The pioneers in the area recognized the importance of a formal education. In 1840 a log cabin was built on Lot No. 43, and a unique arrangement was worked out for its use, as both church and school. The Catholics used the cabin for Sunday morning Mass, with the Lutherans holding services in the building on Sunday afternoon. On week days the cabin served as a school for all the children.
Old Kloeppel School
Henry Joseph Boehmer was the first teacher in the Fort Jennings School, succeeded by Louis deLucenay, and then Louis Odenweller.
Boehmer had graduated from a German teacher’s college before coming to America. However, few of the teachers who followed him in the next half century were college graduates. Anyone who wished to teach took an exam, called the “Boxwell Exam,” and if successful, was granted a teaching certificate
Records of Jennings Township schools begin in 1856 with four districts. Jennings Township records indicate these four districts were approved by the township trustees in April of 1853.
Elected directors at that time were H. Joseph Boehmer, Daniel Stemen, John Goffer, Noah Meyers, M. D. Jamison and Godfrey Chamberlain. L. S. Ryan was appointed chairman and Henry Raabe was clerk.
Levies for building school houses in districts two, three and four were approved that year. A fifty dollar levy in each district built a school and furnished it with a stove. Teachers’ salaries were $10 per month with school held for three to six month sessions, depending on finances.
A summer session of school was first held in 1866. It was taught by Susan Plikert. Both German and English were taught in some school districts.
This was the beginning of that nostalgic period of the little one room schools, which dotted the countryside. Some were brick and some were white frame. Each had a well with a hand pump and each one had an outhouse. The schools were spaced on country roads so that students would not have to walk more than 2 miles to school.
The districts reorganized in 1868 and each district then governed its school. According to state law, a tax of five mills was laid on all taxable property the following year.
In that same year the Board of Education had to make a new plot to record the changes made by the Commission. Sub-District 2 became Sub-District 1, No. 3 became No. 2 and No. 4 became No. 3.
In 1870, school No. 1 was at the northwest corner of section 36, No. 2 was on the south boundary of the northwest quarter of section 15 and No. 3 was near the east boundary of the southwest quarter of section 12. School district boundaries made many changes through the years. In 1881, No. 4 covered the N ½ of Sections 11 and 12, all of 1 and 2 and the S ½ of the S ½ of 35 and 36.
In 1898 sub-district No. 5 was created from parts of sections 26, 28, 33, 34 and 35 and all of section 27. In 1899 sub-district No. 6 was created from Sections 6, 7, 18 and part of 17. This portion of Jennings Township had been part of the Delphos Union School District. However, in 1898 the Jennings district lost some territory when the board granted to Frank and Gerhart Brinkman a transfer of their farms to the Monterey School District.
These country schools were known by name and number. The name usually came from the school’s location or whose farm it was located on. District No. 1 was the Jennings Special School District in town. The first Wallenhorst School (No. 6) was north of the George Wallenhorst residence on Defiance Trail. The second building was on the old Schaffner farm (later Knippen farm). This school was later sold to Leo Allemeier.
Surnames of children attending the Wallenhorst School were: Ostiang, Saum, Kunz, Metzger, Klausing, Lauer, Wallenhorst, Lause, Siefker, Schaffner, Rekart, Knippen, Calvelage, Bracker, Wichart (Wiechart), Recker, Stauterman, Clements, Eggeman, Seitz, Bruskotter, Dahling, Campbell and Landwehr.
Norb Lause of Road U20, near Delphos, attended the Schaffner School, usually called the Wallenhorst School. The Lause family walked three-fourths of a mile to school except on rainy days then their mother would hitch up old Daisy to the cozy cab buggy and take them. Norb recalled that Frank Metzger and Fred Kunz, who were in the seventh and eighth grades, made a large bow and arrow. They had to be on their backs and use their feet to hold the bow. They pulled the string and arrow back with their hands and shot it into the air. Where it fell, no one knows.
The first Center School was on the Lewis German farm. This wood structure, built in 1856, was replaced by a brick school on the Chandler Farm.
Families who attended the Center School were: Weatherholtz, Hunt, Schleeter, Kratinger, Erickson, Howard, Derickson, Fisher, Westenbarger and Unland
This school was not sold in 1925 because the price was too low. As time went by, the flooring lumber was sold to A. C. Davis and the roofing to Roy Chandler. The bricks were sold for $7.00 per thousand.
