Elba Post Office
Newcomers in this area might be surprised to know that just three miles west of Manchester on Austin Road was the hamlet of Elba back in 1833. This burr oak opening later known as the "Spafard Plains" once promised to become a busy community. Most important it was a stage coach stop and post office. The school was located on the same site as the one which stands today which has been remodeled into a dwelling.
The blacksmith shop and stage coach stop were directly across the road on the Spafard farm, now owned by the Martin A. Keasals. Mrs. Frank Spafard, who spent long hours digging into the history of the area, says that the first post office was established in 1833 in the home of Alanson Harvey Squiers and was known as "Noble." It was located near the west line of the township on land now owned by Mrs. Gaita (Waters) Cathey. When Squiers resigned, Dr. Bennett F. Root, was appointed postmaster and the Elba Post Office was located in the east wing of his home. The last location of the Elba Post Office was on what was later known as the John F. Spafard farm, now owned by Mrs. Lillian Washburn.
The Spafards have a letter written by their great-grandfather, T. L. Spafard, sent through the Elba Post Office in 1846 to his brother, Andrew Spafard, in Massachusetts. The letter was sealed with wax (no envelopes) and postage was ten cents.
Early abstracts of this section are designated Bridgewater instead of Manchester. Both Manchester and Bridgewater Townships were settled about the same time and prior to 1832 were both within the boundary of Dexter Township.
The Erwin Pauls live on the site of the first Baptist Society where meetings were held at the home of James Stevens as early as Feb. 17, 1836. Sections six and seven were platted into lots for a nucleus for a village, before 1838. It can only be speculated that lack of water power might well have hampered further development.
The three Row brothers were the first pioneers to take up land from the government. They came from Dutchess County, New York in 1832. They settled on parts of the Keasal, Washburn and Joseph Holzhoffer farms. After two years they relocated in Sharon. Rowes Corner in Sharon Township still bears their name. So does the cemetery.
Although there are no records of a school prior to 1839, A. D. English was quoted as saying that his mother had pointed out the site of the school where she first attended-just a few rods south of the four corners on the present Willis Hassett farm.
On May 27, 1837, School Inspectors set off sections 3, 4, 5, 6 and the north half of sections 7 and 8 in the Township 4 south range 3E. be set off and constituted as District No. 3. Just two years later, Jan. 18, 1839 the district was revised and became known as fractional district No. 4 of Manchester and Napoleon.
Marvin and Lovina Howard deeded 36 square rods of land in the southwest quarter of section 5 to be used for a school site. A frame school was built by Thomas Spencer and cost $350 when it was completed in Sept. 1839. In 1842 it was plastered. The cost was $42.60.
School officers were A. H. Squires, H. L. Luce and Thomas L. Spafard. The first teacher, L. W. Thompson received $17 a month. Of the list of children who attended that school only two families have descendants residing in Manchester. They are Palmers and Spafards.
The frame school was used until the early 1860s when it was sold and moved. The new school was erected between 1860-65. John Feather built the cupola for $100.
The winter term started the last of October and concluded in February, and the summer term began in April and ended in August. Teachers were examined by the School Inspectors at the county clerk's office and if they qualified were given a two-year teaching certificate. No high school diplomas or college degrees were required. Men usually taught in the winter and women in the summer.
Women teachers often received $2 a week plus room and board and they were required to teach from the primer to algebra and often psychology in the early times. Teachers were paid by rate bills and they boarded at the homes of those sending children to school. The rate bill was divided proportionately among parents and the assessor was responsible for collecting the amount plus an additional five percent for his fees. He had 60 days to collect.
If a person refused or neglected to pay, the assessor could seize any of his goods or chattels wherever found in the county in which the district is located. In the records, mention is made that one person worked it out by helping the assessor with threshing.
An interesting note is that when the late Mary Huber Waltz was 10 years old and helping with the evening chores she saw a bright light in the schoolhouse window. With her father and brother they hurried across the road and broke into the school. Some green wood had been left setting against the stove and it had caught fire. Only the wood burned.
Christmas and Commencement exercises were the chief amusements and box socials were fund raising projects. Electricity was added along with a new oak floor in 1936. The old school, no longer in use, was converted into a dwelling in later years.