• A History of Coldwater Community Schools

    Written by Dr. Stan Bushouse & Fred Hobart; Updated & Edited by Sean Watson

    The Early Beginnings

    The Coldwater Community Schools, which presently serves the needs of approximately 3500 students in grades kindergarten through twelve, has developed from the embryonic beginning of the community in 1830, to providing high school diplomas to over 13,000 students. Over the span of 166 years many changes have taken place in providing for the education of the youth of this community.

    Two years after Hugh Campbell established the first homestead, a Miss Cynthia Gloyd began imparting the three R's to the children of the community, known then as Lyon. History indicates that this 1832 attempt at education included nine children and represented the beginning of formal education in Coldwater.

    In 1834, a red schoolhouse was erected on the northeast corner of Pearl and Hudson Streets and served as the community's school until five years later when another school district was organized. This new district, School District Number 11, erected a white schoolhouse on the corners of Pearl and Clay Streets at the cost of $475. By this time sixty-eight students were learning under the direction of Hiram Shoulder. The duration of the school year was four and one-half months.

    In 1854, the two districts merged, forming the Union School District. This joint board embarked on the building of the Union School, a three-story, brick building, which was opened in 1862. In this facility the third floor was reserved for high school instruction. Historical data shows that the first diplomas were awarded at this building in 1868 to a graduating class of three students: Eliza Benton, Russell F. Tinkham, and Charles N. Legg. The curriculum included spelling, reading, arithmetic and geography for primary and intermediate students, while more advanced students studied grammar, US History, natural philosophy, physiology, Latin, Greek and French.

    The expansion of the district occurred rapidly in the late 1800's. Concern of overcrowding in classrooms prompted the board of education to begin construction on a number of units. Historical accounts show the "Old White Schoolhouse" had from thirty to fifty students crowded into areas designed as cloakrooms.

    By 1873, the high school was successfully established and in that year became the fourth high school in the state to be accredited by the University of Michigan. It was continuously accredited by the U of M until that body was disbanded in the early 1990's.

    In January, 1890, the building known as Central School, located on the Pearl and Hudson Streets site, burned to the ground, forcing classes to be held in public buildings for the remainder of the school year. By fall of the same year, a two-story, brick structure was opened on the same site, which is presently a parking lot for the Court House. This building, renamed Lincoln School, served all grades until overcrowding forced the construction of a new high school.

    Cardinal Mascot

    In the early teen's the athletic teams were named the Maroons, and then changed to the Cardinals, but no specific dates were available at this writing.

    By coincidence, in the late teens, a professional football team in Chicago had purchased old maroon colored jerseys from the University of Chicago, and changed their name to the Maroons. With age, the color of the jerseys faded and the owner believed the color to be more like that of the cardinal bird. In 1920, he changed the name of the team to the Chicago Cardinals.

    On August 21, 1929, the Chicago Cardinals became the first professional football team to hold a training camp in a city other than their home. On this date they opened camp in Coldwater, Michigan.

    It is believed that some connection between Coldwater and the Chicago Cardinals existed for these events to occur. Possibly, with the opening of the Roosevelt High School in 1923, the Cardinal Mascot was also adopted.

    Roosevelt High School

    With a growing population, the third floor of the Lincoln building could no longer serve the educational needs of the secondary students. In 1923, Roosevelt High School was opened on the property next to the Lincoln building, but facing Washington Street.

    The four story brick building included a 400 seat auditorium, gymnasium, and shop. It served students in grades 7 through 12 until Coldwater High School opened in the spring of 1957. It then continued to house grades 7 and 8 until the opening of Legg Junior High in 1966.

    In 1924, Roosevelt High School gained admission to the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges and became fully accredited. This affiliation was transferred to the new Coldwater High School and has been maintained through the years on a fully accredited status.

    In the early 60's, with construction of new elementary schools Lincoln's use as a school building was discontinued and was used as the district's administrative offices and for storage.. Following the 1963-64 school year the building was sold to the county for additional parking and was demolished. The board offices then moved to a house, adjacent to the Roosevelt building on a site where the present public safety building exists. In 1966, with the opening of Legg Junior High, the board of education offices moved to the Roosevelt building.

    Through efforts of CHS government teacher John Keeslar, the bell from the old Lincoln building was recovered and mounted on a permanent structure at Cardinal Field in the late 70's.

    The '30's

    As the community grew, so did the school system. A number of wood-frame buildings were replaced with more permanent brick and concrete structures. In 1935, the Washington Elementary School was constructed on Morse Street, designed to house one classroom each for grades K-6. In the 1980-81 school year it was closed as an elementary school due to budget cuts and declining enrollment. It then served as the district's administration building, until its re-opening in the late 1980's.

    The '40's

    Edison Elementary School, a two-story brick elementary school was constructed in 1948, to handle the continued growth in the community.

    The '50's

    In 1950, Cardinal Field was constructed on the southern end of what was the Legg Airport. The football and track activities were moved from its existing site at Waterworks Park. The airport hangar remained and eventually was used by the district for maintenance of its buses and housed the grounds equipment until it was replaced by the existing building in the late 80's.

