Ashtabula High School

Class of 1969

Official Program

July 23, 24, 25, 2004


The History of Ashtabula & Harbor High Schools
Darrell E. Hamilton
          Ashtabula's now two defunct high schools had a long and glorious history.  Ashtabula
had the distinction of being the oldest continuous operating high school in the state. Start-
ed in 1856 in what was the  Ashtabula  Academy,  Ashtabula got its start after the people of
Ashtabula voted to adopt the Union School (graded) System by a vote of 113 to 53.
          A short time later, a form of the school board called directors, were elected. Some of the
directors' surnames are still prominent in Ashtabula.  The directors elected were as follows:
Henry L. Morrison, Stephen Hall, J. A. Prentice,  F. Carlisle, H. Fassett and L. Hall. The first
superintendent and principal of the newly formed school was the Rev. Charles E. Bruce. Rev.
Bruce served those positions until 1861. His wife, Eliza A. Bruce, also taught school with him
for awhile. The first Ashtabula High School had but one teacher, Miss L. A. Harthan.
         The school was free to all persons of suitable age residing within the borough limits and
the  school  district  attached  thereto  for  school  purposes.  Since  there  were  no  other high
schools in the area, students living  outside the limits of the school district could attend the
newly formed school for a fee of $16 per term in advance.  A  lot of students did attend  Ashta-
bula High School from outside the school district.
        Before the formation of a regular school board, no diplomas were issued. When a student
passed  all  of  his  or  her  exams,  their  education  at  that  level  was  complete. After the for-
mation of a regular  school board,  "The Board of Education",  the first diplomas were issued
in 1872. The class of 1872 contained five graduates, four girls and one boy. In the early years,
it was not unusual for more girls to be graduated than boys. In 1881, Ashtabula High School
also had five graduates, all girls. Many  years  would  pass before the boys would out number
the girls.
         In 1879, the  Harbor Special School District was created. For lack of suitable rooms, the
Harbor  Special  School  District  was  not  very  successful  in  the  beginning.  Most   Harbor
Special School District students who wanted to further their education, attended Ashtabula
High School
          On April 6, 1885, Ashtabula voted in favor of a new school building by a vote of 368 to 11.
On September 17, 1886, Ashtabula dedicated its first high school building that cost a grand
total  of  $33,282.17.  The first building built especially for a high school stood where the Ball
Gymnasium now stands. Up until this time, the old  Ashtabula  Academy  building served as
Ashtabula High School.
           In  1887,  the  first class to graduate from the new school contained thirteen graduates,
all girls.  One of the girls had to be number thirteen.  Being quite  superstitious in those days
the girl did not want to be number thirteen.  Since  there  was no way around it,   she decided
not to attend graduating ceremonies and have her diploma  mailed  to  her.  Apparently  bad
luck followed anyway.  She became  the first member of her class to die.  Almost exactly to the
day, a year after graduating, she died.                                                                                                           
          In 1890, the Harbor Special School District saw a need for a new building if their school
district was going to be successful.  In 1891,  a new school building was completed.  This was
the first Harbor High School.  In 1893, the first Harbor High School graduates received their
diplomas.  There  were  a total  of  six  graduates,  three  girls  and  three  boys. Because early
school  records  were  either  lost  or  destroyed  and  local  newspapers  no longer  exist for the
1890's, history of the early Harbor High School is sketchy at best.


                                                    Ashtabula High School - 1886-1902

        Most  Ashtabula  citizens  think  that the  first  black  student to graduate the city high          
schools was in the 1940's or 1950's.  The first black student to graduate from a county school
came before the turn of the century in 1896.
       The beautiful young ladies name was Mamie Turner. Since newspaper and school records
no longer exist and Ashtabula High School never had a yearbook until 1908, I might not have
ever found this fact out if it had not been for my wife's great-grandmother. She, Edna Young,
was  also a 1896 graduate of  Ashtabula  High  School.  She  had  saved all the pictures of her
graduating classmates of 1896 and the pictures were eventually passed on to my wife, Sharon.
I have also researched all the census records of the time to verify my facts. With this fact, Ash-
tabula  High  School  was  the  oldest continuing high school in the state to have graduated a
black student.  The  Ashtabula  class  of 1896 contained seventeen graduates,  three boys and
fourteen girls. Mamie Turner later was married and moved  to  Cleveland.  She  died  there  at
the age of  thirty.
               In the same year, 1896, Harbor  High  School had eight graduates, three boys and  five
girls. There were no graduates for Harbor High School in the years of 1894 and 1898.
              The smallest class to graduate  Ashtabula  High  School  was   in 1875 when there were
only two graduates.
             After the turn of  the  century,  Ashtabula  was a  booming  city.  In  1902,  a  new  school
opened on  Park  Ave.  where the  old  Academy  (first Ashtabula High School)  building  stood.
However, the first  Ashtabula  High  School  was  not  torn down when a  new  high  school was
built. The School Board sold the building to  D. W. Haskell  and he had it moved to  where  the
present  Carlisle  Building  now stands. The old Academy Building, turned into a  store  front,
stood on Main Street until 1924 when it was razed for the new Carlisle Building.



