HISTORY
History of the Public Schools

1845

Fort Dodge has a long history of education. Parochial schools played a significant role in Fort Dodge education beginning in the 1860’s.

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Fort Dodge has a long history of education. The first school in Fort Dodge was taught by C. C. Carpenter, (a young surveyor who later became the Governor of Iowa) in the winter of 1854-55. The first school in Fort Dodge was housed in the bake house of garrison soldiers, prior to 1956.

There were twenty students. With the need for more space, the second school was located further west of the original school in the only church and temperance hall in Fort Dodge. Dexter Weller was the teacher and there were forty students. Legend has it that the school was so cold during the winter that the ink froze while the students were using it and the drinking water froze in the pails before the students could drink it.

The third school, started in 1856, was the first public school. Henry Gunn was the first teacher. This school was located at the corner of 2nd Avenue South and 7th Street. It was a two-story brick building known as “Old Brick” and served as a public school for twelve years. “Old Brick” was the only public building in town and was used for holding court, political meetings, church, festivals and other public affairs. After the Spirit Lake Massacre, many local settlers living north and west of Fort Dodge took refuge in “Old Brick”. It was also where the two companies for the Spirit Lake expedition were organized to make the trek to bury the dead and confront the Indians after the Massacre.

Fort Dodge had its first divided school in 1860, with an upper and a lower grade. The school continued for three years. Following the war, the number of students grew in Fort Dodge grew significant by 1868. The school board built a large frame school house at Second Avenue South and Eighth Street to house the extra students. It had three rooms and was used until 1869.

In 1869, Fort Dodge had grown in population, so bonds were issued and a new twelve-room school was started at the corner of 2nd Avenue North and 10th Street. However, five months later on January 20, 1870, the school building burned to the ground. The school board used the insurance they collected and began a new building on the same location, Second Avenue North and Tenth Street. This new building was ready for use in the fall of 1872. Until it was completed, classes were held in various places: churches, empty store rooms, etc. The new building was named for D. K. Lincoln, president of the school board and an outstanding citizen. The building was then on the edge of town, and people complained of having to send their children “way out on the prairie” to school. It was often referred to as the “School on the Prairie.” The Lincoln School housed all grades, with the high school on the third floor.

In 1869, the Lincoln School was the only public school building in Fort Dodge. In 1872 the teaching staff consisted of ten women and one man. Early records do not speak of anyone as principal but refer simply to superintendent, or professor, as he was called. The high school became known for its progressive ideas. New supplies needed in the building were paid for by socials, programs, bazaars, suppers, etc., which students and teachers worked out as money-making projects. Lincoln School had about 350 pupils in attendance. The first high school graduating class was in 1875 – two young women and one young man made up the graduating class. In 1877 there was no graduating class. In 1878 seven students graduated and in 1879 only four. This was at a time when most Iowa towns only carried education through 8th grade. In 1875, there were very few high schools in Iowa, as many Iowans did not see high school as an educational necessity.

Even by 1890, high school level education was still fairly rare in Iowa as there were only 88 school districts in the state that offered four years of high school. Government and educational leaders at the state harbored concerns about the education system in Iowa. They argued that the organization of high schools reflected the growing public need for higher education and the high school should be the crowning glory of Iowa’s public education system. At that time, the existing high school curriculum was influenced by college admission requirements. This was a problem, because most students at that time required education and training for bookkeeping, business, journalism, dressmaking, agriculture and other “trade” type jobs, rather than a university education.

The 1890s were a time of soul-searching for Iowa educators. Out of the ferment of debate and discussion emerged a consensus around the belief that public schools must identify with the democratic, scientific, and technological forces of modern society and that they must reach out to all segments of the population. In so doing, the schools must work with other social agencies, such as the home, the church, and business, to educate the whole child: "the head, the heart, and the hand," to use a recurring phrase of the time.

Outside of the city in the county, one-room school houses were very common. In fact, in the state of Iowa there were as many as 12,000 to 14,000 one-room school houses at one time. Some national educational reports indicated that Iowa had more one-room school houses than any other state in the nation. Generally, a school was constructed near the center of the sub-district in every township so that no child had to travel more than two miles to school. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the kids all walked to school.

By 1897 the population of Fort Dodge had grown to 14,000. A new high school building was necessary. It was built on First Avenue North and Tenth Street. It was a three story building of yellow brick with many large windows and three outstanding entrances. Every foot of space in it was used. An unusually high basement had been built so that it could house the superintendent’s office, three recitation rooms, a bicycle room, a gymnasium, coal, boiler, and heating coil rooms.

The period between 1890 to 1920 was a time of educational growth and reform in Iowa which impacted education in Fort Dodge. The education movement began transitioning from the small, one-room country school approach, to a more regulated and large school model for providing public education. Consolidations started occurring shortly after the turn of the 20th century, but they started reaching a fever pitch when the automobile – and reliable roads – became a mainstay. Turn-of-the-last-century education reform – compulsory attendance through age 14 and required curriculum and textbooks – put the one-room schools on track to eventual demise.

Between 1890 to 1922, the population of Fort Dodge grew significantly and the need for more schools became a priority. During this time period, eleven schools were organized and constructed in Fort Dodge.

1890: Arey School was built

1891: Wahkonsa School was built

1893: The first Riverside School was built

1897: New High School on 1st Ave. North

1910: Butler School built

1912: Second Wahkonsa School built to replace the first one that burnt

1912: Duncombe School built

1914: Pleasant Valley School built

1917: Carpenter School built

1917: Hawley School built

1922: Fort Dodge High School

In 1899, there were thirty-eight teachers employed, not including the superintendent, and the buildings then in use were the Pottery, First Ward, West Fort Dodge, Arey, Wahkonsa, Lincoln, and the new high school building.

Most of the social activities held by high school groups in the early days were held in the homes. Football was introduced into the school in 1894. Interclass baseball was also played. In 1897 basketball for both boys and girls appeared. Those who played football in those days furnished their own equipment and did the coaching themselves.

The music department of the high school did not get underway until 1909. Then the first orchestra had six members. Athletics continued to grow in importance and around 1910 a coach was hired. An area for an athletic field was bought just east of Duncombe School.

In June of 1907. the high school building was damaged by fire. Because it was not totally destroyed, it was restored and ready for school in the fall. Due to an increased enrollment, several rooms were enlarged.

By 1918, the high school building on First Avenue North rapidly became outgrown. In 1919, petitions were started to ask the Board of Education to call an election to vote to issue bonds so a new lot might be bought and a new school be built and equipped. The vote for a new school carried easily.

Because Fort Dodge had spread out on both sides of the river and the distances from outlying districts were great, the question of a location for a new school was important. A consultant from Iowa City surveyed the city, found the center of population, and suggested a location. The Board then chose the site located at 1015 5th Ave North. The building was ready in September, 1922. It was built of dark red brick and is three stories high. Compared to the previous high school, it looked large and massive. (This building eventually became North Junior High after the new high school was built in 1958).

In 1921 the Fort Dodge School system added advanced courses beyond the regular four year high school program as the first step toward the establishment of a junior college, a new educational concept of the times. The college classes occupied the third floor of the new high school. The junior college was an extension of the Fort Dodge School System. The first teachers were high school teachers given additional assignments, a practice necessary because state funding did not extend beyond high school. The practice continued until the 1950s. Fort Dodge was the third school in the state to establish such a program.

During the following three decades, education continued to transform but no new school buildings were built until World War II ended. In the late 1940s and through the 1950’s, the rural population began to decline and with educational regulations increasing and stricter teacher qualification standards, maintaining the country schools was no longer feasible. As county roads continued to develop and vehicles improved, bus transportation also became a better option. When country school students began attending school “in town” in the late 50’s and early 60’s, it put a squeeze on the available space. The “Baby Boom” generation of students hit Fort Dodge and the community had to respond by building five new schools including a new high school in 1958. By the early 1970’s, public school enrollment hit all-time highs. The schools listed here were built during this period:

Fort Dodge Senior High and Junior College (1958)

Highland Park School (1952)

Hillcrest School (1956)

Cooper School (1956)

New High School (1958)

Feelhaver School (1968)

At the start of the 21st century, the schools built in the 1950’s had aged and three new schools have been built; the new Butler Elementary School in 1999; the new Middle School in 2013 and the new Duncombe Elementary School in 2017.

All four Fort Dodge elementary schools were named after iconic Fort Dodge leaders;

Butler Elementary: Name after J.B. Butler, an education leader and school board member for 27 years.

Feelhaver Elementary: Named after Charles Feelhaver, a highly respected school superintendent for Fort Dodge for twenty years

Duncombe Elementary: Named after the renowned Fort Dodge attorney, school board president and community leader, Charles Duncombe.

Cooper Elementary: Name after Fred Cooper, renowned coach and educational leader

Today, public school enrollment is approximately 3,600 students. Fort Dodge Community Schools offer one early learning center, four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. The Fort Dodge Community School System offers students a wide range of academic courses, vocation classes, athletic, arts and extracurricular activities.

Sources:

*Iowa Department of Education

*Iowa Biographies Project: History of Fort Dodge and Webster County, Iowa… by H. M. Pratt

1913 - Chicago: The Pioneer Publishing Company

*Fort Dodge in Pioneer Days …. 1944… by Lucy Taff

*Wikipedia





Arey Elementary School

1889

The first Arey School was built between 1889 and 1890. It was named for Melvin F. Arey who was superintendent of schools at the time. This first building had only four rooms. 

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On December 20, 1863, the first constitution was adopted, as a small group of early settlers in Fort Dodge organized the First German Evangelical Lutheran Church and called the Rev. G. Endres as its first pastor. Services were held in the old Episcopal church. In 1864 a building site was acquired on 3rd Avenue South where the first St. Paul church was erected. It was built of native gypsum rock recovered from quarries by members of the congregation. The original church was 24 X 40 feet by 16 feet tall. All woodwork in the edifice was of black walnut.

At the same time in 1863, the German Lutheran School was organized. Education was very important to the German settlers so arrangements were made to use some of the members’ homes as schools. These homes were located on 1st Avenue North, South 8th Street and 3rd Avenue South. A year later a church building site was acquired on 3rd Avenue South

where the first German Lutheran Church was built. The church was also used for school purposes. When the pews were made they included a drop leaf on the back and during the weekdays these were used for school desks. The school first opened in the old stone church in December 1864.

Both the church services and classes were taught in German.

In 1868, the first “Kinderfest” school picnic was held. This festival usually marked the close of the school year and was generally celebrated on the 4th of July. The custom prevailed for many years until the more formal practice of commencement became popular. In fact, in 1904, 2,500 members of the German Lutheran Church and their friends celebrated this event in Oleson Park, accompanied by the Juvenile Band and boarding a street car on Central Avenue to travel to Oleson Park.

When a new church was dedicated in 1886, the old church was used as a school. However, by 1893, the congregation was growing rapidly and the old church wasn’t large enough to accommodate all the students. The congregation sold the property and bought a building site on 2nd Avenue South between 6th and 7th streets and built a two story brick building. It was dedicated in 1894.

In 1916, the beginning of the school year, which until that time had been at Easter time, was made to conform to that of the public school in the first week of September. The growth of young people’s work in the congregation necessitated an assembly room. A spacious hall was provided in the attic of the school building.

A new church was built the early 1930‘s and a kindergarten was added to the school in 1932. By the 1950’s, they had outgrown the current school and a new school was built and dedicated on April 22, 1951 It was expanded in 1959, and in 1972, a preschool was organized at St. Paul Lutheran School. In 1999, the school was remodeled.

In 1999, the church suffered a devastating fire that was set by vandals and was destroyed. The school was saved, but was unusable. Classes were moved to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and remained there for the rest of the school year. Classes were able to resume in the fall; the church was rebuilt and was put into use in 2003.

Today, St. Paul Lutheran School continues to be a Christ-centered school trusting in God’s blessings and guidance, providing education for students K – 8th grade. While valuing its Lutheran heritage where students are daily in God’s Word, the school continues to value the partnership between church, school, and family, just as its pioneers leaders did over 150 years ago.

St. Paul Lutheran School is part of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod School System.

Sources:

*St. Paul 150th: Our History

*www.stpaulfd.org





Education

Butler School

1906

Butler School began in a rented house on south Twenty-second street in 1906. The school board rented a one-room house, and three grades were taught in it.

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Construction of Duncombe School was begun in 1912 when the school board saw there was a growing need for a school in the northeast section of the city. When the land for Duncombe School was purchased, it was a truck garden planted with corn. There were only two or three houses to the north of the school and none to the east. So the school was practically out in the country.

When the plan for the building was made, it called for eight classrooms, a community room, office, and a rest room. Many people said this was too large a building for the needs of the time. But the school board realized that this section of the city would grow. This proved to be true because the very first year the school was used, all eight rooms were filled, and a kindergarten was arranged for in the basement. They were still crowded for space. So the office became a supply room and the rest room an office. Later the community room became two classrooms making the building an eleven classroom structure operating on three floors.

In 1925 an annex of two rooms, moved over from Lincoln School, was added, making a total of thirteen classrooms in use. The upper hall was also used for classes.

One of the reasons for the great need of classrooms was that the seventh and eighth grades were enrolled at Duncombe until the junior high was established in 1931. When the seventh and eighth graders went over to the Junior High there was more room available and the annex became space used as an assembly room for students and community activities. The basement of the annex was used as a practice room for high school wrestlers.

The building was named after Charles F. Duncombe who was president of the board of education at the time the school was constructed and was a distinguished citizen.

One of the outstanding features of the school was the large playground which covered two square blocks. The large field to the east of the school was the athletic field for high school football, baseball, and track practice until Dodger Field was completed.

In 2015, bricks began to fall from the 100 year old building forcing the building to be closed for safety reasons. The Duncombe School students were temporarily relocated to the former Fair Oaks Middle School that was previously closed when the new Fort Dodge Middle School Building opened in 2013. A bond referendum was passed by the citizens of Fort Dodge in 2016 to build a new Duncombe Elementary School at the same location as the original Duncombe School.

In 2017, the new Duncombe Elementary School was opened, replacing the 105 year structure. Duncombe Elementary serves approximately 450 students in kindergarten through fourth grade.

Sources:

*Fort Dodge in Pioneer Days …. 1944… by Lucy Taff





Carpenter Elementary School

1917

Carpenter School has the honor of being named for ex-governor Cyrus Clay Carpenter, the teacher of the first public school in Fort Dodge.

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Fort Dodge has a long history of education. The first school in Fort Dodge was taught by C. C. Carpenter, (a young surveyor who later became the Governor of Iowa) in the winter of 1854-55. The first school in Fort Dodge was housed in the bake house of garrison soldiers, prior to 1956.

There were twenty students. With the need for more space, the second school was located further west of the original school in the only church and temperance hall in Fort Dodge. Dexter Weller was the teacher and there were forty students. Legend has it that the school was so cold during the winter that the ink froze while the students were using it and the drinking water froze in the pails before the students could drink it.

The third school, started in 1856, was the first public school. Henry Gunn was the first teacher. This school was located at the corner of 2nd Avenue South and 7th Street. It was a two-story brick building known as “Old Brick” and served as a public school for twelve years. “Old Brick” was the only public building in town and was used for holding court, political meetings, church, festivals and other public affairs. After the Spirit Lake Massacre, many local settlers living north and west of Fort Dodge took refuge in “Old Brick”. It was also where the two companies for the Spirit Lake expedition were organized to make the trek to bury the dead and confront the Indians after the Massacre.

