Peoria County, Illinois Genealogy Trails
Early Peoria Schools
EDUCATION—PEORIA PUBLIC LIBRARY—THE PEORIA SCIENTIFIC
PEORIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
by Newton C. Dougherty.
Prior to the organization of the present system the Public Schools of Peoria were of a very indifferent character. There were, in fact, no schools under the control of the city. Although power had been conferred by the original charter to maintain a system of public schools, yet it does not seem to have been exercised. The Township of Peoria had been divided into four districts cornering with each other at the intersection of Main and Adams Streets, in each one of which there was a Board of Directors. District No. l, embracing the territory southwest of Main Street and below Adams, had a small school house in the Moffatt settlement near Lower Peoria, and had begun the erection of a four-room house on the corner of Adams and Walnut Streets, the foundation walls of which had been laid. District No. 2 had a two-room brick school-house on Monson Street between Fourth and Fifth. That building still stands, but has had a second story added. District No. 3 occupied an old foundry building on Perry Avenue, upper side, between Hamilton and Fayette Streets. District No. 4 had a one-room brick school-house adjoining the jail on North Washington Street, which has been converted into a dwelling. The Second District School had been taught for several years by Ephraim Hinman, who was County School Commissioner. He had one or two assistants. His school was usually crowded. The Third District School house was scarcely sufficient to protect the pupils from the winds and rains. To supply, in some measure, the want of public schools, resort was had to numerous private schools located in the basements of churches or other rooms available for that purpose. Schools of higher grade had also been established from time to time, which had had fairly good patronage. It is known, too, that in early times those who were able to do so would send their sons and daughters abroad to school, and one instance is known of a young lady having, as early as 1835, been sent to the celebrated academy of Rev. John M. Peck, at Rock Springs.
But all the educational advantages possessed by the people of Peoria proving insufficient for their wants, a number of citizens joined hands to supply themselves with good schools at home. In the year 1850 an Association was formed at Peoria, known as the "Female School Association," of which John Hamlin, Hervey Lightner, John Reynolds, Jacob Gale and Amos P. Bartlett were the first trustees. This Association became incorporated by act of the Legislature of February 16, 1853, under the title of "The Peoria Female Academy." They leased a lot from Mr. Charles Ballance on the lower side of Jefferson between Fulton and Liberty Streets, on which they erected a long one-story frame building, in which their school was commenced. Miss E. Fuller was the first Principal and Miss E. Ackerman her assistant. They were succeeded by the Misses Sarah and Adelaide Matthews, the former of whom became the wife of Alexander McCoy and the latter the wife of George F. Harding, both prominent lawyers. This school was of a very high grade, and became so popular and prosperous that about the year 1855 a lot was purchased on the east corner of Jefferson and Jackson Streets, upon which was erected a fine brick building, in which the school was kept until the year 1856, when it was purchased by the Board of School Inspectors, and this noted "girls school" passed out of existence.
On the 23d day of March, 1854, another organization was formed on a similar plan, for the purpose of conducting a school for the higher education of boys. This school became popularly known as the "Boys' Stock School," Hon. Onslow Peters being President of the Association; Amos P. Bartlett, Secretary; Dr. Rudolphus Rouse, Peter R. K. Brotherson and John W. Hansel, Directors ; Horace G. Anderson, Treasurer; Capt. Thomas Baldwin, William R. Phelps and Henry S. Austin, Trustees. Lots on Sixth Street were purchased and a good substantial brick building erected thereon, which was incorporated into the public school building located on the same lots and long known as the Lincoln School.
The Legislature of 1855 enacted a new school law, and, from that date, educational progress began throughout the State. But lest the adoption of the general system should be defeated, steps had been taken to inaugurate a system especially adapted to the city of Peoria. This measure carried, and on February 15, 1855, the Board of School Inspectors was created by the Legislature and approved by the Governor. The first Board was elected on the first Saturday of April in the same year, and organized the following Monday evening. By the act the Board of School Inspectors was constituted an independent body and given all power and authority, within, the limits of the city, over the public schools and general concerns of public instruction; over school-houses and school funds, and all moneys, funds and properties pertaining to schools; and, generally, all the "rights, powers and authority nec- essary for the proper management of schools and the funds of the city for school purposes, with power to make all such rules, orders and ordinances as may be necessary to carry their power and duties into effect and perfect a good system of public instruction and schools in the city." The Board of School Inspectors was thus made, by this first charter, a co-ordinate department of the city government, and wholly independent of all other departments in everything which related to the educational welfare of the city. The act prohibited any member of the Board, or the Secretary, from receiving any compensation for the performance of his ordinary duties. The treasurer of the Board was to receive compensation for his services, but Mr. John Hamlin, who was the first treasurer of the Board, performed the duties required of him gratuitously.
The first Board of School Inspectors consisted of Amos P. Bartlett, Jesse L. Knowlton, John W. Hansel, Jona- than K. Cooper, Thomas C. Moore, Alexander McCoy and Alexander G. Tyng. On account of the state of his health and his many other engagements, Mr. Tyng resigned and his place was filled by the appointment of Mr. Benjamin L. T. Bourland. The Board organized by the election of Amos P. Bartlett, President; Hon. Onslow Peters, Secretary; John Hamlin, Treasurer, and Henry B. Hopkins, Superintendent. The city was divided into five districts, in each one of which a school was kept. During the first year the old buildings were occupied and an additional one was rented on the bluff. Having no money at its command, the Board of Inspectors could neither build nor purchase new school-houses, but early in 1856 they were prepared to do either or both. They, there-fore, purchased the two .private school-houses already mentioned, and proceeded to complete the unfinished building in District No. i on the corner of Adams and Walnut Streets, and, by the month of May, 1856, the people found themselves in possession of four fairly good school-houses, the old ones in Districts Nos. 2 and 3 having been abandoned.