The Kloeppel School was located on St. Rt. 190. It was later moved to the Henry Rode Farm, where it served as a grainery. It remains standing in 2011.
Surnames of children attending the Kleoppel School were: Miller, Kloeppel, Horstman, Allemeier, Seffernick, Rode, Kohorst, Baxter, Augustine, Fuerst, Morkoetter, Steinbrenner, Obringer, Raabe, Snyder, Helmkamp, Osting, Myers, Utrup, Strayer and Bartz.
The Pleasant Valley School was named after a school in Pennsylvania. Names of some students were: Wreede, Chandler, Hellman, Claypool, Nichols, Wallen, Brockhaus, Ellerbrock, Wueller and Berelsman. (Pleasant Valley)
The Ostendorf School was located in the woods on the John VonLehmden farm. Children from many families attended the Ostendorf School, including Boberg, Grote, Gerker, Meier, Bracker, Calvelage, Wittler, Mericle, Geier, VonLehmden Becker, Berelsman, Wieging, Ellerbrock, Fecker, Hellman, Doepker, Recker, Neidert, Knueven, Steckler, Snyder, Allen, Schimmoeller, Brockman, Ostendorf, Schuerman, Paint, Helmkamp, Kortier, Wallen, Keller, Rekart, Osage, Bruckotter, Slottman, Kramer, Heising, Keppler, Ebbeskotte, Hageman, Lehmkule, Minning, Slatman and Wurstner.
The Hedrick School was on Rt. 224, near Rt. 190 in Jackson Township, on the Remlinger farm. The Hedrick School was sometimes referred to as the Remlinger School Names of students included: Hedrick, Schulte, Kohls, Martin, Wheeler, Rower, Sroufe, Schingler, Grote, Gerker, Freund, Stramm, Horstman, Brinkman, Allemeier, Lineinger, Recker, Wheeler and Remlinger.
Flora Martin Horstman told her story to Jane Horstman Stallkamp: Flora’s brother, Leo, had the job of starting the fire and was paid ten cents. He walked to the neighbors (Gerker) to carry the drinking water and we all used the same dipper to drink out of. They played games like Fox and Goose, Old Sow and Andy Over the School.
The following is taken from the eighth grade graduation speech by Agnes Schulte. Reading is the food of the soul. When we read we are taking food. Our mind takes hold of it, and absorbs it as material nourishment enters the body. The food of the body, bread, meat and the like, changes itself into our substance; it becomes flesh and blood and muscles. In the same way the book we read, with its teaching, enters into our mind and soul, and will form thought and character. The contents of the book passes into our spiritual organism, just in the substance of bread passes into our bodily organism. Hence reading is the mind what eating is to the body.
Brush College was near Rushmore. The original school was later incorporated a part of the Fred Kunz home. Names of some students, who attend Brush College, were: Kramer, Mericle, Jamison, Dunlap, Duhlman, Ricker, Calvelage, Jenkins, Barnes and Diehlman.
The first student enrollment records in 1860 showed 292 pupils in the township schools. There were 187 students in district one, 25 in two, 22 in three and 48 in district four.
In 1864 there were 385 students in the township schools, in 1866, 436; in 1955, 330; and in October of 1975, 530. The enumeration of 1874 shows that there were four colored children in District two.
In 1895, the board decided that no religious instruction was to be taught in any school governed by the Jennings Township Board of Education.
As time passed the 1840 log cabin school had to be replaced by a white frame structure which stood on lot 5. After 1883, when a new Catholic church was built, the second church on lot 6 was converted into two classrooms, one upstairs and one on the first floor.
The old church, then used as a school, was damaged by lightning in 1904. The Catholic parish built on lot 6, a two story brick school with four classrooms, to replace the old buildings. The preceding year, the school board proposed a bond issue to build a public school, but the issue was not approved by voters. Twice the proposals were defeated by voters. In 1906 a course in Agriculture was added to the curriculum of the grade schools.
There were free days during World War I because fuel was hard to get. On 5 December 1917, school was dismissed until after New Year’s Day because of a fuel shortage. Then on 25 January 1918 there was another vacation because there was no coal available, and school was closed until a supply of fuel could be secured.
