Caroline L. Ford

In 1838, the few settlers living in what would become the city of Hillsdale needed a teacher for their children. Many qualities went into the making of a good teacher for a one-room school. She (and sometimes he) needed to have knowledge, excellent organization, firm discipline, and the ability to captivate the hearts and minds of the students. How lucky the settlers in early Hillsdale were to find Miss Caroline L. Ford! 

A crude log “schoolhouse” was built north of the path that is now State Street. In 1840, serious about providing a good education for their children, township voters created a school district, and the following year a one-story frame school was built on what is now East Bacon. The children and community were fortunate to have a teacher of Caroline’s caliber. Her talents in painting, composition and penmanship were said to be outstanding, and she was considered to be “a born teacher.”

The small school building on Bacon was also used as a church on Sundays as well as for community events before it was struck by lightning and burned to the ground.  A room for school use was then “fitted up” in the railroad station, and in 1847 a new school was built on the Courthouse Square, made of the native stone quarried near the current city limits. Caroline was the “lady principal” of this new school. In 1855, Caroline became the first art teacher at Hillsdale College, just after the school moved to Hillsdale from Spring Arbor, continuing to touch the future through her students.


JoAnne P. Miller