The High School was commenced in the upper rooms of the Third District school-house (the Female Academy) on the 5th day of May, 1856, with Prof. Charles E. Hovey as Principal, and Miss Sarah Matthews, assistant. Mr. Hovey was a native of Thetford, Vermont, and a graduate of Dartmouth College. He had been Principal of the High School in Farmington, Massachusetts, and came to Peoria in 1854 to take charge of the Peoria Academy. In 1856 he filled both positions, Superintendent of Schools and Principal of the High School, and continued to do so until he was called to take charge of the State Normal University at Bloomington. He was very active in the formation of the new school system and much of its efficiency, from the very beginning, was due to him.
The Intermediate or Grammar School, as it was then called, was organized in the Third District on the same day as the High School, with Mrs. Hovey and Miss Emma Roy as teachers. On account of the lower room not being ready, the Primary Department was not opened until May 19th, when it began with Miss Brooks as teacher. The Grammar School in the Second District began on May 19th, in the upper room of the "Boy's Stock School," with Mr. Samuel L. Coulter and Miss Chambers, teachers. The primary school in this district began on the same day, with Miss Annie Kilbourne and Mrs. Tilton as teachers. The new school-house in the First District being unfini- hed, the schools there did not begin until a later date. The school in District No. 4 continued for a time in the old school-house near the jail, and the school in District No. 5 was. kept in a rented house. Both of these districts had the privilege of sending scholars to the Grammar Schools in, Districts Nos. 2 and 3, when there were any vacant seats.
These schools established by the new Board were graded schools. Under the old system, pupils of all ages and acquirements assembled in the same room and were taught by the same teacher. It mattered not whether the teacher was adapted to the young or the old, he must attempt to teach both. It mattered not whether he needed half an hour or an hour to a class, he could have but a few minutes. But in the new system pupils of like acquire- ments were placed together. There was a primary school for the beginners, a grammar school for those farther advanced, and a high school for those farthest advanced. The advantages were apparent at once. All saw that there was a greater economy of money, more thoroughness in the school work, and a greater stimulus to diligence and merit upon the part of the pupil. The schools which began with an attendance of 300 had swelled, by the close of the year, to 800.
The want of proper school-houses was one of the greatest difficulties which
the new Board had to meet. They determined to adopt the most approved plan of
school architecture, and to build houses which would accommo- date six or seven
hundred pupils. They realized that large school-houses were the most economical
and admitted of better classification of the pupils. They secured commodious
grounds and prepared plans for the future buildings.
The expenses for the first year were $11,089.49, of which amount $4,124.23 was for teachers' salaries, the balance was for lots, buildings and equipment. Of this $11,089.49, $3,579.90, or about 30 per cent. was contri- buted by the State. For a few years tuition fees were charged in order to avoid too high a rate of taxation. In the year 1890-91 the expenses of the Peoria schools were $233,363.04. of which amount the State contributed about $10,500, or less than five per cent. Illinois, as a State, is not doing so well to help the public school system in 1891 as she did in 1855.
As we look back over the history of these schools in Peoria, the names of the men who constituted the first Board of Education and the teaching force of that day stand out from the rest into eminence. We may call them, in a phrase which has become common of late, the makers of the system. Other men have developed what they planned, but these men were in a sense creative, and Peoria owes them a debt which she can never repay.
The growth of the public schools kept pace with the growth of the city, so that, in 1866, the expenditure of the Board amounted to $35,446.04, of which sum $28,289.32 was for teachers' salaries. The number of pupils had grown from 800 in 1855-56 to 2,617 in 1865-67.
About this time Nicholas E. Worthington, then the County Superintendent and a
member of the State Board of Education, felt that the vocation of a teacher
required some degree of special preparation by those who would undertake it, and
to this end he secured the establishment of the Peoria County Normal School. The
city furnished and cared for the building and the county paid the salaries of
the teachers. Samuel H. White, of Chicago, was secured as Principal, and the
school opened September, 1858, and continued in operation until June, 1879. It
is impossible to overestimate its influence for good upon the schools of the
city and the county. Improved scholarship and a higher grade of ability, upon
the part of the teachers of county and city, was one of the results. A higher
standard in the studies and a greater readiness in their application upon the
part of the teachers were
required, and the schools took on a new and better life. Mr. White loved teaching for itself. It was the destiny and business of his entire life. He felt its responsibility and ideal beauty. He won the hearts of his pupils and still lives in the Peoria schools through these teachers, and will ever continue so to live.
During the past ten years all the old buildings have given place to new ones which reflect the interest and devotion of the citizens of Peoria in her system of public schools. To-day there are more than nine thousand pupils enrolled in these schools, and two hundred and sixty-seven teachers. To sustain this system more than a quarter of a million dollars are expended annually, and the citizens pay this cheerfully, believing that the future of the city depends upon the excellence of her schools.
BRADLEY POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE.
By Paul Selby.
There is no truer index of the standard of intelligence, liberality and public spirit which pervades a community, than is to be found in the extent and character of its public institutions. This is true alike of its educational and its bene- volent institutions; for, while the one elevates the standard of popular intelligence and fits men and women for the successful discharge of the practical duties of life, the other furnishes evidence of that spirit of humanity and bene- volence without which there is no true enlightenment. The two go hand in hand, and where the one has obtained a foothold, the other is likely to be found, sooner or later, dispensing its benefits to the unfortunate and the destitute.
In this respect Peoria is fortunate in the possession of an institution adapted to qualifying its pupils of both sexes for a career in the practical arts, as well as giving them an opportunity to acquire a knowledge of the sciences and literature. The "Bradley Polytechnic Institute" is the outgrowth of plans originally entertained some thirty-five years ago, but which have since been in process of development until they have taken shape in the establishment of the most liberally endowed institution of its kind in the West. Its conception, not unlike that of the Leland Stanford University, of California, is traced to the death of a favorite and only child, Laura Bradley, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Tobias S. Bradley, and the desire of the parents to establish an institution which should be a monument to her memory. The death of Mr. Bradley, a prominent and successful business man, in 1867, only interrupted the progress of the plans, which have since been carried out with scrupulous fidelity, and on a broader basis than originally contemplated, by Mrs. Lydia Bradley, the bereaved mother and widow.
Mrs. Bradley's plans first took definite form in the desire expressed in her will, executed in 1885, to devote the bulk of her estate, at her death, to the founding and endowment of an institution of the character which has since been realized. Ten years later, with the aid of experts, she began the collection of information in reference to the management of the leading schools of technology and manual training in other States, with the result that her plans were so far modified as to lead to their consummation during her life. The first essential step was taken in this direction on November 13, 1806, in the formal incorporation under the State law of the "Bradley Polytechnic Institute," the charter naming as the first Board of Trustees, President William R. Harper, of the University of Chicago; Judge Leslie D. Puterbaugh, Rudolf Pfeiffer, Zealy M. Holmes, Harry A. Hammond, Albion W. Small (also of the University of Chicago), and Oliver J. Bailey. In the organization of the Board, which took place on November 16th, Mr. Bailey became President, Judge Puterbaugh Vice-President, Mr. Hammond Secretary, and President Harper President of the Faculty. The purpose and scope of the institution is indicated by the following extract from section 2 of the charter:
"The objects for which this corporation is formed are to organize and maintain, forever, a school for the education of young people of both sexes in all the practical and useful arts, sciences and learning usually taught in polytechnic schools, including a department in ethics, in which instruction shall be given in the principles of morality and right living as exemplified in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ; and, so far as the resources of the Institute shall warrant, there shall be added such courses of study and means of instruction in science, literature and art as may be deemed advisable by the Trustees, but the chief aim of the Institute shall be to furnish its students with the means of living independent, industrious and useful lives by the aid of practical knowledge of the useful arts and sciences. Neither in the terms of admission nor in the treatment of students, the selection of officers, agents or instructors, nor in the appointment of Trustees, nor in any matter connected with this Institute, shall there be any distinction made or preference given on account of creed, nationality, politics or party; but, with a view to its greater usefulness, this Institute shall be, and ever remain, non-sectarian, non-political and non-partisan."
At the first meeting of the Board of Trustees Mrs. Bradley presented a deed
for ten acres of ground as a site for school buildings and campus, which was
soon after enlarged to seventeen acres, fronting on Main Street. At the same
time she executed a contract pledging herself to the payment of one-half her net
income (estimated at $25,000 per annum) towards the support of the school during
her life. It having been determined to open the Institute for the reception of
students in the following October, the erection of buildings was promptly
commen- ced, Henry Ives Cobb, present Supervising Architect of the Treasury
Department, having entered into a contract on January 13, 1897, to furnish plans
for the Bradley Hall and Horological Building, at .an estimated cost of
$110,000. Ground was broken April 10, following, and although the buildings had
not reached completion, the work of instruction was begun, as originally
contemplated, on October 4, 1897, with a full corps of instructors, headed by
Prof. E. O. Sisson as Director. One hundred and five pupils presented themselves
on the opening day, this number being increased before the close of the year to
nearly 150. The dedicatory and Founder's Day was fixed for October 8th, the
principal feature of the ceremony consisting in a dedicatory address by Hon.
J. Gage, Secretary of the Treasury, followed by the presentation of the keys of the buildings to the Board of Trustees by Mrs. Bradley, and an address on behalf of the Faculty by President Harper, of the University of Chicago. Other events of interest in connection with the history of the institution include the acceptance of the buildings from the contractors on January 17, 1898, followed by a public reception on March 11th, when they were inspected by a crowd of some 5,000 visitors. The first convocation on graduating day was celebrated on June 24, 1898, Judge C. C. Kohlsaat, of Chicago,, delivering the address, and one graduate (a lady) receiving her diploma. The second Founder's Day was observed October 8, 1898, Prof. C. T. Chamberlain, of the University of Chicago, being the orator of the occasion, and taking for his theme the "Moral Nature of Scientific Study."
By the early part of the year 1901 the total expenditures for building
purposes and equipment amounted to $220,000, represented in two substantial
buildings of beautiful architectural design, and especially well adapted to the
purposes for which they were intended. The most important of these—Bradley
Hall—in addition to its administration department, faculty offices and
school-rooms, contains the manual training and domestic economy departments,
with furnishings of the highest practical utility, while for the horological
department is claimed "the distinction of having the best building and the best
equipment of any watch-making school in the country, indeed in the world." The
system of instruction, though modeled upon that of the leading manual training
and polytechnic schools of the country— including the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology and the Chicago Manual Training School and Lewis Institute—presents
many original features especially adapted to the class of pupils for whose
benefit it is designed. The complete curriculum embraces a six-years' course, of
which the first four has been known as the high-school course and the last two
as the "college course." These have been divided into three terms of two years
each, designated respectively as the "lower academy," "higher academy" and
While the Institute is closely affiliated with the University of Chicago, giving its pupils the right of admission to classes of the latter of the same grade without additional examination, this does not give the University any power of control over the school or the estate; the relation being purely social and advisory. The Board of Trustees appointed in 1897 remains unchanged, their terms of office being for life, unless disqualified by incompetence, insolvency or other sufficient cause. Besides two, who, by the terms of the charter, are representatives: of the Uni- versity of Chicago, all the others are required to be residents of Peoria County or vicinity. The faculty (1901) consisted of fourteen members of whom five were men and nine women. The attendance during the year ranged between four and five hundred pupils. While the founding and maintenance of the Institute has been due to the generous munificence of the individual donor, a number of valuable gifts have been received from outside sources, including the collection of the Peoria Scientific Association, and a bust of Mrs. Bradley executed by a local sculptor, Mr. Fritz Triebel, as a tribute of the citizens to the generous founder. Both of these were incidents in connection with the second Convocation Day exercises on June 23, 1899.
A crowning event in the history of the Institute was the conveyance to the same, by Mrs. Bradley, on May 17, 1899, of all her real estate (her homestead only excepted), subject to her life use and management, under condi- tions which do not permit the alienation or impairment of the endowment by any obligation whatever. This com- prises much of the best improved and unimproved property about Peoria, besides valuable farm-lands in this and adjoining counties. A conservative estimate places the value of the endowment at not less than $2,000,000, which is destined to be largely increased by future appreciation in value.
by James Shannon.
