CHAPTER VI
SULLIVAN COUNTY EDUCATION

The academies and select schools were the chief source of education for the children of this county until about forty years ago. The average public school was hardly worthy of the name, as compared with the modern system. There were no public funds available to support common schools for more than a brief term, and the people learned only slowly to provide for schools by taxation.

The first constitution of Indiana, adopted in 1816, provided for education. Yet in an early day the cause advanced slowly. There was no school law under the territorial government, nor any state law on common schools until 1824. Nearly all the schoolhouscs built both before and for some time after that date were erected by voluntary efforts of neighborhoods: and all schools were supported by agreements between teachers and patrons. The one definite provision for education made by the national government, in planning the disposition of the public domain, set aside section 16 in every congressional township for the maintenance of public schools. When Indiana became a state the care of these school sections was intrusted to the state government: so that, while the other sections of the township were entered at the government land office, this section 16 was disposed of by the state, and the proceeds turned over for the support of schools in that particular township. Hence was produced what is known as the congressional township school fund. There are fifteen townships and fractional townships in the area of Sullivan county, and the total amount realized from the sale of section 16 in each was over $17,000. The largest amount realized from any one section was $3,403.25, for the section in town 6 north, range 10 west, in the southwest corner of the county. Evidently many of the school sections proved of little value, while others sold for a high price, thus causing a wide divergence between the amounts derived from the various sections. In Indiana, since the proceeds of the school section were devoted to the benefit of the schools in the congressional township where the section was located, the inequity of the system proved one of the greatest weaknesses of the common school system during the first half of the century. One township would receive a disproportionately large income for the schools, while perhaps the one adjoining, because section 16 had sold for only a few dollars, had no income for the support of schools except the local tax.

In 1824 the general assembly passed an act to incorporate congressional townships and provide for public schools therein. The act provided for the election in each township of three persons of the township to act as school trustees, to whom the control of the school lands and the schools generally was given; and for the building of schoolhouses. Every able-bodied person in each school district who was over twenty-one years of age must work one day in each week, or else pay thirty- seven and one-half cents in lieu of a day's work, until the schoolhouse was built. Almost every session of the legislature witnessed some addition to or modification of the school law. Provision was made for the appointment of school examiners, but the examinations might be private, and the examiners were quite irresponsible. Under such circumstances it could not be expected that competent teachers be employed. Often the most trivial questions were asked a teacher, and this was called an examination. In many instances there was no examination at all-the teacher was simply engaged to teach.

A free school system was not provided for until after 1850. Each district had complete jurisdiction over its school affairs, deciding every question concerning the building of a schoolhouse and the regulation of local school affairs. The taxes for building the schoolhouse and for the support of the teacher were assessed by the authority of the district, and the amount of tuition to be assessed against each child attending school was fixed by the local board. There was no considerable state school fund until after 1837, so that the annual distribution of school money by the state had little effect on the individual schools. With local taxation kept down to the minimum amount by nearly all the counties, the school system of Indiana soon became a reproach to its free institutions. It was during this depressing period of educational backwardness that the word "Hoosier" became a term of derision, denoting the uncouth and ignorant countryman that the inhabitant of Indiana was supposed by most easterners to be.

In 1840 one-seventh of the adult population of Indiana could not read nor write, and many of those who could were densely ignorant. While one out of seven was illiterate in Indiana, the proportion in Ohio was only one out of eighteen. Ohio raised $200,000 in 1845 for common schools, while Indiana had no means of raising such tax. In the matter of literacy, Indiana stood sixteenth among twenty-three states in 1840; in 1850 she was twenty-third among twenty-six states, "lower than all the slave states but three," as Caleb Mills expressed it.

With such alarming statistics before them, the people of Indiana were soon awakened to their educational necessities, and as a result of the agitation the question of free schools was presented to the voters in concrete form in the general election of 1848, when the vote was taken on whether a law should be enacted "for raising by taxation an amount which, added to the present school funds, should be sufficient to support free common schools in all the districts of the state not less than three nor more than six months each year." At the election 78,523 votes were cast in the affirmative; 61,887 against it. But before the legislation which resulted from this election became effective a new constitution was adopted by the people, followed by the passage of the school law of June 14, 1852. This marked the passing of the district system of schools and the beginning of the era of actual free schools. It abolished the congressional township as limiting school organizations, and made the civil townships into school corporations. Cities and incorporated towns were made school corporations distinct from the townships in which located.

