The early schoolhouses were built with logs and described as 15 to 18 feet wide and 24 to 28 feet long. The floors were bare earth, and a few schools had some glass windows. In some schools the subjects taught adhered to a strict standard — rules prohibited the teaching of anything other than reading, spelling, writing and arithmetic.
As these elementary schools began to produce more students, some parents wished further education for 12- to 16-year-olds.
The high schools were known as academies. Marietta’s first academy was the Muskingum Academy chaired by Rufus Putnam. Located between Front and Second streets (where First Congregational Church is today) the academy was built in 1800 and taught reading, writing, grammar, geography, Latin and Greek. The Muskingum Academy lasted less than three decades, however, with the rise of Marietta College.
In 1821, the state passed legislation to provide public tax money to help fund schools. The public system was based on the township level and divided into districts. For example, Waterford Township established eight districts in 1825.
In 1849, state legislators developed a graded school system. Referred to as the Akron Law, the legislation allowed for establishment of school districts in cities, towns and villages with elected boards of education.
The school boards could establish primary, grammar and secondary schools, and hire and pay teachers.
Marietta used the legislation to set up the city’s school district in 1849, which has continued through to the present day. The district began with four primary schools, two grammar schools and two secondary schools (equivalent to a junior high school level).
The first Marietta High School was then built on Scammel Street in 1850 and replaced in 1900 with a newer building that is now the Ely Chapman Center.
Harmar also developed its own school district in 1849.
When Harmar became part of Marietta in 1890, the schools were incorporated into the Marietta district.
Even though Marietta High School began in 1850 and was maintained as a part of the school system, it was not very popular. Citizens took more interest in their grade schools and then sent their students to the Marietta Academy at Marietta College. Other students would quit high school and go into the workforce. In fact, from 1862 to 1893 only one boy graduated from Marietta High School in 1880.
As the century turned, more students began to attend high schools.
High schools in Newport, Belpre and Waterford grew, and a Catholic high school began in Marietta in 1895.