City's first school was opened in 1872 after the Grand Rapids & Indiana
and the Flint & Pere Marquette railroads made travel to this area
possible for many. A year earlier Nathaniel Clark had opened a general
store and believing there was a need for a school, pursued the issue. A
school board was organized which included an attorney who found that no
public money could be spent until school had been in session for five
Nathaniel Clark's daughter, Mary, was teaching in Caro at the high
school, when her father appeared before the local school board and
convinced them to release Mary from her contract for the remainder of
the school year. She then came to Reed City promising to return to her
job at Caro the following school year.
Mary Clark arrived in Reed City on the new railroad and was met by her
father who took her home to a room above his store. The following
morning they trudged through the woods and the mud since there were no
streets or sidewalks at that time. Mr. Clark told his daughter the
school would be located above the Davenport store east to the spot where
the two railroads met. The classroom involved rough planks set on nail
kegs and an upside down empty dry goods box for the teacher's desk.
Nobody knew how many students would attend the new school though Mr.
Clark estimated there would be at least a dozen. 23 students arrived on
the first day of school, and 35 appeared on the second day. These
children arriving in the wilderness came from Germany, Ireland,
Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, New York and Michigan and had books with
them from those schools. A local carpenter made a blackboard and donated
it since there was no money to buy one.
Eventually, when there were between one and two hundred students,
classes were moved to the Baptist Church, and an additional teacher,
Lemuel Barnes, was hired. Miss Clark later became Mrs Barnes. Before
returning to Caro, Mary Clark selected the site for the first school,
which opened in 1874. This first school building was two stories and
housed 400 students. Wood stoves were used to heat the building, and a
cord of wood in three-foot lengths could be delivered for $1.25. At that
time the entire area was covered with beech and maple trees.
Inside the new school there were two stairways leading up to the second
floor, one used by boys and the other by girls. Superintendent A.B.
Perrin would stand at the top of the stairs to keep order as students
filed in to their seats. Professor Perrin served for thirteen years as
superintendent and was noted for his size being both tall and weighing
over 300 pounds. By 1882 Perrin's staff consisted of five teachers and
himself to teach all grades. The payroll for the entire staff was
$2120.00. The first graduation was held in the Opera House on June 27,
1884 and consisted of three girls.
In 1886 the school population had grown so large that a wing was added
to the Ward School and a kindergarten building was built on Higbee
Street. The total cost for the two was $1800.00. Then in 1894 voters
approved a $15,000.00 proposition to build a new grade and high school.
In 1923 the cornerstone was laid for the new high school costing
$100,000.00. In 1924 the first class graduated from this new three-
story brick building. When the new high school was completed in 1963,
the 1924 building became a middle school for grades 6, 7 and 8.
The school district's greatest growth occurred from 1950 to 1968 when it
went from 4 square miles to 240 square miles located in Osceola, Lake,
Mecosta and Newaygo counties. In 1950 the shop and agriculture building
was completed at a cost of $45,000.00, and in 1954 the Reed City
Elementary School was finished at a cost of $250,000.00. In 1957 and
1958 two rooms each year were added to the elementary school; the total
cost for building and equipping these rooms was $70,000.00. Annexation
had increased the school population to the point where a new high school
was needed. In 1961 electors approved a $1,425,000.00 proposal to build
and equip a new high school and remodel the old high school as well as
the agriculture and shop building. The new high school was completed in
1963. Also in 1963 the Hersey School District annexed to the Reed City
School system. Hersey had a fine elementary building completed in 1960,
but Public Act 289 of 1964 dictated that K-8 districts join a K-12
With the district growing and the need for expanded facilities
continuing, the community passed a bond proposal in 1991 that built the
new Reed City Middle School, which is an annexed part of the high
school. That building was completed and dedicated in 1993