For many years there was a lack of uniformity among the various townships in school affairs, resulting from the absence of anything like a centra] county supervision. It was not until 1873 that an important step was taken toward unity in school management, by the creation in that year of the office of county superintendent, a county board of education and of township institutes.

Until 1837 the trustees of each congressional township had examined applicants for teaching positions. From 1837 to 1853 the circuit court appointed three persons as examiners; this appointing power was transferred to the county commissioners in 1853. In 1861 the number of examiners was reduced to one, with service term of three years. The first to hold the position after the law of 1861 was Murray Briggs, the editor of the Democrat, who held the office two terms, until 1867. He was succeeded by Charles R. Allen. In 1871 George W. Register became examiner, and after the law of 1873 continued in office as the first county superintendent. Any account of the schools of Sullivan county ought to make acknowledgment of the work of Air. Register. His numerous reports in regard to the schools visited, the work in the county as a whole and of each township, his records of county and township examinations, well written and timely articles on school buildings and grounds, on the relations of parents to the schools, on the necessity of more schools, longer terms, more efficient teachers, all show that he put far more time, energy and thought into his official work than could be paid for by the miserable pittance of $80 a year that constituted the wages of the school examiner.

With the law of 1873 the county board of education was made to consist of the township trustees, the presidents of the school boards of towns and cities, and the county superintendent. The county superintendent was elected by the township trustees, for a term of two years, and the trustees and the superintendent have complete oversight of the schools of the county. By the same law the township institute became an effective instrument for securing unity in school work and raising the standards of the teaching body.

The first regularly, elected county superintendent after the passage of the law was James A. Marlow, elected by the county board in June, 1875. He served sixteen years, and was followed by C. W. Welman, who served four years, Mnce which time, for fourteen years. Air. Richard Park has been superintendent. In 1809 the term was lengthened to four years.

In 1858 the total school population of the county was 5,414. In 1861 this had increased to 5,836, and the total school fund distributed that year was $7,936.88. Aside from tuition and taxation, the amount available for the education of each person of school age in the county at the beginning of the Civil war was about a dollar and a quarter. In 1866 the enumeration was 6,303, and the fund $14,632.86. In 1870 the enumeration was 7,049, fund, $14,980.25. In 1880, enumeration, 7.349, fund, $15,790.82.

The report of George W. Register in 1873 showed that the enumeration in the county for 1872-73 was 7,520. Of these there were enrolled in the schools 5,974, but the total attendance averaged only 3,472, being, about 46 percent of the enumeration. The average term of school then was 83 days. "Can it be expected that the youth of our country will become educated if only 46 percent of them attend school 83 days in the year?" It was also shown that the average per capita cost of education per year in the state at large was $5.53, Sullivan county being below the average with an annual cost of $4.72. In the superintendent's report for 1873-74 the attendance was shown to have increased to 52 percent of the enumeration, the average length of the school term being four months and ten days, and the average daily pay of teachers, $2.15.

There was considerable rivalry among the township trustees over the length of the school term. In the Democrat for March 13, 1872, it was noted that James Spencer of Curry township claimed credit for running schools in his township longer than in any other, schools being maintained over six months and no teacher receiving, less than two dollars a day.

But select schools still supplemented the free schools, as proved by the following resolution adopted at the meeting of the county board of education in September, 1874: "In view of the fact that teachers who have taught private schools in the township houses have failed in almost every instance at the close of their schools to make the reports required by law, be it resolved by this board that any teacher who has failed or may hereafter fail to make the required reports shall forfeit his or her right to the use of the houses hereafter for private schools."

The first annual report of Superintendent Marlow, in 1876, states that there were 114 district schools in the county, and that while the school term was increasing, in many cases it was only four or five months long. Since 1873 the average wage of teachers had fallen from $2.15 a dav to $2.11. He reported increased interest and attendance at the township institutes. The district schools, he said, were without any system or course of study. "If one of our higher schools were conducted on this principle for a single term, it would be declared a nuisance and disbanded." The compensation of teachers in 1879 ranged from $1.50 in Jackson township to $5.00 in Sullivan, for men, and from $1.48 in Jackson township to $2.25 in Merom for women. Cass township had school but 90 days, while the school ran 170 days in Carlisle, the average length in the townships being 116 days, and in the towns 140 days.

In 1882 Superintendent Marlow submitted to the county board a scheme for the graduation of pupils from the district schools. A series of questions were to be submitted by the different teachers, and a general average of eighty was necessary for graduation. In March, 1886, occurred the first graduation from the district schools, when the superintendent granted twenty-five diplomas.

In 1887 there were 71 colored school children in the county. In the colored settlement near Carlisle a separate school was maintained for these children, and for a time it seemed that the school must disband because no competent teacher could be found, as the supply of colored teachers was very limited. The Carlisle school had about 25 or 30 enrolled. After much difficulty a man was obtained to teach, but he was unable to secure a license. Then an old man who had taught some twenty-five years before was sought, but he had never had a license and could not pass the examination to get one. Finally John Bass of Carlisle was installed as teacher.

In September, 1902, Trustee James Scott of Fairbanks township took the first step toward the consolidation of schools, when he closed two schoolhouses and conveyed the pupils of the districts to the school at Fairbanks. This was not "consolidation" in the legal sense of the term, it being possible to abandon a district without surrendering, its separate identity, which is the result when two or more individual districts become a consolidated district. The central school at Fairbanks is now used by five districts.

At Graysville is one of the model rural schools of the consolidated type. Its manual training department has attracted wide attention from educators. The district schools about Graysville were abandoned from 1904 to 1907, and two more in 1908. Eight wagons are used to convey the children from the distant parts of the consolidated district, care being taken in all consolidated schools that the children shall not be compelled to ride in the hacks longer than an hour and a half each way. The school building at Graysville was erected some five or six years ago. About 230 children are in attendance, and a three-year high school course is maintained both at Graysville and at Fairbanks. An article in the Democrat in March, 1906, stated that George Bicknell's school at Graysville had attracted the attention not only of the state superintendent of instruction but also of many other prominent educators. Toward the end of the first year's work, the hand-designed books, hand illuminated texts and symphonies, the book-cases, table and stools, leather sofa pillows and other efforts of the children were brought in and a display made which astonished the community. A printing outfit is also in the equipment, and practical work done in both printing and binding.

The Paxton consolidated school district comprises five original single districts in Haddon township, five wagons being employed to carry the children. The schoolhouse at Paxton is a new four-room brick building. There are at this writing 130 pupils, 95 of whom are brought to school in the wagons. There is a one-year high school at Paxton.

At Carlisle the town school is also attended by the children of adjacent districts in Haddon township. Three wagons convey 47 pupils to town.

At New Lebanon is one of the largest consolidated rural schools. This is one of the most modern examples of school building in the county likewise. The front half of the schoolhouse is about ten years old, while the addition was erected about two years ago. It is a 12-room building, with good heating, plant and modern equipments. Six districts were abandoned and merged with this central school, and seven wagons are used to carry the 133 children. The high school has seven teachers.

In Jefferson township the pupils of one district (about 24) are carried to Pleasantville, and in Hamilton township the 14 or 15 pupils of the Creager school are taken to the Brodie school.

Altogether, twenty-nine wagons are in service for the conveyance of school children. The county has six incorporated towns, each with its school system, while in the country outside are 99 individual schools.

The report of Superintendent of Schools Park for the year ending in May, 1908, showed the enumeration of school population for the county to be 9,468, the townships showing a net loss of 157 and the towns a net gain of 73. The average daily attendance for the year was 6,969. The graduates from the district school were 188, not including the graduates from the eighth grade in the towns having commissioned schools. The average length of the school year in the county was 147 days, being 139 days in the townships and 160 in the towns. The total number of teachers employed in the county schools were 191, 24 of them being in the high schools. Of the schoolhouses in the county, 76 were brick and 49 frame buildings, all of which were valued at $319,000. The average daily wages of teachers in the county at large was $2.92, that for grade teachers being $2.87.

In one of the monthly bulletins published by the state superintendent in 1908, the Mammoth school, four and a half miles northeast of Sullivan, was declared "an ideal district school." The following description of the school is given:

Last October and November the writer visited several rural schools. The best district school visited is located in Sullivan county, about four and one-half miles northeast of Sullivan. This school was visited late in October. The county and city superintendents, the township trustee, three rural school teachers and a minister visited the school at the same time. It is located in a mining district and there were fifty-seven children in the room. The building is a modern one-room structure, with two vestibules or cloak rooms and a basement for the furnace. The light in the room comes from the north side, which is taken up with windows reaching nearly to the ceiling. The lighting, heating and ventilation are as near perfect as they can be made. The building has been in use three years and is free from abuse. It looks entirely new. Everything was in neat order. The boards were well kept because the pupils take a pride in keeping them neat. The assignments on the board were neat and definite. The order was as good as anyone may ever want to see, because every child was busy at work all afternoon. The instruction was excellent, the work in reading being unusually strong. "Spinning a Top" was made the basis of the first year reading work. The children furnished the material for this reading lesson. There was no estrangement between the teacher and pupils, hence they gave the most natural expression to their childish experience with the top. As the teacher wrote their stories on the board they realized that "language is the symbol of their actual experiences." The assignment in this lesson found its subject matter in the child's world, and as a result the expression was natural. The work in geography and spelling was of the same character.

But best of all was the fine spirit of the school. Every child was happy and was doing his best. Every child seemed to realize that it was his school and that its success depended at least in part on him. And when they sang their closing song and started home their hearty good-night showed that they believed in the teacher. And what was the secret of it all? The teacher, to be sure. He is genuine. He is in love with his work and he is not afraid to work. He lives in the community and knows the people. He is a great blessing, to the community, but he can not stay there. Not because he does not want to stay nor because the people do not want him to stay-but because there is a larger field of service for him. No wonder the trustee pays him $90.00 per month!

Those residents of Sullivan county whose memory goes back to the forties and fiftes recall a brick building that stood in Sullivan and was known everywhere as the County Seminary. It was the capstone of the public educational system of the time, since its range of usefulness and benefit was larger than the state university because the majority of the counties in the state bad such institutions. The funds accumulated from the fines, forfeitures and delinquencies, which by an early state law were to be converted into a seminary fund, had reached about a thousand dollars in 1845, and the county board then proceeded to erect a seminary building. The seminary was designed as an institution between the common schools and the university, and located at the county seat was open to all pupils in the county.

For seven or eight years the seminary maintained its place in the educational system of the county. With the adoption of the constitution of 1851, the policy of keeping up county seminaries was abandoned; and the grounds, buildings and other property of the seminaries were ordered to be sold and the proceeds turned over to the common school fund. The people had become satisfied that it was impracticable to carry on county high schools, and that all the energies of the state in relation to popular education should be concentrated in the support and improvement of the common schools.

The first purchaser of the old seminary building failed to liquidate his purchase, and the building reverted to the county and continued to be used as a schoolhouse for a number of years. In 1856 L. Leroy Booth advertised that he would begin a select school in the seminary building at Sullivan on January 7th, teaching Latin, Greek, German and the higher branches of mathematics in connection with the common branches. The ground occupied by the seminary was sold to the Sullivan school board, and in turn sold, in 1872, to the Masonic lodge.

For some time in the fifties the village of New Lebanon was the educational center of the county. This was largely on account of the activities of Professor A. P. Allen, principal of the New Lebanon Academy, which had been founded in 1853 and was under the management of the Methodist church. The school was taught in the church building until the academy building was completed in 1855. The school Nourished until shortly before the war, and during its existence many young people received training in branches that were above the grade of the average school of that day. There is the flavor of the older educational ideals in the following list of the branches then taught in the school-algebra, chemistry, composition and rhetoric, outlines of history, natural philosophy, natural theology, botany, trigonometry, logic, mental philosophy, moral science, surveying, astronomy, geology, elements of criticism, mechanical philosophy, and history of English literature. Does a modern curriculum produce better men and women than this old-fashioned one did?

An advertisement in the Democrat , December, 1855, states that the building of the Indiana Conference Male and Female Academy had just been completed, and names the teachers as follows: Professor A. P. Allen, assisted by Mrs. R. J. Allen, and Miss Mary Brock. Massom Ridgeway was president of the board of trustees.

Union Christian College.

In the Sullivan Democrat of September 20, 1856, is a card announcing that the Merom Bluff Academy, a new institution, will open October 1st, with Mr. E. W. Humphreys as principal. He and his wife were the faculty, and the old court house building, abandoned on the removal of the county seat a dozen years before, and which stood on the site now occupied by the Merom town school, was the quarters of the academy. The academy was conducted with success for several years, until the proprietor, while on a trip abroad, conceived the plan of making a college out of his school.

A convention of delegates of the various conferences of the Christian church met, November 4, 1858, at Peru, Indiana, "to consider the interests of the Chirstian church in the west and the propriety of erecting an institution of learning in the state of Indiana." The convention decided to "recommend the establishment of an institution of learning in the state of Indiana, to be under the control of the Christian conferences in the state and vicinity." A committee was appointed to decide upon a location and to take all necessary steps to carry out the recommendations of the convention. The committee decided upon Merom as the location, and the name Union Christian College was adopted as the name of the new institution.

The first sessions of the new college were held in the old court house, as the five-story brick building was not completed until 1862. Thomas Kearns, of Merom, was credited with the skill and executive ability which resulted in the successful construction of this building. N. Summerbell was the first president after Mr. Humphreys, and was succeeded by Thomas Holmes, and he bv T. C. Smith. The last named resigned in 1882, and was succeeded by Rev. Elisha Mudge.

In 1902 the college received $50,000 endowment, as a result of the will of Francis Asbury Palmer, formerly president of the National Broadway Bank, of New York City, who offered the college $30,000 provided $20,000 was raised by other subscriptions. Dr. J. C. Jones, president of the college, worked with others vigorously to secure the funds. The death of Dr. Jones occurred in 1907, and he was succeeded by O. B. Whitaker, who is now president of the school. Union Christian College is an accredited normal school. Its average attendance is about 125, the students for the most part living within a radius of forty or fifty miles of Merom. Recently there has been completed a handsome dormitory for the women residents of the school. The school is on a fairly prosperous basis, and its half century of active educational and moral influence has been felt in the lives of hundreds of men and women whose names are synonymous with civic and business integrity.

Ascension Seminary.

To say that Ascension Seminary is now but a memory is to miss the finer and real appreciation of the influence of an institution of this kind. The material existence of this school ceased nearly a third of a century ago, yet the hundreds who, if opportunity were offered, would rise and protest their loyalty to the institution and their sense of gratitude for the benefits received within its walls would effectually prove the enduring character of its work. The old seminary still lives for the men and women who attended it, and with the passing of their generation, others will continue to inherit the good influences set in motion at an earlier period.

It is claimed that the Ascension Seminary was the pioneer normal school of Indiana, and its work is said to have inspired the erection of the state normal school at Terre Haute. The origin of the school was described a few years ago by Murray Briggs (Democrat , July 2, 1903). In 1861 Prof. William T. Crawford, then scarcely twenty years old, began teaching a common school at Farmersburg. The editor of the Democrat was then superintendent of instruction for the county, and was so pleased by the results exhibited during a visit to this school that he recommended all the teachers of the county to close their schools for one day and take an opportunity to visit the school at Farmersburg. Professor Crawford's services at once became more valuable as an instructor of teachers than in his former capacity, and the importunities of those who desired to place themselves under his instruction led him to open a small normal school in a building which in 1903 was a buggy shed. He also began the erection of a building of suitable dimensions for his proposed school, but when it was well under way he left it to raise a company and go to the front. On his return in 1865 he refitted the building, engaged an assistant in Prof. David Shoemaker, and formally opened the Ascension Seminary as a normal school for the training of teachers. By 1872 the school had outgrown its building, and Captain Crawford then arranged to consolidate his school with the high school of Sullivan, to which he was summoned as superintendent. From that time until 1876 he conducted this department as a normal institute in connection with the regular town schools. In the opinion of Mr. Briggs, the chief forte of Professor Crawford lay in his ability to impart his wonderful enthusiasm to others, and hundreds of students became successful teachers because of this faculty. To have been a student in Professor Crawford's school was considered an "open sesame" to employment as teacher, and the fact that over two thousand of his former pupils followed teaching as a profession would tend to prove this assertion.

