955. The two story structure stretches along Florence Street and was anchored on the east to
Needham Hall. The alley connecting Cross and Florence was vacated to accommodate the new
construction. Encouraged by the success of the grade school, the parish decided to continue
expanding and a high school was completed in 1961 on Packard Road. Fr. Mooney died one month before
its dedication. Despite this early optimism (Fr. Young was working on expansion of the high school
in the mid-60's), rising operating costs and lack of funds forced the closure of the entire school
system — the high school in 1970 and the elementary school in 1971. The high school would
eventually be sold to Faithway Baptist Church.
This new building would triple enrollment from 200 to over 600 students and the
convent provided living quarters for 16 sisters — twice the number crowded into 309 N.
Hamilton. With cost reductions from combining the projects the new school/convent came to
Monsignor Lawrence Graven served as pastor from September, 1961 to January 1965, his tenure
spanning most of the Second Vatican Council (final session, December 8, 1965.) His successor, Rev.
Marvin Young, was pastor through January, 1968.
In 1964 the Diocese of Detroit ordained its first Black priest, Donald M. Clark. Father Clark, a
native Detroiter, graduated from Cass Technical High School. Brought up in the Second Baptist
Church, Fr. Clark was a convert to Catholicism. At about age 14 he expressed a desire to change
denominations; his parents urged him to wait a year. He continued to attend Second Baptist while
also attending St. Benedict's. At the end of the year, seeing that his desire remained firm, his
parents consented, aiding him in the cost of his education. He attended Sacred Heart Seminary and
concluded preparation for ordination at St. John's Seminary in Plymouth. His first assignment was
St. John the Baptist in Ypsilanti. Fr. Clark is considered one of the founders of the National Black
Fr. Clark replaced Fr. Leo P. Broderick, who was actively involved in student ministry at Eastern
Michigan University, and had been released to devote his full time to that work. As chaplain of the
Newman Club, Fr. Broderick revitalized the Catholic student presence on campus and would be
instrumental in establishing the student parish of Holy Trinity, which was dedicated September 18,
Two sister parishes were also created in the sixties, St. Alexis and St. Ursula. St. Alexis had
been a mission to the Willow Run Housing Project since 1943 when associate pastor Clare A. Murphy
began holding mass in the recreation hall. The Willow Run mission continued to be served by
assistants from St. John's until June, 1966 when it was raised to parish status. St. Ursula parish
was formed in June, 1960; its church dedicated July 8, 1967. Both parishes were closed by Bishop
Kenneth J. Povish on January 8, 1994 and merged that same day into the newly established
In 1971 the Catholic Church hierarchy in the state of Michigan was restructured. The new dioceses
of Gaylord and Kalamazoo were created and existing diocesan boundaries were redrawn. A consequence
of this reconfiguration was that Washtenaw County became part of the Diocese of Lansing, ending St.
John's 125 year connection with Detroit.
The Second Vatican Council brought profound changes to the structure of the Church and the form
of its liturgy, and responsibility to begin implementing these reforms fell to Fr. William King
(January, 1968 to April 2, 1973). Changes in the liturgy required structural changes in the layout
of the church interior, the most evident being the repositioning of the altar to face the assembly.
The original “shelf” altar and reredos were removed and replaced by a freestanding altar
sited partly within the nave. To accommodate this new placement a rectangular wooden platform was
constructed, extending the level of the main floor of the sanctuary. The altar rail was also removed
(a portion of it served as a barrier across the rear of the chancel, as the altar steps remained in
place but now led to empty space). The church also underwent some cosmetic updates, acquiring
carpeting and fresh paint (part of the mural work was lost in the repainting).
Rev. David Harvey was appointed administrator April 2, 1973 and became pastor March 8, 1974.
Under his administration the elementary school was converted to a parish activities center and the
church basement renovated for social functions; it has been renamed Harvey Hall in his honor. Parish
council also decided to demolish Needham Hall, as the space was not needed and repairs had become
too costly. This action was blocked by the Historic District Commission as efforts were made to save
the building, and remained at a halt for around three years — into the pastorate of Rev. Edwin
Schoettle (appointed 16 July, 1979). Needham Hall was demolished in June, 1980 under protest of the
Ypsilanti Historical Commission and the lot landscaped as a memorial garden for the parish.
Fr. Schoettle died unexpectedly on April 8, 1981. Rev. Gerald Ploof, who had served as Associate
Pastor at St. John in 1975, was chosen as pastor following Fr. Schoettle's death. Fr. Ploof was able
to retire the school debt during his tenure, in part through the sale of the high school.
Part of the administrative change brought in by Vatican II was the implementation of pastoral
teams, with separate agents responsible for overseeing Religious Education, Liturgy, Christian
Service and so on. As yet there were few trained laity in these fields and pastoral teams were
mostly comprised of women religious. The presence of four nuns as Fr. Ploof's pastoral team led to
the reopening of the convent to provide housing. Although members of the current pastoral team are
all lay persons, the convent has remained open to religious working in the Ypsilant/ Ann Arbor area.
The present pastor, Rev. Edmond L. Ertzbischoff, was appointed 1 July, 1988.
