The pioneers who founded Tabor carried with them an unshakable belief that education and Christian values were inseparable pillars of their new community and they acted accordingly. Shortly after construction of the first homes in 1853, Oberlin graduate James L. Smith began teaching a small group of children in the home of George and Maria Gaston. However, the village was committed to building a permanent structure for its children which was accomplished through subscriptions (pledges) made by 19 resident families amounting to $400.80. A two-room frame structure was erected on the corner of Center and Elm streets in 1854, which was also used as a church and town hall. In 1857 the Tabor Literary Institute, the equivalent of a high school, was established with William M. Brooks, another Oberlin graduate, being placed in charge as teacher and administrator. Mr. Brooks taught common English, algebra, geometry, physiology, Latin and Greek. Other early teachers included Reverend John Todd, Miss Helen Jones, Mrs. L.C. Hume, and Isaac Lyman. As the student population grew, the village constructed in 1860 what would be known as the College Chapel, across the street to the west of the original school, where upper-level classes were held as well as church services.
William Brooks taught at the Tabor Literary Institute before becoming president of Tabor College
The Center Street school, around 1908. Before the construction of a new high school in 1918 the structure housed grades 1-12.
It was destroyed by fire in 1949.
Outgrowing existing facilities, the town constructed a four-room, two-story brick building on south Center Street in 1876, at a cost of $4,800, to house public school instruction for grades one through eight. Three teachers were hired: C.L. Sturges as principal, Miss Margaret Todd (daughter of Reverend Todd) in the primary department, and Miss Belle E. Smith in the intermediate. In 1895 the 9th and 10th grades were added, in 1897 the 11th grade, and in 1905, the 12th. Those who attended the Center Street School remembered high school boys working for $1.50 per week to sweep and dust the rooms after class and filling a large wood box standing under the main stairwell to supply fuel to cast iron wood stoves used in each room. The fires were kept burning by monitors appointed from each class—monitors were also responsible for collecting ink bottles during cold weather to protect them from freezing during exceptionally cold weather. Over the years the original structure was modified and expanded but was, unfortunately, destroyed by fire on February 3, 1949. The old Tabor College Adams Hall was remodeled and used as an elementary school until other facilities were secured.
A major leap forward was made in 1918 with the construction of a modern high school in the northeast section of town at a cost of $80,000. The school was lauded as having the “largest ever enrollment” in the town’s history with 163 students attending in grades 7-12. The building was formally turned over to the Tabor School District in September of 1919, under the leadership of Superintendent J. Myron Ireland. The school offered college preparatory, scientific, and normal (teacher) training courses, approved by the Iowa Board of Education. After 52 years of service, the old building was razed in 1971 and was replaced by the Fremont-Mills Community School District complex on the south edge of the town.
A domestic science class, 1916
Tabor High School, around 1940