HON. E.B. McELROY, A.M., Ph. D. – Among the institutions of our country, none more deservedly attract the attention of all lovers of law and order than do our public schools. It is all-important, therefore, that each commonwealth should have some men of learning and ambition at the head to represent, as it were, in a single individual, the individual interests of very child in the state. Especially is this the case in our state, where we are in reality but just laying aside the swaddling clothes of self-government, and endeavoring to lay broad and deep the foundations of a government for higher, and more prosperous days to come.
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In order, however, to prepare for this good time coming, it is necessary that we should make wise laws and most thoroughly systematize the workings of our public schools, and by this and other means better prepare for their development and improvement in the future. Our legislators are sufficiently wise to make the laws; but no system of a uniform course of public instruction can be complete without a head-center; and in this head-center, in a great measure depends the success or failure of the common-school systems in other states is to the effect that a very few men have advanced and developed these public-school systems until they have reached the high state of perfection already secured. What is true of other states is equally true of Oregon.
Our state has, since the creation of the office of superintendent of public instruction, been peculiarly fortunate in the selection of men of capability to fill the position creditably. Among the most active of these is Doctor McElroy, who has evinced a rare aptitude for his work, and has proved a superior officer from the very beginning. He brought with him to the office the ripe experience of a successful teacher, the practical teaching of a like, although minor, position of county superintendent, the energy and ambition of a man who is just entering the prime of life, the love of the work inculcated in him by his long-continued connection with public instruction, the necessary qualifications of a successful business career, and the spirit of that progress to the overthrow of old-fogyism and moss-backism which will insure to his education work the advancement made by other public interests. As a man, he is the very soul of integrity, and is very highly esteemed by those who know him best. He is one of that class of men who, while you fancy him the moment he addresses you, will none the less bear acquaintanceship, and advance in your admiration and esteem the longer and more intimately you know him.
Like so many of the leaders and public men in our state, his early boyhood was spent on a farm, where he laid the foundation for a healthy body and a sound mind. He was born in Washington county, Pennsylvania, in September, 1842, and is consequently now in his forty-seventh year. He entered school at an early age, and remained there until the breaking out of the Civil war in 1861, when he enlisted a s a private in the First Regiment of West Virginia Volunteers. He served in that regiment until 1863, participating in the battles of Cheat Mountain, Romney and Winchester under Generals Kelley, Shields, and others. In 1863 he was mustered out of that regiment, and re-enlisted as veteran volunteer in the One Hundredth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers (“Round Heads”), and served in that regiment until it was mustered out of service in July, 1865. In the latter regiment he was engaged in the battles of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Bethesda Church, Cold Harbor, Poplar Church Grove, Mine Explosion, Weldon Railroad, Squirrel Hill Road, Hatches Run, Fort Steadman, and the final assault on Petersburg.
Being mustered out of the service at the close of the war, Superintendent McElroy re-entered college, where he remained for two years. From that time until 1874 he was engaged in teaching in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In 1869 he was married in Washington county, Pennsylvania, to Miss Agnes C. McFadden, a niece of the celebrated Bishop Alexander Campbell, who was one of the chief founders of the Christian church in America. In the spring of 1874 they moved to Corvallis, Benton county, Oregon. The same year Superintendent McElroy was elected principal of the Corvallis public schools; and in 1875 he was elected to a chair in the State Agricultural College, which position he filled until 1882, when he was nominated by the Republican party of this state, and was elected state superintendent of public instruction by a very large majority. In 1886 he was renominated by his party by acclamation, was re-elected by a handsome majority, and is now serving his second term as state superintendent of schools; and such was his efficiency and popularity that he was during that time twice re-elected without opposition.
Doctor McElroy is now the department commander of the Grand Army of the Republic of Oregon. He is an active and leading Grand Army man, and has held several prominent positions in that order, among them being assistant inspector-general and aid-de-camp on the staff of the commander-in-chief. He is a prominent member of the Masonic order, being a thirty-second degree Mason of the Scottish Rite line, and a Knight Templar. He is also an honored member of the A.O.U.W. and I.O.O.F., and has been for many years a leading member of the Christian church.
The Superintendent now resides in Salem, Oregon, where he and his estimable wife are well known in society, and are prominent in charitable works. They have a family of five children. The superintendent is a man of great activity and practical energy. His oft-quoted motto among his friends is “Work.” He is pre-eminently a worker, and has a high reputation for organizing ability and executive force. He served throughout the entire war. He was a brave soldier, and has a splendid army record; and the Grand Army of the Republic of this department has done itself credit by selecting as its department commander a man who bore a musket in the ranks during the long four years of the Civil war.
During the six years of his administration, a very great advancement has been made in our public school work, chief among which we should mention the admirable system of blanks, registers and reports prepared and established by him; the splendid compilations of school laws; the establishment of the department of appeals and decisions; the uniform and regular issues of circular letters, etc. Indeed, it is questionable if any state in the union has advanced her school interests as rapidly as Oregon within the past six years. Special mention should be made of his active interest in and vigorous efforts, to have our state represented at the national association held last year at San Francisco. The great success of this effort will be remembered by all.
For the year 1889 he has already taken active steps to have our state largely represented at the national association to be held at Nashville, Tennessee. These efforts in behalf of public education and enterprise are appreciated by all. The profession of teaching is being rapidly advanced in our state; and this advancement is very largely due to the continuous encouragement given to our teachers by our active state superintendent. The district and county institute work ahs been regularly and uniformly established by him. This of itself has given a great impetus to educational work. Superintendent McElroy has always been a true friend and vigorous advocate of thorough public education. And throughout the state he has hosts of friends who wish that he may long continue to add to the ability and strength of our public-school system and educational progress generally.