          Even though the east Harbor area was in the  Ashtabula  City School District, the west

Harbor  area  Harbor area, (Harbor School District) was growing at an accelerated pace. By
1902,  Harbor  High  School  boys  would  out  number  the  girls  seven  to six.  With  the  lower
grades bulging at the seams,  the people of the  Harbor  had a new high school built.  On Sep-
tember 9, 1912, the present Harbor High School building opened.  The  first class to graduate
them new Harbor High School building opened.  The first class to graduate the new Harbor
High School contained seventeen graduates.
           In 1915, the city of Ashtabula would build a new high school. This would make four new
high schools in a period of thirty years. All built during the tenure of elected mayors. On Jan-
uary 3, 1916, the present high school building opened.
           After  1916,  Ashtabula  had the distinction of having one of the best high schools in the
state.  Not  just  in  the  terms  of a new building, but both schools were ranked high academi-
             Ashtabula High School would break the hundred mark as 104 were graduated in 1922.
In 1932,  Harbor  High  School would hit the hundred mark as  104   graduated  Harbor  High
              In 1935, Ashtabula had 282 graduates.  The next year,  the  number  of  graduates was
down due to a new high school on the east side of Ashtabula. 1936 was the first year for grad-
uates for Edgewood  High  School.  Throughout the 1930's and 1940's, the number of students
that graduated at  Bula  stayed  above  200  and  at times hovered close to 300 with the excep-
tion of  1945  when only 199  were  graduated due mostly  to  World  War  II.  During  the  same
period,  the number of graduates for  Harbor declined from a high of 104 in 1932 to a low of 49
in 1949.
             In July of 1954, the old  Ashtabula High School that stood where Ball Gymnasium now
stands, was torn down to make room for a new gymnasium. The old high school building had
been used as a junior high and elementary school until 1952  when  the  students  were  trans-
ferred to the new  Station  Ave.  Building.  The old high school wasss used for storage and art
classes the next two years.  Before  the  building  was  torn down, the school bell was carefully
taken down and later mounted on the east wall of the  Ball  Gymnasium.  However,  that  was
not the  only  thing  that  was  carefully t aken  down  to  be  saved.  The sandstone  headstone
which bore the date of construction (1885) was also saved. The idea at the time was to retain
the headstone as a memorial to the first high school building.  Does  anyone  know what hap-
pened to this headstone?
          In 1957, there was another cut in high school graduates at Harbor and Ashtabula High
Schools. This would be the first year for St. John High School graduates.
          In 1960, the Ashtabula  City Schools and the Harbor School Districts were consolidated.
The Harbor and Ashtabula had been joined together  as  a  community  since  1877.  With  the
merger of the two school districts,  new  boundaries  were  drawn  for  the  high  schools. Some
students that had Ashtabula, now went to  Harbor.  When  the  boundaries  were  drawn,  the
graduating class  of  Harbor  High  School  almost  doubled.  In  1965,  the  combined  schools
graduated 509. In 2001, both high schools would only graduate 262.
          To June 30, 2001, (the official death date of each high school)  there  have  been 27,761 to
graduate both high school; 18,068 from  Ashtabula  High  School  and  9,693  at  Harbor High


Ashtabula High School - 1856-1886
Ashtabula High School 1902 - 1915

The Reunion Committee

Nancy Airaksinen Brall  Sherry Cooley Faulk     Darrell Hamilton        


   Douglas Harper  Donald Koski  Donna Lewis  Jerry Maunus 

      Tom Partrige        Debra Presciano     Robert Sheer  Thomas Simon



In Memory of  Our

   Departed Classmates


Gary Dubach - February 14, 1969

Robert Beaver - May 22, 1970

Vernon Bownes - April 23, 1972

Dale Tracy - May 24, 1972

William Walker - July 28, 1973

Thomas Raske - May 6, 1976

Dennis Dixon - April 13, 1977

Thomas Goldsmith - May 27, 1979

Robert Loeffel - January 21, 1985

 Bradley Hornbeck,  February 25, 1985

John Young - April 17, 1985

Robert Chandler - February 14, 1990


Donald Rocco - January 19, 1992

Ronald Gierth - January 11, 1993

Patricia Chatman - June 8, 1994

Melodie Copeland Conley - July 27, 1996

Jeanine Wheelock - October 11, 1998

Steven Frazier -  August 24, 1999

Sharon High-Pae - July 7, 2000

Cathy Amsden-Rich - February 23, 2001

Duane Mixer - June 5, 2001
Ashtabula High School - June 30, 2001  

Gregory Hadlock - August 23, 2001

Ronald Watts - September 20, 2002

  Frank Hood - September 17, 2003

Full obituaries on departed classmates are posted on the class web site on Darrell’s World.




Ashtabula High School Class of 1969 – 35th Reunion

Friday - July 23

LA Café – 8:00 p.m. - ?

1017 Bridge St.

Saturday – July 24

Tour of Ashtabula High School 10:00 a.m. -12:00

Golf Outing at Ashtabula Country Club

(Notify Don Koski at 440-997-5337 or 964-7333 or email:

Reunion – 7:00 p.m. – 12:00 midnight

Knights of Columbus Hall

2720 West 19th Street.

Former Ashtabula High School teachers will be in attendance!

 Music provided by Black Byrd

Special guest speaker Gene Gephart


Hardy appetizers, beer, wine and mix provided!

Sunday – July 25

Picnic – 12:00 Noon until - ? Golden Meadows

Plymouth – Gageville Rd.

Visit our web site at:

The picture at the left was taken at the last basketball game between Ashtabula and Harbor High Schools. Our panther’s picture was painted on the south gymnasium wall.





Class Address Book

(Updated Since the Reunion)

If any information on the address list should change or you know

any information on any classmate, please e-mail the information to: