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Sand Lake to hold 130th school reunion

By Judy Reed

This was the first school built in Sand Lake 1871-72.

The Sand Lake High School alumni will hold their 130th annual alumni banquet this Saturday, June 11, at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Sand Lake. 

Many people don’t realize that Sand Lake once had its own high school. They had 70 years of classes and 751 graduates, until the last class graduated in 1962, according to a history by the Rev. Leota Frye, a 1914 graduate. From her history:

“And so it was that they first school maintained in the Sand Lake was built on what is considered today as Lake Street…This took place in 1871-72. The building was used for church services and Sunday School as well as for its public functions. There was a pine forest behind the school, rail fences to keep the cattle from invading the school grounds, pine stumps around and deep ruts in the road in front of the building…The first teacher was Phila Vanburen…Other teachers included the Misses Ella and Emily Hartt. Sylvia Hartt Shattuck and her brother Cicero Hartt were pupils. The father of these four owned some of the mills in and around Sand Lake…As many as 75 pupils were crowded into the little two-room building.

This is the second school built in Sand Lake in 1882 on Oak Street. It was known as Sand Lake High School.

“In 1881-82 it became necessary to erect a larger building. Not immediately but soon the small building was sold to the Catholic people of the community and used for a church up until they built St. Mary’s. The new school, known as the Sand Lake High School, was erected in about the center of the village.”

A lot was chosen on Oak Street, between 6th and 7th Streets, to build the new school. 

Frye wrote about how Alvin Brown recalled how indignant and scared citizens were when Lyman Kinney used dynamite to blow stumps from the site of the new school. “The impact was so terrific that the windows of the downtown stores were blown out,” she wrote. 

There was no insulation or air conditioning. Faces roasted and feet froze. There was no plumbing. They drank from pails, washed in basins, and used outside toilets.

For several years there were only two years of high school, and no graduations until 1892. In 1893, an alumni association was formed, with a banquet held in the home of Alfred Giddings. Two more grades were finally added, with the 12th grade added in 1907.

After 40 years of use and poor construction (according to Frye) the school showed signs of deterioration, was overcrowded, and authorities said it was dangerous. So a new site was purchased in 1923 and the school bonded for $45,000. The first class graduated from there in 1924, and the bond was paid off in 1953. “A gathering was held in 1953 in the gymnasium for the great occasion—the burning of the mortgage on a building constructed 29 years earlier,” wrote Frye.

Interesting statistics: 

In 1899, there were no graduates.

In 1896 and 1897, there was only graduate in each class.

The largest class was in 1940, with a total of 30. The next largest classes were 1931 and 1933, with a total of 28 each.

The alumni committee heading up this year’s reunion banquet has asked that if you are attending the banquet, to please bring a written memory of growing up in Sand Lake School. RSVPs were due June 4. If you have a question or want more info, contact Dave Groner at 616-557-3098.

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