Bergland Museum & Heritage Center

Norwich/Livingston Schools

Some of the projects the Bergland/Matchwood Historical Society are
taking on are periodical articles of Persons, places and things. One of such projects are the country schools in our two townships, most of them being long forgotten. We will attempt to bring these schools back to life starting with the Norwich Schools. Yes, There were more than one. The first one being the home of Katherine (Kate) Motherway. Later, a school was built of log. It sat at the base of the Norwich Bluff in the mining community of the Norwich mine. Trying to find information of these schools can be a little frustrating. Fortunately, I have close family ties with the Norwich and still have family and friends that remember these schools. So this article will have to fall under the heading "As remembered by".



At the base of the Norwich Bluff there used to be a road. The harsh winters and time have turned it into a foot trail at best. Along this trail, there was a road, (now a path) leading down to the remains of St. Francis of Xavier
Catholic church and Cemetery. The Norwich School was located just inside the corner of this road. Please be advised, the only cemetery you may see is the family plot of my relatives. My Grandfather Bernard and Grandmother Catherine O’Rourke, Grandmothers, Aunts, Uncles and mothers are laid to rest there. The Family plot is still being maintained by their descendants. There are two remaining artifacts from this school. One being an copy of a photo of the O’Rourke family standing in front of the old log schoolhouse, and the old school dictionaries. Margaret Livingston’s father, Bernard Cummings helped tear down the school. He managed to save the dictionaries. These were passed on to his descendents.

Not much of the community of the Norwich it's self is available. A few pictures and some facts still remain, thanks to My living relatives and extensive research of Joseph R. Papineau on his book of the Norwich Mine. In 1854 Charles B. Hawley was the first Postmaster. On August 24th, 1856, Bishop Baraga dedicated the little church "St. Francis of Xavier". A  3 story boarding house was built (some of the timbers are still being used for a small barn at the Livingston homestead). In 1864 the Norwich even sported a Saloon! At one time the Norwich had around 300 people living there. As the years passed and the mine closed, the timber industry came and went, farming communities surfaced. More years passed, some of the buildings of the Norwich sold, some torn down and used for other structures and the rest went back to mother nature. My Great Uncle Ben Webb moved part of the church about 1/2 mile west and used it as his home. He was the last person living at the Norwich. I helped bury him in our family plot at the Norwich Cemetery in 1964.


The last Norwich school was built on the southwest corner of the Norwich road and Livingston road, about where the Rocking Chair camp sets today. Please take note. Country Schools were referred to by the name of the familys that lived near the schools. IE: The Vivant school, the Cole school and the Livingston school. I cannot pinpoint the exact year the School at the Norwich was torn down or the new one was built. The closest I can come was around early 1920’s. Too many fires have sadly destroyed so many records in our county.

I must confess, I’m not old enough to remember this school when it was at the end of our road. I’m fortunate enough to have some living relatives and friends who have attended the school to help me out.

Lyle, Ross, and Faye Davis (Paulson), and my Aunts Pat Rohem have many memories of that old school. The horse barn behind and the his and hers outhouses stood out in their minds. Again, the dates I’m mentioning are close approximations and may not be exact. Time and age gets to us all eventually. Ross Davis believes his sister was the one of the first students to attend the new school in 1924. Some of the family names attending were the Servio, Miller, Botkins, Davis, Cole, Weinburger and the Livingstons. In attempting to name some of the teachers I may not have the correct spelling or the order in the years they taught. Betty Roloff, Marie Lingren, George Dukloux, Loren Handfields, Loraine Menagose, Viola Kempenon, and Clair Sein. There were approximately 23 to 24 students.

The age old cliché “Back when I was a youngster going to school” sure applies here. Children walking to school in the winter and arriving with their lunches frozen in their syrup pails. The frozen water pump outside. Chopping wood and building a fire in the old wood stove. Shoveling paths to the horse barn and outhouses as well to the school entrances. The above mentiones chores were done by some of the students. Those who were lucky enough to have horses rode them to school, otherwise you walked.

Alvin Davis would hitch up his fathers team of horses and take some of the kids to school. (The early school bus?) When he arrived, he would turn the horses around and they would return home by themselves. After school, Their father Harry Davis would return and pick up and return the children home. The distance was about 3 miles one way.

Now, as one might imagine, being country kids they had to invent their own kind of fun. Not like today, they did not destroy property, They respected others belongings. It seemed fighting was one of their favorite pastimes. Of course, after school was out they were the best of friends again. Free to do a little hunting and fishing on the way home. Yes, some brought guns to school. One always tried to bring home supper. When one went to the store, it was a day trip and had to be planned.

