W. D. Johnston

HANCOCK COUNTY WEST VIRGINIA – BIOS: JOHNSTON, W.D.
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Submitted to the West Virginia Biographies Project by:
Valerie & Tommy Crook
vfcrook@trellis.net
September 26, 1999
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The History of West Virginia, Old and New
Published 1923, The American Historical Society, Inc.,
Chicago and New York, Volume III,
pg. 258-259
Hancock County

W. D. JOHNSTON is superintendent of schools at Weirton,
that interesting and thriving industrial and agricultural
community of which the town of Weirton and the Weirton
Steel Works are the central figure. For a century this
section of Hancock County was almost entirely agricultural
and pastoral. Therefore, while Mr. Johnston has been look-
ing after the schools only half a dozen years or so, his work
here has been largely coincident with the period of modern
growth and development.

It was in 1916 that the present Central High School
building was erected at Weirton, with Mr. Johnston as
superintendent. Prior to that time the educational activ-
ities of the Butler District had been centered at Holliday’s
Cove, while the high school had been maintained for sev-
eral years. The Central High School at Weirton and the
schools in that group enrolled about 800 pupils, with forty
in the high school, twenty-nine teachers all told, and three
in the high school. There were only seven schools altogether
in the Butler District in 1916. For 1922 the enrollment for
the district was 1,720, there were sixty-eight teachers, and
the high school had 110 scholars and ten teachers comprising
the faculty. Among the veteran teachers at Weirton, whose
work has been of the highest degree of usefulness, might
be mentioned Miss Nell Cox, Miss Catherine Conlon and Miss
Clara M. Smith.

Superintendent Johnston was born in Harrison County,
Ohio, graduated from Adrian College in Michigan in 1912,
took post graduate work in Ohio University at Athens and
at Columbia University in New York. For three years he
taught in the district schools of his native county, was
principal for three years at the high school of Jewett,
Ohio, for three years was principal of the Chester High
School in West Virginia, and then, in 1916, came to his
duties at Weirton as superintendent of the local schools.
He is an active member of the National Educational Asso-
ciation, the State Association, and is vice president of the
District Superintendents Association of the state. He has
been superintendent of the Presbyterian Sunday School at
the Cove, and is county chairman of the Junior Bed Cross.

He married Dorothy Dennimore, of Jewett, Ohio. She is
a talented musician, graduated from Dana’s Musical In-
stitute at Warren, Ohio, and at Scio College, and for four
years was a teacher of music in the public schools of Ohio.
Mr. and Mrs. Johnston have one daughter, Lorraine.

The school system of the Butler District is a matter
of special pride to all local citizens. D. M. Weir, vice
president of the Weirton Steel Company, in an address he
delivered to the officers and executives of the Steel Com-
pany in January, 1922, had this to say concerning the school
system:

“The school system in Weirton is one that we have every
reason to be proud of. The superintendent of schools in
the Butler District is a man of high ideals, is a credit to
the community and a very able and efficient director. And
I think that the results bespeak more for him that any word
of praise that I may say at this time. He has the support
of a very able school board, Mr. Shakley, Mr. Morris
and one of our own employes, Mr. Rowland. These men
give their time and thought to advancing educational fa-
cilities in the district, which is now taking care of 1,800 chil-
dren, having about sixty teachers for this work. In addi-
tion to that we have two colored schools, one in the north-
east part of Weirton, with about twenty pupils, and one on
Calico Hill, with about forty or fifty pupils. The teachers
of these schools are just as competent as any others.

“We are all justly proud of our High School and I think
it compares favorably with any other in the state. This
educational work is of the utmost importance. Boys and
girls in the schools today will be prime movers in tomor-
row’s Weirton, and we should encourage educational work
in every way.

“At the present time there is being considered and it
seems an absolute necessity a building for high school pur-
poses at a probable cost of from $150,000 to $200,0.00.
This bond issue will come before the people some time soon
and I am hopeful that it will be approved, because new
high school facilities are bady [sic] needed. About seventy-five
pupils are being enrolled each year in the freshman class,
and if past records for enrollment are any criterion it will
increase yearly.

“Mr. Johnston would like to have a high school which
will accommodate from 400 to 500 pupils. Naturally he is
looking ahead. He has vision. We think it will only be a
few years hence until we will have that many pupils in
our high school. Vocational training is being carried on
with much success in our present high school building. In
the wood work and machinery class there are some forty
boys enrolled, and the work they produce is most commend-
able. A recent exhibit of what they made was shown in
one of the local stores and proved most surprising to every
one who saw it. No one had any idea that such development
was taking place in this line of work. Domestic Science is
a very popular class in high school, some fifty girls being
enrolled. This branch teaches home economics and sewing.”