Some of his associates in conducting his normal school, besides Mr. Shoemaker, already mentioned, were Charles W. Finney, John T. Hays, A. P. Allen and W. H. Cain. An interesting advertisement of the seminary in 1869, while it was at Farmersburg, is the following: "The schools will open the fall and winter term on Monday, Aug. 16th, 1869. Young men and ladies desirous of obtaining a good Practical education or of taking a Scientific course will do well to attend this institution, as the aim of the instructors is to elevate the standard of teaching. Lectures will be given each term by the Principal William T. Crawford on the 'Theory and Practice of Teaching,' also lectures on Moral Science by Drs. J. Barbre, C. W. Finney and D. L. Shoemaker . . . . Also instrumental music on Piano or Melodeon if a class of ten desires to take lessons. Tuition $10. Miss Alice S. Hawkins, teacher . . . ."

After the normal school was transferred to Sullivan the attendance in this department was about one hundred and fifty, many of whom came from the surrounding country and boarded in town during the school term. One of the early observances of the arbor day custom occurred in April, 1874, when, at the suggestion of the editor of the Democrat , the students of the normal department met to plant the school yard with trees. Chiefly evergreens were brought, and after the planting dinner was served on tables set the length of literary hall. The sessions of the normal school were held on the third floor of the recently completed Sullivan school building.

At the opening of the Sullivan schools in 1872, after the consolidation of the seminary with the graded schools, the faculty under Professor Crawford consisted of Professors Cain and Allen, Miss Sarah Cain, Miss Doris and Miss Debaun. At the close of October, 1872, the principal reported the total attendance of the Sullivan schools to be 501 pupils, ninety-one of whom were of foreign birth or parentage. The number in the normal department was 174, in the grammar school 105, and 220 in the primary department.

Two interesting reunions of recent years have had the associations of the old seminary as the binding tie of the occasion. In August, 1902, at the old settlers' picnic in Bennett's grove at Farmersburg, a reunion of the old students was held, and among them the following: John C. Chaney, Rev. W. R. Halstead, Hon. W. A. Cullop, I. H. Kelley, Dr. George F. Plew, L. F. Donham, Rev. J. H. Strain, Prof. H. W. Curry, Hon. R. H. Catlen, A. A. Beecher, S. Stark, H. Z. Donham, William M. Moss, D. W. Henry, L. K. Stock. The following year another reunion was held, this time in the old frame seminary building itself, which had been converted in the meantime into an amusement place known as Brunker's Hall. Of those present, fourteen were residents of Farmersburg, and eighty-seven were from other places.

Many former pupils of the Sullivan and Carlisle schools remember William H. Cain, who was principal of the Sullivan schools for several years in the seventies, and later filled a similar position at Carlisle until advancing age caused him to resign, and he returned to Sullivan, where he died, August 9, 1896. He was seventy-five years of age, and had lived in this county about twenty-five years. He was a member of the Masonic order.

A few years ago, when the first examinations were held in the United States for the Rhodes scholarship prizes, Frank Aydelotte, one of the young students from Sullivan county, was among the successful competitors. He went to Oxford in 1905. He had already acquired his master's degree from Harvard, and had taught in the California state normal and at Indiana University. Since his return from his studies abroad he has joined the faculty of the University of Indiana.

As a scientist and educator, one of the most distinguished citizens of Sullivan county was John W. Spencer. He was born in Salem, Indiana, in 1824, and was one of the first students of Indiana State University, though he was unable to complete his course. While Dr. D. D. Owen was making his "Geological Reconnoisance" through Indiana in the late thirties Mr. Spencer was carrying mail from Lawrence county to Greencastle. The eminent geologist traveled in company with the mail carrier, who proved to be not only a capable guide but also an enthusiastic disciple of the science of geology. This early association and training furnished Mr. Spencer with the special branch of learning to which he afterward gave much attention and in which his labors were effective in the advancement of geology. He was one of the pioneer school teachers of Sullivan county, taught subscription schools until free schools were established in the fifties, and continued in the practical work of education for over forty years. He assisted in the geological survey of Sullivan county in 1870, and in 1871 was elected a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences, and later was chosen a fellow of the association. He was called "one of the most diligent, deserving, and, in certain lines, accomplished scientists in the state of Indiana." He was the first secretary of the Sullivan county teachers' institute.






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