North Lisbon School History & Reunion

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School began in 1845; third version now Town Hall

The Town of Lisbon came to be in October 1842 when the first pioneers staged an organizational meeting in a schoolhouse on Lisbon Road where the Halquist Stone Co. office is today .

The community quickly turned from its founding to the building of a series of rural one-room schoolhouses, including Lisbon No. 7 School in 1845. The log cabin school, later covered with clapboard siding, was on the north side of North Lisbon Road, tucked between the Brown and Jeffery farms a quarter-mile east of Woodside Road. Today it would be just west of the Wooded Ridge Preserve subdivision.

The school’s first commissioners were Timothy Palmer, Richard Cooling and L. Rupile, who also served as the commission’s clerk.

The big noontime attraction was a back-lot pond some distance from the school. The school kids would trek to that frozen pond in winter and slide on the slippery surface.

The schoolteacher, Albert Griswald, rang the end-of-recess bell early so the children had time to trudge back to the log cabin for the afternoon session. The one time they returned late after his bell-ringing, he met them at the door and bodily threw them into the school into a big heap. The kids learned the lesson, and it didn’t happen again.

Griswald earned $180 in 1867 for teaching 42 students for four months. Mattie Black taught the summer term for $80.

The new North Lisbon School was built in 1887-88 a half-mile west at about N88 W23767 North Lisbon Road for $1,085, including the land purchase. The school would have to wait until 1889, however, before it bought its first flag.

The old log cabin school was sold to a nearby farmer who used it for many years as a woodshed, with the blackboards still on the walls. It eventually fell over and disappeared completely.

Long-serving officials of North Lisbon School included John Connell, clerk, 12 years; John Watson, treasurer, 17 years; and William D. McGill, treasurer, 45 years. McGill also served several terms as Lisbon town chairman and in 1911 helped start Sussex State Bank, the village’s first bank, which evolved into the Farmers & Merchants Bank and today Associated Bank.

The school bought a new teacher desk and chair in 1925 and a hectograph (copier) in 1926 for the teachers. It added a basement in 1927 and a merry-go-round, swings and a teeter-totter in 1929. The school got electricity in 1930 and built a new well in 1931. By 1947, the teacher’s salary had risen to $250 a month.

The second North Lisbon School was abandoned in 1958, and a third red-brick school was built on Woodside Road a quarter-mile south of North Lisbon Road – that time with indoor plumbing. It graduated its first class in 1959 and its last in 1963, when the Hamilton School District took over. It closed off upper-room classes after 1963 and the school altogether in 1969.

The district reopened the school a few times later on for overflow classes from Willow Spring School, until it sold the building to the Town of Lisbon in 1975.

Lisbon Town Board and Hamilton School Board member Don Holt remodeled the former school into today’s Lisbon Town Hall. The adjacent land has become Lisbon Town Hall Park, with a pavilion, playground equipment, a soccer field and a little-league diamond.

An all-school reunion was staged in June, including the entire 1960 graduating class: Sharon Rolfs, Jon DeCaluwe and Sandra Schroeder.

North Lisbon alumni share memories; 40-plus grads hold summer solstice all-class reunion

The first day of summer, June 21, brought another annual North Lisbon School all-class reunion at the old schoolhouse (now Lisbon Town Hall).

The first day of summer, June 21, brought another annual North Lisbon School all-class reunion at the old schoolhouse (now Lisbon Town Hall).

The 40-plus eighth-grade graduates shared and celebrated memories from 1958 to 1963, the last year the school taught all eight grades in its two rooms.

North Lisbon School began in a log cabin structure in 1845 as Lisbon School No. 7. A new one-room version was built in 1887-88 a half-mile west on North Lisbon Road. That school served until 1958, when the modern North Lisbon School was built on Woodside Road.


Two teachers initially taught all eight grades, first through fourth grades in one room and fifth through eighth grades in the other. All told, 48 students attended the two classrooms in 1960.

One significant recollection the students at the reunion shared was that when they transferred from the old one-room North Lisbon schoolhouse (today a residence at N88 W23767 North Lisbon Road), the new school had his and her indoor bathrooms, a welcome improvement over the outhouses at the old school.

The new school had a short history after it was built in 1958. The Hamilton School District took it over almost immediately, and the school stopped teaching eighth grade after it graduated its last eighth-graders in spring 1963.