Within three blocks of St. Mary's Cathedral are situated two Catholic institutions for the higher education of the young: The Academy of the Sacred Heart, a high school for girls, and Spalding Institute, a school of similar grade for boys. The work of the former has been in successful progress for many years; that of the latter is but fairly begun. The Institute is the result of the munificence of the Rt. Rev. J. L. Spalding, Bishop of the Diocese of Peoria, and stands as a monument to his interest in the proper training of the youth of the city. In its establishment has been given a practical application of those thoughts and principles which have characterized the masterly essays of its founder on the subject of education, and there is reason to hope that, in time, it will rank in practice, as do those essays in connection with the theories of mental and moral training.
The Institute was opened for the reception of pupils in September, 1899, with an attendance of nearly sixty boys, taught by three Brothers of Mary under the direction of Brother Gerald. The attendance in 1900 was increased to eighty, and, in 1901, to one hundred. Two additions have been made to the corps of teachers, and more will be made when the work is thoroughly organized. It is designed to give a complete high-school course, with two years of college work.
The building erected at the corner of North Madison Avenue and Jackson Street is an imposing structure, of the Renaissance style of architecture, combining class-rooms, study-halls, gymnasium and other necessary apart- ments, excellently suited for the purposes of the institution. The auditorium has a seating capacity of 750. The building and grounds represent an expenditure of $75,000.
ACADEMY OF THE SACRED HEART.
This institution was established in 1868, by the Sisters of St. Joseph—the result of an application which had been made by Father Coyle, the priest in charge of St. Mary's parish (then the only Catholic parish in Peoria), for a number of Sisters to establish and conduct a school for the higher education of young ladies. At the time of their arrival the parish was under the pastorate of Rev. Abraham Ryan, who afterward became the poet priest of the South. The work was undertaken by Mother M. Theresa, assisted by six Sisters, the academy first being opened in a house, now No. 205 Madison Avenue, between Hamilton and Fayette Streets. Among the early benefactors of this institution were a number of the early citizens of Peoria, then prominent in business affairs. The building first occupied soon proving too small for the growing demands of the school, a site was secured on Madison Avenue and Bryan Street, where a substantial brick building was erected, but which it has been twice found necessary to enlarge to accommodate the increasing attendance. As it now stands, the building furnishes' accommodation for about one hundred boarders, besides the day scholars. The curriculum embraces a thorough course in high-school branches, supplemented by training in music and art. The standing of the school is attested by the many hundreds of young ladies of Peoria who have been its pupils.
The system of parochial schools, established, under the auspices of the
Catholic Church in the city of Peoria, has been- in operation for more than
forty years, and has steadily developed with the growth of the city. The reason
for its existence is, to afford moral as well as mental training to the young,
in accordance with the views of the church authorities, on the principle that
the education of the intellectual faculties alone is necessarily inadequate to
the development of complete manhood and complete womanhood. To the
accomplishment of this end, so essential to the development of true character,
many thousands of the ablest and most devoted members of the church have
consecrated their lives. After thorough preparation they are sent out to take
charge of the education of the young in the parochial schools, and the manner in
which they perform this task furnishes evidence of their
fitness for one of the most important avocations that can fall to the lot of man or woman, and their devotion to the interests of humanity. In Peoria, as elsewhere, this labor has borne abundant fruit. At the present time there are about fifty of these carefully trained teachers in charge of fifteen hundred children in the parochial schools of Peoria, in which many of its best citizens have received their preliminary training and been fitted for those duties which they are discharging in public and private life.
St. Joseph's School..—This was the title given to the first Catholic
parochial school in Peoria, which was established by St. Joseph's parish in
1858. Four members of the congregation (John Wichmann, Andreas Goebels, Philip
Rohmann and Henry Lammers) donated a lot on the corner of First and Spencer
Streets, on which a. frame building, 16x24 feet, was erected, an extension of
the same size being added later. Among the
early teachers were Frank Stubenrauch and Peter Elzer. In 1868 a larger and more substantial structure was erected where St. Joseph's Church now stands, and the new school established there placed in charge of four Sisters of Notre Dame, from Milwaukee, under the direction of Sister M. Seraphina, who, before entering the convent, had been Baroness von Pronoth. They were assisted by one lay teacher, who taught the larger boys. A year later a separate building was erected for the boy pupils, and the school having been reorganized and graded under the efficient management of the Sisters, the number of pupils rapidly increased.
When, in 1877, it was determined to erect the present St. Joseph's Church, the two school-houses were removed to the corner of Spencer and Hurlburt Streets. The fine school building now in use at that location was dedicated by Bishop Spalding, October 22, 1889. It is a complete structure, fully equipped with every appliance necessary to a modern educational establishment. Previous to 1893 a small tuition fee was expected from each pupil, but since then tuition has been free. At the present time there are 350 pupils in charge of seven Sisters, all grades, from kindergarten to preparatory high-school branches, being taught.
St. Mary's School was started as early as 1858, in the old brick church situated in the rear of St. Mary's Church, on the corner of North Jefferson and Eaton (now Bryan) Streets, on the same spot where the brick school-house now stands. The building had been divided into two rooms, which furnished accommodations for upwards of 150 small children. It was at an early period of its history a school for boys, taught by the Christian Brothers, but, about the year 1863, it seems to have been a school for girls, taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph. During the pastorate of Father Mackin, about 1869, the scope of the school was enlarged and the Christian Brothers again placed in charge. It was at this period the school-house still in use was erected and devoted to the education of boys. This arrangement continued for several years, when the school passed into the hands of laymen for a time. Its management, however, was finally resumed by the Sisters of St. Joseph, who have labored faithfully in the field of education in Peoria for forty years.
St. Patrick's School was opened in 1869, the year after the establishment of St. Patrick's parish, in a plain two- tory frame building at the corner of Saratoga and Johnson Streets. The first teachers were Miss Mary Ryan, now Mrs. John Madigan, and Miss Mary Nailon, now Secretary of the Nailon Brothers Company, two additional teachers being appointed the next year. In 1872 the building was enlarged by the addition of two rooms, and the school passed into the hands of six Sisters of Notre Dame, with an enrollment of 180 pupils. In 1890 the old buildings were replaced by a modern brick structure, containing six large rooms and an assembly hall capable of accommodating 400 pupils. This building is already over-crowded and further enlargement is deemed necessary. The enrollment is 430, employing eight teachers. The course of study embraces the branches taught in the eighth grade grammar schools.
The Sacred Heart School was opened in 1878 in a small frame building on Fulton Street, near Madison. It began with thirty-eight pupils taught by two members of a community who had been exiled from their native land of Germany, and who had established a mother house in the building now occupied by the Cosmopolitan Hotel, on Madison Avenue. Ten years later, having removed to Nebraska, they were succeeded in the Peoria school by the Sisters of St. Francis, who still have charge. A new building was erected in 1896, at a cost of $15,000. It has four classrooms and a fine assembly-hall. The attendance numbers seventy-five.
St. Boniface School. Upon taking charge of St. Boniface parish, in 1881, Father von Schwedler erected a build- ing at the rear of his church, in which St. Boniface parochial school has since been conducted by the Sisters of St. Francis. At the beginning there were about eighty pupils taught by two Sisters. At the present time the enrollment is over 250, with five teachers. The .growing needs of the school call for a larger building, which will soon be erected.
LUTHERAN PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS.
St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran School .— Of the five or six parochial schools organized under the auspices of the Lutheran Church, the earliest was the St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran School, established in 1854 at the corner of Prairie and Goodwin Streets, with Rev. H. Kopman as teacher. This school was supported largely by the church, although patrons were expected to pay from fifty to seventy-five cents per month for each pupil up lo two, the remainder, if a larger number came from the same family, being admitted free. The ordinary branches were taught, a part of each day being devoted to instruction in German and a part in English. In 1902 Wolfgang Semmelmann was in charge as principal, with sixty pupils in the advanced department, while Mrs. Semmelmann was at the head of the kindergarten department with thirty pupils.
The German Lutheran Trinity School was established, in 1857, at No. 418 Warner Avenue, by Prof. E. Miller. In 1888 E. J. Keimnitz took charge, continuing until the fall of 1901, when he was succeeded by William Buck, with Miss Hedwig Richter as assistant. The school has an attendance of eighty-five pupils.
The Evangelical Lutheran Christ's School was organized at No. 214 Malone Avenue, in 1892. In 1895 the school and church building was destroyed by fire, but rebuilt immediately. Here, as in St. Paul's School, a tuition fee of seventy-five cents per month for each pupil, not exceeding two from the same family, is exacted, tuition for the remainder being free. This school was under charge of Edward Krumsieg in 1902, with Miss Matilda Dierking as assistant, and had a total of ninety-eight pupils.
The German Lutheran Zion School, at No. 300 Easton Avenue, was established, in 1883, by Rev. Frederick B. Bess, Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran St. Paul's Church, and, in 1902, had an attendance of thirty-five pupils, in charge of Rev. August Decker, who is also Pastor of the Zion Church.
The one or two other Lutheran Schools in the city are not essentially different, in their organization and admini- stration, from those already mentioned. Although instruction is given in German as well as the English language, the courses are based largely upon that in use in the public schools, rendering the admission of the pupils to the latter easy.
There is also a German School connected with the German Reformed Church, at the corner of Reed and Persimmon Streets, which, although not Lutheran in the denominational sense, the Church being Congregational in mode of government, is conducted on the same general principles as to methods, of instruction. This is kept open only during the summer months, and in 1900 had about thirty scholars.
GERMAN FREE SCHOOLS.
by Oliver J. Roskoten.
Prior to 1840 the number of people of German birth living in Peoria was small. The increasing immigration of this class, which began about that time, created a demand for schools in which German children could be instructed in their native tongue while becoming acquainted with the language of the country of their adoption. The multiplicity of private schools between 1849 and 1862 precluded success for a time, and, with the exception of two or three parochial schools, established between 1854 and 1858, we find the German schools closing their doors for lack of support.
So far as can be learned, the first German school in Peoria was opened in 1848 or 1849, on Adams Street, bet- ween Main and Fulton (where the United States Express office now is), by Mr. Michael Ruppelius, a former Evangelical Lutheran minister, who afterwards became a Notary Public and Justice of the Peace. The late Mr. Christ Zimmerman was for some years his assistant, the school closing in 1857 or 1858.
About the same time J. G. Schulz conducted a rival school on the northwest corner of Washington and Harrison Streets. After running his school with moderate success for some years, he secured a position in the County Recorder's office and dismissed his scholars. Later on he returned to teaching, and it was his school which finally became the predecessor of the German Free School of Peoria, which has been in existence for forty years.
About 1850 a number of German Catholics induced Franz Stubenrauch to open a school which, however, was freely patronized by non-Catholics. (See "Parochial Schools.") This school was first located on South Washing- ton, between Bridge and Walnut Streets, but later removed to Detweiler's place on the same street, where it remained until closed in 1859.
A fourth school had a precarious existence from 1850 to' '58 on the corner of Morgan and North Adams Streets, but was closed by its founder, a Mr. Nachtigall, in the middle of the school year, for want of patronage.
When about all existing German schools had been abandoned, a Mr. Steiboldt opened a private school on Liberty Street on the alley corner later occupied by Engine House No. 3. (It is believed that J. G. Schulz also taught a school at the same place, possibly earlier than Steiboldt). The Stetboldt school was a "school on wheels," so to speak, as it was moved three times within a year —first to the Detweiller building on South Washington Street, between Liberty and Harrison; then to rooms over Green's grocery on Bridge Street, and finally to Fleck's Hall on Water Street, between Bridge and Walnut. Mr. Steiboldt was a man of rare education, a fine linguist, and had thirty to forty pupils. In 1860 he retired in favor of August Kampmeier, who soon transferred the classes to Mr. Schuiz, already referred to. Schuiz moved his school to Bergan's Hall in the fall of 1861, but managed to hold out until relieved by the German Free School Society in the spring of 1862. .
