Remember When …

A picture of the original Atherton School around 1940. Photo provided

A picture of the original Atherton School around 1940. Photo provided

One room schoolhouses started all over the world in about the same time, about 1600s. The grammar schools in America were started like in other European countries. As a one-room schoolhouse, this made it affordable to hire just one teacher (mostly men at first) to teach all the children, 4 years old to 18-plus, single young women came later after the Civil War started.

The schools were opened when the children could come to classes, twice a year; which was two semesters, after the planting season in summertime and when the harvest season was over in winter.

During the Depression it was very hard to teach in a country schoolhouse, with only one extra year of education until 1915. The buildings were very crude, some with a bell, and only benches, a small chalkboard, a reader a Bible and a potbelly stove for heat.

By the 1960s teachers had to get more schooling and teachers have had to change with the times. All families had some type of farm to raise their own food, as there were no Walmart’s to go to. Higher education started for most people (men) with money, no matter what race.



We have changed the way we live now, not many people grow their own food, but farmers markets are coming back which is great. Do you have a family story? I would love to hear it, contact me at:

Atherton Community Schools is the third oldest school in the state of Michigan starting in 1836. This family has a long history starting back in England before 1675 in Liverpool. We are celebrating the 185th year of becoming a school, this Memorial Weekend, May 29, noon to 4 p.m. (outside picnic) on the Atherton School Track on Genesee Road.

The Atherton families came to Genesee County, Michigan, from New York and in 1834 started making the first Atherton settlement on Thread River. The three Atherton brothers and their nephew (Pliny Skinner) moved from Jefferson County, to what is known now as Burton.

The Atherton Trail may have connected the families (I am not sure, but they are cousins). This Trail was important to trade with the settlers and used to trade goods with the Ojibwa Native Americans; from the east to west, from Gaines to Davison.

There were many family settlements on the trail, the name came from family of the “Atherton Settlement”. The Athertons built their settlement homesteads and finished by 1835 and 30 families lived together on the Thread River.

There are many Atherton families all over Genesee County; one family in every city. I went to a church in Gaines last year and found another Atherton Settlement Farm, and it’s still operating today in Gaines starting in 1838 as dairy farm, with their own family cemetery.

I hope to see all the Atherton Families and alumni at the Atherton All School reunion in May to exchange stories, of how Genesee County is one big family.

Remember When is a weekly column in the Burton View featuring historical stories about the community from the Burton Area Historical Society. If you have some Burton history to share, email