The school closed in 1969, though it was revived for a few years for overflow from Willow Spring Learning Center until it was shut down altogether in 1975.

Soon after that, the Town of Lisbon acquired the building for a town hall and the land nearby for Town Hall Park.

The school’s reunion June 21 brought back the three students who were the entire graduating class of 1960, the school’s second. Lisbon farm children Sharon (Rolfs) Taylor and Jon DeCaluwe, plus then newcomer Sandra (Schroeder) Kietorkus, were 14 when they graduated and are in their early 60s today.

Sharon said she was “jealous” back in 1958 when Sandra joined the class, because she had been “the only girl in the class, and now I wasn’t.”

The three were all impressed by their teacher, Lorraine Peterson. “She was unbelievable, amazing, the best teacher I ever had,” Sandra said. “I went on to UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison, earning a bachelor and master’s degree, but she was the best.”

Sharon said the style of clothing back then was “sweatshirts and slacks,” with the boys wearing denim.

The clothing hit Sandra with a bit of culture shock. She had gone to St. Michael’s Catholic School in Milwaukee before her family moved to Lisbon as she entered the seventh grade. St. Michael’s had required her to wear dresses, and she wasn’t used to the casual farm clothing.

Jon DeCaluwe was from a farm almost a mile south of the school, at Plainview and Woodside roads. He had enjoyed being the only boy in eighth grade, he remembered. He used to find arrowheads on his family farm, including a copper spearhead, but all those family treasures disappeared as the family dispersed, he recalled sadly.

The reunion crew also remembered the old PTA meetings. Every parent went to them, and each meeting was preceded by a presentation of some program by the children for the adults.

They also remembered the all-school presentations they had staged for the parents, with all 48 children taking some part in them.

“This was our home,” Sharon said, “our home away from home,” Sandra added, emphasizing how close the students were to their teachers and their supportive parents.

The reunion was in the park shelter, comforted by beautiful temperatures and a soft wind. Old memories were jogged, and old stories were retold and savored.

Sharon, Sandra and Jon all went on to Germantown High School. Hamilton High School would not open its doors until fall 1962.

Probably the most remembered student who did not make it to the reunion was Mike Wilson, who graduated in 1962. He went on to become an outstanding wrestler and football player at Hamilton, but was killed in a fire fight in Vietnam almost immediately after graduation in 1966. (The Sussex-Lisbon Area Historical Society has his U.S. Marine medals, including his Purple Heart.)

A bronze plaque of Mike Wilson now adorns Veterans/Tetzlaff Field in Sussex Village Park.

North Lisbon School picture from 1912 gives glimpse into the past.

an excerpt, edited by Michael R. Reilly

Fred Keller wrote an article in the Sussex Sun, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2001 about the school. In it he says your “home” was completed in 1888 at a cost of $1,085. In 1889, a well was dug. IN 1927 the basement was dug. In 1929, a merry-go-round was installed on the grounds. Electricity added in 1930. New deeper well in 1931. Insulated and ceilings lowered in 1938. Abandoned in 1958, then sold to the Unverrich family who had ownership thru 2001.

North Lisbon School (1845-1976) has reunion

Now-closed North Lisbon School recently had an all-classes reunion, spearheaded by Sussex resident Lee Rolfs at the North Lisbon Park, adjacent to the school’s third building. He was assisted by his brother, Thomas Rolfs.

Their father, the George Rolfs, was chairman of the school district in the 1957-59 era when the third school was built.

“Because my father was the school district chairman, the teachers sort of let me get away with things,” Lee Rolfs said.

Today, what is left of the North Lisbon School and its adjacent playground area is the location of the Lisbon Town Hall on Woodside Road. It bears the collective name of “Lisbon Town Hall and Park.” A centerpiece of the park is a remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2011, destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City, as a massive beam of steel is on display in the park, south of the town hall.

North Lisbon School was organized on April 21, 1845. The northeast part of town of Lisbon got its first settler in 1836 and opened as a legally existing township on April 5, 1842. Several Lisbon schools had already opened, and the northeast Lisbon area school was designated as “Lisbon #7 School District.”

The 1845 commissioners of the Lisbon School District were Timothy Palmer and Richard Cooling, with L. Ripple as clerk.

