Winnebago County, Illinois
The first school in Winnebago county was taught by Miss Eunice Brown, who afterward became Mrs. J. G. Lyon. This school was on the site of n. South Second street, in the rear of what is known as the John Early residence, and taught in a log house. This was about July, 1837. In the spring of 1838 Miss Brown taught on the west side, in a building on what is now the court house square. Mrs. Lvon died at her home in Rockton, December 7, 1889.
In 1837 Miss Frances Bradford taught school in a log cabin which belonged to William E. Dunbar. In 1869 the late Mrs. John H. Thurston prepared a list of early Rockford schools and teachers, which, with some amplification, is substantially reproduced. Israel Morrill and Miss Sarah E. Danforth taught in 1838 on the west side; Miss Wood in 1839, on the west side: James M. Wight, in the winter of 1838-39, in the building on the corner of Madison and Market streets, on the site of the American house; Miss Hyde, in 1839, in the same place; Andrus Corbin, in 1839, in a house owned by himself on the west side; Mr. Jackson, in the winter of 1839-40, in the house on the corner of Madison and Market streets; Miss Hepsabeth Hutchinson and Miss Maria Baker, in 1840, on the east side; Mrs. Mary Jackson, in 1838-39, on the west side; Miss Wealthy Bradford, in 1841-42, on the west side; Lewis S. Sweezy, in 1841-42, in the brick school house on the southeast corner of the public square, east side; Miss Harriet Barnum, in 1841,
in a private house, east side ; Miss Minerva C. Fletcher, in 1842, in a log- house that stood opposite the First Congregational church, east side; Elijah Holt, in 1841-42, in the brick schoolhouse, east side; John Paul, in 1841, in the first house south of the railroad. Main street, west side Lewis B. Gregory, in the brick schoolhouse, east side, 1843-44 ; Miss Fronia Foote and George Waterman, in 1843-44; Miss Julia Barnum, in 1844, in private house, east side ; Miss Adeline Warren, private house, east side; Miss Augusta Kemfield in 1845, east side; C. A. Huntington, 1845 to 1849, in the old courthouse on North First street, and on the west side ; Miss Elizabeth Weldon was assistant to Mr. Huntington; H. H. Waldo, in 1848, in Baptist church, west side; D. W. Ticknor, from 1846 to 1849, in the brick schoolhouse, east side; assisted in turn by Miss Elizabeth Weldon, Anson Barnum, John W. Andrews, and D. Dubois ; H. H. Waldo, in 1849-50, Miss Hannah Morrill. 1848, east side; Robert A. Sanford, 1848, west side.
In 1850 Mr. Bowles taught in the brick schoolhouse on the east side; Mrs. Squires, in 1850, on what is now in South Madison street, east side, and afterward on west side; Mrs. King H. Milliken, in 1850, east side; Miss Mary Dow, Miss Delia Hyde and George E. Kimball, 1850-53, in the basement of the present First Baptist church building, west side; Miss Sarah A. Stewart and Aliss Mary Joslin, in 1850, in a building where the Masonic temple now stands; Seely Perry, in the basement of the First Methodist church, on Second street ; B. Rush Catlin, in 1852, in basement of First Methodist church ; Misses Charlotte and Harriet Leonard, in 1851-52; Miss Stowell and T. J. L. Remington, in 185 1, in the brick schoolhouse, west side; Rev. C. Reighley, in 1852. on the cast side; Miss Fanny Avery, in 1852. on the east side: Mr. Stevens, in 1853, in the brick schoolhouse. east side; Miss Lizzie Fern, in 1853, on the east side; Mrs. Carpenter, in 1853. west side; Rev. L. Porter, 1852; Mr. Stowell. in 1853; Rev. Addison Brown and Miss Frances A. Brown on the west side; Miss Lylia Galloway, in 1854. in the lobby of the First Congregational church, east side; Darwin Dubois, in 1854. in the First Methodist church; Mrs. Julia and .Miss Chapman, in 1854, on the west side; Miss Belle Burpee and Miss Ethalinda Thompson, in 1855. on the east side; Halsey C. Clark, in 1855, in old courthouse, east side, with Miss Lizzie Giffen as assistant ; Miss Emma Brown, in 1857, east side; A. W. Freeman, in the basement of First Baptist church, west side : Wesley Sovereign. in First Methodist church, cast side; Mrs. Jones. on west side; Miss Elizabeth Fisher, west side; Miss Gunsolus, east side; Mr. Johnson and Mr. Clifford, west side.
