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Historic Schools of Washington

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A school was opened in Olympia, Nov. 22, 1852, by A. W. Moore, first teacher and postmaster on Puget Sound after its settlement by American colonists. Moore died in 1875, aged 55 years, having always labored for the best interests of society. The first schoolhouse, it is claimed, was on the Kindred farm, on Bush prairie, and was erected by the Kindred family and their neighbors. Phillips first taught in this place. During the winter of 1852-3 a tax was levied on the Olympia precinct, and money collected to erect a public schoolhouse, which was demolished by the heavy snow of that winter, as before related. The Columbian of July 16, 1853, remarks that it had known of only three schools north of Cowlitz landing, one in Olympia, taught by E. A. Bradford, one at the house of William Packard, taught by Miss White, and one near the house of S. D. Ruddell, taught by D. L. Phillips, probably the one above mentioned.

About this time the owners of the Seattle town site offered a liberal donation of land to the Methodist Church if they would erect an institution of learning, to be called the Seattle Institute, within 2 years. The matter was laid before the conference by Benjamin Close, but the offer does not appear to have been accepted. Meantime the common school at Olympia was continued, Moses Hurd, C. H. Hale, and D. R. Bigelow being trustees.

In May 1834 Bernard Cornelius, from Victoria, V. I., and graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, took charge of the Olympia school, and seems to have been a competent and industrious educator. He proposed to establish a ‘classical, mathematical, commercial, and training school,’ and conducted the public instruction of the youth of the district for one year satisfactorily, when be set up a private school, with what success I know not. In Dec. 1856 the Methodists incorporated the Puget Sound Wesleyan Institute, located on a point of land midway between Olympia and Tumwater. The school opened that year under the charge of Isaac Dillon and wife. The trustees were D. R. Bigelow, G. A. Barnes, C. B. Baker, F. A. Chenoweth, A. A. Denny, G. M. Berry, R. H. Lansdale, A. S. Abernethy, James Biles, W. S. Parsons, William Wright, J. S. Smith, W. D. Van Buren, T. F. Berry, B. F. Yantis, W. N. Ayres, Edward Lander, W. W. Miller, J. F. Devore, John Briscoe, G. K. Willard, Isaac Dillon, L. A. Davis, W. Rutledge, Morris Littlejohn, H. M. Walker, C. H. Hale, and Elwood Evans. In Ebey’s Journal, MS., iii. 45, I find mention of a schoolhouse erected at Port Townsend in 1855, where a Mr Taylor had opened a school; and I find that the public school of Seattle was closed in Oct. 1860, owing to the mining excitement having carried off the teacher, while other schools at Port Madison, Teekalet, Whidbey Island, Port Townsend, and Olympia were in a flourishing condition.

As there was no school fund from the sale of the 16th and 36th sections until the same should be surveyed, and the commissioner of the land-office having decided that the grant was not available until the territory should become a state, the common schools were supported by a tax annually levied, and by fines arising from a breach of any penal laws of the territory.

County superintendents were provided for by the law of 1854, to be elected at the annual elections. In 1861 it was enacted that a territorial superintendent should be chosen triennially by the legislature, whose duty it should be to collect such information as might be deemed important, reporting annually to that body, and supervising the expenditure of the school fund. An act approved Nov. 29, 1871, provided that the territorial superintendent should be elected in joint convention of the legislature during that and every subsequent session, his duties being to disseminate intelligence in relation to the methods and value of education, to issue certificates to teachers, call teachers’ conventions, consolidate the reports of county superintendents, recommend textbooks, and report to the legislative assembly, for all of which he was to receive $300. Nelson Rounds was the first Superintendant under the this law, and gave an elaborate report. He was a graduate of Hamilton University, and was in the Methodist ministry nearly 40 years. During this time he was connected with several schools, and was four years editor of the Northern Christian Advocate. Ho came from Binghampton, New York, to take the presidency of the Willamette University in 1868, but resigned in 1870 and removed to Washington. He died at Union Ridge Jan. 2, 1874. Olympia Standard, Jan. 10, 1874. Congress passed a special act in 1873 providing that the Territory Superintendent should be appointed by the governor. and confirmed by the council. In a synopsis of the reports of the public schools of Washington by G. H. Atkinson for the centennial of 1876, it is stated that the number of schoolhouses reported was 283, the number of pupils enrolled 7,116, the amount paid to teachers about $55,000 in 1875, and other minor facts.