Besides those already mentioned, a German school existed for a few years under the management of a Mrs. Stein on Walnut Street, but this was closed in 1859 or '60.
By this time quite a large number of Germans had settled in the lower part of the city, and, for their accommo- dation, a Mr. Gehrig, in 1860, opened a school on Washington, below Edmund Street. It was non-sectarian and fairly well supported—was generally known as the "School of the Krim," and was continued until 1867. Other schools of this character may have existed at an early day, but it is now difficult to get at their history.
This brings us to the period of the German Free School. The failure of so many private schools demonstrated that, in order to succeed, a school must have a more powerful backing. Among the Germans then here were many of the highest character, men of liberal education, who had left their old homes dissatisfied with political conditions and willing to make sacrifices for their principles. Devoted to their fatherland, they soon learned to love the land of their adoption better, and they have ranked among Peoria's best and most progressive citizens.
With a view to establishing a school which would be in keeping with the importance of the German element, a mass meeting of this class was held in Bergan's Hall, March 21, 1862. It was called to order by Carl Feinse; Dr. Frederick Brendel was chosen Chairman; Henry Baier, Secretary, and a committee of five—composed of Messrs. Feinse, Adam Lucas, Otto Triebel, Freund and Rosenfeld—appointed to report a plan. At a second meeting held April 1st, following, a constitution was adopted and a Board of thirteen Directors elected, with Carl Feinse, President; H. Baier, Secretary; and Louis Green, Treasurer. Mr. Schulz's outfit was taken over as a nucleus of the new enterprise, and he and Mr. Christ Zimmermann, both experienced educators, engaged as teachers. The school was opened May 1, 1862, in the Bergan building. In a few days the enrollment exceeded 100 pupils, this number increasing by January, 1863, to 172 under three teachers. The next year a lot was bought and a building erected on Second Street, where, forty years later, the school is still conducted. The opening of the new building on November 16, 1863, was a memorable occasion, Mr. Feinse addressing the people in English and Dr. Joseph Studer in German.
For years the school was prosperous, the enrollment at times reaching over 300; then, in common with other schools of its class, it began to decline, but while most of those started elsewhere on the same line have ceased to exist, this is likely to continue for years to come. It is operated under a special charter and is supported by tuition fees of one dollar a month per pupil, supplemented by subscriptions of members of the Association, Its affairs are managed by a Board of thirteen Directors, who report to a general meeting of the Association once a year. The present Board consists of: Dr. O. J. Roskoten, President; F. Kleene, Secretary; J. Schlatter, Treasurer, and the following additional members: F. Lueder, H. Triebel, G. Wys, J. C. Green, F. Trefzger, C. H. Kamiman, W. P. Gauss, A. Meyer and John F. Heschong. F. Vonachen, deceased, was also a member of the Board.
An Independent German Library Association was absorbed by the German School Society, and, some years later, its stock of several thousand volumes donated to the Peoria Public Library.
In common with all well educated people, Germans recognize the value of the simultaneous study of two or more languages, and in their school both English and German are taught. It is the aim to lay a good foundation in German, experience proving that German children become Americanized quickly on transfer to the public schools about their twelfth year. Then they reach the high school at the average age of other pupils who have enjoyed the benefit of but one language in their preliminary instruction. The school is non-sectarian; the course of instruction is on parallel lines with that in the public schoool—the same text-books beings used, and there being no intention to antagonize the latter. The present attendance is less than seventy, requiring but two teachers. Its finances are in good condition, receiving the support of many friends, including numerous former pupils now occupying high positions in the financial, commercial and professional world.
The Association opened, if not the first, one of the earliest Kindergartens in the city, which is now in charge of the Ladies' Auxiliary Society, though housed in the same building.
The decline in the number and membership of German schools is traceable, among other causes, chiefly to the following: The enormous decrease of German immigration incident to the expansion and prosperity of the German Empire; the natural Americanization of descendants of the original immigrants; the shifting of the German popula- tion away from the central part of the city; the relative growth in number of parochial schools in German city districts, and the improvement in grade and efficiency of the public schools.
BROWN'S PEORIA BUSINESS COLLEGE.
by George W. Brown.
In the development of the Private Business and Commercial Schools of this country Peoria has taken a con- spicuous part. A commercial school was conducted in Peoria by a Mr. Davis as early as 1854 or 1855, and a number of the older business men of this city, at the present time, were pupils of that school.
Bryant and Stratton established a school here in 1863. Bryant, Stratton & Bell were the owners of the school. Worthington, Warner & Cole opened another school here about the same time. The Bryant & Stratton School was sold to the other firm, in 1868. The consolidated school later became the property of Mr. A. J. Cole, who conducted it until 1875, when he sold out to A. S. Parish. Mr. Parish conducted the school until 1888, when it passed into the hands of the present management, Brown's Business College Company, which is the direct successor of all the commercial schools previously .conducted here.
Under its present management the school has grown rapidly in its attendance and has been successful in its work. During the past few years the attendance has reached over 400 enrollments per year, including day and evening classes.
A large number of young men and women are annually drawn to this institution from all parts of Illinois and from adjoining States, as well as from .the city. The city attendance is always very large. The school has outgrown its quarters three times under its present management, and arrangements are now being made for a new location.
A contract has just been made for the erection of a new and beautiful building, at the corner of Jefferson and Liberty Streets, in which the college will be located, and the new quarters will be ready for use at the opening of the fall term of 1902. The new building will provide much larger accommodations than the school has ever had before, and its equipment and furnishings will be up to the very latest ideas of a modern business school.