The first school was a log cabin building that stood one quarter mile east of Woodside Road, on the north side of North Lisbon Road, very close to the section line road from 1845-47. It would receive a log-covering siding of clapboard soon after it was built.

Lee Rolfs said he remembers this clapboard former schoolhouse in the late 1950s as it was falling down and disappearing.

Nellie Melville of Colgate wrote a feature in 1948. It said old-timers still living at that time remembered the log cabin school. Meanwhile, Harvey Jeffery remembered his father saying he started school as a 5-year-old just as his family came to the area in 1845.

School children were often attracted to a nearby pond at recess-dinner time, especially in the winter when it would freeze over. They would develop and, one after another, run up and slide as far as they could. Now the teacher, knowing that this is where the student would be, warmed them that when he rang the 1 p.m. return-to-school bell, he would do it extra loud and long. However, this one day, the children decided to ignore the school bell, and failed to immediately return to school. Finally, he got their attention and when they came back, he took boys and girls and tossed them across the waxed floor of the school from the doorway, ending up with a big heap of giggling children. The next time, the children obeyed the school bell.

Albert Griswald was the teacher in 1867 and received $180 for teaching school for the four winter months. Forty-two students attended this session. That summer, Mattie Black taught the four-month sessions for $80.

The 5-square-mile North Lisbon School District included Lisbon Sections 1, 2, 3 and 12, plus parts of 10 and 11. It included the future village of Colgate, which had an early start but did not come into its own until the Wisconsin Central came through in 1886.

In 1887, the school was abandoned and a new school was built half a mile to the west. Today, the area of the 1887 school is a quarter mile west of Woodside Road and on the south side of North Lisbon Road. It is now a private home.

The cost of the new school, completed in 1888, was $1,085. It would last until 1958 when the current Lisbon Town Hall was built as the third schoolhouse. It would teach area children until 1975; shortly afterward, the town of Lisbon acquired it for a town hall replacement.

Next week: The history of North Lisbon School District will continue.

North Lisbon School (1845-1975), part 2

The North Lisbon School, which ran from 1845 to 1975, recently held an all-school reunion at Lisbon Town Hall and Park on Woodside Road, spearheaded by brothers Lee and Thomas Rolfs. Lee Rolfs, who attended the second and third school buildings from 1958 to 1963, lives in retirement in Sussex.

All three rural schools are in a half mile radius of Woodside Road and North Lisbon Road, with the last one being built in 1958 and closing in 1975. It was quickly taken over by the town of Lisbon for its town hall and adjacent Town Hall Park.

Lee Rolfs brought the “specifications” book for bidding for the third North Lisbon School to the reunion. It had two large rooms, a long central hallway and then six cubby hole small rooms, listed as storage, kitchen, furnace, girls bathroom, boys bathroom and principal’s office on the east side of the hall.

Meanwhile, a hand-written inventory of the school for legal purposes included $42,450 (building and site), plus the contents, “16 pairs of scissors ($3), every book in the library, two pencil sharpeners ($5.20) and globe ($29.25).” There was also $12,028.63 in the school’s bank account.

Neat little side stories of the reunion attendees were gleaned for a Sussex Lisbon Area Historical Society three-ring binder on the 130-year history of the school.

Following are some highlights from former students:

Lee Rolfs listed his memory of school as “hanging around with Mike Wilson (who was killed in the Vietnam War).”

Other memories were of the “second school, being the outhouses for boys and girls.” His favorite teachers were “Miss Vereguth, Mrs. McGill, Mrs. Schumann and Mr. Pomplin.” Rolfs went on to serve in the Army from 1967-71; he was in Vietnam from 1970 to 1971.

His brother, Thomas Rolfs, had this comment about his life at North Lisbon School, “We learned more interesting things during recess than in the classroom.” His favorite teachers were “Mrs. McGill and Miss Gault.” However, he added, “I was a smart aleck, and Miss Gault whacked me on the back of my head and said, ‘When I want any comments from you, I will ask for them.'”

His big memory in grade school was when President John F. Kennedy was killed and Miss Gault crying.

Les Koebler mentioned the mile walk to school on North Lisbon Road, adding, “past Mrs. McGill’s home.”

Meanwhile Toni Mayer (married name Hexom), who graduated in 1963, remembered a horrifying experience as she wrote, “The (nearby) woods flooded and froze over one winter. I fell in and a big eighth-grader saved me.”

