An Eye on the Lower Muskingum: Attending school across the river

From the earliest days of settlement in Waterford Township, education has played an important part. Through much of the last 150 years, students have been crossing the Muskingum River to attend high school. This article explains why this has happened.

Lt. Joseph Frye and Major Dean Tyler, both Harvard College graduates, taught at Tyler’s Blockhouse in Waterford and the garrison across the river called Fort Frye. Round Bottom School, established by 1795 according to the plaque on the building, is said to be the oldest one-room brick schoolhouse still standing in Ohio. After the 1825 Ohio School Law was enacted, there were common schools on both sides of the river. It was not necessary to call it a common school, grade school or grammar school because there were no other public schools in the township. Usually a school was given a name that distinguished it from the others (a place, family name or a physical feature, for example). In Waterford Township there were Righteous Ridge School (place), Hayward School (family name) and Maple Grove School (physical feature). The location of Waterford School is known and will be the topic of a future article. Rotheus Hayward, Jr.’s diary at Legacy Library, Marietta College, says the school in what is now Beverly was Dodge School. Hayward briefly taught there, noting in his diary on November 26, 1836, “I engaged in Dodge school at $14 per month.” As far as known grade school students never had to cross the Muskingum River to attend school. There was a grade school on each side of the river. As the population of the township grew, more and more one-room grade schools were built. Eventually, there were at least ten on the west (Waterford) side of the river in Waterford Township.

In 1849 Ohio passed another school law that required the collection of tax money for building schools, especially high schools when there was enough demand for one in the township. Beverly High School was built in 1854. Remarkably, this building is still standing today. It was the home of Paul C. and Carolyn Dietz for years. It now houses Stephens-Matthews Marketing on Center Street across from Dodge Park. Once Beverly had the only high school in the area, students from Waterford who chose to attend high school had to cross the river.

Before the Beverly-Waterford bridge was constructed in 1880, anyone who attended Beverly High School from the Waterford side had to board near the school or cross the river twice each day using the ferry or provide their own boat. One who did this was Columbus Frank Hayward. According to his biography in Andrews, History of Marietta and Washington County (p. 1,288), he “attended the common schools of his district and Beverly High School.” Frank was born in 1831, son of Rotheus, Sr. and Rebecca Gray Hayward. They resided in the Hayward brick house, which still stands along County Road 32 about one mile up the river from Waterford. It is the home of Donald and Bess Sparling today. Frank was about 23 years old when he attended Beverly High School, and he would have been one of the earliest students. It is not known how many students did this over the years, but it was probably quite a few. After 1880 Waterford students could cross the new covered bridge, making their trip to and from Beverly High School much easier.

In 1894 the residents of the Waterford side built a two-story frame building and called it Waterford Township High School. It was located at the end of what is now Mill Street near the base of Point Beauty, where Grace Turner’s backyard is today. Students who lived within the Beverly School District attended Beverly High School, which after 1892 was located where the Lyman Pomeroy Library is today. Students in Waterford Township from the Waterford side of the river and the other side north of Beverly attended Waterford Township High School. The Bartlett girls, Nellie Opal (b. 1906) and Mary Edna (b. 1908), lived near the mouth of Olive Green Creek about three miles above Beverly along what is now Route 60 on the farm of their parents, Odell and Verga Morris Bartlett. When they were young, they attended Hilldale School, which was along what is now State Route 83 about 1 mile from Route 60. In 1921-22 when they reached high school age, they went by horse across the Beverly-Waterford bridge to Waterford High School. It would have been closer and more convenient to attend Beverly High School, but this was not permitted since they lived outside Beverly School District. Nellie graduated from Waterford High School in 1925 and later married Jesse C. Price, a Beverly pharmacist. Edna graduated in 1926.

In 1929 part of Waterford Township on the east (Beverly) side of the river was ceded to Beverly School District. For a time this eliminated the crossing of the river in the Beverly-Waterford area. This changed when Fort Frye Local School District was created in 1957. Today students on the west side of the river opposite Coal Run and around Churchtown are now transported through Waterford and across the river to Fort Frye High School. Through a long history, at least from 1854, students have been crossing the Muskingum River to get an education, sometimes passing a school that is closer.

Phillip L. Crane, a Waterford resident and Marietta history teacher for 32 years, will share stories of historical events in the Lower Muskingum Valley.