Brown's Business College Company owns and operates, at this time, successful schools in thirteen important cities in Illinois, Iowa, and Indiana, and Their aggregate enrollment, for the present year, will exceed 3,000 students. Notwithstanding this very large enrollment, these schools are not able to supply the demands that are made upon them for competent bookkeepers, stenographers, cashiers, clerks and other office help. Principal W. H. H. Garver is in personal charge of the Peoria School, and is assisted by an efficient faculty of teachers. He is also Vice-president of Brown's Business College Company. The other general officers are G. W. Brown, President, Jacksonville, Illinois, and Principal H. M. Owen, Secretary, Decatur, Illinois.
PEORIA PUBLIC LIBRARY.
by Erastus S. Willcox.
The Peoria Public Library traces its genealogy back forty-six years, to the autumn of 1855, when two rival libraries were started here at the same time—the Mercantile Library and the Peoria Library. The Rev. J. R. McFarland was the moving spirit of the first, and the Rev. J. W. Cracraft of the second.
Prominent in the organization of this first Mercantile Library were B. L. T. Bourland, Onslow Peters, A. P. Bartlett, A. J. Hodges, D. M. Cummings, G. F. Harding, C. C. Bonney, Dr. J. D. Arnold, Isaac Underhill, Timothy Lynch, Philo Holland, G. W. Fridley and E. B. Elwood; and, in the Peoria Library, A. G. Tyng, George T. Metcalfe, A. G. Curtenius, E. N. Powell, H. B. Hopkins, George C. Bestor, N. B. Curtiss, Jacob Gale, Dr. R. Rouse, Dr. J. C. Frye, Wellington Loucks and J. P. Hotchkiss; the two libraries embracing thus in their organi- zations nearly all the leading men of the city at that time.
One naturally inquires, why two separate libraries were started here at the same time. It was a question, I am told, between the so-called "liberals" and the "orthodox," incited by the Evil One himself, we might suppose, but mark how—
"There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will."
I doubt if the most cunning ingenuity could have contrived a more effective
plan for starting a library in a small town, as Peoria then was, than by fanning
just such a hot rivalry between opposing theological forces. The whole town was
stirred from end to end; everybody took sides and joined in; everybody brought
books or money
to his favorite library; and, as a consequence, when, a year later, the two libraries were very sensibly consolidated under the name of the Peoria City Library, they had as choice a collection of some 1,500 volumes as probably any young library ever had in a city of our then size.
When I first became a Director in the City Library, in January, 1865, the initiation fee was $2.00, the annual dues were $2.00, and the membership considerably less than 200. It was a good, well-selected library for the time and place. I think I enjoyed access to those few, choice books—some 2,000 of them—as much as I do to our 75,000 now; for you cannot very well master more than 2,000 standard books in ten years.
In the spring of 1865 a new board of younger men seized the reins, and a fresh impetus was given to the library by incorporating it as the Peoria Mercantile Library Association. The charter was obtained by our then member of the Legislature, Alex. McCoy, Esq., and the charter members were Tobias S. Bradley, John L. Griswold, Lewis Howell, D. C. Farrell, Matthew Griswold, Lorin Grant Pratt, H. G. Anderson, Asahel A. Stevens, John Boyd Smith and E. S. Willcox. only two of whom are still living here.
While the charter was on its passage through the Legislature, meetings were held and a subscription started to raise funds, and, largely through the personal solicitation of L. G. Pratt, Esq., ably seconded by the entire Board, the very handsome sum of $13,262.50 was secured, with $10,000 of which the John L. Griswold property, corner of Main Street and Jefferson Avenue, was bought.
It was a splendid showing for those days, thirty-six years ago. It laid the foundation for all the success which may attend our Public Library in the future. Peoria owes her new Library Building originally to 145 different individuals and firms from among her own hard-working and public-spirited professional and business men, contributing in comparatively small sums, according to their several means. She does not owe it to any one millionaire, eager to seize so rare an opportunity for perpetuating his family name. There is no name carved over our door but the one name which belongs to us all—Peoria.
After the purchase of the Griswold property, our library had its rooms free of rent, but received very little help from rents of offices in the building, which went toward paying for the new building erected on the same spot in 1868. For an income it was still dependent on the meager sums derived from membership dues and miscellaneous entertainments. Our friends, David McKinney, Eliot Callender, J. C. Hansel, John S. Stevens, John Birks, Dr. I. W. Johnson and E. W. Coy (now of Cincinnati) will not soon forget the hard work we did, running lecture courses, concerts, spelling bees, "Drummer Boy of Shiloh," etc., in order to eke out our small income of four dollars apiece from about 250 subscribers, in the days when that estimable lady, Mrs. Sarah B. Armstrong, constituted our entire library staff. It is enough to say, that it was our experience here in this Peoria Library, of the utter inadequacy of a subscription library to provide for the literary wants of the people, that first suggested the idea of supporting public libraries, like public schools, by public taxation, and which resulted in placing on the statute-book of our State in 1872, our present Free Library Law—the first comprehensive and vitalizing law of the kind in any State of our Union. Under this law, in 1880, Col. John Warner, then Mayor of our city, started our present Public Library by nominating the first Board of Directors.
The first Librarian in our Public Library was Mr. Fred J. Soldan. He began without a book on his shelves, in a bare room over a store on Adams Street. He planned and brought into good running order all the multifarious details, so necessary to the smooth working of the modern Public Library, and, at his untimely death in 1891, left a well selected and well organized library of 40,000 volumes and a well trained corps of assistants. He was succeeded by the present Librarian.
April 19, 1881, the German Library gave its fine collection of 1,900 volumes to the Public Library, and, in the spring of 1882, the Mercantile Library Association turned over, as a gift to the Public Library, its entire collection of some 12,000 volumes, and leased its rooms to the same for a term of years.
Early in 1894 the over-crowded condition of the library had become so pressingly noticeable, that an agitation was begun to purchase another site and erect a new building exclusively for library purposes. The conditions were favorable. The Mercantile Library Association owned valuable property which, with the growth of the city and by careful management, had risen in value from $10,000 to $75,000, less a debt of $11,000 to $12,000, which yet remained to be extinguished, and the Public Library owned 50,000 books. There was no good reason why the two should not now unite in the common object of giving Peoria a great library to be proud of, provided some method could be devised for effecting the union satisfactorily to all parties.