Township school boundaries changed several times, as more settlers came into the area. Buildings were replaced, often near the original site, as better building materials became available.
In 1899, Sub-district No. 6 was created. It consisted of Sections 6, 7, 18 and part of 17. The year 1902 proved exciting with a legal controversy. Some of the landowner of the district presented a petition for the formation of a school district in Rushmore, as a Special District. Some landowners protested. The board voted against creating the Rushmore Special School. The case went to the Probate Court of Putnam County and to the Supreme Court of Ohio, which approved the separate district.
Since there was no high school in Jennings Township, students wanting to continue their education went to another district. In 1899, the board had authorized the first tuition payment for these students.
The Jennings Township Board of Education took a memorable step forward on 6 April 1907. Henry Wittler presented the following motion: “That the Jennings Township School District and the Fort Jennings Special School District be united for high school purposes on the following terms and conditions to wit: Said high school to be erected for that purpose by the Fort Jennings Special School District”……The motion was passed….Thus was begun, the basis of the Fort Jennings High School.
A $10,000 tax levy for the construction of a high school in Fort Jennings passed in 1907. The combined township district purchased four-and-a-half acres of land from Sabilla Wagener for $860. This is now the site of the “old gym” and the Fort Jennings Branch Library.
This new building was erected and occupied in December of 1908. Two rooms of the structure, and later one, were used for a public grade school. Two years after it was built the school was chartered as a three-year high school. The first graduating class of 1912 included Julia Graf, Christ Rose and Frances Wagener.
Following the construction of the public school, St. Joseph’s Catholic Parish operated a parochial school in their building. However, some Catholic students transferred to the public school. The Tiffin Sisters of St. Francis began teaching in Fort Jennings in 1913.
In 1921, the village and township schools, except Rushmore, were combined under the name “Jennings Consolidated School District.” Then by a gradual process, the era of the one-room schoolhouse was ended. Two Maxwell school buses were purchased and routes established to transport all students to the centralized school. George Bertling, Louis Boehmer, Ed Recker and Ralph Raabe were hired as bus drivers.
The parochial school building was doubled in size in 1929, with the addition of a gymnasium and two classrooms. However the gym was converted into two classrooms shortly thereafter.
Until 1 January 1931, St. Joseph’s School was operated in Fort Jennings as a parochial grade school. The community began the discussion of the consolidation of this institution with the public grade school in June of 1930. In December of 1930, the Board of Education of Fort Jennings made a contract with the St. Joseph’s Parish to use the parochial school building for a public school for grades 1-8. Thus was completed the consolidation of all the schools in the district.
Up to this time, students were graduated at the end of their third year of high school, since the school had only a 3-year charter. If anyone wished to complete his high school education, he had to finish at Delphos or some other school of his choice. During the term 1931-32, it was decided to operate a four year high school. Mr. B. I. Perry was elected to be superintendent and Miss Marie Uhrich was made principal.
During this year a 5 day sick leave for teachers was established. Also, one period a week of religious instruction was offered as an elective subject. In 1937, corporal punishment was made legal in the Fort Jennings Schools - “In order to maintain discipline a reasonable corporal punishment may be necessary.”
When the U. S. Government granted to the Fort Jennings Consolidated Rural School District $45,000 in federal aid, the contracts were let for a new $100,000 high school building. This was on 14 October 1938. Work on the building was begun almost at once. The old building was demolished and the new one was begun on the site of the original structure. During the year required for erecting the high school, classes were held in the Memorial Hall and in the basement of the grade school building. Heating was a problem that winter. A teacher during the construction period recalled many times when students typed with gloves on. Students transferred from one building to the other for some classes.
During this year, Fort Jennings had a full-time music teacher for the first time. A band was organized, having 35 members. In the spring, a band concert was given in the Memorial Hall.
The new facility opened in September 1939, even though all equipment was not in place. Because a fine new work shop was available, an Agriculture Course under the Smith-Work Act was begun in the high school with Ross Work as instructor. For the first time too, a Home Economics Course was offered with Miss Hilda Ball as the teacher. Fort Jennings also became more sports minded, with the new gym making possible interscholastic competition in basketball. The school had its first team that year and played in county competition as well as in the County Tournament.
