Grand Traverse & Leelanaw Counties
by E. L. Sprague 1903
First School In The County
Mr. S. E. Wait undoubtedly taught the first school for white people in Grand Traverse county, in the winter of 1851-52, and it was a very selct affair, of which the account reads as follows:
"In November, 1851, five men arrived at Old Mission, in the schooner "Madeline," with the intention of wintering in the vicinity. Three of them were brothers, named Fitzgerald. A fourth was called William Bryce/The name of the fifth, who was employed by the others as a cook, has been forgotten. The five were all good sailors, and three of them had been masters of vessels during the past season, but all were deficient in education. None of them were even tolerable readers, and one of the number was unable to write his name. An eager desire to learn was the occasion of their coming. Here in the wilderness they would be removed from the allurements that might distract the attention in a popular port. It is probable, also, that diffidence arising from a consciousness of their own deficiencies mad them unwilling to enter a public shcool, where their limited attainments would be displayed in painful contrast with those of younger pupils.
"At Old Mission, the man who had been engaged as teacher failing to meet the contract, S. E. Wait, then only nineteen years of age, was employed, at twenty dollars per month and board. Bryce and the Fitzgeralds were to pay the bill, the cook receiving his tuition in compensation for his services. The 'Madeline' was brought round to Bowers' Harbor, and securely anchored for the winter. The after-hold was converted into a kitchen and dining room, and the cabin used as a school room. Regular hours of study were observed, and the men voluntarily submitted to strict schoool discipline. Out of school hours they had plenty of exercise in cutting wood and bringing it on board, to say nothing of the recreation of snowballing, in which they sometimes engaged with the delight of genuine schoolboys. The bay that year did not freeze over until March. Previous to the freezing, the wood was brought on board in the yawl; afterwards it was conveyed over the ice. Except by the way of Old Mission, to which occasional visits were made, the party was entirely cut off from communication with the outside world.
"The progress of Mr. Wait's pupils in their studies was a credit to themselves and their youthful teacher. Thereafter history is not known, excpe that four of them were captains of vessels the following season."