    In 1954, the Lakeland School District constructed their brick facility to house students in grades K through 8, with high school age students attending Coldwater High on a tuition basis. In 1963, the Lakeland District was annexed to the Coldwater Community Schools. Their superintendent, Alfred Clyne, became the Coldwater assistant superintendent as a result of the consolidation.

    Community growth and annexations of smaller rural districts increased student enrollment to a point where a new modern high school facility was needed. In 1956, construction began on Coldwater High School, a $1.3 million, 34 classroom building at the Legg Airport site on North Fremont Street. The facility opened in the spring of 1957 with a planned enrollment of 650 in grades 9-12. The Roosevelt building became a junior high school housing grades seven and eight.

    Jefferson Elementary School was constructed on Vans Avenue in 1957 to house one classroom each of grades K-6. Because of increased enrollment, additional classrooms and a media center where added in 1962.

    Also in 1957, Franklin Elementary School was constructed on South Fremont Street. It was also set up as a single section K-6 building. It continued as an elementary school until the 1980-81 school year when it was closed due to declining enrollments and financial difficulties in the district. It later was reopened as the Community Education Center, housing the adult education programs.

    The '60's

    The Girard Board of Education closed a number of its one-room buildings and constructed the Girard Elementary School in 1960. It became part of the consolidation vote of 1963 and was annexed to the school system, along with the Lakeland district. In 1982 it was closed due to declining enrollments and budget cuts. Within a few years of its closing it was reopened to serve grades K-5.

    The demand for elementary space continued and in 1963 the Board of Education constructed the Lincoln Elementary School on Tibbits street.

    In 1966, Legg Middle School was constructed on Green Street with the property donated to the district from Mrs. Louis Legg. During design a donation from an anonymous donor was received with the stipulation that the district provide matching funds to include a planetarium. As a result Coldwater became one of two schools in the state to have such a facility. On opening, the ninth grade was moved from CHS and the building became a grade 7-9 facility. The Roosevelt Building became the Administrative Center and also housed the Community Education program, until sold in the late 80's.

    In the late 1960's the St. Charles Parochial School board chose to discontinue offering elementary school services. To accommodate the potential influx of elementary students into the district, the Coldwater Schools leased their facilities and established another elementary school, utilizing most of the existing teaching staff and principal. This operation continued until the budget cuts of 1980-81.

    The '70's

    In 1971, the Branch Area Career Center opened to serve the needs of vocational and technical training for Branch County youth. County residents within the Branch Intermediate School District, (Bronson, Coldwater, and Quincy) approved a bond issue for construction and a charter millage for operation.

    Twenty years after the opening of Coldwater High School, designed for 650 students, the enrollment in grades 10-12 was approaching 1100. To address the issue, the board of education voted to issue bonds to add six new classrooms, and make major additions to the cafeteria and library. These new additions were opened for use in February of 1977.

    In 1979, funds left over from the 1977 bonding were used to construct a 20 foot addition to the wing housing classrooms for woods, metals, and art at the high school.

    The '80's

    Because of severe financial conditions and declining enrollment, a major change in the district's structure occurred in the 1980-81 school year. Major cuts in staff and programming occurred including the closing of Franklin, Washington and St. Charles elementary schools, the laying off of 28 teachers, eliminating all transportation, elementary music and physical education, all athletics and extra-duty positions. Sixth grade was moved to Legg Junior High with a name change to Legg Middle School and the ninth grade was moved back to the high school. Student enrollment that year reached 1142 at CHS.

    Transportation was restored by December of that year due to a special millage election approval by voters, and Varsity and JV sports were funded by the athletic boosters. Efforts on behalf of the members of this group resulted in the passage of an extra curricular millage in June of 1982 to restore all of the extra-duty positions. Because of continued financial problems, the Girard Elementary school was closed at the end of the 1981-82 school year.

    In 1984, a $50,000 press box and new lighting on one side of the field were added. The press box facility was constructed entirely through the fund raising of the booster group. Also in 1984, the board of education approved the construction of the bus garage/stockroom facility, replacing the old airport hangar. In 1989, a new all-weather track was added, with considerable fund raising by the booster group.

    The '90's

    In the spring of 1990, the board of education purchased the former Wick Homes, Inc., building on S. Michigan Avenue for its administrative building, moving from the Legg farm house on West Chicago which had been leased for the three previous years.

    In 1994, voters approved a $12.6 million renovation/expansion of the Coldwater High School. Ten new classrooms, a cafetorium, and gymnasium were added with extensive renovation of much of the existing building occurring. In the process nearly $1 million was spent on providing up-to-date technology throughout the building. In the fall of 1996, the newly renovated building was dedicated.

    The 2000's

    In 2001, voters approved an $18.6 million bond issue to replace Edison Elementary School, and make additions and renovations to Girard, Lakeland, Jefferson and Lincoln buildings. The Max Larsen Trust donated $6 million to the construction of the new elementary with the provision that it would be named Max Larsen Elementary. Sufficient space was included to allow for the closing of the Washington Elementary school at the end of the 2002-03 school year.


