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Gone But Not Forgotten


Very rare photo of Jackson High vs.Havelock High, Thanksgiving Day, 1940. Both schools would combine with Bethany to form Northeast High the following school year. Jackson High won the game.









An Article by Jim McKee

Today Lincoln has six publicly funded high schools that serve a population approaching 260,000, but few people realize that in the decade from 1930 to 1940 there were also six public high schools then dedicated to Lincoln’s some 80,000 citizens.

Three of the 1930s high schools combined, including Jackson, whose name fades year by year but is still remembered warmly in the area around Nebraska Wesleyan University.

In January 1889, the village of University Place was incorporated around  Nebraska Wesleyan University, while the area’s first high school opened the previous yearas the Wesleyan Academy.

Technically that high school probably could not be considered publicly funded, but within months a village high school was holding classes in a room above a drugstore, while a two-story, frame building with a third story within its mansard roof was built in a simple two-rooms-per-floor plan near today’s  49th and Adams streets.

The first year there were nine girls and two boys in high school which, in 1895, became University High School’s first graduating class. 

The frame building was replaced in 1912 by a three-story, brick structure that housed all grades from elementary through high school and could accommodate 500 students. Although it was never explained exactly what they were counting, during its second year in the new facility it was announced that “University Place High School was one of the largest in the state.”

In 1917, while Nebraska Wesleyan High School a few blocks to the southeast moved to the new Van Fleet Building, University Place High built a new gymnasium south of the main structure. The gym became the place where dances, plays, assemblies and even classes were held as the brick building filled to overflowing.

In 1925, a second brick building was built facing the original structure and dedicated to elementary classes exclusively, totaling 219 students the first year.

The grade school was named Huntington to honor D.W.C. Huntington the chancellor of Nebraska Wesleyan.

The following year on April 6, 1926, University Place voted 1,186 to 626 to be annexed to Lincoln, resulting in the village’s schools being under the supervision of the Lincoln Board of Education, which suggested the high school be renamed since University Place no longer existed as an entity. The name chosen was Jackson High.

William Roberts Jackson was born in 1860 in Marengo, Illinois, where he graduated at the top of his high school class and began teaching at Evansville Seminary.

In 1888, Jackson and his wife moved to Nebraska. At the University of Nebraska, Jackson received bachelor's and master's degrees as well as a “life teacher’s certificate for additional work.” 

He then taught high school, was a high school principal for six years, served two terms as Holt County’s superintendant of schools and four years as superintendant of schools for the state before coming to Nebraska Wesleyan.

At Wesleyan he initiated the summer school program,  and in 1908 was named dean of the College of Education. Nebraska Wesleyan closed its high school in 1931 and by 1942 had also ended all elementary and kindergarten classes, leaving only Jackson and Huntington schools in the University Place community.

While Jackson High continued to grow, classes overflowed the main building into the gym and Home Economics Building, which had been constructed to the southeast in the roughly two-square-block campus. The gym burned in 1939 as high school enrollment hovered around 600, pushing Lincoln towards a new high school to incorporate Havelock, University Place and Bethany’s high schools.

In 1941, Northeast High School, which had been discussed for a decade, opened with Jackson’s principal Robin S. Mickle moving as Northeast’s first principal. Two bricks from each of the three previous high school buildings were incorporated intothe new facility.

The old Jackson High was abandoned and boarded up in 1942, while Huntington continued as an elementary school. At the close of WWII, Jackson was converted briefly as a men’s dormitory for students returning from the war and attending Nebraska Wesleyan.

Huntington School, meantime, was overcrowded and expanded into the old high school and Home Economics Building until the dorm closed in 1950 and became a permanent part of the elementary school complex. The two brick buildings were connected by a cafeteria and common area in 1970, only to have the entire complex razed in favor of the new Huntington Elementary school in the late 1990s. 

In case you were still puzzling, Lincoln’s six high schools in 1930 were: Bethany, Havelock, Jackson, Lincoln, College View and Teacher’s high schools.

Copy and paste the above link into your browser and enjoy a nostalgic trip back to fall of 1958 and the winter of 1959 when we were immortal and about to step out into the world.  



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