Ann Arbor School History: An amazing timeline of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County History

The first ‘school’ in Washtenaw County was an outdoor school held in the summer of 1825 near Platt Road, eventually replaced by a log cabin. In 1837 another log cabin school was erected in Pittsfield Township, at which site in 1853 would be built Meadowview School. The development of the schools in Pittsfield Township is well-documented in this collection, in the Pittsfield Township, 1833-1860 series.Ann Arbor was scarcely a year old in September 1825 when a Miss Monroe opened a primary school in a log school house.

Orville Barnes was another teacher who came with Allen from Virginia. John Allen had erected the building on his property at the northwest corner of Main and Ann streets. It was just across from what would be court-house square, then serving as Allen’s vegetable patch. It was a crude building with small glass windows and split log benches.

We know of little more than the existence of this first school. Miss Monroe, the first teacher, died in 1829. Her successor, Harriet G. Parsons, moved the school into a frame house on the corner of Washington Street and Fifth Avenue in 1829 where Ann Arbor Academy was founded. Miss Parsons later married Lorrin Mills, a tailor who built the first brick house in town in 1830. These pioneer schools were not supported by public funds but by rate bills and other assessments levied on the parents of the children.

Public schools were not even authorized until 1830, and it was some years before tax money began to support education; Parsons also taught at Meadowview School in Pittsfield Township. Consequently, many of Ann Arbor’s boys and girls did not attend school. In 1832, the average attendance was only 35 out of a possible 161 children five to fifteen years old. By 1838, there were 70 pupils attending.

Follow the rest of this amazing historical timeline