A proposition to this effect was made by the Directors of the Mercantile Library to the City Council, and was met with immediate and hearty approval by Mayor Miles and the entire Council.
This proposition was, that if the city would, buy the lots, the Mercantile Library Association would sell its property, corner of Main and Jefferson Streets, and devote the proceeds to the erecting of a building.
In June, 1894, the Directors of the Public Library, supported by the action of the City Council, purchased for $16,000, three lots on Monroe Street, nearly opposite the Government building, 108 feet front by 171 feet deep, and on December 24, 1894, the Directors of the Mercantile Library sold their property at the corner of Main and Jefferson Streets, for $75,000. On July 10, 1895, the contract for the erection of the new library building was let.
The building is 78 feet front, 135 feet deep, three stories high, the stack-room five stories, and will accommodate some 200,000 volumes. The total cost of the building, not including the land, for which the city paid $16,000, nor counting such improvements as paving, etc.—that is, the cost of the building proper—was $67,856.34, and this amount was paid entirely by the Peoria Mercantile Library Association from the proceeds of the sale of their property.
The Library was finally closed for removal on January 25, 1897, and the entire collection of 60,000 volumes was transferred a distance of three blocks and put in order in the new building, in six days by two men, seven high school boys and one team, at a total cost of $221.91, or less than three-eighths of a cent per volume.
The building is on Monroe Street, nearly opposite the postoffice, half way between Main and Hamilton Streets. It was not placed on a corner lot for the reason that corner lots cost much more than inside lots, and a public edifice on a corner would require at least two architecturally finished fronts instead of one. This would have involved an additional cost in land and building of not less than $20,000, which, in their circumstances, the committee felt bound to take into consideration.
But there was another weighty reason, besides that of economy, for choosing
the site they did. Business men do not plan and locate their workshops and
warehouses with a view to an imposing architectural effect on strangers visiting
the city, but rather with the more practical object of best serving their
purpose as workshops and warehouses. Now, a library is pre-eminently, and more
so than most public buildings, a warehouse and a workshop.
As a warehouse, its function is to store books conveniently and safely; as a workshop, it is a place for quiet reading and study; and for both purposes it requires, above all things, protection from the noise and dust of street traffic. These objects are better secured on an inside lot than on a corner lot; and if, as in our case, ample space for light and air is provided on both sides of the building, it would seem that, for Peoria at least, no better choice of location could have been made.
The annual report for the fiscal year ending May 31, 1901, shows a membership of 7,519; number of volumes in the library in active circulation, 72,133 (with duplicates and pamphlets, over 78,000), and number of volumes issued during the year, 174,945.
The library service consists of one librarian and seven assistants, one evening attendant, an engineer and a janitress.
The bindery attached to the library employs one foreman and four assistants
the year through.
THE PEORIA SCIENTIFIC ASSOCIATION.
by Henry P. Day.
The Peoria Scientific Association was organized in the spring of 1875, and a constitution and by-laws were adopted, in which its object was declared to be "to increase the knowledge of science among its members, and awaken a spirit of scientific investigation among the people." For a quarter of a century this worthy organization pursued its purpose sturdily and steadily, recognized as a powerful factor in the community, an educational force, and accomplishing untold good in the instruction and enlightenment of the people. For ten years a lecture was given once a month. For twelve years next succeeding, thirty lectures were given each winter season. Subse- quently the lectures were not so frequent, but generally materialized once a fortnight. Many of the most prominent scientists of the country, as well as men of lesser note and local talent, contributed to the edification of the people under the auspices of the Association. Many of the lectures were copiously illustrated with lantern views or with charts. The entire field of scientific research was very fully covered, and, besides, subjects were occasionally treated which were not technically scientific. Very rarely was there any charge for admission, but collections were usually taken, and the society was also supported by subscriptions from members. Many of the scholarly people of the city belonged to the Association, and took a keen delight in its lectures, participating, also, in the discussions, which invariably followed, all being free to express their views. The lectures were generally reported in the newspapers, often in full, and often in brief to the extent of a column or so, so the culture afforded by them was quite widely disseminated. The audiences were often very large, of both sexes, and all the professions were liberally represented.
Soon after its organization the society instituted a museum, which was gradually augmented by generous contributions, and became so large that spacious quarters were needed to contain it. For a number of years the museum occupied two apartments in the basement of the court house. Later it was moved into two rooms in the upper floor of the new Public Library building. In 1899 it was presented entire to the Bradley Polytechnic Institute, which was very glad to receive it, and which distributed it among its several departments. The collection was both extensive and valuable, and comprised many sections, prominent among them being geological and botanical specimens, Indian relics, animals, woods, etc., etc. Many hundreds of people visited the museum every year.
Two or three years after its organization a summer school of science was held at the then high school in Peoria, under the auspices of the Association, and was well attended. Lectures were given on entomology by Prof. Comstock, of Cornell University, on biology by Dr. Bert Wilder, of Cornell, and on botany by Drs. Wood and Hyatt, of New York State.
The first officers were:
President—W. H. Chapman, M. D.
Vice Presidents—Mrs. Clara P. Bourland, J. T. Stewart, M. D., Fred. Brendel, M. D.
Secretary—Miss Emma A. Smith.
Corresponding Secretary—S. H. White.
Dr. E. M. Colburn was President several years, as was also Dr. J. T. Stewart.
Among the other Presidents were Prof. S. H. White, Dr. O. B. Will and B. L. T.
From Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Peoria County, Edited by David McCulloch, Vol. II; Chicago and Peoria: Munsell Publishing Company, Publishers, 1902.
Home | Church Records
Peoria County, IL Genealogy Trails
© 2006 - 2011 by Genealogy Trails
All data on this website is © Copyright by Genealogy Trails with full rights reserved for original submitters.