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The Strange Odyssey of the First Neels School Industry

Milestones Vol 27. No. 4

by Clyde Piquet

In 1805 Ohio Twp. was formed, starting at the state line and ending at the Jordan Neel Property. Up river from the Neel property was Industry Twp., created in 1856. The Ohio Twp. and Industry Twp. line was roughly described as being from Eighth Street and Midland Avenue to the corner of Ohio Ave. and Seventh Street. The original request for the area to be declared an independent School District included an area running up river to Rock Run.

The people in this area felt that the students were too far away from the schools either in Industry or at Smith's Ferry, and that was the reason for creating a new school district. The court did the establishment of the Neels Independent School District in 1865. Mr. Neel donated land for a schoolhouse, and I find written that Mr. Cook, the owner of the Cook's Ferry, built the school for $100.00. This original school was located on what was the main road, laid out in 1817. This was long before there was a Midland Avenue. The school flourished, but not many of the early records have survived. School was in session four or five months a year. Mr. Neel deeded the property and the building to the school district in 1867. The Neel family had six children who attended the school.

The students from Industry Township lived on the few farms in the area, and other students lived in the Cook's Ferry area. This settlement ended in 1904 when the railroad put in the second track.

The school district did function well up to 1905-06, but then the Midland Steel Co. bought much of the land and began to build its plant. There now was an increase in the inhabitants and a larger school population.

Up to this time the whole area was called Neel's School District.
It was now decided that there was a need for the district to be made into a borough.

It was in 1906 that the court approved the formation of the Borough of Midland. The school now sat in the way of the mill expansion. According to an early Midland historian, the mill traded property in the residential area of the new town for the building of the Second Neel School for the property under the original Neel's School. This Second Neel school was located where the present Middle school is located.

The building of the First Neel School was another matter. At that time the Catholics were looking for a building to be used as a church. Records show that Father Gallagher bought the building for $100, with the understanding that the building eventually had to be moved.

William Stewart, an early Midland pioneer, tells that the Catholic Church(the old Neel School) stood near the new ore bridge and was moved sometime after 1912, and he can remember watching it being moved on large rollers. This was no small job because it included a number of workmen as well as a number of horses to move the building. When the building reached Eighth Street and Midland Avenue, it was found that it was too high to go under the streetcar power lines. Mr. C. A. Smith, the owner of the street car line, would not curtail his streetcar service but agreed that the line may be cut, provided that it be restored for the first car due in the morning. After the last car passed one night, the line was cut and the men with all the horses rolled the church across Midland Avenue at Eighth Street.

The building was even used for services one Sunday while it was still on rollers.

After the old school was moved to the new church property, it was decided to use a new church hall that had been recently built as the church because the old school building was too small.

The old school was rented out to two garage men to be used as an automobile garage. Their names were Bridge and Keiley. When they found larger quarters, they moved, and the building was rented out for individual garage spaces. In all there was room for four autos. Those who went in first could not exit until the car behind him was moved. My father had a car there, and he told me about the arrangement.

Eventually there was a fire in the garage. The building was not entirely destroyed, and a man who had a need for the material for a construction project bought the lumber that was usable and salvageable.

This was the strange odyssey of the First Neels School.