Brownsville School #1–
The first Integrated, public, one-room school?
The exact date Brownsville School #1 was built is not known. However, we know that Michigan ordered neighborhood schools built in 1837. If Calvin Township numbered their schools according to the order in which they were constructed, Brownsville could be Calvin’s first schoolhouse. Preservationists examined Brownsville and identified it is a Greek Revival structure that fits the 1840s era.
William Grubb arrived in 1830 and purchased property in Section 8. Isaac Hull married into the Grubb family and by 1846 Isaac Hull owned the Brownsville property as verified by the Calvin Township Assessment. In that Assessment there is a note that $23.40 was owed to Calvin Township for school taxes; hence, we know that at least one public school existed in Calvin Township in 1846, and evidence suggests it may have been Brownsville #1.
On the 1850 Calvin Township Census, there were Black and white children going to school together in Calvin Township. If Brownsville School #1 indeed was the first school constructed in the township, it may be the first integrated, public, one-room school in our state, and perhaps in our nation.
The 1860 Plat Map of Calvin Township shows Black families owning over 100 properties.. By 1860, the township had a total of six schools. Many of the one-room schools in Cass County continued serving students well into the 1950s. Brownsville remained open until 1957. At that time, Cassopolis Public Schools absorbed Brownsville’s students.
In 1961 Warren Wooden bought the school and the one acre it sat on from Cassopolis Public Schools. It became part of the Wooden Family farm and was used for grain storage. Underground Railroad Society of Cass County purchased Brownsville #1 from the Wooden Family Trust in November of 2022.