    Computer technology had its early beginnings in Coldwater in the late 1960's when assistant superintendent Al Clyne established an IBM mini-computer and key punch operation to handle the districts financial and payroll work. In the early 70's Clyne was a key player in the establishment of ACCESS as part of the Calhoun ISD services, providing the data processing link to Wayne ISD for student and financial accounting via mainframe computer. Coldwater has been a member of ACCESS ever since.

    The first personal computer, a Commodore Pet with 8K of memory, was purchased at Coldwater High School in the fall of 1978. By the early 80's ACCESS terminals were in the high school guidance department, middle school, and administration. The typing classes had replaced their electric typewriters with IBM PC jr's and the elementary classrooms were being outfitted with Apple IIe's.

    With the approval of the bond issue for the high school a technology plan for the district was needed. In February of 1994, the board of education approved the technology plan that guided the construction at the high school and the implementation of technology throughout the district.

    Four years after the adoption of the plan a majority of all elements were in place throughout the district. All ten buildings in the district had a computer network, with at least one networked computer in each classroom or office, a telephone in every classroom, a scanner, and laser printer.

    In the late '90's the Coldwater Board of Public Utilities connected all in-town buildings together into a Wide Area Network, providing every networked computer with access to the Internet, using the CBPU fiber backbone. In 2002, wireless towers were added to Lakeland and Girard to provide high speed connection to the network and Internet through the CBPU head end.

    With the addition of Max Larsen Elementary school, in 2003, and the renovation of the other four in 2002-2004, a computer lab was added to each as well as upgraded technology for each media center.

    Coldwater Superintendents

    1925-28 Charles F. Hamilton 1982-90 Dr. Richard Fitzgerald
    1928-39 John T. Symons 1990-91 Eugene F. Wallace (interim)
    1939-44 Robert E. Sharer 1991-2001 William F. Chinery
    1944-48 Ira F. King 2001-05 Gerals A. Peregord
    1948-62 E. Byron Thomas 2005-07 Milli Haug
    1962-67 Carlo G. Heikkinen 2007-09 Dr. Dale F. Martin
    1967-74 Norman Olmstead 2009-10 David Disler (interim)
    1974-75 Alfred Clyne (interim) 2010-15 Dr. Tina A. Kerr
    1975-82 Dr. J. Warren Adair 2015-present Terry Ann Boguth

    High School Principals

    1868-89   1928-39 Robert E. Sharer
    1889-90 Hiram Sober 1939-44 Frederick H. Weeks
    1900-01 E. P. Bradley 1944-48 E. Byron Thomas
    1901-03 M. Victor Staley 1948-68 Kermit I. Dennis
    1903-05 Charles Perry 1968-77 C. Lester Luce
    1905-08 Joseph V. Voorheis 1977-92 Dr. Stanley R. Bushouse
    1908-12 Percy M. Howe 1992-96 Bradford Mellor
    1912-19 Glen Bechtel 1996-98 Frederick Hobart
    1919-28 John T. Symons 1998-2008 John Heistan
        2009-present William Milnes


    Graduates from Coldwater High School

    Complied in 2000 by Ed Butters, Class of 1927

    1868 3 1903 22 1938 90 1973 247
    1869 5 1904 13 1939 117 1974 258
    1870 10 1905 11 1940 105 1975 270
    1871 3 1906 16 1941 109 1976 277
    1872 3 1907 20 1942 123 1977 308
    1873 6 1908 23 1943 96 1978 292
    1874 8 1909 35 1944 87 1979 282
    1875 8 1910 31 1945 94 1980 289
    1876 15 1911 40 1946 90 1981 272
    1877 13 1912 25 1947 93 1982 251
    1878 20 1913 46 1948 102 1983 235
    1879 17 1914 38 1949 107 1984 207
    1880 6 1915 41 1950 111 1985 215
    1881 5 1916 36 1951 120 1986 204
    1882 11 1917 51 1952 128 1987 197
    1883 8 1918 35 1953 127 1988 230
    1884 13 1919 47 1954 120 1989 232
    1885 12 1920 55 1955 129 1990 196
    1886 8 1921 55 1956 140 1991 182
    1887 10 1922 58 1957 149 1992 171
    1888 11 1923 82 1958 154 1993 187
    1889 11 1924 63 1959 160 1994 177
    1890 13 1925 99 1960 152 1995 167
    1891 16 1926 87 1961 174 1996 179
    1892 19 1927 96 1962 137 1997 179
    1893 14 1928 94 1963 188 1998 196
    1894 25 1929 79 1964 188 1999 169
    1895 21 1930 51 1965 227 2000 230
    1896 18 1931 89 1966 245 2001 215
    1897 31 1932 94 1967 211 2002 207
    1898 27 1933 108 1968 242 2003 224
    1899 15 1934 103 1969 256 2004 213
    1900 15 1935 98 1970 277 2005 227
    1901 12 1936 96 1971 266 2006 222
    1902 23 1937 88 1972 281 2007 213

    Total Grads: 15,695