Nearly all these schools were private. The teachers were paid mainly by the parents. The teacher made out his own bills and collected them. There was then no regular state or local tax, and the only public school money was derived from the interest on the several state school funds, and the township fund obtained from the sale of the sixteenth section. Private teachers, who conformed to certain requirements of the law, received some compensation from tlie public money, in proportion to the number of pupils under their instruction.
The early public school records of Rockford township have been lost. It is therefore impossible to obtain exact information. There appears, however, to have been a school district, with a schoolhouse, on each side of the river. The east side public school was in the brick building on the southeast corner of the public square. This schoolhouse was erected at an early date, by private subscription. L. B. Gregory taught there soon after his arrival in Rockford. His examination for certificate was quite brief, and was held in E. H. Potter's store. The directors were E. H. Potter, William E. Dunbar, Willard Wheeler and Dr. A. M. Catlin. Mr. Gregory was asked to spell baker. He replied that he could not; but the certificate was granted.
In the classical institute, in the basement of the First Baptist church, from 1855 to 1856, of which H. P. Kimball was principal, one class pursued the regidar studies of the freshman year in college, and entered one year in advance. A score of students left this institution and entered eastern colleges. Two years' study was considered sufficient to advance scholars through a full preparatory course of mathematics and the usual books in Latin and Greek, giving them a sufficient preparation.
Seely Perry taught a preparatory school for young men about a year and a half, in the First Methodist church. At this school quite a number of students prepared for college. Among these were the late Dr. Selwyn Clark; Alexander Kerr, who became professor of Greek in the University of Wisconsin; Rev. John Edwards, brother of Mrs. Clemens. On account of ill health, Mr. Perry turned over the school to a brother of Dr. E. P. Catlin.
Besides the houses used for schools on the east side already noted, were: one on Kishwaukee street, near bridge ; one on lot in rear of engine house on South First street ; one on South Madison street. Not less than eight buildings were used for school purposes on the east side. A sum of money was once raised to build a second public school house on the east side; but it was never erected. The money was finally paid into the municipal treasury, upon the order of the city council.
John A. Holland and others built a school house for private pupils on South West street. It was occupied exclusively by the children of those who erected it. It was therefore not a large school, but somewhat exclusive. The contract was made with Seely Perry for furnishing building material.
An old schoolhouse stood on South Main street, and later used as a blacksmith shop, near Mrs. Brett's block. The Second Congregational church was organized in this building. There was also a small schoolhouse on the south side of Green street, between Church and Court. It was a white frame building, Abbie Parker, a sister of the late G. W. Parker, tau.ghl there at one time.
THE FREE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM
The development of the public school system is an excellent illustration of the growth of patcrnalism; first, on the part of the general government; and second, in the gradual advance of the state toward the present standard.
The free public school system of Illinois dates from 1855. In December. 1853. a large common school convention met at Jerseyville. composed of delegates from many adjoining counties, and one at Bloomington, for the whole state. These movements produced results. The general assembly, which met the following February, separated the office of state superintendent of public instruction from that of secretary of state, and made it a distinct department of the state government. The state superintendent was required to draft a bill embodying a system of free education for all the children of the state, and report to the next general assembly. March 15. 1854,
Governor Matteson appointed Hon. Ninian Edwards as state superintendent. In the following January Mr. Edwards presented a bill which became a law February 15. 1855. For state purposes the school tax was fixed at two mills on the one hundred dollars. To this was added the interest from the permanent school fund. A free school was required to be maintained for at least six months in each year, and it was made imperative upon the directors of every school district to levy the necessary tax. Thus the free school system of Illinois began when the taxing; power of the state was invoked in its behalf.
The school law was bitterly opposed, and narrowlv escaped repeal. Sir William Berkeley, the royal governor of Virginia, said in 1670: "I thank God there are no free schools nor printing presses in Virginia and I hope we shall not have these hundred years." The spirit of this pious wish prevailed in southern Illinois: and there was a repetition of the old conflict between the two distinct classes of people in the two portions of the state. The southern portion was poor, while the northern portion was well-to-do ; and it was only as it was made to appear to the southern part that it was receiving more from the state school fund than it was contributing, that the people acquiesced in the law.
The charter of 1854 had conferred upon the city council of Rockford full power over its schools. June 20, 1855, the council passed its first school ordinance under the new school law. The city was divided into school districts; East side, number one; West side, number two. A board of school inspectors was appointed, consisting of George Haskell, A. S. MIiller and Jason Marsh. In December the board voted to purchase of A. W. Freeman his lease of the basement of the First Baptist church for a school in district number two. Mr. Freeman was employed to teach at $800 per year. At the same time Henry Sabin was engaged for the First district, and the old courthouse on the east side was leased. Mr. Sabin is a brother of Charles Sabin, of North Church street. He is a graduate of Amherst College, and has made a record for distinguished service. He has been superintendent of schools at Clinton, Iowa, and has served several terms as state superintendent of that state. He now lives at Des Moines.