Fort Dodge had its first divided school in 1860, with an upper and a lower grade. The school continued for three years. Following the war, the number of students grew in Fort Dodge grew significant by 1868. The school board built a large frame school house at Second Avenue South and Eighth Street to house the extra students. It had three rooms and was used until 1869.

In 1869, Fort Dodge had grown in population, so bonds were issued and a new twelve-room school was started at the corner of 2nd Avenue North and 10th Street. However, five months later on January 20, 1870, the school building burned to the ground. The school board used the insurance they collected and began a new building on the same location, Second Avenue North and Tenth Street. This new building was ready for use in the fall of 1872. Until it was completed, classes were held in various places: churches, empty store rooms, etc. The new building was named for D. K. Lincoln, president of the school board and an outstanding citizen. The building was then on the edge of town, and people complained of having to send their children “way out on the prairie” to school. It was often referred to as the “School on the Prairie.” The Lincoln School housed all grades, with the high school on the third floor.

In 1869, the Lincoln School was the only public school building in Fort Dodge. In 1872 the teaching staff consisted of ten women and one man. Early records do not speak of anyone as principal but refer simply to superintendent, or professor, as he was called. The high school became known for its progressive ideas. New supplies needed in the building were paid for by socials, programs, bazaars, suppers, etc., which students and teachers worked out as money-making projects. Lincoln School had about 350 pupils in attendance. The first high school graduating class was in 1875 – two young women and one young man made up the graduating class. In 1877 there was no graduating class. In 1878 seven students graduated and in 1879 only four. This was at a time when most Iowa towns only carried education through 8th grade. In 1875, there were very few high schools in Iowa, as many Iowans did not see high school as an educational necessity.

Even by 1890, high school level education was still fairly rare in Iowa as there were only 88 school districts in the state that offered four years of high school. Government and educational leaders at the state harbored concerns about the education system in Iowa. They argued that the organization of high schools reflected the growing public need for higher education and the high school should be the crowning glory of Iowa’s public education system. At that time, the existing high school curriculum was influenced by college admission requirements. This was a problem, because most students at that time required education and training for bookkeeping, business, journalism, dressmaking, agriculture and other “trade” type jobs, rather than a university education.

The 1890s were a time of soul-searching for Iowa educators. Out of the ferment of debate and discussion emerged a consensus around the belief that public schools must identify with the democratic, scientific, and technological forces of modern society and that they must reach out to all segments of the population. In so doing, the schools must work with other social agencies, such as the home, the church, and business, to educate the whole child: "the head, the heart, and the hand," to use a recurring phrase of the time.

Outside of the city in the county, one-room school houses were very common. In fact, in the state of Iowa there were as many as 12,000 to 14,000 one-room school houses at one time. Some national educational reports indicated that Iowa had more one-room school houses than any other state in the nation. Generally, a school was constructed near the center of the sub-district in every township so that no child had to travel more than two miles to school. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the kids all walked to school.

By 1897 the population of Fort Dodge had grown to 14,000. A new high school building was necessary. It was built on First Avenue North and Tenth Street. It was a three story building of yellow brick with many large windows and three outstanding entrances. Every foot of space in it was used. An unusually high basement had been built so that it could house the superintendent’s office, three recitation rooms, a bicycle room, a gymnasium, coal, boiler, and heating coil rooms.

The period between 1890 to 1920 was a time of educational growth and reform in Iowa which impacted education in Fort Dodge. The education movement began transitioning from the small, one-room country school approach, to a more regulated and large school model for providing public education. Consolidations started occurring shortly after the turn of the 20th century, but they started reaching a fever pitch when the automobile – and reliable roads – became a mainstay. Turn-of-the-last-century education reform – compulsory attendance through age 14 and required curriculum and textbooks – put the one-room schools on track to eventual demise.

Between 1890 to 1922, the population of Fort Dodge grew significantly and the need for more schools became a priority. During this time period, eleven schools were organized and constructed in Fort Dodge.

1890: Arey School was built

1891: Wahkonsa School was built

1893: The first Riverside School was built

1897: New High School on 1st Ave. North

1910: Butler School built

1912: Second Wahkonsa School built to replace the first one that burnt

1912: Duncombe School built

1914: Pleasant Valley School built

1917: Carpenter School built

1917: Hawley School built

1922: Fort Dodge High School

In 1899, there were thirty-eight teachers employed, not including the superintendent, and the buildings then in use were the Pottery, First Ward, West Fort Dodge, Arey, Wahkonsa, Lincoln, and the new high school building.

Most of the social activities held by high school groups in the early days were held in the homes. Football was introduced into the school in 1894. Interclass baseball was also played. In 1897 basketball for both boys and girls appeared. Those who played football in those days furnished their own equipment and did the coaching themselves.

The music department of the high school did not get underway until 1909. Then the first orchestra had six members. Athletics continued to grow in importance and around 1910 a coach was hired. An area for an athletic field was bought just east of Duncombe School.

In June of 1907. the high school building was damaged by fire. Because it was not totally destroyed, it was restored and ready for school in the fall. Due to an increased enrollment, several rooms were enlarged.

By 1918, the high school building on First Avenue North rapidly became outgrown. In 1919, petitions were started to ask the Board of Education to call an election to vote to issue bonds so a new lot might be bought and a new school be built and equipped. The vote for a new school carried easily.

Because Fort Dodge had spread out on both sides of the river and the distances from outlying districts were great, the question of a location for a new school was important. A consultant from Iowa City surveyed the city, found the center of population, and suggested a location. The Board then chose the site located at 1015 5th Ave North. The building was ready in September, 1922. It was built of dark red brick and is three stories high. Compared to the previous high school, it looked large and massive. (This building eventually became North Junior High after the new high school was built in 1958).

In 1921 the Fort Dodge School system added advanced courses beyond the regular four year high school program as the first step toward the establishment of a junior college, a new educational concept of the times. The college classes occupied the third floor of the new high school. The junior college was an extension of the Fort Dodge School System. The first teachers were high school teachers given additional assignments, a practice necessary because state funding did not extend beyond high school. The practice continued until the 1950s. Fort Dodge was the third school in the state to establish such a program.

During the following three decades, education continued to transform but no new school buildings were built until World War II ended. In the late 1940s and through the 1950’s, the rural population began to decline and with educational regulations increasing and stricter teacher qualification standards, maintaining the country schools was no longer feasible. As county roads continued to develop and vehicles improved, bus transportation also became a better option. When country school students began attending school “in town” in the late 50’s and early 60’s, it put a squeeze on the available space. The “Baby Boom” generation of students hit Fort Dodge and the community had to respond by building five new schools including a new high school in 1958. By the early 1970’s, public school enrollment hit all-time highs. The schools listed here were built during this period:

Fort Dodge Senior High and Junior College (1958)

Highland Park School (1952)

Hillcrest School (1956)

Cooper School (1956)

New High School (1958)

Feelhaver School (1968)

At the start of the 21st century, the schools built in the 1950’s had aged and three new schools have been built; the new Butler Elementary School in 1999; the new Middle School in 2013 and the new Duncombe Elementary School in 2017.

All four Fort Dodge elementary schools were named after iconic Fort Dodge leaders;

Butler Elementary: Name after J.B. Butler, an education leader and school board member for 27 years.

Feelhaver Elementary: Named after Charles Feelhaver, a highly respected school superintendent for Fort Dodge for twenty years

Duncombe Elementary: Named after the renowned Fort Dodge attorney, school board president and community leader, Charles Duncombe.

Cooper Elementary: Name after Fred Cooper, renowned coach and educational leader

Today, public school enrollment is approximately 3,600 students. Fort Dodge Community Schools offer one early learning center, four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. The Fort Dodge Community School System offers students a wide range of academic courses, vocation classes, athletic, arts and extracurricular activities.

Sources:

*Iowa Department of Education

*Iowa Biographies Project: History of Fort Dodge and Webster County, Iowa… by H. M. Pratt

1913 - Chicago: The Pioneer Publishing Company

*Fort Dodge in Pioneer Days …. 1944… by Lucy Taff

*Wikipedia





Community Christian School

1978

Giving the Fort Dodge area an option for Christian-based, protestant education, Community Christian School has a history of providing high quality educational services in the Fort Dodge area since 1978.

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Giving the Fort Dodge area an option for Christian-based, protestant education, Community Christian School has a history of providing high quality educational services in the Fort Dodge area since 1978. Many families representing over 25 churches have selected Community Christian School as their school of choice, based on its commitment to a philosophy of Christian education and academic excellence, small class size, commitment to building Christian character, ministry-minded staff that truly care about each individual student, the safe environment provided, and opportunity for parental involvement.

Community Christian School (CCS) was founded on January 18, 1978, through a vote taken by the members of the First Evangelical Free Church (FEFC) of Fort Dodge (now Crossway Church). Classes began in the fall of 1978. A high school was added in 1980 and operated until 1991. The intent was to “parent and guide a Christian school” that would be nondenominational in its focus and teachings yet would stress those central truths of the Bible that unite Christians. Classes met for the first time in the fall of 1978.

The school remained housed in the basement of FEFC until the spring of 2013 when the school relocated to 2406 9 and 1/2 Avenue South, Fort Dodge, (formerly the Holy Rosary Church). At that time, the school also became an independent, non-denominational school no longer governed by the FEFC. In January of 2018, the school added a daycare center to CCS serving infants to school age children.

CCS provides education for students pre-K through 8th grade. CCS is currently accredited by the State of Iowa and is pursuing accreditation with Christian Schools International (CSI).

Community Christian School’s Mission is: Serving God by providing families an academically-excellent, Biblically-integrated education, which encourages spiritual development and social responsibility in an environment where students can develop their God-given gifts and talents.

Source:

*http://www.ccsfd.org





Duncombe School

1912

When the land for Duncombe School was purchased, it was a truck garden planted with corn. There were only two or three houses to the north of the school and none to the east. So the school was practically out in the country.

Read More


Construction of Duncombe School was begun in 1912 when the school board saw there was a growing need for a school in the northeast section of the city. When the land for Duncombe School was purchased, it was a truck garden planted with corn. There were only two or three houses to the north of the school and none to the east. So the school was practically out in the country.

When the plan for the building was made, it called for eight classrooms, a community room, office, and a rest room. Many people said this was too large a building for the needs of the time. But the school board realized that this section of the city would grow. This proved to be true because the very first year the school was used, all eight rooms were filled, and a kindergarten was arranged for in the basement. They were still crowded for space. So the office became a supply room and the rest room an office. Later the community room became two classrooms making the building an eleven classroom structure operating on three floors.

In 1925 an annex of two rooms, moved over from Lincoln School, was added, making a total of thirteen classrooms in use. The upper hall was also used for classes.

One of the reasons for the great need of classrooms was that the seventh and eighth grades were enrolled at Duncombe until the junior high was established in 1931. When the seventh and eighth graders went over to the Junior High there was more room available and the annex became space used as an assembly room for students and community activities. The basement of the annex was used as a practice room for high school wrestlers.

The building was named after Charles F. Duncombe who was president of the board of education at the time the school was constructed and was a distinguished citizen.

One of the outstanding features of the school was the large playground which covered two square blocks. The large field to the east of the school was the athletic field for high school football, baseball, and track practice until Dodger Field was completed.

In 2015, bricks began to fall from the 100 year old building forcing the building to be closed for safety reasons. The Duncombe School students were temporarily relocated to the former Fair Oaks Middle School that was previously closed when the new Fort Dodge Middle School Building opened in 2013. A bond referendum was passed by the citizens of Fort Dodge in 2016 to build a new Duncombe Elementary School at the same location as the original Duncombe School.

In 2017, the new Duncombe Elementary School was opened, replacing the 105 year structure. Duncombe Elementary serves approximately 450 students in kindergarten through fourth grade.

Sources:

*Fort Dodge in Pioneer Days …. 1944… by Lucy Taff





Fort Dodge High School

1869

By 1868 the ever increasing school population of Fort Dodge had outgrown three upgraded buildings. So in that year bonds were issued, and a new twelve-room school house was started. It was ready for the school year in September, 1869.

Read More


On December 20, 1863, the first constitution was adopted, as a small group of early settlers in Fort Dodge organized the First German Evangelical Lutheran Church and called the Rev. G. Endres as its first pastor. Services were held in the old Episcopal church. In 1864 a building site was acquired on 3rd Avenue South where the first St. Paul church was erected. It was built of native gypsum rock recovered from quarries by members of the congregation. The original church was 24 X 40 feet by 16 feet tall. All woodwork in the edifice was of black walnut.

At the same time in 1863, the German Lutheran School was organized. Education was very important to the German settlers so arrangements were made to use some of the members’ homes as schools. These homes were located on 1st Avenue North, South 8th Street and 3rd Avenue South. A year later a church building site was acquired on 3rd Avenue South

where the first German Lutheran Church was built. The church was also used for school purposes. When the pews were made they included a drop leaf on the back and during the weekdays these were used for school desks. The school first opened in the old stone church in December 1864.

Both the church services and classes were taught in German.

In 1868, the first “Kinderfest” school picnic was held. This festival usually marked the close of the school year and was generally celebrated on the 4th of July. The custom prevailed for many years until the more formal practice of commencement became popular. In fact, in 1904, 2,500 members of the German Lutheran Church and their friends celebrated this event in Oleson Park, accompanied by the Juvenile Band and boarding a street car on Central Avenue to travel to Oleson Park.

When a new church was dedicated in 1886, the old church was used as a school. However, by 1893, the congregation was growing rapidly and the old church wasn’t large enough to accommodate all the students. The congregation sold the property and bought a building site on 2nd Avenue South between 6th and 7th streets and built a two story brick building. It was dedicated in 1894.

In 1916, the beginning of the school year, which until that time had been at Easter time, was made to conform to that of the public school in the first week of September. The growth of young people’s work in the congregation necessitated an assembly room. A spacious hall was provided in the attic of the school building.

A new church was built the early 1930‘s and a kindergarten was added to the school in 1932. By the 1950’s, they had outgrown the current school and a new school was built and dedicated on April 22, 1951 It was expanded in 1959, and in 1972, a preschool was organized at St. Paul Lutheran School. In 1999, the school was remodeled.

In 1999, the church suffered a devastating fire that was set by vandals and was destroyed. The school was saved, but was unusable. Classes were moved to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and remained there for the rest of the school year. Classes were able to resume in the fall; the church was rebuilt and was put into use in 2003.

Today, St. Paul Lutheran School continues to be a Christ-centered school trusting in God’s blessings and guidance, providing education for students K – 8th grade. While valuing its Lutheran heritage where students are daily in God’s Word, the school continues to value the partnership between church, school, and family, just as its pioneers leaders did over 150 years ago.

St. Paul Lutheran School is part of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod School System.

Sources:

*St. Paul 150th: Our History

*www.stpaulfd.org





Fort Dodge Junior College/Iowa Central Community College

1921

In 1921 the Fort Dodge School system added advanced courses beyond the regular four year high school program as the first step toward the establishment of a junior college, a new educational concept of the times.

Read More


Hawley School has one of the most beautiful settings in Fort Dodge. It is situated in the northwest part of the city on a lovely ridge called Round Prairie. There are still many virgin trees around to add to the pleasant environment.

