Current Museum Exhibit
Photo: Box Elder High School Band, 1916
From A to Z -
Schools in Box Elder County,
Past and Present
April 1 through June 10, 2017
By Mary Alice Hobbs
Just as school bells have evolved over time from a brass bell rung by hand to a computerized tone from a speaker system, education from pioneer days to the present has progressed dramatically. An historical exhibition featuring photographs and artifacts titled “From A to Z – Schools in Box Elder County, Past and Present” will be on show at the Brigham City Museum April 1 through June 10. Admission is free.
The museum is located at 24 North 300 West. Admission is free. Hours are Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. For further information, please phone (435) 226-1439 or visit www.brighamcitymuseum.org.
In March 1851, William Davis, his family and a few friends settled in Shoshone Indian Country near Box Elder Creek. Parents were the first educators in the area, and the Bible was their textbook. Two years later, Henry Evans, who was the first school teacher in Box Elder, walked from house to house teaching children their ABCs. In 1853, a log cabin schoolhouse was built next to the Box Elder Fort at 300 North and 200 West. Parents paid their children’s tuition directly to the teacher in cash or produce from their farms. A pioneer named Nels Madsen wrote, “[The teacher] received cash or carrots.” In 1861, religious leader Brigham Young asked William Watkins to teach all ages in the courthouse.
Young divided Box Elder, later named Brigham City, into four wards in August 1877 using Forest and Main streets as a focal point. Each ward was responsible for building a school and employing a teacher. Joseph Moroni Jenson was one of the teachers. The schools were named Webster, Whittier, Emerson and Columbia. A photo of each is in the exhibition.
A law passed in Utah in 1890 provided for consolidation of school districts for first- and second-class cities. John Frederick Erdmann, Brigham City’s ninth mayor, designated the public square across the street from the Tabernacle on Main Street as the site for the Central Elementary School, which opened in 1900. Box Elder High School, located on Forest Street between Fourth and Fifth East, welcomed its first students in the fall of 1909. Other cities in the county made similar progress.
That young people are curious and rich in potential is evident in photos of classes playing flutes and drums crafted by hand; dissecting frogs; measuring, cutting, hanging and trimming wallpaper; and trouble-shooting an automobile.
Learning happens in relationships as seen in the photographs of a high school play, circa 1900; a gymnasium transformed into “20,000 leagues under the sea” for dance night, circa 1950; a pirate float decorated by students from two elementary schools, circa 1960; and depression-era, hungry, elementary school students sipping soup prepared in nearby homes, then delivered to the school. There were no kitchens at the schools. High school students sometimes went to the homes to assist the cooks.
Some of the items in the exhibition that balance the past with the present are a glass inkwell and a dip pen; a 1916 prom dress; a student card, 1937-1938; a school directory, 1953-54; miniature Rockette and cheerleading outfits with baton, muff and pompoms worn by a school’s mascot in 1962-1963; Vocational Offices sign; and a decorative architectural element from Lincoln School when it was demolished in 2010. Other vintage pieces include diplomas, dance cards, report cards, seminary commencement program, report cards and school newspapers.