The council had provided by ordinance for a school agent for each district, whose acts were to be approved by the council. July 27, 1855, the agent for the First district was authorized to purchase from Solomon Wheeler, the tract on which the Henry Freeman school now stands. September l0th a contract was made for the construction of the building. April 28, 1856, a contract was made for a schoolhouse in the Second district, on the site of the Lincoln school; the contractors were E. N. House. M. H. Regan and James B. Howell. The progress of the buildings was delayed by unfavorable weather, and the late arrival of school furniture.
August 14, 1857, in the afternoon and evening occnrred the formal dedication of the two union school buildings. Previous to this time Rockford as a city had no schoolhouse of its own.
The First district school had three principals from 1857 to 1884. The first was Orlando C. Blackmer. who was appointed March 10, 1857 His assistant was S. F. Penfield. Mr. Blackmer remained but a short time, when he began the publication of school records in Chicago. Mr. Blackmer is a brother of Mrs. N. C. Thompson. He is now living at Oak Park.
Prof. Henry Freeman, Mr. Blackmer's successor, was a native of Massachusetts, born within twenty miles of Plymouth Rock. He was graduated from Teacher's Seminarv. Andover, Massachusetts, in 1839, and taught for one vear in the preparatory department. Prof. Freeman began his life-work as principal of the high school at Bridgeton, New York, in 1840. In 1845 he was offered the principalship of Salem academv, at Salem, New Jersey, where he remained five years until he was elected principal of Wallkill Academy, at Middleton, New York. In 1855 he was called to the position of principal of the high school and superintendent of schools at Freeport. Illinois. In 1859 the board of school inspectors invited
Prof. Freeman to take the position of principal and superintendent of schools of East Rockford at a salary of one thousand dollars a year. This position he filled twenty-one years. until he resigned in 1880. During this long service hundreds of pupils came under the influence of the principal. Prof. Preeman had high ideals of life, and his strong character was a potent factor in promoting that which was for the best interest of the pupils. His conscientious efforts were appreciated, and occasionally his former pupils gathered informally at his home and recalled reminiscences of those formative years. The third and last principal was Prof. A. W. McPherson, who remained until 1884.
George G. Lyon was chosen principal of the Second school district March 10, 1857. April 22, 1904, the old pupils of Prof. Lyon had the pleasure of honoring his memory bv planting the Lyon elm on the Lincoln school grounds. Prof. Lyon was succeeded bv E. M. Fernal, E. N Miller, James H. Blodgett and W. W. Stetson. Prof. Blodgett became principal of the West side school in September, 1865, and held this position fifteen years. He had served his country in the Civil war as captain of Companv E, Seventy-fifth Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Prof. Blodgett has for many years been an official in the interior department at Washington. Prof. W. W. Stetson, the last principal of the West side high school before the consolidation, is now state superintendent of Maine.
By 1857 a small frame strncture had been erected in South Rock ford as a schoolhouse. This was soon enlargfed and was later superseded by a stone structure, now known as Kent school. Thomas Sherratt and a Mr. Munson were early principals. Mr. Sweet, another early principal, went to California and there died.
Prof. O. F. Barbour succeeded Mr. Sweet in September. 1866, and has retained this position thirty-nine consecutive years. Prof. Barbour's continuous service in the same school is without a parallel in the state of Illinois. "To his inspiration."' says Prof. James II. Blodgett. "is largely due the unusual prominence of boys among the graduates of the West high school. At a time when girl graduates monopolized the diplomas in many schools, one-third of the graduates of West Rockford high school were boys, and occasionally a graduating class had more boys than girls, and South Rockford furnished a conspicuous share."
October 21. 1861 the number of school inspectors was increased from three to five.
In 1884 the public school system was thoroughly reorganized, and the city was made one school district, with one high school, in pursuance of an ordinance drawn by Hon. Alfrcd Taggart. Prof. P. R. Walker was made general superintendent of all the city schools, and he has held this position twenty-one years. Prof. Walker did service during the Civil war with the Ninety-second Illinois Volunteers. He graduated from the Illinois State Normal School and was for many years a teacher. He came to Rockford from Rochelle.
