Mayville Limestone School Museum
150 Year Celebration
150 Years of History Celebrated with a Big Bang
August 18-19, 2007
By Sally Kahlhamer, The Mayville News
Even two days of rain couldn’t dampen the sesquicentennial celebration of the White Limestone School on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 18 and 19. The firing of the authentic cannon by the Civil War re-enactors went off with a big bang and a lot of smoke as it signaled the official start of the 150 year two-day event at noon on Saturday. Mayor Ron Sternat read the city proclamation on the steps of the building before everyone gathered around the Civil War monument in Foster Park. Participating in the re-dedication were members of Old Abe Camp No. 8 and McAllister’s Battery along with the color guard from Bonau-Whereatt Legion Post 69, Mayville Boy Scouts Brian Emmer and Cody Sadowski, and two soldiers, Marine Corporal Chris Matson and SPC Aaron Kuen. The people taking part in the ceremony were similar to those who participated in the first dedication of the statue in 1928.
The cannon was also fired several times during the ceremony, followed by taps played by MHS students Travis Waas and Adam Porter. After the ceremony, the two scouts planted a tree.
At 2:30 on that same day, a dedication of the cornerstone was done at the northwest corner of the building. The cornerstone had never been engraved when the building was built. Jim Sokoly from Mayville Engineering Company, which donated the cost of engraving 1857 A.D. into the cornerstone, pulled away the drape to reveal the date. The cornerstone had been guarded by two of the Civil War soldiers until the dedication.
The museum was open for viewing from noon until 4 p.m. Boy and Girl Scouts served food in Foster Park during the event.
Sunday, the museum was open from noon until 5 p.m. Former teachers at the White Limestone School and pupils were invited for a grand reunion.
A program was held in the upstairs grand auditorium that was filled with standing room only. The program was also televised to the main floor for those who couldn’t make the steps.
Mitch Chamberlin, 2007 MHS Senior Class president, rang the 1857 school bell to signal the start of the program after the cannon was fired in Foster Park.
George Frederick, sesquicentennial committee chairman, welcomed everyone as did Mayville School District Administrator Ron Bieri, Bieri said that those gathered were here not only to honor a building, but our forefathers. The Mayville School District now educates 1,100 students.
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle issued a proclamation for the White Limestone School which was read.
“If these walls could talk, what tales they could tell,” said Mayor Ron Sternat.
“We are in the presence of history. This is a living memorial for all future generations.”
Education in Mayville started in someone’s home and then a log cabin was built which was used for only one year in the winter, said R. S. Chapman, one of the founders of the school system in Mayville. He also served on the school board and was an instructor when the school was built. Chapman returned in a time capsule and was portrayed by George Frederick.
A one-room wood frame school house was used and had 96 students in it when it was deemed too small. There was a lot of controversy on where to put the new school.
The cost of the original White Limestone School building was $5,900 and in the first year of its operation, there were 206 students and the teachers were paid $30 a month.
The MHS Vocal Jazz Group sang and danced to two numbers during the program and were very well received.
Joe DeRose from the State Historical Society told those assembled that “you probably take this building for granted. I went WOW when I saw it for the first time. There is nothing else like this in the State of Wisconsin in a city of this size. It’s unique.” He reminded everyone that “you are caretakers of this legacy.”
“Schools are the heart of every community,” stated Tony Evers, deputy state superintendent of schools.
Frederick gave the highlights of the school’s history from 1876 through 1981. Even though the roof was blown off in a tornado, the building still stood. The walls are two feet thick in the attic and four feet thick in the basement.
The building itself has provided 107 years of continuous education and 121 years of total education. In fact, one class even graduated twice. It was the Class of 1890 and 1891. In 1890 graduation requirements were for three years of high school and that changed in 1891. These four seniors that graduation in 1890, came back and took the required fourth year.
Judge John Storck who attended classes in the White Limestone School, presented each person a piece of limestone with the dates of the original building and present date on it.
He talked of the memories that each class has that attended school in that building and the hundreds of community events there. “This was a good investment for our school district. The museum is a wonderful transition of the life and time and history of Mayville.”
Many teachers who taught at the school were in attendance and were introduced. Each told a little about teaching in the school and what it meant to them.
After the 2-1/2 hour program, a cake in the shape of the school building was served in the John Street gym, along with a variety of cheeses and lemonade.
Main Street Mayville and the MHS Music Booster Club had a food tent in Foster Park on Sunday.