Eastern Washington was in a somewhat more chaotic state with regard to education. Walla Walla, however, being the historic battleground of sectarianism, derived a benefit from it in the way of schools. Whitman Seminary was chartered in 1859-60, and built in 1867, to commemorate the labors and tragic death of Marcus Whitman, missionary to the Cayuses.

The first private school taught in Walla Walla was opened in 1864, by P. B. Chamberlain and wife. There was also a public school of 63 pupils. The Catholic schools for boys and girls were well sustained. There was also St Paul’s Episcopal Seminary for young women, and two other private institutions of learning, besides the three free schools of the city. The Catholics established the hospital of St Mary’s, with accommodations for about 70 patients.

Vancouver had a greater number of academies in proportion to its population in 1885 than any other town in Washington. The Sisters’ House of Providence, established in 1856, was the oldest academy then in the territory, besides which the Methodists and Episcopalians had a seminary, and the Catholics a boys’ school, in addition to the public school. The Ellensburg Academy, located at Ellensburg, Kittitas County, was founded in 1884, by James H. Laurie. It had a good attendance from the start. By act of congress approved July 2, 1S62, 30,000 acres of land for each senator and representative to which the states were respectively entitled was granted for agricultural colleges. Under the provisions of this act the legislature of 1864-5 passed an act establishing Washington College at or near Vancouver, and vested its government in a board of trustees, of which the governor was ex officio a member. Trustees, E. S. Fowler, M. Wintler, John Sheets, S. W. Brown, Gay Hayden, and John H. Timmons. Wash. Stat., 1864-5, 32-0. At the following session congress was informed by memorial of the selection of a site, the purchase of which was contracted for, and the lands selected, but that upon attempting to enter this land the trustees had been notified by the commissioner of the general land office that the act of congress was only applicable to states. The memorial prayed for the extension of the benefits of the act to Washington territory. This gift was, however, withheld until the state should become entitled to it under the act.

Of libraries, the territorial was the first, being a part of the endowment of the general government ou the establishment of the territory of Washington. The books were purchased by Gov. Stevens, and numbered about 2,000, including unbound documents, with a pair of globes, and five mounted maps. B. F. Kendall was appointed first librarian, and held office until Jan. 1857, when Henry R. Crosbie was elected. At this session of the legislature the librarian was made territorial auditor, the joint salary amounting to $325. This arrangement lasted till 1862. Urban E. Hicks succeeded Crosbie in 1858, followed by A. J. Moses in 1859, and J. C. Head in 1860, who was reelected in 1861. In 1862 Thomas Taylor was chosen librarian, and R. M. Walker elected auditor. In Feb. 1858 an act was passed incorporating the Steilacoom Library Association. The incorporators were: A. B. Deelin, A. F. Byrd, E. A. Light, W. H. Wallace, W. R. Downy, W. P. Dougherty, ‘William Lane, S. McCaw, B. Pierce, Frank Clark, Sherwood Boney, O. H. White, E. M. Meeker, William N. Savage, and Nathaniel Orr. Wash. Stat., 1857-8, 47-8. In 1860 a library of 300 vols was established at Port Madison. At Seattle, in 1862, the university library was established. It numbered in 1862 800 vols. The Temperance Tacoma Lodge of Olympia established a library in 1869 of 700 vols. A catholic library was organized at Vancouver in 1870 which in 1872 numbered 1,000 vols. In the following year at a meeting of the citizens of Vancouver a library association was formed, and in 1872 Tumwater followed with a collection of 230 vols. Walla Walla organized a library association and free reading room, which was supported by citizens for the benefit of strangers, and had a literary and lecture society, to which the officers from the garrison gave much time. The literary society was established as early as 1865.


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