South Evergreen Schoolhouse

Saving an important piece of history

South Evergreen Schoolhouse  -  Along Brandy Creek

Along Brandy Creek

By Jim Fitzpatrick


The Coopersville Observer December 30 2013


Not long ago as the leaves on the hardwoods turned from summer’s green to the brilliant colors of autumn, a local fellow stopped his pick-up truck near the intersection of Leonard Road and 88th Ave. He couldn’t resist the idea of having a look around the old abandoned South Evergreen one room school house tucked in among the maples and surrounding underbrush. The small structure, he thought, feels lonely and forlorn. An unknown teacher held classes inside for the last time over 50 years ago. No laughing and screaming children in the school yard for a very long time. There is a sag in the roof. Years ago, someone, in the night, removed the bell from the belfry on peak of the roof above the front door.


As he meandered around the property, his imagination drifted back to his own one room school days at another country school much like this one. Then Doug arrived; as he was passing by on his ATV, decided to stop and share the memories of his attendance at this very school. As they walked and talked, the stories surfaced from Doug’s memory. They pawed around in the fallen leaves, just as Doug and his childhood buddies had done, to expose the brass survey marker at the Northwest corner of the property. It was still there, glistening in the late evening sunlight – stamped with the words: 250 dollar fine for disturbing this marker. That phrase scarred the heck out of those little kids back then; out of fear that they might disturb it in some way, according to Doug.


The initials carved in the siding of the school building led to more stories. Then the one about the outhouses before running water was hooked up to the school. The guy with the truck told Doug that he was going to write down these stories, have them written up in the local paper one by one over the next few issues. Doug only smiled, looked at his watch, and said, “we’re both going to be late for supper if we don’t head for home soon”. They both agreed that the old school house needed to be saved, preserved; along with the memories of those who went to school there.

Along Brandy Creek

By Jim Fitzpatrick


The Coopersville Observer January 13, 2014


Two guys, both named Jim, have an idea. They are going to save the old one room school house and accompanying woodshed on Leonard Road at the south end of 88thAvenue. Others like the idea also. That includes local residents whose families have been educated there for two and three generation, those that attended similar one room schools around the countryside and some who just plain want to preserve a part of local history they consider significant to the community. So the two Jims formed a committee of two. Shortly thereafter, Rochelle, Kathy, Jan and Pat came onboard and initial momentum for the project is underway. Pieces of a captivating puzzle of the past began to fall together. Fund raising has been established, dollars are flowing in to make the purchase from the present owner.


A few weeks ago one of the original outhouses was discovered at a near by residence. Then a photo surfaced of the school with teacher and students out front, the very same outhouse in the background off to the left. The story goes that that one was for the boys, girls outhouse was to the right and not in the photo. A wider entrance to the classroom was constructed in 1947 which included running water and real flush toilets. John Vargo purchased the then obsolete two small structures for five dollars each and moved them to his farm a mile east of the school. He used one at his home for its original purpose and the other was converted for use as a milkhouse near the barn. John's property changed hands, the barn came down, Jack F. hauled the little old milkhouse/outhouse to his place to the west; where it rests in his yard today as a storage shed.


With that in mind the two Jims high tailed it over to see Jack, thinking they might talk him out of it so that it could again be part of the original South Evergreen school setting. Right off it appeared that Jack wasn’t about to entertain that idea. The three guys wondered around the yard for a time, looked over and photographed the item of interest, got an overview of Jack’s life history in the area including his attendance at the Fisher one room school to the north. A final comment from Jack was that he understood that a restoration project “ought to be as original as possible” and that he would give some thought to his ownership of the old outhouse. The two Jims smiled at each other with shrugged shoulders and went on their way.

Along Brandy Creek

By Jim Fitzpatrick


The Coopersville Observer January 27, 2014


Some of her teaching years in the township were spent with the children at South Evergreen.  During the school term Ester was a welcome resident at the Baldus farm adjoining the school property to the east.  Great Grandfather Simon died at an early age leaving the farm to his daughter Minnie and his wife Pauline.  Room and board income from teachers at the school was a welcome asset.  Ester’s family home, up in the “six corners” area, was a bit far from South Evergreen.  She needed a place nearby.  Minnie and Ester, each being in their early twenties, cemented a friendship that was to be lifelong.