The building was erected in 1917. Before the school was built, the children of this district attended Pottery School and Wahkonsa School. Pottery School was a single room school on North First Street.

Hawley School was named in memory of Henry W. Hawley, who was at one time a prominent citizen of Fort Dodge. When he died, he left $10,000 to be given to worthy graduates of our high school as college scholarships.

Since Hawley School was built, Round Prairie has grown rapidly, and until it became necessary to use all the classrooms in the building and to make the gymnasium and part of the hall into additional classrooms.

Hawley School was closed around 1985.





Fort Dodge Junior High

1922

The Junior High was organized in 1922 in the old Senior High Building when the new senior high building was completed in that year, and the four upper grades were transferred there.

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Fort Dodge has a long history of education. The first school in Fort Dodge was taught by C. C. Carpenter, (a young surveyor who later became the Governor of Iowa) in the winter of 1854-55. The first school in Fort Dodge was housed in the bake house of garrison soldiers, prior to 1956.

There were twenty students. With the need for more space, the second school was located further west of the original school in the only church and temperance hall in Fort Dodge. Dexter Weller was the teacher and there were forty students. Legend has it that the school was so cold during the winter that the ink froze while the students were using it and the drinking water froze in the pails before the students could drink it.

The third school, started in 1856, was the first public school. Henry Gunn was the first teacher. This school was located at the corner of 2nd Avenue South and 7th Street. It was a two-story brick building known as “Old Brick” and served as a public school for twelve years. “Old Brick” was the only public building in town and was used for holding court, political meetings, church, festivals and other public affairs. After the Spirit Lake Massacre, many local settlers living north and west of Fort Dodge took refuge in “Old Brick”. It was also where the two companies for the Spirit Lake expedition were organized to make the trek to bury the dead and confront the Indians after the Massacre.

Fort Dodge had its first divided school in 1860, with an upper and a lower grade. The school continued for three years. Following the war, the number of students grew in Fort Dodge grew significant by 1868. The school board built a large frame school house at Second Avenue South and Eighth Street to house the extra students. It had three rooms and was used until 1869.

In 1869, Fort Dodge had grown in population, so bonds were issued and a new twelve-room school was started at the corner of 2nd Avenue North and 10th Street. However, five months later on January 20, 1870, the school building burned to the ground. The school board used the insurance they collected and began a new building on the same location, Second Avenue North and Tenth Street. This new building was ready for use in the fall of 1872. Until it was completed, classes were held in various places: churches, empty store rooms, etc. The new building was named for D. K. Lincoln, president of the school board and an outstanding citizen. The building was then on the edge of town, and people complained of having to send their children “way out on the prairie” to school. It was often referred to as the “School on the Prairie.” The Lincoln School housed all grades, with the high school on the third floor.

In 1869, the Lincoln School was the only public school building in Fort Dodge. In 1872 the teaching staff consisted of ten women and one man. Early records do not speak of anyone as principal but refer simply to superintendent, or professor, as he was called. The high school became known for its progressive ideas. New supplies needed in the building were paid for by socials, programs, bazaars, suppers, etc., which students and teachers worked out as money-making projects. Lincoln School had about 350 pupils in attendance. The first high school graduating class was in 1875 – two young women and one young man made up the graduating class. In 1877 there was no graduating class. In 1878 seven students graduated and in 1879 only four. This was at a time when most Iowa towns only carried education through 8th grade. In 1875, there were very few high schools in Iowa, as many Iowans did not see high school as an educational necessity.

Even by 1890, high school level education was still fairly rare in Iowa as there were only 88 school districts in the state that offered four years of high school. Government and educational leaders at the state harbored concerns about the education system in Iowa. They argued that the organization of high schools reflected the growing public need for higher education and the high school should be the crowning glory of Iowa’s public education system. At that time, the existing high school curriculum was influenced by college admission requirements. This was a problem, because most students at that time required education and training for bookkeeping, business, journalism, dressmaking, agriculture and other “trade” type jobs, rather than a university education.

The 1890s were a time of soul-searching for Iowa educators. Out of the ferment of debate and discussion emerged a consensus around the belief that public schools must identify with the democratic, scientific, and technological forces of modern society and that they must reach out to all segments of the population. In so doing, the schools must work with other social agencies, such as the home, the church, and business, to educate the whole child: "the head, the heart, and the hand," to use a recurring phrase of the time.

Outside of the city in the county, one-room school houses were very common. In fact, in the state of Iowa there were as many as 12,000 to 14,000 one-room school houses at one time. Some national educational reports indicated that Iowa had more one-room school houses than any other state in the nation. Generally, a school was constructed near the center of the sub-district in every township so that no child had to travel more than two miles to school. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the kids all walked to school.

By 1897 the population of Fort Dodge had grown to 14,000. A new high school building was necessary. It was built on First Avenue North and Tenth Street. It was a three story building of yellow brick with many large windows and three outstanding entrances. Every foot of space in it was used. An unusually high basement had been built so that it could house the superintendent’s office, three recitation rooms, a bicycle room, a gymnasium, coal, boiler, and heating coil rooms.

The period between 1890 to 1920 was a time of educational growth and reform in Iowa which impacted education in Fort Dodge. The education movement began transitioning from the small, one-room country school approach, to a more regulated and large school model for providing public education. Consolidations started occurring shortly after the turn of the 20th century, but they started reaching a fever pitch when the automobile – and reliable roads – became a mainstay. Turn-of-the-last-century education reform – compulsory attendance through age 14 and required curriculum and textbooks – put the one-room schools on track to eventual demise.

Between 1890 to 1922, the population of Fort Dodge grew significantly and the need for more schools became a priority. During this time period, eleven schools were organized and constructed in Fort Dodge.

1890: Arey School was built

1891: Wahkonsa School was built

1893: The first Riverside School was built

1897: New High School on 1st Ave. North

1910: Butler School built

1912: Second Wahkonsa School built to replace the first one that burnt

1912: Duncombe School built

1914: Pleasant Valley School built

1917: Carpenter School built

1917: Hawley School built

1922: Fort Dodge High School

In 1899, there were thirty-eight teachers employed, not including the superintendent, and the buildings then in use were the Pottery, First Ward, West Fort Dodge, Arey, Wahkonsa, Lincoln, and the new high school building.

Most of the social activities held by high school groups in the early days were held in the homes. Football was introduced into the school in 1894. Interclass baseball was also played. In 1897 basketball for both boys and girls appeared. Those who played football in those days furnished their own equipment and did the coaching themselves.

The music department of the high school did not get underway until 1909. Then the first orchestra had six members. Athletics continued to grow in importance and around 1910 a coach was hired. An area for an athletic field was bought just east of Duncombe School.

In June of 1907. the high school building was damaged by fire. Because it was not totally destroyed, it was restored and ready for school in the fall. Due to an increased enrollment, several rooms were enlarged.

By 1918, the high school building on First Avenue North rapidly became outgrown. In 1919, petitions were started to ask the Board of Education to call an election to vote to issue bonds so a new lot might be bought and a new school be built and equipped. The vote for a new school carried easily.

Because Fort Dodge had spread out on both sides of the river and the distances from outlying districts were great, the question of a location for a new school was important. A consultant from Iowa City surveyed the city, found the center of population, and suggested a location. The Board then chose the site located at 1015 5th Ave North. The building was ready in September, 1922. It was built of dark red brick and is three stories high. Compared to the previous high school, it looked large and massive. (This building eventually became North Junior High after the new high school was built in 1958).

In 1921 the Fort Dodge School system added advanced courses beyond the regular four year high school program as the first step toward the establishment of a junior college, a new educational concept of the times. The college classes occupied the third floor of the new high school. The junior college was an extension of the Fort Dodge School System. The first teachers were high school teachers given additional assignments, a practice necessary because state funding did not extend beyond high school. The practice continued until the 1950s. Fort Dodge was the third school in the state to establish such a program.

