Early South Whidbey Schools

With the closing of Langley Middle School on June 16, 2017, the South Whidbey Historical Society partnered with the South Whidbey Schools Foundation to produce this history of the early development of Langley schools plus recollections from students, former teacher and teachers and staff of Langley Middle School in recognition of its special place in our local history.

South Whidbey Schools 1883 to 1943

By Dean H. Campbell

There have been several excellent histories written on several South Whidbey schools in the three volume South Whidbey Historical Society books by Lorna Cherry and also other school histories before and since the 3 volume series.

This is not an attempt to improve upon what has already been written, but to put the various schools in a chronological order in which they came into existence. Jim Larson, former editor of the South Whidbey Record was very kind in allowing me to look through the old and very fragile newspapers at the Whidbey News Times office in Oak Harbor where he is presently the editor. He requested that I write an article on the schools after my research was completed. The papers I looked through were the Island County Sun/ Island County times and Farm Bureau News. These were date from 1891 through 1934. I went to the South Whidbey Record office for 1935 on as the earlier Whidbey Records were burned in late 1934 or Jan 1935 in the Record office fire.

The Island County Superintendent of Schools General Records, 1879-1940 were moved from Coupeville to Bellingham Northwest Archives several years ago, so I had to go there to look at them. Some information was gleaned from the commissioner proceedings in the auditors’ office; also I looked for recorded deeds for school sites there.

I also talked to numerous old timers that went to different early schoolmen the Island, 2 of them have since passed away. My wife Gloria also did a lot of research several years ago on the first Mutiny Bay Schools where her family went in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s. The problem is, no one alive goes back to the very first schools, so the written records were a necessity, but not necessarily complete.

The following is a quote from the Island County School Record book Feb. 5, 1883 – “I have this day granted” the petition of M.J. Lyons and 9 others for a new school district at Skagit Head bounded as follows, all of Whidby Island south of the line between TWP 29 and 30N or from Sandy Point to Bush Point #8″ J. Ely, Supt. of schools.

On May 31st 1883 M.J. Lyons and R.S. Bailey were appointed directors. Clerk M.L. Barnett. In 1951 a series of articles by Cora Cook.- published in the Whidbey Record. This is part of her account of the first school on South Whidbey. “On Nov. 6, 1883 school opened in an old log house that stood back of the Lyons house near the west side of the bluff.” end of quote. As far as can determine the Lyons house was in the area we now call Maxwelton. The 10 Lyons children and 2 Bailey children attended that first school. One of the Bailey children was Laura who later became Laura Jewett. Not the Bayview Jewett family. According to Cora’s article Miss Hannah Condon was the first teacher of the first school. Another account has a Mr. dark as the first teacher.  I was unable to find confirmation of either of these in the Bellingham archives.

The following is taken from the school supt. record book: Aug. 5th, 1885 “The petition from A.J. Deming and others for a division of school dist. boundary as follows: on TWP line between TWP 29N of R2E and the TWP 29N of R3E on the east. The south and west are bounded by the waters of Admiralty Inlet and the north by the TWP 29N, •R2E and TWP 30N of R2E comprising one township, T29N 2E. Known as district #10 was granted by me in May, and was settled by the Commissioners Aug. 3, 1885.I appointed on Aug.  13th, A.J. Deming, N.E. Porter and W.T. Johnson as school directors, also G.F. Finn school clerk of district #10″ Miss Wetherill first teacher. I couldn’t find a list of first pupils but here is a likely list from territorial census records; Alberta Finn 6, Florence Johns 5, Ellen Porter 10, Jediah Deming 5, Edna Deming 7, Louisa Johnson 12/) Florence Johnson 9, George Johnson 7 and others.  A’-one room log schoolhouse was built in 1885 at what was later known as Cookson’s Corner. There is no recorded deed stating that, this was school property, however it was used as a schoolhouse until 1897.

School directors for district #8 in 1885 were M.J. Lyons, Edward Oliver, W.B. Weedin and Wm. George. School opened April 5, 1886 in the old logging cookhouse on the Weedin place at Deer Lagoon

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