Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
State Library of Iowa

011_First Graduating Class


011_First Graduating Class


This is a page from the collection "Bicentennial Reflections: History of Des Moines Public Schools, 1876-1976" by Dr. Robert R. Denny, published by the Des Moines Public Schools in Des Moines, Iowa in 1976.

File Name



First graduating class The first graduating class exercises from the West Des Moines Public Schools was in 1868. There were four members of the class, one boy and three girls. This matter of the girls outnumbering the boys continued throughout most of the 1800's. The old high school classes which were housed originally in a few rooms at the top of old Crocker school at 6th & School (now 6th & Freeway), were moved in the fall of 1868 to the old third ward building at the corner of 9th & Locust. This was an old building and one morning during the opening devotional exercises the plaster from the entire ceiling fell upon the heads bowed in prayer. Amidst the cries and groans that followed, it is recorded that the prayer remained unfinished. (This Was a matter before supreme court decision.) With the sad state of repair of this old building the voters finally agreed to issue bonds for a new building and the resulting structure was a magnificent edifice known as Lincoln School at 9th & Mulberry. (This is the present site on which the main fire station is built today-in the 1970's.) Deplorable condition for a high school building. A good idea of how difficult the school house situation was may be gained from the following clipping from the Iowa State Register of March 9, 1865; "The third ward building is a miserable structure never adapted for school purposes and as years go by it becomes more and more unsuitable. In a very few years this place must be supplied by a new one. By using it to its full capacity with the other two schoolhouses the accomodations can be funished to only two out of every five children in this school district". Evidently school attendance was not mandatory in this era. As noted above the citizens did vote for a new school and Lincoln school was described as the largest and best building of the west, costing at the time it was erected some $80,000. Some newspaper reports point out that it was erected in the heart of one of the residential districts in the city. The Lincoln building which is pictured here was somewhat reminiscent of castles out of England. Notice the many chimneys that adorned the building; they were not for looks but for the simple expedient of fireplaces that were used to heat this large structure. Lincoln housed all the high school students not only from the West Des Moines school district, which was that area which is basically downtown Des Moines at the present time, but also included those who lived south of the Raccoon River which is now the present southside Des Moines. West High School had a lady principal by the name of Miss Charlotte Mann in the 1870's who was a niece of Horace Mann. The records show that Miss Mann married the president of the school board and became Mrs. Cooper. Miss Mann was principal from 1871-72. It is pointed out that there were other women principals of West High through the years; Mrs. Louise Morrow was principal 1886-1888. She was succeeded by a Celia Ford, principal, 1888-1890. No other names of women principals appear for West High from this point on. In the same vein of recognizing outstanding women, May Goodrell, of course, was the outstanding principal of East High School for many years and in turn joined the central staff and became the director of what is now the Pupil Services Department. Cary School (Photograph) E. 14th and Court Clarkson (Lake Park) School (Photograph) 6th and Boston A continued growth of Des Moines and the increasing school population soon made even the new magnificent Lincoln school building overcrowded. There was a demand by more and more citizens for an adequate high school building to serve students adequately. The prosperity in the nation of the 1870's, and 1880's was such that people were demanding more education for their young people. Business was booming and there was general prosperity. Just as the previous school buildings became crowded, history continued to repeat itself. Then in the year 1888 it was decided that a new building should be erected at 15th & Center and that the high school unit which was on the top floor of the Lincoln building at 9th & Mulberry should be abandoned. A splendid three-story red brick building was dedicated April 19, 1889, with imposing ceremonies, music, speeches and, of course, a flag presentation by the Grand Army of the Republic. One of the speakers remarked: "We have now a new building capable of furnishing room enough for the next twenty years." The Cooper School (Photograph) 13ih and Cottage Crocker SchooL (Photograph) 6ih and School