During the following three decades, education continued to transform but no new school buildings were built until World War II ended. In the late 1940s and through the 1950’s, the rural population began to decline and with educational regulations increasing and stricter teacher qualification standards, maintaining the country schools was no longer feasible. As county roads continued to develop and vehicles improved, bus transportation also became a better option. When country school students began attending school “in town” in the late 50’s and early 60’s, it put a squeeze on the available space. The “Baby Boom” generation of students hit Fort Dodge and the community had to respond by building five new schools including a new high school in 1958. By the early 1970’s, public school enrollment hit all-time highs. The schools listed here were built during this period:

Fort Dodge Senior High and Junior College (1958)

Highland Park School (1952)

Hillcrest School (1956)

Cooper School (1956)

New High School (1958)

Feelhaver School (1968)

At the start of the 21st century, the schools built in the 1950’s had aged and three new schools have been built; the new Butler Elementary School in 1999; the new Middle School in 2013 and the new Duncombe Elementary School in 2017.

All four Fort Dodge elementary schools were named after iconic Fort Dodge leaders;

Butler Elementary: Name after J.B. Butler, an education leader and school board member for 27 years.

Feelhaver Elementary: Named after Charles Feelhaver, a highly respected school superintendent for Fort Dodge for twenty years

Duncombe Elementary: Named after the renowned Fort Dodge attorney, school board president and community leader, Charles Duncombe.

Cooper Elementary: Name after Fred Cooper, renowned coach and educational leader

Today, public school enrollment is approximately 3,600 students. Fort Dodge Community Schools offer one early learning center, four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. The Fort Dodge Community School System offers students a wide range of academic courses, vocation classes, athletic, arts and extracurricular activities.

Sources:

*Iowa Department of Education

*Iowa Biographies Project: History of Fort Dodge and Webster County, Iowa… by H. M. Pratt

1913 - Chicago: The Pioneer Publishing Company

*Fort Dodge in Pioneer Days …. 1944… by Lucy Taff

*Wikipedia





Hawley School

1917

Hawley School has one of the most beautiful settings in Fort Dodge. It is situated in the northwest part of the city on a lovely ridge called Round Prairie. There are still many virgin trees around to add to the pleasant environment.

Read More


Hawley School has one of the most beautiful settings in Fort Dodge. It is situated in the northwest part of the city on a lovely ridge called Round Prairie. There are still many virgin trees around to add to the pleasant environment.

The building was erected in 1917. Before the school was built, the children of this district attended Pottery School and Wahkonsa School. Pottery School was a single room school on North First Street.

Hawley School was named in memory of Henry W. Hawley, who was at one time a prominent citizen of Fort Dodge. When he died, he left $10,000 to be given to worthy graduates of our high school as college scholarships.

Since Hawley School was built, Round Prairie has grown rapidly, and until it became necessary to use all the classrooms in the building and to make the gymnasium and part of the hall into additional classrooms.

Hawley School was closed around 1985.





Lincoln School

1868

Lincoln School is the oldest of the school buildings in this city. In 1868, many students came into Fort Dodge. The school board saw a need for more room, so the first brick school building in Fort Dodge was completed on Lincoln School grounds.

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The citizens of the district of Pleasant Valley were given the privilege of choosing a name for their new school building. They chose the name, “Pleasant Valley”, because it describes the valley well, and because they hoped the school might be a pleasant place for everyone who worked there.

The Pleasant Valley district was known as the First Ward school in the earlier days. It has been impossible to locate the data of the first school house in the district. Early settlers think that the district is about 60 years old, but they do not know where the first building was located nor when it was built.

The first records found were in some school board notes of March 15, 1887. This seems to mean that the first school property in the district was bought in that year.

The building was known as the First Ward Building, Number 2. It was a one-room school house with an outside well and other inconveniences the children of the present day school never knew. The school had three grades and one teacher. By 1908 this school had grown to a three-room frame building with a teaching staff of three. The building was heated by stoves while water pails and public drinking cups provided water for the pupils.

In 1913 a Parent-Teacher Association was formed. That spring a petition for a new building was started and circulated. A special election was held, and money for a new school was voted. In 1914 the present school building was ready, having been built just across from the three-room building.

The brick building has seven classrooms and a gymnasium which is much used by the children as well as being a recreation center for adults in 1843 one end of the upper hall was converted into an all school library to which all grades come as part of their regular classwork.





Pleasant Valley School

1887

The citizens of the district of Pleasant Valley were given the privilege of choosing a name for their new school building. They chose the name, “Pleasant Valley”, because it describes the valley well, and because they hoped the school might be a pleasant place for everyone who worked there.

Read More


The citizens of the district of Pleasant Valley were given the privilege of choosing a name for their new school building. They chose the name, “Pleasant Valley”, because it describes the valley well, and because they hoped the school might be a pleasant place for everyone who worked there.

The Pleasant Valley district was known as the First Ward school in the earlier days. It has been impossible to locate the data of the first school house in the district. Early settlers think that the district is about 60 years old, but they do not know where the first building was located nor when it was built.

The first records found were in some school board notes of March 15, 1887. This seems to mean that the first school property in the district was bought in that year.

The building was known as the First Ward Building, Number 2. It was a one-room school house with an outside well and other inconveniences the children of the present day school never knew. The school had three grades and one teacher. By 1908 this school had grown to a three-room frame building with a teaching staff of three. The building was heated by stoves while water pails and public drinking cups provided water for the pupils.

In 1913 a Parent-Teacher Association was formed. That spring a petition for a new building was started and circulated. A special election was held, and money for a new school was voted. In 1914 the present school building was ready, having been built just across from the three-room building.

The brick building has seven classrooms and a gymnasium which is much used by the children as well as being a recreation center for adults in 1843 one end of the upper hall was converted into an all school library to which all grades come as part of their regular classwork.





Presbyterian College

1813

This school offered college preparatory courses, a traditional liberal arts program and a commercial program.  It was very innovative for its time because it offered individualized instruction, night courses and simulated model banking and retailing experiences.  It also had music, art, debate and speech.  Its enrollment peaked at 95 students.

Read More


The citizens of the district of Pleasant Valley were given the privilege of choosing a name for their new school building. They chose the name, “Pleasant Valley”, because it describes the valley well, and because they hoped the school might be a pleasant place for everyone who worked there.

The Pleasant Valley district was known as the First Ward school in the earlier days. It has been impossible to locate the data of the first school house in the district. Early settlers think that the district is about 60 years old, but they do not know where the first building was located nor when it was built.

The first records found were in some school board notes of March 15, 1887. This seems to mean that the first school property in the district was bought in that year.

The building was known as the First Ward Building, Number 2. It was a one-room school house with an outside well and other inconveniences the children of the present day school never knew. The school had three grades and one teacher. By 1908 this school had grown to a three-room frame building with a teaching staff of three. The building was heated by stoves while water pails and public drinking cups provided water for the pupils.

In 1913 a Parent-Teacher Association was formed. That spring a petition for a new building was started and circulated. A special election was held, and money for a new school was voted. In 1914 the present school building was ready, having been built just across from the three-room building.

The brick building has seven classrooms and a gymnasium which is much used by the children as well as being a recreation center for adults in 1843 one end of the upper hall was converted into an all school library to which all grades come as part of their regular classwork.





Riverside School

1813

This school offered college preparatory courses, a traditional liberal arts program and a commercial program.  It was very innovative for its time because it offered individualized instruction, night courses and simulated model banking and retailing experiences.  It also had music, art, debate and speech.  Its enrollment peaked at 95 students.