Ester, at some point, married one of the local Ruoff boys.  Bill and Ester lived out their married life back at her family home.  Ester returned often; however, over the passing years to visit Minnie.  The grandchildren of Minnie recall hearing stories of how the two old ladies would stay up late into the night playing cards.  Grandma Minnie told grandson Jimmy what happened one snowy, wintry, card-playing night.


The hour was getting on, their game of cards nearing an end.  Minnie had returned from the basement after firing the wood furnace one last time; to play out her final hand.  Then – there was a rap tap tap…..  another rap tap tap…..  on the window pane in the living room.  The two women’s eyes met; in silence!  The snow falling in the early evening had stopped.  The air outside was still, the thermometer near zero.  Ester, in an unusually nervous voice, suggested that two of them share the same bed for the night.


In the morning they checked for footprints in the snow outside, under the taped on window.  There were none.  Again the two women stared at one another in disbelief.  An hour later they learned that old mister Rice, in the house across the road, had died in the night.  Ester later told Minnie that she had seen a faint glimmer of light, from the direction of the Rice home, a short time before the tapping on the window pane.

Along Brandy Creek

By Jim Fitzpatrick


The Coopersville Observer February 10, 2014


When old Bill was still a young fellow, before he hooked up with Ester the school teacher at Sough Evergreen, he had gone into business on his own.  Having grown up on a farm, being self employed was in his blood.  Farming, however, was a whole lot of morning till night work the way he saw it.  He had a better way to go about making a living.  As a kid he had raised rabbits to sell for meat to help supplement the family income.  The piece of land he owned along the south side of River Road had an old vineyard on it that grew some rather high quality grapes.  He would trim up those aged vines and boost production.  Prohibition was in effect; the juice from the fruit, with a little effort and imagination, would during these times have a nice added value if things were done right.  The beverages he had in mind for sale were hard to come by for the general public.


Wasn’t long and the vineyard was doing well and Bill set up to raise rabbits in the old barn behind the house.  By early spring the sign out at the end of the drive read; “Rabbits for Sale, live or dressed”.  Well, it was the rabbits for meat that sold the best.  Business picked up right away.  When a customer drove into his yard, Bill could usually be found right there in his rocking chair on the front porch.  You had to say it just right when you ordered up your meat rabbit if you wanted one of the special wrapped packages that Bill sold.  He’d go out back to the large ice box and slide a long necked bottle of drink into a butchered rabbit carcass, then wrap it up real nice.  Business went well for several months – that is until the sheriff and his deputy arrived at the place one day and handed Bill a warrant for his arrest.  Bill spent the rest of Prohibition in the Ottawa County Jail.   When he got out of prison, the life of a farmer didn’t look all that bad.  Ester told him that she felt that he would still make a very fine husband if he had in mind to marry her.  The two of them lived out their married lives working the land.

Along Brandy Creek

By Jim Fitzpatrick


The Coopersville Observer November 16, 2015



Fanny M. Wilson

her middle name was Mary

first teacher at South Evergreen

a one room country school

over by the river

District No. 7


In those years after

the great Civil War

families needed a place of learning

for all their growing children

and they would need a teacher

along that road by the Grand


Four pioneering families

on that trail through the wilderness

built a small one room schoolhouse

Smith, Potts, Rice, and Severence

family names still remembered there


One hundred forty years in passing

since Fanny Wilson first

opened that front door

her legacy continued

til schooling in "one rooms"

was no more


South Evergreen still stands

under ancient oaks, pines and maples

its doors to learning closed forever

going on fifty years and more


Some folks lately bought the place

fixed up the roof and belfry too

a new coat of paint on

the school and woodshed both

restoration back to schooldays

of old is what they want

there is a sense that

Fanny Wilson may have

something to do with this