OBSERVING 175th ANNIVERSARY 1841 – 2016
THE STORY OF SOLOMON – HISTORICAL STORY #5
Our German Lutheran fore-bearers were accustomed to Christian instruction in the church schools of their native land and longed to have their children brought up in the faith of their fathers.
A general convention of the Ohio Synod was held in Woodville in 1862. Synod President Dr. M. Loy stated that “the cause of parochial schools demands our full attention.” Establishing a Normal School for teacher training at Capital University in Columbus was discussed many times in the 1860s and 1870s, but no action was taken.
Here in the Black Swamp many congregations established parochial schools. Solomon Lutheran School opened in January 1862. There was a parochial school at Emmanual in Haysville where the Pastor was also the teacher, another parochial school at Salem (the Schweiz) near Luckey. Trained teachers were in short supply.
After almost twenty years of discussion, the Synod had taken no action relating to teacher training. Recognizing the importance of parochial education, our own Rev. Cronenwett, who had already reached an advanced age, and Rev. Simon Poppen of Emmanual in Hessville did take action. They recognized that the solution would be to provide a means by which young men from the rank and file of Lutheran congregations could be trained for teaching in parish schools.
THE BIRTH OF WOODVILLE NORMAL AND ACADEMY – 1880
Twenty young men arrived and were first housed in an old wayside inn at the corner of Route 20 and SR 105. The first faculty consisted of Normal President Rev. Cronenwett, Rev. Schlenker of Toledo, Rev. Simon Poppen of Hessville, Rev. O. H. Althoff of Elmore, Rev. J. M. Johannsen of Schweiz, and Solomon Parochial School teacher John Fehr. The relationship between Solomon Church and Solomon Parochial School and the newly formed Normal Academy existed from the very beginning of the Normal School.
Solomon members Henry Bruns and Ben Otten donated land at the end of Elm Street off College Avenue as the site for a new building. A 3-story brick building was dedicated in November 1885. The school was now called a “seminary” and the curriculum covered a period of five years. Many of the students finished training at the Normal School and then continued more advanced studies elsewhere becoming pastors.
Music was very important and included instruction in piano, pipe organ, violin, voice, theory, etc. There were orchestras and choirs; conducting was also taught. The curriculum also offered two years of Latin, bookkeeping and commercial arithmetic.
Solomon Principal Carl Vogel also taught at the Normal School. He worked with student teachers whose practical teaching days were spent at Solomon Parochial School. Principal/Professor Vogel was involved with music programs at the Normal School and led the Solomon Church Orchestra.
Disaster struck in March 1892 when fire broke out and the Normal School building was gutted! Temporary space was found and classes continued. Fred Sandwich was the contractor for a new building; a much larger 2-story building with wings on either side rose from the ashes and was dedicated October 8, 1893. (The central core of the new building was the former 1885 building).
There were many struggles throughout the history of the Normal School involving funding, staffing and enrollment and the general philosophy and direction of the school. In 1904 the school became
Co-educational, and enrollment peaked at 70 students in 1909. The dining hall was too small and space was needed to house the girls. A vacated church building (known as the Union or Lehman Church) on Cherry Street was purchased and remodeled with a dining hall downstairs and a dormitory for the girls on the second floor. (The Boarding House – site on Cherry Street – now school parking lot).
A fine gymnasium was built in 1915 that was later purchased by the American Legion (corner of Elm and College Avenue). There were boys and girls basketball teams, drill teams, an orchestra, various choirs, concerts, plays and many student activities. In 1916 the school was accredited as a high school, as well as continuing as a normal school. What a wonderful educational opportunity/alternative for the young people of the Woodville area!
The shock came in 1924 when the Ohio Synod voted to close the school and transfer its functions to other church colleges. All moveable items including the pipe organ were taken to Capital University in Columbus. The buildings were offered for sale in the summer of 1925, thus ending the era of higher education here in Woodville.
The presence of the Normal School enriched the worship and music opportunities for Solomon Church and School, as well as the community. We can only imagine what Woodville might have become had the Normal School remained.
“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!