A Brief History of Morgan High School - 1911 to 2012
The Mormon pioneers who settled Morgan Valley were very interested in education. As soon as the county was organized, a Commissioner of Education was appointed and the creation of four school districts ordered on February 17, 1862. The first schools were held in private homes, but soon each settlement erected a building that served as a schoolhouse and amusement hall.
Prior to this time, wandering tribes of Indians inhabited the area. During cold winter months, both the Ute and Shoshone tribes took advantage of the warm mineral springs and big game migratory routes situated along the Weber River drainage. Long before permanent white settlements were made, fur traders, trappers, and Spanish missionaries visited the region. The valley belonged to Mexico until 1848 when the territory was ceded to the United States in the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
The first schools in Morgan County were run on the tuition plan, each family paying according to the number of children sent to school. This was an unsatisfactory system because the poor and those with large families could not afford schooling for their children. Between 1867 and 1868 the people devised a tax system that would more equitably place the burden of education upon the entire residency of the county.
On April 13, 1908, A.C. Nelson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, appeared before the Board of County Commissioners relative to the consolidation of various community school districts into one county school district. After consideration by the board, the matter was submitted to the people for a vote to be held November 3, 1908. The people voted for consolidation. Five men were elected to the first Morgan County School District Board of Education. By December 30, 1908, community districts had settled their accounts, balanced their books, and turned over all school property to the new board of education.
The early beginning of high school education originated in the Morgan LDS Stake Academy, which provided an eighth grade education. It opened December 3, 1888. The school was housed in the upper room of the county courthouse, and later in one or two rooms downstairs as well. The subjects taught were theology, the New Testament and Book of Mormon, grammar and composition, arithmetic, geography, bookkeeping, penmanship, and music.
By 1911, the community realized the need for a public high school. Superintendent H.B. Fry opened the school in a room of the South Morgan Elementary building. He developed a course of study and organized classes, which would qualify students the first year. Mr. Fry became teacher, activity director, and father confessor to 22 students.
During the second year, Morgan High saw the addition of two faculty members, and domestic science, art, biology, and sociology to the course of study. The third year another member joined the faculty to teach industrial arts. By this time, every available room in the building was being used, and the courthouse was utilized for the overflow.
It was while Mr. Fry was superintendent, principal, and teacher that the site and project for the huge block “M” on the mountain above the high school was originated. The graduating class of 1916 met on the hillside to begin actual work on the project. What is known as “M” Day became an annual tradition as each class made a trek to whitewash the letter and cement a section of rocks to give the project permanency. The cementing was completed in 1953, but the annual cleaning, whitewashing, and face lifting is still observed each year.
With increasing numbers of high school students eager to learn, it was evident that a new facility needed to be erected. A bond election was held in May of 1913 for the purpose of funding construction. In the fall of 1915, a new high school was erected in the heart of Morgan City at a cost of $25,000. Later, in 1925, a new gymnasium with offices, restrooms, shower and locker rooms, and seating upstairs and down was completed along with a domestic science room with facilities for cooking and sewing.
During the Depression years of the 1930’s, the community took advantage of a federal government work program and built a then modern elementary school. It was completed and dedicated in 1936. A beautiful auditorium was part of the building. It became the focal point for community gatherings. The high school employed the auditorium for music classes, assemblies, graduation exercises, and other special programs. The same project saw the addition of a new shop building for the high school (this building still stands and is on the National Historical Site registry) and other renovations to the existing high school facilities. In 1943 a new wing was added to the school to provide rooms, a new lunch hall, and an art and music center.
For centuries the Morgan Valley was protected from the outside world by towering mountains and steep riverbanks. With the progression of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Interstate Highway project, that isolation would cease. Even though the historic Transcontinental Railroad line intersected the valley, the impact of population growth was limited. But with the completion of Interstate 80 (now Interstate 84) in the early 1960’s, an influx of people moved into the area. The growth pattern encouraged the building of a new high school. In 1965, this facility was completed across the street and east of the existing school. The building included a large, spacious gymnasium, a new library, a beautiful auditorium, and a number of rooms for classes and departments. In 1970 more classrooms were added, forming an east wing, and the library was enlarged.
In 2001, following two failed bond elections that would have renovated the high school and built a new elementary in the northern end of the county, the Morgan Board of Education adopted a “pay as you go” building policy. Using capital improvement funds and a creative financing package, the Board was able to construct a new commons area, several classrooms, central offices, and a counseling center, and renovate the media center and science rooms. An additional gymnasium and new elementary school were removed from the plan due to limited financial resources.
In 2011 (the 100th year of Morgan High School), the school board approved a special grant/low interest loan to build a new P.E./Practice Facility. Because this is Morgan High School’s 100th birthday, the facility was named the “Trojan Century Center.” This facility will be enjoyed by current MHS students, as well as future generations.
Under the leadership of Principal Wade T. Murdock and Vice Principal Renn Hoopes, the school employs 75 faculty and staff members. Curriculum ranges from welding and cooking to calculus and college humanities courses. The institution serves more than 730 students who are involved in the pursuit of scholastic excellence and extracurricular prowess.
Morgan High School is steep in tradition. From the foresight of the original pioneers to today’s explorers of technology, the people of the valley have a deep belief in the value of public education. They understand the need to prepare upcoming generations for the challenges and opportunities of the future.