Ross Davis tells of the time some of the boys shot a bear and it seemed the best place to dress the bear out was in the school house loft of all places! The teacher loved that one.  And then the time the boys put the porcupine down the hole in the girls outhouse. This was set up for one of the teachers. It seemed this teacher used the facilities at a certain time each day. Well, just try to imagine this scene if you will. The teacher goes into the outhouse and the whole student body assembles outside. The next scene is of the teacher busting out of the outhouse screaming, her dress still held up around her waist. And, of course, the audience was hollering, yelling and laughing! No wonder they went through a lot of teachers!

The school closed in 1939-1940. It was purchased by my Grandmother Mary Livingston and moved to the Garvin sheep ranch (now owned by Pat Kitzman), just a few miles south where it still stands today. My father, John Livingston and uncles Mike and Ben, along with Walt Cole and Cecil Botkins moved the school with a team of horses and skids. The horses were named Nel and Bud. What a sight it must have been!

I’m sure there are many other stories about the old school. Life goes on and memories fade away. Records lost or destroyed. Time marches on and mother nature takes over again. We always tell ourselves there is still time. The next thing we know the ones who have the memories have passed on. Now we scramble for any scrap of information we might be able to obtain. We, at the Bergland/Matchwood historical society are trying very hard to preserve our history. Please, if you have any old photos, documents, records you would like to share, contact any member. We do not nessicerly want the originals, we have the means to make copys. If you do want to loan, donate any item, it would be sincerely appreciated.

Keep an eye out for future articles to appear in the Herald. Some of our projects are articles on people, places and things.

Bergland Matchwood Historical Society


Matchwood fires

The Matchwood Fire of 1899

     This painting is a memory picture of what Matchwood looked like in the year of 1899.  This was when Pine was King in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The virgin pine was being cut and hauled to lumber mills in this area.  The Diamond Match Co. was sawing most of the lumber in the area for the purpose of making matches, thus the name Matchwood became the name of this settlement. There was a lot of logging going on in the outlying area of Matchwood with several dozen logging camps 

     The town of Matchwood consisted of several saloons, lodging houses, boarding houses, ect. Many log cabins in the surrounding woods were built among the virgin pine. The D.S.S. and A., known as the Duluth South Shore and Atlantic Railroad hauled supplies and equipment for the surrounding area. It also hauled out the lumber products to the mid-west and other parts of the developing U.S.

     Of the 3 fires, the first was the most devastating that hit the small booming wilderness town of Matchwood. A few of the buildings are depicted in the painting. The Conners General Store was burned to the ground. The Depot was burned, but Carpenter’s boarding house, McCorry’s saloon was saved. The Conners home was saved, but the buildings for horses, cattle and all the logging equipment were destroyed. The Davis lumber-mill and machinery were also lost in the fire.

     The town pump and railroad tracks are in the same place to this day.  Matchwood today is a real ghost town, with perhaps one building and the town pump.

     Mrs. Anna Conners told this story to Marjorie and Norman Conners during the later days of her life while living in Ewen. Patrick Conners, better known by the old timers as “Paddy” passed about ten years prior to Anna Conners.

     As is shown in the picture, the train stopped just long enough to allow people to get on, as flames were leaping up around some of the coaches. No lives were lost as, all who wanted to leave were able to make it. Mrs. Conners is depicted as going towards the train with her daughter Ethel, about 5 years old. George Conners, the second oldest was being carried by his Dad, Paddy, but is not shown in the picture. The air was full of smoke and sparks, so the people would wet rags from the pump and hold it over their faces and noses to make it easier to breath.

Matchwood before the 2nd fire


The April & May meetings cancelled

 due to the Coronavirus -19. 

Will keep you posted when the next meeting will be held .

Stay Safe and Keep Healthy!

Our address

Bergland/Matchwood Historical Society

Museum & Hertiage Center

P.O. Box 403

Bergland, Mi 49910

Want to be a member?

Call or email for information on dues.

Monthly Meeting

Meet on the first Wednesday of the month at 4:30 pm est


Monthly Meeting Dates

No upcoming events

Local Authors Books For Sale

Check our link for the books for sale by local authors.

Our History & Mission

The Bergland/Matchwood Historical Society has been in existence for 30 years. We met faithfully every month and enjoyed pot luck at the Senior Center. On August 1st 2009, we finally obtained a building for our Museum. We partnered with the Bergland Heritage and Cultural center and the Ottawa National Forest.

The Historical Society and the Heritage and Cultural Society have been merged under the heading as the Historical Society, and are located at the closed Bergland Ranger Station. The Historical Society Museum is located in the old Ranger house and small garage. The Forest office is now the Forest Service Museum with a large display of earlier days gone by,including a life size stuffed Smokey the Bear.

Our mission is to preserve, document, and display every artifact of these two Townships. The items we have on display at the Museum are either donated or on loan to us. When family or old photos are brought in, people have the option of either donating or loaning the pictures. Or make a copy of the original photo they bring in. We make excellent copies.