A central high school was created. Temporary quarters were secured in the second story of a building on West State street. The first principal was Prof. A. W. McPherson, who served one year. The second principal was Prof. Charles A. Smith, a graduate of Amherst. The present high school building was erected in 1885, and an addition was completed in 1900. Prof. Smith was succeeded by Walter A. Edwards, a son of Prof. Edwards, at one time superintendent of public instruction of Illinois. Mr. Edwards
resigned in 1805. and was succeeded by Prof. B. D. Parker. who remained nine years. The present principal is Ellis U. Graff, who began his duties in September 1904. Previous to the reorganization of the Rockford schools in 1884. the schoolhouses were simply designated by the wards in which they were severally located. Prof. Walker, as he became acquainted with the history of the city, advised the naming of the several schools, and. with three exceptions, they were named in honor of Rockford citizens.
The West side high school, built in 1857. was called the Lincoln school, in honor of Abraham Lincoln. It was rebuilt in 1892 at a cost of $35,000.
The East Rockford high school, also built in 1857, was named Adams, in honor of President
Jolm Adams. In 1893 the old stone structure was razed to the ground and a two-story brick building erected, at a cost of $40,000. In 1904 about $5,000 was expended in a steam heating plant and a system of fan-ventilation. This building has been re-christened the Henry Freeman school, in honor of Prof. Freeman, who taught twenty-one years in the old East side high school.
The South Rockford school building, erected in 1858, was named the Kent, in honor of Germanicus Kent, the first settler of Rockford, who came here in 1834.
The Hall school, built in 1866, and rebuilt in 1892. was named in honor of John Hall, an early member of the board of education.
The Ellis school, built in 1868 bears the name of Col. E. F. W. Ellis, an early banker of Rockford, who was killed in the battle of Shiloh in April, 1862.
The Blake school, erected in an early day, and rebuilt in 1899, received its name from Thatcher Blake, who came to Rockford with Germanicus Kent, in 1834.
The Marsh school, built in 1872. bears the name of Col. Jason Marsh, a pioneer of 1839. and a representative lawyer and public-spirited citizen.
The Nelson school, built in 1881. is named for John Nelson, the famous Rockford inventor of the knitting machine. The Hotel Nelson also hears his name.
The Haskell school was built in 1874. and perpetuates the memory of Dr. George Haskell, who came to Rockford in 1838. He has been immortalized by the poet Whittier in Snowbound.
The Montague school was built in 1883. and enlarged in 1802. It bears the name of Richard Montague. a pioneer of 1835.
The Wight school, built in 1889, is named in honor of James M. Wight, a prominent barrister, member of the constitutional convention of 1870, and a representative in the legislature.
The Brown school, erected in 1892, derives its name from Judge William Brown, who held many offices of public trust and was for twenty years judge of the circuit court.
The Garrison school, built in 1887. and enlarged in 1887, is named for Thomas Garrison, who came to Rockford from New Jersey in 1853, and purchased a large tract of land north of the city. Mr. Garrison died October 6, 1871. In addition has been made to the school building during the present year.
The Church school was built in 1894, and perpetuates the memory of Judge Seklen M. Church, an early settler, postmaster, member of the legislature, and judge of the county court.
The Kishwaukee school was built in 1896. and derives its name from the street on which it stands, which, in turn, is derived from Kishwaukee river. Kishwaukee is an Indian name.
The Turner school was built in 1898, and derives its name from J. M. Turner, a supervisor and alderman. Mr. Turner, in recognition of this honor, gave the school a bell.
A site at the corner of Summit and Crosby streets, consisting of one-half of a block, was purchased in 1904, and a ten-room building erected. It is called the Jackson school, in honor of Charles E. Jackson, the present mayor. It is pleasing to know that the idea of more extensive school grounds has at last been adopted, and that this new building is heated by steam, and well ventilated with a fan to drive the pure, warm or cold air through the building. The plans provide large rooms, well lighted, and large halls that are easily accessible, with stairs easy to ascend and descend. The light comes in at the left and rear of the pupils in each room. The site is on an elevation well drained and supplied with ample sewerage, a very important item in the location of a school building.
With the completion of the Jackson school, the entire school property of Rockford, including buildings, grounds and furnishings is not less than half a million dollars.
