2019 LPHS grads, please raise a glass of punch to Lester Houseman, John Walker and W.C. Weir

The first La Porte High School building, located between Clay and Jackson streets. (Photo provided)

By Fern Eddy Schultz, La Porte County Historian

This year (2019), La Porte High School is celebrating the graduation of its 150th class. There seems to be no definite record of the graduates of La Porte High School in 1869. In fact, there are several reports that differ. For the purposes of this article, I have chosen to use information recorded in the LPHS Alumnus Directory, 1869-1948. There are three individuals listed in this record as having been 1869 graduates: Lester G. Houseman, John H. Walker and W.C. Weir.

In 1863, under the direction of Judge Hannah, Rev. Noyes and Lafayette Crane, the high school building known as Central School was erected. At this time, only the first floor was finished, the high school classes using one of the unplastered for recitation. At this time, too, Noble Street between Clay and Jackson Streets was closed, giving the entire square for school purposes.

In 1865, the graded school system was established. The pupils were required to pursue a prescribed course of study and were classified according to their attainments. This system was accomplished only after a determined resistance to the innovation.

The school year of 1869-70 enrolled 60 pupils in the high school with an average attendance of 45. The school year consisted of 10 months. There were two courses offered — the English Department, which required arithmetic, grammar, natural history, physiology, chemistry, rhetoric, English literature, trigonometry, moral science, botany, and astronomy; and the Classical Department, which required Latin, arithmetic, physiology, book-keeping, Greek, algebra, trigonometry, and astrology, and offered French and an optional study.  

The class of 1869 enrolled two graduates — the class of 1870, 10. Non-resident pupils were charged ten dollars for the first term and eight dollars for each subsequent term.

School trustees at the time of the 1869 graduation were:  Hugh Donly, Dr. R O. Crandall and W.A. Place. The superintendent from 1869-71 was C E. Otis., A.B., and the principal of the high school from 1869-71 was Coleman Bancroft, B.S.

La Porte County Historian Fern Eddy Schultz

Much research has been done to locate biographical information about the three graduates.  No information has been located about a Lester G. Houseman. Perhaps the information located about a Charles Lester Houseman (also recorded as C.L. Houseman) is, in fact, information about Lester G. Houseman. An obituary located for Charles Lester Houseman reports he was born Oct. 7, 1840, in La Porte prepared for college and entered Michigan University in September 1868, and was graduated June 23, 1872, with the degree of A.B. He taught in the Schools of Ligonier and Rolling Prairie, Ind., for four years. In 1876, he accepted the position of principal of the High School of Muskegon, Mich. In 1878, he was made superintendent of the Muskegon Schools and continued in that position until his resignation in 1886.  He died February 23, 1911, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Muskegon, Michigan.

There is much information available about W.C. Weir (William C. Weir) as he remained locally, was a local businessman and prominent in community activity. He was born in Elmira, NY, and came to La Porte not long before the outbreak of the Civil War and while a young man. He enlisted in the army and saw considerable active service. Formerly he was in the furniture business here but for many years had been an undertaker. He was a public-spirited citizen and was active in all matters pertaining to the Grand Army of the Republic. He died October 6, 1919, and is buried in Pine Lake Cemetery.

Because the Walker name is such a prominent one in La Porte County, it has been impossible to pinpoint the exact John H. (sometimes listed as John R.) Walker.  Any definitive information about Mr. Walker would be appreciated. (Email Fern at netster@csinet.net.)

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