by David G. Penney

I want all of my readers to see this rare picture of a class at the Williams' School (large size) almost 100 years ago. It is all the more miraculous that we can identify all of the children and the teacher.

For schooling during our early history, this area was divided into Districts. Most were within the historical Royal Oak Township (8 Mile to 14 Mile Roads, Dequindre to Greenfield Roads), but a few lapped over into Southfield Township to the west, and some into Troy Township on the north.

Royal Oak (Township) District No. 5 was bounded by Fourteen Mile, Campbell, and Twelve Mile Roads, and included parts or all of Sections 2, 3, 4, 9 and 10. The school building was known as the "Williams School", after David Williams, who deeded 1.16 acres to the District to build a school.

Class at the Williams School (later known as Mary Lyons Jr. High School), corner of Rochester Road and 13 Mile Road, 1906/07.
Front row: Mamie Bowman, Clara Bowman, Margaret Drechsler, Ella Drechsler, Hazel Rolph, Vera Nielsen, Agnes Groth, Laura Storz (Anger)(teacher), Henry Gebhardt, John Megran, Frank Bauman, Clifford Rolph, Earl Groves.
Back row: Mary Gebhardt, Mary Bauman, Anna Nielsen, Anna Gebhardt, Arthur Smith, John Parker, Clarence Luce, Jay Parker, Will Parker.

Just married, Williams purchased 160 acres in the southwest quarter of Section 3 of Royal Oak Township in 1822 for $50. This placed his farm east of the Niles Road (Main Street) and north of Thirteen Mile Road. His house and a cider mill were located on the Paint Creek (Rochester) Road north of Thirteen Mile. After the former was planked to give it a hard surface and make it usable year round, it became a toll road, with Mr. Williams one of the toll takers. He died in 1870, but his son Sherman continued at the homestead for 50 years.

The Williams' School was situated at the northeast corner of Rochester at Thirteen Mile Road. A landmark, the Stumpf blacksmith shop stood across 13 Mile Road, so it was sometimes called the Stumpf School. Jacob Stumpf, Jr. referred to it "as the little frame school" that he attended. As a boy Jake earned two cents a day for sweeping it out, and five cents for each fire he built. His parents, Jacob and Magdalena Stumpf, had come to Royal Oak in 1866, settling at the southeast corner of Thirteen Mile and Rochester Roads. The senior Stumpf was successful in preventing the school district from being annexed into Clawson.

In 1908 the worn wooden school building was replaced by a small red brick structure. As the population began to grow rapidly this building was replaced by a new larger brick structure in 1913 at a cost of $331,237. By 1916/17 the area was called the Oakridge School District, and in 1928 it combined with the City of Royal Oak School District. More recently, the much larger Mary Lyon Junior High School building stood on the site. This is now replaced by a MacDonalds restaurant and further east, a strip mall.

Laura Storz, the teacher in 1907, was the daughter of Louis and Catherine Storz, born in 1886. Louis Storz was a prominent Village citizen; his general store and handsome brick house stood at the northeast corner of Main and Fifth Streets. Laura later became the second wife of my cousin William Anger. Anger's chapter in Royal Oak, The Early Years by Perkins, describes the quaint Village of Royal Oak at the turn of the century. Laura died in 1974 and was interred in Oakview Cemetery.

What about the students - do we know what became of them? Anna C. Nielsen, grew up in the home of Peter E. Backer. She later married George Hilzinger, son of the "Versatile Mr. (William) Hilzinger", featured in my Mirror article of Feb. 4th of this year. By marriage she became the second Anna Hilzinger, after Miss Anna M. Hilzinger, eldest daughter of William Hilzinger. Anna and George lived for many years in the former Wood family house, after it was moved to 211 South Knowles, behind the Farmers Market. Anna was a great supporter of the Historical Society. See her recollections of "Long ago in Royal Oak" in Twigs & Acorns by Penney and Lance, 1996.

Margaret L. Drechsler, born in 1898, died just one year after the picture was taken, 10 years of age. Mary Gebhardt, born in 1896, died in 1918, at age 22 years. Both girls are buried in the Royal Oak Cemetery. Frank Bauman, born in 1898, died in 1980 and lies in St. Marys Cemetery, Royal Oak. Earl Groves was probably related to Samuel Groves, who owned 148 acres just south of 14 Mile Road in what is now the City of Clawson.

This little school was part a long history that involved a number of buildings and many names. Today there is no school on the site, the closest being the Oak Ridge Elementary School on the south side of Thirteen Mile.

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