Natural Bridge School; District 4, Wilna and Diana
Named for the underground passage of the Indian river at this point, Natural Bridge was first settled in 1818. The water power of the river drew the first settlers and several mills were built there in 1819 and 1820. Among the earliest settlers we find the name of Joseph Bonaparte who erected a pretentious dwelling in 1828 and eventually had two hunting lodges on Lake Bonaparte, which was included in the land he had purchased, and which he called Lake Diana. After his return to Europe, things were quiet in Natural Bridge until the advent of the railroad in 1869 (actually, it wasn't finished until 1889 when it was completed to Benson Mines).
The first school site was on the main street a short distance beyond the intersection of the road leading to the natural bridge cavern. District No. 4 must have been erected about 1820 or 21. In 1884 the village decided to construct a new schoolhouse on a new site. In Book of Deeds 241, Page 401, a deed from James and Patience Burns sold to the district 58/100 of an acre for $200. A right-of-way was also granted leading to street. On Dec. 15, 1884 the old school and building were sold to James Burns for $330, but he was not to take possession until the new school was built.
There are few records for Record 4 until after the first World War. In 1919, District 4 requested a meeting to change the status of the school to that of a union free school and by the spring of that year the school began operating as such.
Disaster struck District No. 4 in March, 1931. Kent Pierce who was principal at the time, related that the dull routine of another school day suddenly was interrupted when someone rushed in to exclaim, "Don't you know the school is on fire?" A hurried look upward revealed that classes were being conducted while the whole top of the building was aflame! the two story wooden frame structure had four rooms on each floor and a wooden bell tower. Principal Pierce was the last one to enter the eighth grade room on the upper floor; he was driven back by blazing embers cascading through the collapsing ceiling. The year was finished in temporary quarters. In fact, the next two years were spent the same way but finally Natural Bridge rebuilt its school on the same site.
The dream of a high school was discontinued, the new building was planned to house only the grade school and high school pupils were contracted to Carthage schools until the new Carthage Central district was organized in 1954.
Roll of Teachers
Prior to 1913: George Kelly, Rachel Salter, Mrs. Eliza Blanchard, Josephine Miller, Cathleen McDonald.
1913-1930: Allen Davis, Elizabeth Gill, Katherine Monier, Mr. and Mrs. E. S. Pendleton, George Wilson, Mrs. Anna Mannigan, Suzanne Gill, Desta Bolger.
1921-1930: Suzanne Beahan, Desta Bolger, Hazel Kinsman, Anna Mannigan, Helena Florentine, Felicitas Baxter, Kathleen Connelly, Ruth Giffin, Kent Pierce, Lita Snell, Ruth Parker.
1930-1940: Kent Pierce, Helena Florentine, Felicitas Baxter, Ruth Giffin, Kathleen Day, Doris Seeley, Helen DuBois, Inez Rowley, Charles Thompson, Helen Armstrong, Elizabeth Miller, Raymond Chisamore, Rosalie Hoover, Doris Russ, Hazel Grunert, Mabel Maldrin, Mary Christman, Eleanor Green.
1940-1950: Raymond Chisamore, Ruth Giffin, Mabel Maldrin, Eleanor Green, Hazel Grunert, Mary Phalon, Dorothy Havens, Inez Rowley, Carol Paul, Nettie Bottoms, Jane Chisamore, Carrie Feistel, Zelma Draper, Margaret Coleman.
1950-59: Raymond Chisamore, Inez Rowley, Carrie Feistel, Roger Gartland, Flora Carlisle, Susanne Gill, Marie Patterson, Powers Hagan, Pearl Dumas, Frederick March, Anabelle Dalton, Albert Posello, Lois Killingbeck, Orson Bullock, Marian Redmond, Pauline Tooley, Sanford Bach, Cordelia Gould, Florence Chisholm, Ethyl Geer.
CRT, August 10, 1961
The Natural Bridge school has become a pleasant apartment complex. It has been given an interesting silhouette by the addition on the right.