In 1938, the high school became the first school in the county to be chartered by the National Honor Society. Unfortunately, this program was temporarily discontinued in 1969. The NHS was reinstated in later.
When the high school was built during the Great Depression, this beautiful tan brick building was among the most modern schools in the area.
Our country moved from the Depression, right into WW II on that fateful day of Dec. 7, 1941. Many of our young men were drafted before finishing high school. At graduation their chairs sat empty with a blue star banner draped across the back. There was also a shortage of teachers during the war.
Fast forward to 1958, when the Jennings Local School was chosen to pilot the first migrant school education program in the nation. There was a large group of Mexican – American migrants in the area.
The Fort Jennings grade school was replaced in 1960 on a different site between Second St. and the Ottoville Road. The new building, owned by the Catholic Parish and leased to the school board, included 14 classrooms, a multi-purpose room, library and cafeteria. Rose Warnecke and Mary Suever were the school cooks. High school students walked to the grade school cafeteria until 1974, when a van was purchased to transport the food to the high school building. Prior to the cafeteria, students walked to the downtown restaurants (or bars) for lunch. Some went home or carried their lunch. Many students remember Julie Dickman standing by the bar with her tray of ten cent hamburgers. The honor system was the rule of the day.
The high school had growing pains also so a large addition was built to the facility in 1965. This addition housed classrooms, office, library and a shop area. Upon completion of this addition, the 8th grade moved back to the high school building in 1965 and the 7th grade returned to the high school in 1972. The 7th and 8th grades had been temporarily housed at the grade school during the 60’s.
The gym in the 1939 school had served the students well. However the fast paced basketball required a larger gym floor so a new gym was built adjacent to the back of the high school. School musicals, class plays and some junior high basketball continued to be held in the old gym with its comfortable bucket seats.
The next addition came in 1998 when John and Agnes (Specht) Reich gave a very generous donation to the school. John & Agnes moved to Fort Jennings in their senior years and evidently they became reattached to the community. The gift was used for a state of the art band room or music room. This room now houses the Fort Jennings Branch Library.
Really big changes came to the Jennings Local Schools at the turn of the century. The Ohio School Facilities Commission set up a program whereby it offered a large percentage of funds toward the construction of new schools in Ohio. This opportunity was offered to the local district in 1999. The state offered to pay 83 percent with the school district paying the remaining 17 percent. After several months of public relations in this regard the decision was made in August of 2000 to place the school construction bond issue on the November ballot. Following a favorable vote the Fort Jennings State Bank was designated as purchaser of the bonds.
Forty acres of land just off St. Rt. 189 was purchased for the building in March of 2001. Fanning/Howey of Celina was approved as architects. They presented their plan in September 200l. The ground breaking ceremony was held 29 March 2002. Three members of the Class of 2017 were the first to break ground. Construction began almost immediately. Walls were going up on schedule but a wind storm came along in the fall of 2002, causing the collapse of one wall. This caused a delay in opening the new Pre K-12 school.
By April 2004, the building was ready for open house. The high school band played the school fight song for the opening ceremony in the 1500 seat gymnasium. Rep. James Hoops and Senator Lynn Watchmann were there to congratulate the administrators, staff, students and community on the new facility. The $14 million dollar, 103,325 square foot facility was paid for with $10,781,039 from the OSFC and the district residents picking up the rest with a 7.3-mil school levy and a .50-mil maintenance levy.
Following the dedication more than 400 interested residents, teachers and students toured the attractive building. The interior color scheme, is especially attractive….both warm and conducive to enthusiasium. Students commented that the best thing about the new school was the air-conditioning
It was a sad day in 2004 as many former students watched their old Alma Mater come tumbling down. The 1977 gym and the recently built band room would remain. Many fond memories remain and many bricks were taken home for souveniers.
Students and teachers eagerly entered their new school in the fall of 2004, with much anticipation. They were happy with what they found. The new school includes elementary and high school wings, with corresponding administrative offices and a shared commons area, including the gymnasiums, auditeria and media center.
The elementary wing includes 14 classrooms, as well as an art room and special education rooms. Each classroom has a sink and drinking fountain, with pre-K and kindergarten rooms equipped with their own restrooms. There is also a special playground for smaller children.
