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1905 Black Reunion photo | 1909 Black Reunion photo | 1937 Black School Reunion article


Alumni learn how school in Jefferson Township was founded.

talk given by Junia Starr, published in Hillsdale Daily News, 1937

Steeped in the tradition of over 85 years, the Black School in Jefferson Township welcomed back yesterday for the second annual reunion. It was a gala affair, crowded with reminiscences of old days when the ruler rather than progressive education prevailed. Dinner was served and a program held.

Of unusual interest to the students of the 19th century who attended the reunion was the history of Pioneer Harvey Black, Sr. and his connection with the founding the Black School, written by Mrs. Junia Starr of Osseo, one of the five descendants of the three sons of Harvey Black present at yesterday’s reunion.

The talk was, in part as follows:

Harvey Black, Sr. emigrated from New York to Huron County, Ohio, in the year of 1825, when his young son, M. D. L. Black was two years old.

Here he was deprived of his helpmeet and beloved companion, she being called by death, leaving him a widower and father of three sons and five daughters. Thence, in the year of 1836 (sic), driving an ox-team, he came to Michigan, and, securing one-half section of land from the government, settled three-fourths of a mile south of the present school site, on the 40 acres which later became the property of his second son, Phlancort (sic) Black.

Indians as Neighbors.

In the wilderness, with only Indians as neighbors, he commenced a struggle of hardship, and continued the rearing of his family, namely: Harvey, Jr., Phlancort (sic), M. D. L., Lucritia (sic), Clarinda, Serena (sic), Lucinda and Altha Black, the first to have a mound in the cemetery, or burying ground as then called, which was located on the farm where they first settled. Her sweet life was blotted out at the young age of three years or thereabout. The little log house had been occupied by them seemingly but a few hours when the father was taken sick. The Indians were becoming excited, and seemed to be in council. They would run up and peek in the places cut out for windows and push their heads into the door openings, then retire for a little time, seemingly the family kept close to the bedside of their sick father, not knowing but they would be seized upon and let at the mercy of the Indians.

There were two peace chiefs, Tucumseh, from which Tecumseh, Michigan was named, and Baw Beese, from which aw Beese Lake, near Hillsdale, Michigan derived its name. Upon the third or fourth day the cross-looking war chief was refrained from coming near to them, and the peace chief was, who was stalwart and known to us as Baw Beese, entered their home, and by motions and signs assured them that their presence was welcome, and ever afterward was friendly, often borrowing from them expecially Shin’eauw (money) and never refusing to pay the debt, if only in venison.

Drove Ox-Team

Their trading point to buy flour was at Monroe, a distance of 75 miles. Driving their ox-team they would make return trips to the state of Ohio to procure potatoes and beans, the roads or tracts through the woods were very muddy, and usually the trip could not be made in much less than two weeks. Often they were entirely without food. Referring to one instance, pepper and salt being the only eatables (sic) in the house, the youngsters went foraging about to supply their need. On this occasion Harvey Junior rode a horse to Jonesville, a distance of 15 miles, procured a sack of baker's bread, and on carrying it across the horse's back, a part of it became pumiced, yet the crumbs were relishe by the hungry family.

In the meantime, the younger boys hunted game and caught some rabbits. The girls gathered cowslip greens, all were prepared and made ready for the table. With thankful hearts the family partook of this food and again their hunger was satisfied.

Having been settled here more than a year, upon hearing sounds as if someone were chopping, the men wound their way through the woods whence the sound came, and to their surprise saw a white man by the name of Stout, the first seen since their arrival. He lived about two miles from them.

Other white people soon setled here but for some time only three white families lived near to the Harvey Black family. Oren Anderson being one of the number, and the first log schoolhouse was erected on his land about 1851. It was located on the southeast corner of his 40 acres, nearly across to the north from the present school building before it was moved onto a (illegible) wall. Its furnishings consisted of a desk for the teacher, a few benches, and a fireplace. Its size was about 10 x 14 x 7 1/2 feet. In September of 1936, being in conversation with Ella Black Zeluff, then 82 years old, she in refering to her first school days and attendance there at the age of 4 years, said it was considered pleasant and convenient.

