The settlement of Mt. Pleasant began like the settlement of most colonies in Sanpete. Although the first settlers labored diligently, their efforts were often demolished. But with much determination a group of sixty from Fort Ephraim surveyed a Fort site and planned a colony on Pleasant Creek and finally succeeded. The Fort was very well planned and organized. Because these sturdy pioneers had been schooled in crafts and many professions in their native lands, a log one-roomed schoolhouse was included in the fort. A.B. Strickland, (it has been said he was also very strict) and Mrs. Oscar Winters served as the first school teachers in the fort. The schoolhouse was also used as a chapel, theater, dance hall, and meeting place. At one end was a huge fireplace which provided heat, and light. Even though the floor was dirt, young and old liked to dance to the music of violins; the bishop's stand was often converted to a stage for a Shakespearean drama. The school was a center of community activity. Because they had been taught well the fundamentals of living and survival, they used the environment to work at their command.
Regardless of Indian aggression, homes sprang up and schools soon dotted the town site in various homes. "Aunty Hyde"s school was the first built outside of the fort. "Aunty Hyde" was a very interesting person who was most often attired in a dark-colored bonnet and smoked a pipe. She did not use a bell but brought her children to school by calling "to books, to books, to books." She often prepared her evening meal at school in the fireplace, making it very difficult to study with all the aroma. The schoolroom was situated one half block west of the present High School. (This was in 1980, the present high school is 500 East and 700 South.)
There became other classes held throughout the town and tuitions were paid by the parents. the few books that were available were also paid for by the parents. At this time classes were not graded as they are now but went by readers first; the primer reader, next; first primer reader, second, third, fourth and fifth. (If one completed the fifth reader, he was considered educated as the material was very hard.) Practice writing was done on slates.
Children rarely got to school before Christmas as school was a secondary consideration. It was the same in the springtime as soon as the ground was bare, work on the farm began and had preference over school. So most school seasons did not exceed four months.
Methods and practices started changing as teachers were getting degrees from college and universities. During this time Sister Margaret F.C. Morrison was able to place an organ in her school and music became to be an important part of the curriculum. Schools and ward houses were still used in conjunction with one another.
Educational advancement was always in the uppermost mind of the people of Mt. Pleasant. The old houses used as school buildings located in different districts of the town were abandoned and a central school was established in 1896. It was a beautiful three story school building, erected on the corner of Main and First East Street at a cost of about $20,000. The new school was called Hamilton Elementary, probably getting it's name from one of the first attempted settlements led by Madison D. Hambleton. (This name was later changed to Hamilton.)
It was indeed a happy day for the settlers to have such a fine, large modern building in their city. This school sometimes housed grades up to the 8th grade and had anywhere from 350 to 600 students at one time. (This building was not used as a church either.) The outside walls were made of blocks of rock and red brick with four regular classrooms and a few smaller rooms on each floor. One of the smaller rooms on the 3rd floor was used as the library and housed the ladder to get up to the belfry. One of the walls seperating the library from one of the other rooms could be rolled up like a roll top desk to make an assembly room. Later, this wall was nailed down. It seemed the 3rd floor was a poor place for an assembly room. This new school had blackboards which were easy to write on and easily cleaned.
Until about 1942 the restrooms were out in a separate building to the south of the main building. Later the supply room on the 2nd floor was converted into the restrooms. At that time they were called "toiletrooms." In this same separate building, the meals were prepared and brought to the school on a big cart pulled by the cooks. School lunch program was introduced during the 1930's. One hot dish of soup or chowder was served for a penny a bowl. Every student donated a bowl and spoon to the school for this purpose. Students usually brought a sandwich or something else to go with it. When in Kindergarten each child brought his own milk.The belfry housed the bell which was heard all over town because of it's remarkable tone. People often set their watches or clocks to the sound of the bell from the elementary school. It was used as 9:00 p.m. curfew, warning of fire, flood, other special occasions because it could even be heard beyond the city limits. It rang with much force. In fact, if you were on the 3rd floor when fire drill was called, the building actually swayed. It was rung on a pull on a big rope that hung from it to the teacher's entrance on the first floor. A smal gong attached to the side of the stairs was rung by a little jerk on a small chain. Sixth grade students felt it an honor and an important position to be assigned to answer the telephone in the Principal's office and to ring the gong for class change and to ring it other scheduled times. The little bell became used for the fire drills. Fortunately there was never a fire in the school building even though the students loved the fire drill especially if they were on the third floor because they had the privilege of sliding down the three story high fire escape with it's spiraling curves. Often in the summer or after school hours a favorite pastime was climbing up the slide and going down. It was worn very shiny and the metal was actually worn thin. It would appear that a million students had escaped fires in the Hamilton School. This bell has been preserved by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and put on display on the top of the Pioneer marker on the north side of the Pioneer Relic Hall in Mt. Pleasant.
Mt. Pleasant Elementary Completed in 1962
New Mt. Pleasant Elementary ~ Completed in 2013 ~ Moved into January 2014
Hamilton Elementary built in 1896
A piano was placed on the 2nd floor. With a gong from the bell, the students were called from their play on the school ground and lined up by their assigned door. Each class lined up in threes and to the rhythm of the piano marched to their classrooms. If anyone got off step or goofed up they were to put in time after school in the awkward squad. Thus it was necessary for everyone to learn how to march left, right, and how to keep time. All were expected to do this. Again, when every one was marching to the beat, the sway of the building could be felt. Children were excused with about the same procedure.
Those who lived on farms outside of Mt. Pleasant, would wak to the county road where they would be picked up by a canvas covered wagon. The wagon was pulled by two beautiful big, well mannered horses owned and driven by Lawrence Barton who guided them with love, not whips. About twenty students rode in the school wagon and were among the first to be at school. Later, school buses replaced the horses.
Another incident which most of the senior citizens remember about their days in school was the double tragedy of death of the Principal and Janitor. On the morning of March 24, 1922, Principle Elmer Johansen and Janitor Kanute Terkelson were both accidentally electrocuted on the landing at the top of the steps to the furnace room. (more details in a future post.)
Through Japan's sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, our nation was plunged into a bitter struggle that lasted until 1943. The teachers and students loyally supported drives to buy thrift stamps and war bonds were purchased by the teachers and students. Tons of scrap metal were hauled to a spot out by the furnace room. In one of the rooms that was a restroo, was piled up end to end with bundles of old newspapers and other papers in the paper drive to help the war effort.
Many special events can be remembered such as the annual "May Day" held outside so the May Pole could be braided and all grades danced a special dance. A spring dance festival is still held where all children participate. Hamilton had a well groomed band which often played for some of the town special events and were often invited to march in various parades through the state.
After serving as the public schoolhouse for Mt. Pleasant for over sixty years, it became necessary to get a new schoolhouse for Mt. Pleasant. It was built on the same block as the Hamilton School on the south side; so the old one could be used until completion of the new one. This new building was completed in 1962.
(Each era has its own memories of Hamilton Elementary School. Those memories listed in the above history are not the same as mine. However, we thank Janis Nielsen and others for preserving this history. We would like to hear your memories. Please share with us your thoughts and remembrances.)
Also see Talula Nelson's Memories of Hamilton Elementary: