OBSERVING 175th ANNIVERSARY 1841 – 2016
THE STORY OF SOLOMON – HISTORICAL STORY #4
Public Education: The earliest school houses were made with logs, later framed buildings and then some of the last township schools were brick. The earliest organized School Board governed the township schools, and there were seven schools in Woodville Township. Township #3 was actually located in town.
#1 Junction School – Route 20 & SR 300
#2 Emch School – CR 16 near Hidden Hills Golf Course
#3 Corner of Cherry & College Avenue – in town where Don Ragan home stands
#4 Toussaint/Trapp School – CR 165 off Lime Road
#5 Sugar Creek/Osmos School – near former Buckite Plant
#6 Clink School – CR 44 near Allwardt Farm
#7 Henricks/Fork School – CR 139 off SR 105
An 1857 election approved a school tax of a half mill for the German schools and a half mill for the English schools. The German language was the chosen language of many households throughout Woodville and Woodville Township.
Jurisdictions continued to change with the formation of the Special School District serving town children that was formed in 1865. An Elementary School was located at the corner of First and Perry Streets. First graders were housed just down the street in the former Woodville Township Hall (now moved to Water Street by the railroad track). In 1879 a two story High School building was built in what is now Veterans Park with the front of the building facing Walnut Street.
The country schools closed and the Woodville Centralized School District formed in 1917 and planning began for a new structure on Route 20 at the west end of town. This building was dedicated October 12, 1923 and was constructed by William Molkenbur & Son (the Harris-Elmore school was also built by Molkenbur). In 1968 these two districts became Woodmore Schools through a process known as a “jointure”.
Christian Education – Solomon Lutheran School: After three years of planning and construction the school opened on Monday January 20, 1862. The first teacher was John F. Busman whose annual salary was $180/month with one month off in the summer. School was in session for five and one-half days per week. Busman left in 1864 and was replaced by J. Henry “Squire” Meyer who was the best qualified and only available lay member of the congregation. He could sing, read and write, play the fiddle and also wield the stick! He taught secular subjects and Pastor Cronenwett took care of religious training especially preparation for confirmation. Meyer was not a trained teacher; however, he taught for 17 years.
After several years of experiences with untrained instructors, Cronenwett made the acquaintance of teacher John L. Fehr, who with his family had recently come to this country from Germany. He was a graduate of Prof. Stern’s Normal School in Karlsruhe, Baden, the same institution that Cronenwett had attended. The congregation called Mr. Fehr as their teacher and organist. He became the first trained teacher of the first parochial school in the Black Swamp. He was a gifted teacher in the prime of his career and due to his abilities the parish school grew and prospered. Fehr was fluent in both English and the German language. This suited the parents who wanted their children to continue to be in- structed in their native German tongue. The school was in the true sense of the word (eine Deutsche-Lutherische Gemeindeschule) a German Lutheran School of the Congregation. He taught from 1881 to 1891.
Cronenwett’s Visionary Impact on Parish Education: Trained parochial school teachers were in short supply. Pastor Cronenwett and Rev. Simon Poppen of Emmanual Lutheran in Hessville found the solution with the formation of Woodville Normal and Academy. The first task was to find a suitable building; and Mr. Rudolph Hartman owned an old wayside inn at the corner of Route 20 and SR 105, and he offered his building rent-free.
The congregations renovated the old inn and in 1880 twenty young men came to the school to be trained as parochial school teachers. The first students did not pay tuition and room and board were provided. The good mothers of Solomon offered their services to take care of the washing and mending of the students’ clothes.
The Normal School Building was completed in 1881 (sometimes called Woodville Seminary). The main building stood deep on lots off College Avenue. This building was destroyed by fire in 1892 and rebuilding took place in the same location. Pastor Cronenwett served as the first director of the Normal School.
This institute of higher education continued operating until 1924 when the Ohio Synod suddenly closed the school and moveable items, including the pipe organ and pianos, were taken to Capital University in Columbus.
(The impact of the Normal School/Academy upon Solomon Parochial School and Church and the community will be the subject of a future historical story – with pictures)
The Reverend “Father” George Cronenwett – born November 1, 1814 & died January 31, 1888:
He preached his last sermon on December 26, 1887. On New Year’s Day he could not preach because of a severe cold, but started for the church to wish the congregation a blessed New Year. He slipped and fell on the ice, breaking his left shoulder. A lung infection set in and hastened his death. His last words on his death bed were: “Behold, I die, but God shall be with you.” (Genesis 48:21).
Cronenwett reached the age of 73 years 3 months. His funeral began at nine-thirty in the morning with the Christian Day School children singing at his home, and then a procession of mourners that included 35 pastors walked to the church. There were over 250 wagons in town with over 3,000 people at services that did not end until four o’clock in the afternoon. The congregation showed their love for Father Cronenwett by paying the funeral expenses and erecting a monument at the burial site at the cemetery off Lime Road.
Thus ended the Cronenwett years that began in 1841 when an exceptional, youthful minister was chosen by our forefathers. He established thirteen congregations, served and chaired several synod level committees developing a suitable liturgical book, chaired the compiling of a German hymnal known as Gesangbuch, established an institute of higher education serving as the first director, and faithfully served the Solomon congregation for 47 years.
In addition to his legacy in the ministry, the home that he had built in 1858 is listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The home at 606 West Main Street is built in the Greek Revival style. The original house was only the center of the current structure. The house qualified for the National Register in two different ways: its architecture was deemed of historic significance, and Cronenwett was such an important member of the community’s history that the house qualified because of its connection to him.
“The Story of Solomon” articles have been put together by Mary Lou Busdiecker in honor of Solomon Lutheran Church’s 175th Anniversary. We thank her for her diligence in research for, and organization of. this special time in Solomon’s life!