The Henry County, Ohio, Historical Society
P.O. Box 443
Napoleon, OH 43545
The beginnings of education in Napoleon were indeed humble. School was held in a little log cabin near Craig's Tavern as early as 1837 with Mary Whipple as teacher. Around 1838 a one-story frame building was built near the present courthouse. Pupils were taught by a young New Yorker named Watson.
In the 1850's another school was built at the rear of the Bitzer block on East Clinton Street, one block east of Perry Street. Another story was added which housed a large bell. This bell, rung by hand, called the children to school and could be heard all over the village. This famous bell now has a place of honor on the lawn of the Central School. In the disastrous fire of 1869 which burned the wooden court house and most of the business area, the school, too, was burned to the ground, only the bell being saved. For several years, until 1871, school was held in rented rooms.
Prior to 1858 the village of Napoleon and prescribed limits formed a part of School District No. 1 of Napoleon Township. Schools were under the supervision of school directors. The Board of Education composed of T. S. C. Morrison, James Haly, J. A. Stout, John Powell, Wm. Dodd, and Justin Tyler placed before the voters a ballot to create a Union School District in the territory known as District No. 1. The issue was passed 43 for and 3 against, thus the Union School District was created.
Bloomfield Home & Carriage House
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In 1865 the Board of Education agreed unanimously to purchase for $4,000 a tract of ground belonging to Henry Yeager lying south of the Methodist Church and joining the canal (the present W. Main Street). A new brick school called the Union School was erected here in 1871 at a cost of $40,000. It housed 9 rooms on 3 floors and included A, B, and C grammar rooms as well as a classroom for German-speaking students. The old bell was placed in the tower.
In 1875, Union School graduated its first class composed of 2 boys and 9 girls: Jerry Belknap, Carl Becham, Ruth Bigley, Mary King Maerker, Hattie King Leist, Hattie Suydam Emmil, Flora Halter Perry, Mae Sheffield Hartman, Kate Wilson, Mary Blair Lee and Jennie Hoskinson Patrick. The Superintendent was J. F. McCaskey whose salary was listed at $120.00 per month.
Several years later, it became apparent that the building was not large enough to accommodate the increasing number of students. Additions and improvements were completed for the school year 1906-1907.
On the morning of March 10, 1908, another fire broke out in the school building, destroying the third floor and part of the second. None died but a few were injured. Quoting from the Buckeye of 1915, "On the anniversary a fire drill is held to recall this event." The destroyed and damaged sections were repaired and Union School remained the seat of learning until 1921 when a new high school was built at a cost of $290,000. The old Union School was then used for elementary students.
The above article is reprinted from Henry County, Ohio, Volume Two, A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society. Dallas, TX, Taylor Publishing Co., pp. 279-280.
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The Henry County Historical Society was formed
in 1970 to perpetuate the history of Henry County, Ohio, to learn about and preserve
the artifacts of the county, and to generate interest in the past of the county.
Our primary focus at this time is the completion of the restoration
work on the beautiful Dr. John Bloomfield Victorian home, built circa
1879. This house is located at the corner of West Clinton and Webster streets
in downtown Napoleon, across from the Napoleon Public Library. The house has been completely restored and is decorated with authentic period furnishings.
Work is in progress on the carriage house
and gardens. The home is open for special events, educational programs
and private tours. We welcome new and old members alike to lend a hand and help us in our
many programs and activities.
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