St. John's celebrated its Sesquicentennial Year in 1995; the desire to prepare for that occasion,
in part, prompted the most recent renovation. The church building would be sixty years old and had,
over time, suffered from a certain amount of benign neglect. With the debt retired, capital
improvements that had been delayed might now be addressed. Liturgical reforms were now twenty years
along, with more definitive guidelines published by the National Council of Catholic Bishops as well
as local Diocesan requirements, and a more careful assessment of the worship space also seemed in
order. Accordingly, a renovation committee was formed in 1991. As the list of capital repairs grew
and questions were raised about preserving the historic structure while embracing liturgical change,
it became apparent that — even without new construction — St. John's was facing a major
undertaking, and what had begun as liturgical correction and “asset protection” had
grown to encompass needs from the full spectrum of parish activity. Finally, an overarching concern
of the renovation was the issue of accessibility — a concept that neither Romanesque
architecture or, 1930's building codes addressed.
After much deliberation and extensive listening sessions with the parish, the solution to most of
the stated needs that emerged was to create a connecting structure between the church and the former
school. This correlated to a revived concept in church architecture, that of the gathering space. As
detailed in the parish Restoration & Renovation newsletter for June, 1997:
Discussion of a gathering space originally began in conjunction with the liturgical and
fellowship needs of the parish. It progressed to its current scale when other unmet needs were under
discussion: restrooms, elevator, storage, meeting rooms and parish offices. In new church
construction projects, the gathering space is a transitional space from parking lot to worship area.
It affords a place to celebrate the many rites of the church which take place outside the sanctuary,
e.g. Palm Sunday, portions of the Easter Vigil, wakes, etc.
The gathering space at St. John's is designed to be an extension of the original church
architecture and care was taken to match as closely as possible the materials and detailing (e.g.,
size and style of windows, doors and frames, copper downspouts, roof tiles, brick and stonework).
Similarly, the interior echoes the open beams and columned supports of the nave and the triple
chancel window. The addition contains a full basement which is serviced by an elevator. Each level
is approximately 4200 square feet, of which half is open gathering or multi-use space. Cost
constraints curtailed much of the finish work for the lower level, but it does serve for meeting
space and smaller social gatherings. Connectors on both levels allow free access to the Activities
Center (former school building) and the lower level is similarly linked to Harvey Hall. With this
addition the entire public physical plant is now interconnected and barrier free.
The north (chancel) wall was opened to accommodate two doors into the gathering space —
these now serve as main entries into the sanctuary. To make this a barrier free environment, ramps
have been cut into the chancel floor along either wall to reach the nave (a third ramp is also
provided as a late entry). The chancel area now functions as the baptistry; it contains a cruciform
font large enough for full immersion. The marble facings for the font were chosen to mirror the
smaller original, which has itself been reworked as a column for the ambry (the case used to contain
sacramental oils). The renovated worship space does not deviate greatly from the 1973 layout —
an arched, oak floored platform approached by a single step extending into the nave. This holds only
the altar, an Italian marble table supported by eight columned legs. The ambo, of matching material
and design, is slightly behind the altar's left, within the chancel arch. Portions of the original
altar have been incorporated into the current furnishings — the ambo is faced with its
central, monogrammed panel, and side panels and support columns from it have been reworked to form a
pedestal for the tabernacle.
Chapels for the sacrament of Reconciliation and for reservation of the Eucharist were created
from the former vestry. The side altars were removed and the arch on the east side was opened so the
tabernacle is visible and opens to the main body of the nave. (The western alcove currently houses
the ambry.) To properly display the statues of Joseph and Mary which formerly adorned the side
altars, devotional alcoves were created from the wall recesses that had contained the confessional
The primary architectural firm on the renovation was Siler & Associates, Inc. of Adrian, who
brought in Lincoln Poley of Ann Arbor as design architect for the project. Mr. Poley's firm is
recognized for its work in preservation and adaptive reuse of existing buildings and he had recently
completed a similar project for St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Ann Arbor. St. John's also retained
Christine Reinhard, liturgical design consultant, to facilitate the process and aid in adhering to
the diocesan and NCCB guidelines, and the contract was awarded to J. C. Beal Construction, Inc., of
Groundbreaking ceremonies occurred on December 20, 1998 when the parish at large was invited to
shovel out the foot-print of the new addition, and 1999 found the communal spiritual life of the
community once again housed in its church basement. The rite of dedication for the new altar was
celebrated on October 8, 2000, Bishop Carl Mengeling presiding and St. John Parish emerged into its
renewed space for the beginning of a new millennium.
Fr. DeBever closes his 1876 account of the church's history with a brief census: “The
number of faithful about this time is 135 or 140 families, many of whom are from Ireland and a few
from Germany. All speak the English language and live in peace.”
Today's congregation numbers over 800 families representing every continent and dozens of
languages. And that is as it should be, for the Church is a universal church and-more than ever in
this third millennium-she is a global church, one in which the Parish of St. John the Baptist
strives to participate fully. We may not be able to say with certainty that “all speak…
English,” but it is our fervent prayer that all live in peace.
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Photo Caption: St. John the Baptist Church, begun in 1855, completed in 1880. It was the second
Catholic structure on the corner of Cross and Hamilton, replacing the parish's wooden first home.
(photo taken after 1884 — the cupola of the brick school built in that year can be seen behind
the church roofline).