Read More


The first school on the west side was held in a log cabin about half a block east and a little south of the present West Side Lutheran Church. This was about 1870 and at that time the west side was not within the corporate limits of Fort Dodge, and the closest school was out near the Webster County Home. So the parents on the west side joined together and rented the log cabin, equipped it, and hired a teacher. They met all the expenses themselves because they wanted their children to have an education. Some also attended the “little brick school”, a two story building located on the corner of Second Avenue South and Eighth Street.

Sometime later, about 1875, when the west side became a part of the city of Fort Dodge, the school board rented a carpenter shop and arranged it into a schoolhouse. The location of this carpenter shop was on I Street.

In 1878 the school board built a one-room white frame building where the present Riverside School now stands. A white board fence surrounded this building and provided much fun for the children who attended this school. The boy or girl who could walk the entire length of this fence without falling was champion and felt greatly honored.

In 1893 the white frame building was replaced by a four-room brick building, to which four rooms were added five years later when there was a need for more space. The old white building was rebuilt into two church buildings on the west side. One part went into the old Riverside Methodist Church and the other part into the First Covenant Church.

In 1912 a kindergarten room was added to the building and in 1925 two more classrooms were added.

About 1916 the school board bought a large tract of the hillside for a playground. The hillside had formerly been used as a vineyard. The hillside playground is especially popular in winter when coasting and skiing are possible.

One of the rooms of Riverside School has been converted into an assembly and music room for use by both the children and the community. In 1943 another room was made into a very attractive all school library with fireplace, shelving, reading tables, and bulletin board facilities. Plans are underway to convert a basement room into an activity and physical education room.





St. Edmond's Catholic School
1956

Saint Edmond High School saw 69 students graduate from its first Class in 1956. The school showed great growth, with peak enrollment of 700 students, 9th thru 12th grades, in 1969.

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Fort Dodge has a long history of education. The first school in Fort Dodge was taught by C. C. Carpenter, (a young surveyor who later became the Governor of Iowa) in the winter of 1854-55. The first school in Fort Dodge was housed in the bake house of garrison soldiers, prior to 1956.

There were twenty students. With the need for more space, the second school was located further west of the original school in the only church and temperance hall in Fort Dodge. Dexter Weller was the teacher and there were forty students. Legend has it that the school was so cold during the winter that the ink froze while the students were using it and the drinking water froze in the pails before the students could drink it.

The third school, started in 1856, was the first public school. Henry Gunn was the first teacher. This school was located at the corner of 2nd Avenue South and 7th Street. It was a two-story brick building known as “Old Brick” and served as a public school for twelve years. “Old Brick” was the only public building in town and was used for holding court, political meetings, church, festivals and other public affairs. After the Spirit Lake Massacre, many local settlers living north and west of Fort Dodge took refuge in “Old Brick”. It was also where the two companies for the Spirit Lake expedition were organized to make the trek to bury the dead and confront the Indians after the Massacre.

Fort Dodge had its first divided school in 1860, with an upper and a lower grade. The school continued for three years. Following the war, the number of students grew in Fort Dodge grew significant by 1868. The school board built a large frame school house at Second Avenue South and Eighth Street to house the extra students. It had three rooms and was used until 1869.

In 1869, Fort Dodge had grown in population, so bonds were issued and a new twelve-room school was started at the corner of 2nd Avenue North and 10th Street. However, five months later on January 20, 1870, the school building burned to the ground. The school board used the insurance they collected and began a new building on the same location, Second Avenue North and Tenth Street. This new building was ready for use in the fall of 1872. Until it was completed, classes were held in various places: churches, empty store rooms, etc. The new building was named for D. K. Lincoln, president of the school board and an outstanding citizen. The building was then on the edge of town, and people complained of having to send their children “way out on the prairie” to school. It was often referred to as the “School on the Prairie.” The Lincoln School housed all grades, with the high school on the third floor.

In 1869, the Lincoln School was the only public school building in Fort Dodge. In 1872 the teaching staff consisted of ten women and one man. Early records do not speak of anyone as principal but refer simply to superintendent, or professor, as he was called. The high school became known for its progressive ideas. New supplies needed in the building were paid for by socials, programs, bazaars, suppers, etc., which students and teachers worked out as money-making projects. Lincoln School had about 350 pupils in attendance. The first high school graduating class was in 1875 – two young women and one young man made up the graduating class. In 1877 there was no graduating class. In 1878 seven students graduated and in 1879 only four. This was at a time when most Iowa towns only carried education through 8th grade. In 1875, there were very few high schools in Iowa, as many Iowans did not see high school as an educational necessity.

Even by 1890, high school level education was still fairly rare in Iowa as there were only 88 school districts in the state that offered four years of high school. Government and educational leaders at the state harbored concerns about the education system in Iowa. They argued that the organization of high schools reflected the growing public need for higher education and the high school should be the crowning glory of Iowa’s public education system. At that time, the existing high school curriculum was influenced by college admission requirements. This was a problem, because most students at that time required education and training for bookkeeping, business, journalism, dressmaking, agriculture and other “trade” type jobs, rather than a university education.

The 1890s were a time of soul-searching for Iowa educators. Out of the ferment of debate and discussion emerged a consensus around the belief that public schools must identify with the democratic, scientific, and technological forces of modern society and that they must reach out to all segments of the population. In so doing, the schools must work with other social agencies, such as the home, the church, and business, to educate the whole child: "the head, the heart, and the hand," to use a recurring phrase of the time.

Outside of the city in the county, one-room school houses were very common. In fact, in the state of Iowa there were as many as 12,000 to 14,000 one-room school houses at one time. Some national educational reports indicated that Iowa had more one-room school houses than any other state in the nation. Generally, a school was constructed near the center of the sub-district in every township so that no child had to travel more than two miles to school. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the kids all walked to school.

By 1897 the population of Fort Dodge had grown to 14,000. A new high school building was necessary. It was built on First Avenue North and Tenth Street. It was a three story building of yellow brick with many large windows and three outstanding entrances. Every foot of space in it was used. An unusually high basement had been built so that it could house the superintendent’s office, three recitation rooms, a bicycle room, a gymnasium, coal, boiler, and heating coil rooms.

The period between 1890 to 1920 was a time of educational growth and reform in Iowa which impacted education in Fort Dodge. The education movement began transitioning from the small, one-room country school approach, to a more regulated and large school model for providing public education. Consolidations started occurring shortly after the turn of the 20th century, but they started reaching a fever pitch when the automobile – and reliable roads – became a mainstay. Turn-of-the-last-century education reform – compulsory attendance through age 14 and required curriculum and textbooks – put the one-room schools on track to eventual demise.

Between 1890 to 1922, the population of Fort Dodge grew significantly and the need for more schools became a priority. During this time period, eleven schools were organized and constructed in Fort Dodge.

1890: Arey School was built

1891: Wahkonsa School was built

1893: The first Riverside School was built

1897: New High School on 1st Ave. North

1910: Butler School built

1912: Second Wahkonsa School built to replace the first one that burnt

1912: Duncombe School built

1914: Pleasant Valley School built

1917: Carpenter School built

1917: Hawley School built

1922: Fort Dodge High School

In 1899, there were thirty-eight teachers employed, not including the superintendent, and the buildings then in use were the Pottery, First Ward, West Fort Dodge, Arey, Wahkonsa, Lincoln, and the new high school building.

Most of the social activities held by high school groups in the early days were held in the homes. Football was introduced into the school in 1894. Interclass baseball was also played. In 1897 basketball for both boys and girls appeared. Those who played football in those days furnished their own equipment and did the coaching themselves.

The music department of the high school did not get underway until 1909. Then the first orchestra had six members. Athletics continued to grow in importance and around 1910 a coach was hired. An area for an athletic field was bought just east of Duncombe School.

In June of 1907. the high school building was damaged by fire. Because it was not totally destroyed, it was restored and ready for school in the fall. Due to an increased enrollment, several rooms were enlarged.

