When attorney Isaac E. Crary came to Marshall in 1832 from Connecticut, he became fast friends with another transplanted easterner, the Reverend John D. Pierce. Interested in government and education, these two men in 1834-35 planned Michigan's public school system. The proposed system became law in 1835 when Crary headed the education committee of the state's inaugural constitutional convention. The following year Pierce was appointed state superintendent of education — the first such position in America. Crary, who later was a state legislator and the first United States Representative from Michigan, and Pierce continued to battle for educational plans including free schools. Dying in 1854 and 1882 respectively, Crary and Pierce were buried in Oakridge Cemetery, Marshall.
In 1834-35 Isaac E. Crary (1804-1854) and John D. Pierce (1793-1882) planned Michigan's public school system which influenced educational policy throughout America. Their most important contribution was the establishment of a separate department of education run by a superintendent — an innovative effort to introduce uniform schooling in Michigan. Crary and Pierce specified that certain land revenues go to the state, not the townships, for education. They also designated Michigan's general college fund for the financially ailing University of Michigan. Later, in 1862, Congress adopted this state's method of using land revenues for schools, a plan which benefited Michigan Agricultural College in East Lansing. Using ideas from Prussian educators and New England schools, Michigan's school system aided the growth of this frontier area.