By Cindy Fama
The Colton History Committee was able to hold its first meeting in almost two years on Dec. 7 at the Colton Cafe. The café is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, but owner Nora Nofziger, who is extremely interested in Colton history, opened the doors for the members of the history group to meet.
The topic for the meeting was the history of Colton School District #53. Colton History Committee Co-Coordinator Judy Crawford gave the presentation and had handouts of old-time photos and diagrams of the school. A lot of information was disseminated, and discussion abounded in the room as those who had attended the high school in the '40s, '50s and '60s chimed in with even more information and of course those teenage stories that prove life in a small town is fun.
According to John Chelson's "Brief History of the Colton Area," there were six small school districts in the area, Old Colton School #72, Cedardale School #53, Elwood#58, Bee Hill #122, Fernwood #10 and Lower Highland #33.
Cedardale and Bee Hill schools decided to merge and were approved by the state to form the current school district on Nov. 7, 1913. The original school structure on South Wall Street was built between 1913 and 1914. The first year there was just one class with students, ages 10-17. The following year the school had eight grades and the first graduates, Carna Freeman and Mary Fellows, graduated in the class of 1916-1917,
Throughout the following decades, the other local small school districts joined district #53; Upper Colton in 1928, Lower Highland in 1949, Elwood in 1953 and Fernwood in 1962.
The original school was torn down in 1961 and replaced with a new middle school building that burned down in 1993. At that time the decision was made to rebuild the middle school on land owned by the district on Schieffer Road.
In 1915, a two-story dormitory was built across the street from the original high school. It was used to house high school students and teachers who lived too far from the school to commute daily. Later, the upper floor was used for apartments and the lower floor was used for district offices and a community meeting space. The top floor of the dormitory building was removed in 1979. In 2016 the building was sold to Colton Helping Hands Food Pantry.
The local history committee has a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Feb.8, at the Colton Café starting at 10 a.m. The presentation will focus on Old Colton, Market Road and the Carl Swanson family.
The meetings are recorded and posted to YouTube by Olya Babich Konell
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