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First Public Schoolhouse


Cedar Falls
Fifth and Main Streets

The first public school district in Black Hawk County was formed in Cedar Falls in 1853. The school board consisted of S. A. Bishop, J. M. Overman and E. D. Adams. The 41 residents of the newly incorporated town subscribed to the building of a school, which was erected on this site next to "Cattail Pond."

The 16 x 20-foot schoolhouse was a wooden frame structure with a belfry. In the belfry was a bell purchased in 1854 with the proceeds of a dinner given by the ladies of the community. The Meneeley Foundry Company of New York, the same foundry that produced the original bells for the UNI Campanile carillon, cast the bell.

The original schoolhouse served until 1863, when two brick school buildings replaced it. The name of one of those buildings lives on in Lincoln Elementary School.

"Pay your school tax without grumbling," said Peter Melendy's 1893 Historical Record of Cedar Falls. "It is the cheapest premium of insurance on your property; you are educating those who make laws for yourself and your children, those who are to elect your county, state and national officers, your judges and juries. Build more schoolhouses! they will spare you the building of more prisons and jails."

The original school bell was used at the old Jefferson School and at the original Humbert School until 1960. When the new Humbert School was built, the bell was kept there for a time. It has since been donated to the Cedar Falls Historical Society Museum, where it is now on exhibit.

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Last updated Wednesday, June 16, 2004

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