The high school has 6 classrooms, including 2 for language arts, 2 for math, one for social studies and one for distance learning. There are 2 science classrooms, with chemical storage, a lifeskills lab, business education lab, industrial lab and CAD labs. Each classroom has 2 windows, except for one with only 1 window.
The students of FJHS are able to participate in several academic activities outside the classroom. These include: JETS (Junior Engineering Technology Society), Scholastic Quiz Bowls, Envirothon , National Honor Society, Student Council, FCCLA (Family Career and Community Leaders of America), Big Brothers – Big Sisters (mentoring younger students), Science Fair, Civic Orations, Americanism Contest, The Plume (year book), Boys State, Girls State, band, chorus, school musical, senior class play, athletics, homecoming and prom.
The JETS (11 – 12) Team took first in the Regionals at Ohio Northern University in March, 2011. They finished 1st in the state and 4th in the nation. The 9 – 10 JETS Team finished 3rd in the state and 9th nationally. The JETS TEAMS have had consistently high ratings for 16 years, since 1999.
The Fort Jennings Envirothon Teams 1 and 2 took part in state competition again in 2011. Team 1 qualified for state by finishing second out of 57 teams in Area 1 at Defiance. Team 2 finished fourth. This was the 14th consecutive year that the FJHS teams qualified for State Competition.
The Student Council is a very active organization at FJHS. Fort Jennings hosted the Ohio Association of Student Councils State Conference in 2007 and again in 2011. Each time 400 to 500 students from all over Ohio descended on the village for 3 days and nights. They were guest in the homes of many Fort Jennings families.
Some students of Fort Jennings have been enrolled at the Vantage Vocational School over the years, where they have a chance to learn many technical and vocational skills. Due to fewer young people going into farming, the Agriculture Program was dropped. One student drove to Delphos Jefferson for one period a day for four years, to enroll in Vo-Ag and FFA. Through the years FJHS has hosted several foreign exchange students mostly from Germany
The FJHS music department is held in high esteem, drawing large crowds for the three concerts each year. The 5th and 6th grade bands participate along with the Junior High and High School bands. Vocal music is provided by the Junior High and High School chorus. The high school band has 94 members. There are 101 students participating in the band and chorus, which constitutes 82 percent of the student body. Their music is always timely and uplifting. It is a proven scientific fact that music participation helps students reach a higher level of achievement in academics. This fact is evident when academic awards are given at the end of the school term in Fort Jennings and in the school report card of the State of Ohio.
The icing on the cake for high school band members is participating in special events such as the Chicago Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Walt Disney World Magic Music Days Parade and the Winchester Apple Blossom Festival. The band also performs at the Kalida Pioneer Days, Ottoville Park Carnival Parade, The Putnam County Fair and the Fort Jennings Memorial Day activities. The school musicals and senior class plays have been top notch, some musicals were The Sound of Music, Music Man, Camelot and more.
In addition to the “Three R’s” the students of Fort Jennings Elementary can take part in many enrichment programs including: COSI on Wheels, The Blue Ribbon Club (for outstanding efforts and random acts of kindness), Newberry Book Competition, Hands-on Science, FORT Adventure (Focusing on Remarkable Things after school, Technology Integration (Smart Board & iPad, etc.), Ribbon Week (promoting smart choices in life), Toys for Tots, Spreading the Holiday Spirit (which includes caroling at Senior Living Facilities), Big Brothers – Big Sisters (mentoring on assignments and enrichment programs), Kids on the Block (from BGSU), Lima Youth Orchestra Concert, Right to Read Week, Worlds Largest Concert, Quiz Bowl, Spelling Bee, and visits from Natsue Yonekura on Japanese culture. The elementary students are also provided with outstanding play-ground equipment.
Sports are an integral part of the school curriculum in Northwest and West Central Ohio. This is very true in Putnam County, where it has become part of community pride.
Basketball has been the primary sport at Fort Jennings High School. Baseball was the first sport at FJHS, beginning in 1923. During the first years – 23, 25 and 26 the team played only 1 or 2 games in a season. The Putnam County League for baseball was formed in 1931. There were 4 schools in the East Division: Crawfis College, Leipsic, Ottawa SPPS and Pandora. The high schools of Columbus Grove, Fort Jennings, Kalida, Ottawa Public and Vaughnsville formed the Western Division.