Robin Walters (married name Rateau) had a lengthy set of memories.

“I loved this school (which she attended until fourth grade). We had so much fun building (snow) forts, catching tadpoles in the spring time in the little pond in the woods, and skating on the pond in the winter. It was interesting to have so many grades in one room. The older kids helped the younger ones.”

Then she had a story about Mrs. McGill.

“She threatened to use the hole puncher on my nose because I was talking in class.”

She added, “Miss Gault and Miss Veraguth once came to our house for a visit in the winter and went sledding with us.”

However, the big story Robin related was this. “When President Kennedy was shot, a boy in class had some appointment (maybe dental), when his mom came to pick him up. He quickly ran back into the school and told our classes the president was shot, and classes were stopped for the day. We all gathered around the radio and listened for the rest of the day.”

North Lisbon reunion sparks memories

The North Lisbon series of schools near the intersection of Woodside Road and North Lisbon Road served about a 6-square-mile area of rural town of Lisbon, first as a log cabin school (1845-88), and then a larger, one-room school a half mile west on North Lisbon Road (until 1958). The final school was a two-room building on Woodside Road, which was open from 1958 until its closing in 1975. The final school was taken over, with its grounds to become the Lisbon Town Hall and the adjacent Town Hall Park, which now includes a youth ball field, a playground, an open-air pavilion and a tribute monument to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This monument has a massive steel beam from the disaster.

Sussex resident Lee Rolfs and his brother, Thomas, recently spearheaded an all-school reunion.

Former student Terre Walters (now Terre Woodward) had a story about her six years at North Lisbon School, where she attended from second- to seventh-grade. Her final year of grade school was at the Sussex Main Street School systems (Maple Avenue School).

She said, “I and a couple friends tried to fool our teacher, Mrs. Peterson, by frantically telling her that school’s volleyball went down the hole in the girls’ outhouse. However, she didn’t buy our story, probably because it was April Fool’s Day.”

She followed up this tidbit with, “The big kids arranged a spooky setup in the basement in 1957 at Halloween, and blind-folded us little kids. The bowl of brains scared the heck out of me. Someone had to carry me out of the basement.”

Then Terre mentioned her teacher, Mrs. Peterson. “Before we had a school bus, she gave my brother Tom and I a ride to school. She was a wonderful person and teacher. She was very kind.”

“Then there was my new teacher, Mrs. McGill. A friend and I were giggling about a funny saying and Mrs. McGill told us to be quiet. Without meaning to, I blurted out, ‘Don’t get wise bubble eyes,’ so I had to stand behind the piano (as my punishment).”

Terre went on work 30 years at the Dodge County Administration Building.

Classes were both small and big; the 1958 building had four grades in one room and four in the other.

In 1960, there were only three eighth-graders, two girls (Sharon (Rolfs) Taylor and Sandra (Schroeder) Kieturkus) and one boy, Jon DeCaluwe.

The Hamilton School District took over North Lisbon School in 1962-63 and rearranged how it was used. There was a problem at Willow Springs School and it was alleviated by taking an excess class from Willow Springs to the North Lisbon School as needed that particular year. This continued until 1975 when North Lisbon School closed after 130 years of operations.

The Lisbon Town Hall meeting space at the time, located at Hillside and Good Hope roads, needed more room and, through Town Board member Don Holt (later Town Chairman), the North Lisbon School was purchased by the town and converted.

Michael Wilson, who attended North Lisbon School in seventh- and eighth-grade, was part of the first freshman class at Hamilton High School in 1962. In high school, he was an outstanding football player and wrestler, winning a conference wrestling title and advancing to state. He was very popular at both schools and was part of Hamilton’s first homecoming court.

After high school, he quickly joined the Marine Corps and was shipped out to Vietnam in December 1967. He was a radio operator for Co. B, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines.

After nine months of fighting in Vietnam, he was set for a furlough to Hawaii in September 1968.

However, before he left, he had one more night patrol. He received a head wound at about 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 27, 1968, and died from it on Oct. 14. He is remembered in Sussex with a plaque at Tetzlaff-Veterans Field in the Sussex Village Park, also by a photo on display at Hamilton High School. His name is also on the Vietnam Wall monument in Washington, DC.