The following table indicates the cost of the completed buildings as they now stand:
High School, 1885-1900 $ 92,145.97
Lincoln, 1892 $ 35,000.00
Henry Freeman, 1893 $ 45,000.00
Hall, 1892 $ 30,000.00
Wight, 1889 $ 20.000.00
Brown, 1892 $ 18,000.00
Kent, 1858 $ 20,000.00
Montague, 1883-1892 $ 20,700.00
Garrison, 1887-1892 $ 18,000.00
Church, 1894 $ 20,000.00
Kishwaukee, 1896 $ 30,000.00
Nelson, 1881 $ 4.000.00
Marsh, 1872 $ 5,000.00
Blake, 1899 $ 28,385.49
Haskell, 1874 $ 6,000.00
Ellis, 1868 $ 4,000.00
Turner, 1898 $ 25,588.74
Jackson, 1904 $ 35,000.00
The following is the total enrollment of the city schools by years, since 1884:
Opening day, September 5, 1904 - 5,627
Enrollment for September, 1905 - 6,441
The work of the Rockford high school is to a limited extent elective, and is based upon an election of subjects rather than of courses. The unit of the plan is a "credit," which means five hours of work per week for a period of thirty-nine weeks. Sixteen such credits are necessary for graduation, of which seven and a half are required, and the remainder elective. The plan may be seen by reference to the course of study.
Below is a report of the number in the entering classes, and the number graduated since 1886:
|When Entered||No.||When graduated||No.|
The present board of ulhane, A. G. Everett, Nolling and Miss Pearl Biller
FIRST CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL IN ILLINOIS
Seward township has the first consolidated school in Illinois. In the spring of 1903, on petition to the school trustees. Districts 90, 91, 93, of Seward township, were consolidated. The electors of the consolidated district, bv a vote of thirty-eight for and fifteen against, bonded the district for $7,000, ten years' time at four per cent, to purchase a site and erect a union school building. By a vote of forty-seven for, and one against, the airectors were authorized to purchase a certain site for the new school grounds.
This consists of three and six-tenths acres of some of the finest farming land in northern Illinois. The amount paid for it was $1,000. Prof. Blair, chief of horticulture of the Illinois College of Agriculture, designed the landscape arrangement of this ground. It provides for the beautiful groupings and massing of numerous varieties of shrubs and flowcrs: a boys' athletic field; a girls' athletic field; little folks' play ground ; and experimental gardens for all the children. The new building was erected at a cost of about $6,000. The credit of this innovation belongs to Superintendent O. J. Kern, who labored four years and a half to accomplish this result. This school promises to be the connecting link between the farm and the college of agriculture.
DISTRICT SCHOOL TRAVELLING LIBRARIES
The Winnebago County District School Traveling Libraries were organized in 1901. The object was to supply valuable helps for school work and good literature in a way that would be possible to reach every district school, every child and intlirectly every home in the county outside of the City of Rockford. This was the first attempt of its kind in Illinois. These traveling libraries are the property of the county, and are in charge of the county superintendent of schools.
The money with which to increase the books was acquired in two ways. First, an appropriation by the county board of supervisors; second, by the net jimceeds of annual township school exercises.
The districts over the county are grouped into circuits of six districts each, with two or three exceptions. A box of books stays at a school one month and then is taken to another school in the circuit. The fractional township of Laona has exactly six school districts. The teachers of this circuit are over twenty miles from Rockford. The traveling library is the only way to reach them, for the distance is too great for teachers to go to the county superintendent's office and lake books to their schools. With the traveling libraries all schools are on an equal footing as far as opportunity to use books is concerned. Three boxes of books are placed in each circuit, with the exception of the graded school circuit of ten schools, which has five boxes.
The library movement is helping to create a new educational ideal in Winnebago county. It is no small factor in the improvement of the teaching force. And the library, if rightly used in the school room, can not fail to strengthen the work of the pupils. Pupils and teacliers are brought into contact with good books during the year. Slowly, but surely, the reading habit will be formed, the desire to read good books. This is of great importance to the boy or girl after school days are over.
DISTRICT SCHOOL LIBRARIES
There has been a great increase in the local district school libraries during the past three years, total number of admissions having been nearly 90,000.
These books are the property of the various districts, and are secured by socials. purchased by directors from school funds, etc.
TOWNSHIP GRADUATION EXERCISES
This innovation began in 1901. These annual exercises are helpful in creating a new educational ideal with reference to the country school. It gives an opportunity for all the children and parents of a township to get together in the interests of better schools. No attempt is made to create a great display. The aim has always been to have the children render the i)rogram of a simple educational character, and thus keep alive a growing interest. If the children are interested, the parents will be. The county superintendent attends every one of them. Ten cents admission is charged, and the net proceeds go toward the traveling library fund.
Eighth grade certificates for admission to high school pupils' reading circle diplomas and teachers' professional attainment certificates are given at these union township exercises. A subject is selected each year by the county superintendent, which is the central theme of tlu' program. The aim is to make the program a unit all over the county, and thus make the exercises truly educational and at the same time entertaining.
The subject for 1901 was: The History of Winnebago County: 1902. Louisiana Purchase Exposition; 1903, Out Door Art for Home and School.
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