By 1918, the high school building on First Avenue North rapidly became outgrown. In 1919, petitions were started to ask the Board of Education to call an election to vote to issue bonds so a new lot might be bought and a new school be built and equipped. The vote for a new school carried easily.

Because Fort Dodge had spread out on both sides of the river and the distances from outlying districts were great, the question of a location for a new school was important. A consultant from Iowa City surveyed the city, found the center of population, and suggested a location. The Board then chose the site located at 1015 5th Ave North. The building was ready in September, 1922. It was built of dark red brick and is three stories high. Compared to the previous high school, it looked large and massive. (This building eventually became North Junior High after the new high school was built in 1958).

In 1921 the Fort Dodge School system added advanced courses beyond the regular four year high school program as the first step toward the establishment of a junior college, a new educational concept of the times. The college classes occupied the third floor of the new high school. The junior college was an extension of the Fort Dodge School System. The first teachers were high school teachers given additional assignments, a practice necessary because state funding did not extend beyond high school. The practice continued until the 1950s. Fort Dodge was the third school in the state to establish such a program.

During the following three decades, education continued to transform but no new school buildings were built until World War II ended. In the late 1940s and through the 1950’s, the rural population began to decline and with educational regulations increasing and stricter teacher qualification standards, maintaining the country schools was no longer feasible. As county roads continued to develop and vehicles improved, bus transportation also became a better option. When country school students began attending school “in town” in the late 50’s and early 60’s, it put a squeeze on the available space. The “Baby Boom” generation of students hit Fort Dodge and the community had to respond by building five new schools including a new high school in 1958. By the early 1970’s, public school enrollment hit all-time highs. The schools listed here were built during this period:

Fort Dodge Senior High and Junior College (1958)

Highland Park School (1952)

Hillcrest School (1956)

Cooper School (1956)

New High School (1958)

Feelhaver School (1968)

At the start of the 21st century, the schools built in the 1950’s had aged and three new schools have been built; the new Butler Elementary School in 1999; the new Middle School in 2013 and the new Duncombe Elementary School in 2017.

All four Fort Dodge elementary schools were named after iconic Fort Dodge leaders;

Butler Elementary: Name after J.B. Butler, an education leader and school board member for 27 years.

Feelhaver Elementary: Named after Charles Feelhaver, a highly respected school superintendent for Fort Dodge for twenty years

Duncombe Elementary: Named after the renowned Fort Dodge attorney, school board president and community leader, Charles Duncombe.

Cooper Elementary: Name after Fred Cooper, renowned coach and educational leader

Today, public school enrollment is approximately 3,600 students. Fort Dodge Community Schools offer one early learning center, four elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. The Fort Dodge Community School System offers students a wide range of academic courses, vocation classes, athletic, arts and extracurricular activities.

Sources:

*Iowa Department of Education

*Iowa Biographies Project: History of Fort Dodge and Webster County, Iowa… by H. M. Pratt

1913 - Chicago: The Pioneer Publishing Company

*Fort Dodge in Pioneer Days …. 1944… by Lucy Taff

*Wikipedia





St. Paul Lutheran School

1864

While valuing its Lutheran heritage where students are daily in God’s Word, the school continues to value the partnership between church, school, and family, just as its pioneers leaders did over 150 years ago.

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On December 20, 1863, the first constitution was adopted, as a small group of early settlers in Fort Dodge organized the First German Evangelical Lutheran Church and called the Rev. G. Endres as its first pastor. Services were held in the old Episcopal church. In 1864 a building site was acquired on 3rd Avenue South where the first St. Paul church was erected. It was built of native gypsum rock recovered from quarries by members of the congregation. The original church was 24 X 40 feet by 16 feet tall. All woodwork in the edifice was of black walnut.

At the same time in 1863, the German Lutheran School was organized. Education was very important to the German settlers so arrangements were made to use some of the members’ homes as schools. These homes were located on 1st Avenue North, South 8th Street and 3rd Avenue South. A year later a church building site was acquired on 3rd Avenue South

where the first German Lutheran Church was built. The church was also used for school purposes. When the pews were made they included a drop leaf on the back and during the weekdays these were used for school desks. The school first opened in the old stone church in December 1864.

Both the church services and classes were taught in German.

In 1868, the first “Kinderfest” school picnic was held. This festival usually marked the close of the school year and was generally celebrated on the 4th of July. The custom prevailed for many years until the more formal practice of commencement became popular. In fact, in 1904, 2,500 members of the German Lutheran Church and their friends celebrated this event in Oleson Park, accompanied by the Juvenile Band and boarding a street car on Central Avenue to travel to Oleson Park.

When a new church was dedicated in 1886, the old church was used as a school. However, by 1893, the congregation was growing rapidly and the old church wasn’t large enough to accommodate all the students. The congregation sold the property and bought a building site on 2nd Avenue South between 6th and 7th streets and built a two story brick building. It was dedicated in 1894.

In 1916, the beginning of the school year, which until that time had been at Easter time, was made to conform to that of the public school in the first week of September. The growth of young people’s work in the congregation necessitated an assembly room. A spacious hall was provided in the attic of the school building.

A new church was built the early 1930‘s and a kindergarten was added to the school in 1932. By the 1950’s, they had outgrown the current school and a new school was built and dedicated on April 22, 1951 It was expanded in 1959, and in 1972, a preschool was organized at St. Paul Lutheran School. In 1999, the school was remodeled.

In 1999, the church suffered a devastating fire that was set by vandals and was destroyed. The school was saved, but was unusable. Classes were moved to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and remained there for the rest of the school year. Classes were able to resume in the fall; the church was rebuilt and was put into use in 2003.

Today, St. Paul Lutheran School continues to be a Christ-centered school trusting in God’s blessings and guidance, providing education for students K – 8th grade. While valuing its Lutheran heritage where students are daily in God’s Word, the school continues to value the partnership between church, school, and family, just as its pioneers leaders did over 150 years ago.

St. Paul Lutheran School is part of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod School System.

Sources:

*St. Paul 150th: Our History

*www.stpaulfd.org





Wahkonsa School

1891

The location of Wahkonsa School has a great deal of historical interest connected with it. The plot on which the school is built was the site of the old military post from which Fort Dodge had its beginning.

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Tobin College

1892

The new college began without a name. A week or so after it opened, Professor Tobin was invited by some friends to spend the day in the woods. While he was gone, the teachers and students took matters into their own hands, called a meeting, and by a unanimous vote, christened the new college, "Tobin," in recognition of the work he had done for the cause of education through the founding of so many colleges.

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The citizens of the district of Pleasant Valley were given the privilege of choosing a name for their new school building. They chose the name, “Pleasant Valley”, because it describes the valley well, and because they hoped the school might be a pleasant place for everyone who worked there.

The Pleasant Valley district was known as the First Ward school in the earlier days. It has been impossible to locate the data of the first school house in the district. Early settlers think that the district is about 60 years old, but they do not know where the first building was located nor when it was built.

The first records found were in some school board notes of March 15, 1887. This seems to mean that the first school property in the district was bought in that year.

The building was known as the First Ward Building, Number 2. It was a one-room school house with an outside well and other inconveniences the children of the present day school never knew. The school had three grades and one teacher. By 1908 this school had grown to a three-room frame building with a teaching staff of three. The building was heated by stoves while water pails and public drinking cups provided water for the pupils.

In 1913 a Parent-Teacher Association was formed. That spring a petition for a new building was started and circulated. A special election was held, and money for a new school was voted. In 1914 the present school building was ready, having been built just across from the three-room building.

The brick building has seven classrooms and a gymnasium which is much used by the children as well as being a recreation center for adults in 1843 one end of the upper hall was converted into an all school library to which all grades come as part of their regular classwork.





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