Indians Resent Treatment

Noting the increase of white settlers, also the covetousness and jealousy in their hearts, they began to make trouble for the Indians by shooting their dogs and getting their game. Naturally, the Indians resented the treatment and stood for their home and happy hunting ground. This of course brought a complaint to the governemt from the white men that the Indians were dangerous, which later in the year of 1842, resulted in their removal to the west.

It being a sad and pitiful sight as they were marched at the points of bayonets through the yard of the Harvey Black family, the boys hurried and brought watermelons for them to eat. In their tearful farewill the commanding chief, the noble Baw Beese signed, “Me don’t know whether me go or me fight”, His deep regrets were expressed in a speech deliverd at their first stop, Baw Bees Lake, his name sake. My father kept a copy of this speech for many years, I remember it well.

The first Bible printed in this country was in the Indian language, in 1663 by John Eliot. The first English Bible printed in the country was in 1782. I call your attention to the Bible, for by its study we gain wisdom. Referring to Proverbs 4:7 ”Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding.”

Black Farm Divided

Turning again to the history of Harvey Black, Senior, you may know hat before his death the one-half section of land was divided, making a 40 acre farm for each of his children, Harvey Black, Jr. owning the 40 acres in sight, and nearest to the Black schoolhouse, now owned by his son, Newton Black. These many years water from their well has supplied the thirst of the Black school teachers and pupils. In the early days, the water was drawn with two buckets a chain over a puley let up and down into a deep well with a box or curbing at the top.

The family of Uncle Harvey and Aunt Morilla (sic) consisted of ten children: Joseph, who died in infancy, Holton, Sam, Leander, David, George, Roby Jane, Christopher, Newton, and Ella who lived but three days. At death the parents were laid to rest in the Blount cemetery.

The family of Uncle Phlancort (sic) and Aunt Ann were Milton, Martha, Byron, Florence, Sarah, William and Frank. Their farm was three quarters of a mile south of the Black schoolhouse. At death the parents were laid to rest at home in the family burying ground.

The third son, M. D. L. and his first wife, Clarisa (sic), who departed this life five years later, resided one half mile east of the Black schoolhouse. His farm increased to 120 acres and now is owned by his son, Elmer J. Black, once a teacher here, also in public high schools. M. D. L.’s first family consisted of Ella, now 83 years old and Albert, deceased. M. D. L. then married Eunice B. Field, at that time a teacher in this present school building, erected 10 years later than the log school building, about 1861. At the dedication, or meeting called for the purpose of giving the schoolhouse a name, there was no other name so appropriate as the one it has always carried: The Black School House.

The three sons and their children were 30 in number.

Used For Other Gatherings

Family No. 2 of M. D. L. and Eunice Black consisted of Etta, Ruel, Eler, Edd, Myrtle, Junia, Tilden, Clara, and Earl. Three sons and two daughters now survive. At death the parents were laid to rest in the family burying ground. The homes of the daughters of Harvey Black, Senior, would today be better known to these present by the names of later occupants as Kelly, Cole, Vanornam, Baily, Amasa Blount, and Powell farms.

It is a pleasant opportunity to meet with teachers and schoolmates today and rehearse the early happenings, but I must not fail to bring before you the thought that the Black schoolhouse afforded a place for other social gatherings, usually a Sunday school taught by zealous and vigilant leaders as Louisa Powell, Caroline Morehouse, M. D. L. Black for many years the superintendent, and others. It, too, was a place of revivals, singing schools, debates, spelling matchers, exhibitions, and ’most anything considered by the school board as uplifting and educational.

So today this reunion will mark another epoch in the history of our lives. Another landmark will be passed and as we separate, if we would take with us the motto that waved on the banner of a former teacher here, Eunice Field Black, one many of you remember. I, too, knew her well, knew here to be true to here pupils and their parents; knew her to be true to friends and associate, and especially true in her home and to her family. I will read he inscription on the banner that waved to all mankind, "Sans Dieu Rien" (Without God, Nothing). then we will have a greater perception and more respect for both spiritual and temporal blessings."

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