The first year for PCL boy’s basketball was 1935. The county tournament for boys began already in 1922. Boy’s basketball at FJHS started in 1940, following the construction of the new high school with a gymnasium. Supt. Clarence Specht organized and coached the first team
Mr. Specht also chose the school colors of orange and black, along with the name Musketeers.
Gradually other sports were added to the athletic department. The 2010-2011 list of sports also includes: Boys and Girls Soccer, Boys and Girls Track & Cross Country and Golf. Girls’ Volleyball was discontinued in 2006 because of the small enrollment and the conflict of schedules. The 2003-2004 volleyball team achieved a spot at the Ohio State tournament. Boys and girls also had tennis from 1979 – 1982. FJHS even had wrestling in 1969.
SAY Soccer was the beginning of that sport in Fort Jennings. It gained in popularity because each player on a team was guaranteed to play two quarters per game. High School Boys Soccer started in 1999. The girls’ program began in 2001.
Girls’ sports began in 1971 with GAA basketball. Girls’ interscholastic sports began in the 1974 school year with the girls competing in volleyball, basketball and track events. High School girls’ basketball was officially sanctioned by the OHSAA with tournament play for the 1975-76 school year. The first state tournament for girls was in 1976. Early on girls had six players on a team and played the “half court” game.
Junior High boys and girls both take part in county basketball tournaments.
The high light of the FJHS boy’s basketball was winning the Ohio State Championship in 2000. During that season they also beat Delphos St. John’s two times. Many people traveled to Columbus on their own but the bank sponsored two chartered fan buses for the big event. The week-end was topped off with a big parade and celebration in the gym.
The most notable season in girls’ basketball was 1999, when the team won the Regionals. One special game to remember was beating the St. John’s girls in an overtime tournament game.
The high school baseball team reached the State Semi-finals in 1994, but bowed out to Steubenville 4-2. The boy’s soccer team reached the State Semi-finals but lost Cuyahoga Falls CVCA on that cold November night in 2004.
Several groups and individuals reached the regional and state level in track and cross country. In the spring of 2000 the Girl’s 1600 relay reached a place on the podium by coming in 5th in the state. Over the years several boys and girls have achieved the Academic All-Ohio.
Cheerleading has become a very competitive “sport”. Although not officially called a sport it has reached the point where it requires a high level of athletic ability. In recent years it has required tumbling and gymnastics. The Fort Jennings girls have taken part in competitions at the Allen County Fair, Van Wert County Fair, University of Findlay, Ohio State Fair,
Kalida Pioneer Days, Delphos Canal Days, Several Regional events and competed at the Nationals in Orlando Florida 2 times. The FJHS girls were National Runner-Ups in 2003.
Schools in Putnam County have been receiving high ratings in the Ohio School Report Card Plan. Most of these schools are regarded as small schools. Perhaps big city schools and the Ohio Department of Education could learn something from the education and life styles of these communities. Parents and grandparents play a large role in the formation of education in the schools in the county. FJHS has received the rating of Excellent all nine years since the plans inception in 2001-02. For the 2008-09 school year, it was rated Excellent – with Distinction. The total enrollment of the Jennings Local Schools is 378 in grades K-12. There are 194 students in the elementary school (grades K-6) and 184 in the high school (grades 7-12), including Vantage students. There are 42 children in the pre-school program, which began in 1989. Kindergarten was started in Fort Jennings in 1966.
The latest addition to be found on the FJHS campus is the Mary Lou Altenburger Outdoor Science Lab. Ground was broken for this outdoor classroom in May of 2011. It was dedicated to “Mrs. A”, who passed away on May Second. The 100 by 80 foot lab will include a windmill, solar panels, a garden and composting.
And now – for old times sake!
The “old” or first FJHS School Song
Oh! Fort Jennings hail to thee
Oh, long may you stand
Our toast you will always be
We’re the best school in the land
See our colors gaily fly
As our team goes flashing by
And our cheers ring through the sky
So on boys to victory
Make score after score
Cheer for our team tonight
Make the echoes roar, Rah! Rah! Rah!
Cheer for the orange and black
And show the world our might!
On boys to victory
So let’s Fight! Fight! Fight!