Ohio History Journal

Popular Education on the Western Reserve

Popular Education on the Western Reserve.   35
















It is peculiarly appropriate that the programme of the Cen-

tennial Commemoration of the founding of the City of Cleveland

and of the beginnings of the Western Reserve should embrace a

generous recognition of the subject of education. It is fitting also

that the conferences that mark this recognition should come at or

near the close of the commemoration season rather than at the

beginning, suggesting, as the fact does, the relation that educa-

tion bears to all that has gone before. Nothing is more honor-

able to the Reserve than the prominence of education in its his-

tory. Nothing has given more character to its people than their

educational intelligence, zeal, and activity. In nothing can they

more confidently challenge comparison with other communities

than in their devotion to schools and learning. In fact, the Re-

serve was twice dedicated to education, - once by the General

Assembly of Connecticut, and once by the people that have made

its history. While the history of the first dedication belongs to

Connecticut rather than to Ohio, it will not be unfitting briefly to

recite it as a prologue to the main discourse.

The reservation by the State of Connecticut, in 1786, of the

block of territory to which the names Connecticut Reserve, New

Connecticut, and Western Reserve were soon applied, raised at

once the question, What shall be done with it? Several answers

were returned to this question before the right one was finally


In October of the year just named, a month after the Con-

necticut cession, the General Assembly passed an act that author-

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ized the survey and sale of a portion of the Reserve, with a proviso

that five hundred acres of land in every township should be re-

served for the support of the ministry, and the same quantity for

the support of schools, within the township. This act was pre-

mature; only 24,000 acres were sold under it and it was repealed.

In May, 1793, the half million acres lying across the Western end

of the Reserve were given to the inhabitants of eight Connecticut

towns who had suffered loss of property in the British raids into

the State in the Revolutionary War. These lands, known as the

Sufferers' Lands in Connecticut, and as the Fire Lands in Ohio,

comprise Huron and Erie counties. In October of the same year

the Assembly authorized the sale of the remaining lands on certain

terms and conditions, and at the same time enacted: "That the

moneys arising from the sale. .... be established a perpetual

fund, the interest whereof is granted and shall be appropriated to

the use and benefit of the several ecclesiastical societies, churches,

or congregations of all denominations in the State to be by them

applied to the support of their respective ministers or preachers of

the Gospel and schools of education, under such rules and regula-

tions as shall be adopted by this or some future session of the

General Assembly." This provision at once created a violent

agitation throughout the State, in the course of which the ecclesi-

astical societies and ministers of the Gospel came in for the lion's

share of the public attention. The people of one town, in public

meeting, declared that the appropriation was a step towards es-

tablishing a permanent sacerdotal order, and this opinion was

more or less generally entertained. A still earlier proposition had

been to devote the lands wholly to the support of the Connecticut

ministry. This agitation went on for two years, but in the mean-

time the lands were not sold.

In May, 1795, the Assembly passed a new act, repealing the

old one and making new terms of sale. At the same time the As-

sembly put the controversy about the disposition to be made of

the proceeds at rest. It constituted these proceeds a perpetual

fund, the interest of which should be applied to the support of

schools within the State, according to the provisions of law then

existing or from time to time enacted. A few months later the

lands were sold to the Connecticut Land Company, and the pay-

Popular Education on the Western Reserve

Popular Education on the Western Reserve.    37


ments, as they were made, were applied as the law directed.

Moreover, the interest was capitalized until the fund amounted to

about two million dollars. Such was the origin of the Connecticut

Common School Fund, which, in the boyhood of men now liv-

ing, was celebrated in the school geographies as one of the

glories of American civilization. This fund still exists in its in-

tegrity, for the State watches over it with scrupulous care; but it

has paled its ineffectual fires before the far greater school funds

of later times.

It has been seen that at first Connecticut proposed to make a

generous endowment for education on the Reserve soil. For

some reason she abandoned this idea; she appropriated the soil

to her own exclusive benefit, at the same time that her children by

thousands were flocking to New Connecticut, where they were

left to provide themselves with schools and education as best

they could.

Briefly told this is the story of the first dedication of the West-

ern Reserve to education. It was a dedication in a very literal

sense of the term. The story of the second dedication, which was

a far greater achievement, it will take much longer to tell.

The History of Popular Education in Ohio may be divided

into three periods, as follows:

1. The period extending from the planting of the first set-

tlements in 1788 to the enacting of the first general school law in


2. The period extending from 1821 to the reorganization

and expansion of the school system of the State in 1853.

3. The period extending from 1853 to the present time.

These may be called the periods of preparation, planting, and

development. To fill out this outline would be quite beyond the

possibilities of the hour; but enough may be said to render it


The Land Ordinance of 1785, the contracts that Congress

made with the Ohio Company and with Symmes and his associates

in 1787, and the Enabling Act of 1802 for the admission of the

State to the Union, with exceptions soon to be noted, gave the

inhabitants of every Congressional Township in Ohio Section No.

16, or one thirty-sixth part of the whole township, for the use of

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schools. Another act of legislation vested the title of these lands

in the State Legislature. But these acts had no application to

three extensive divisions of the State; viz.: The Western Re-

serve, the Virginia Military District, and the United States Mil-

itary Bounty Lands, amounting to one-third of the whole area.

Connecticut, as we have seen, had appropriated to her own use

the whole of her reservation, and so had Virginia. The result

was that the people of these three divisions were at a disadvantage

compared with the people of the other parts of the State. Con-

gress, however, by a series of acts came generously to their re-

lief, appropriating them lands within the State, but beyond their

own borders, that put them on the same footing as their neigh-

bors. Thus, in 1807, Congress gave the Reserve eighty-seven

and one-half square miles of school lands in the present counties.

of Tuscarawas and Holmes, and fifty-nine square miles more in

1834 in the northwestern part of the State, making one hundred

and forty-six and one-half square miles, or 93,760 acres, in all.

The school lands of the whole State amounted to eleven or twelve

hundred square miles of surface, not including the three townships

that were granted for Universities.

There is little reason to think that the framers of the Consti-

tution of 1802 contemplated a school system to be supported by

the State. All they did for education was to put into Article VIII

of the Constitution the three following sections:

"Sec. 3. Religion, morality, and knowledge, being essen-

tially necessary to the good government and the happiness of

mankind, schools and the means of instruction shall forever be

encouraged by legislative provision, not inconsistent with the

rights of conscience."

"Sec. 25. No law shall be passed to prevent the poor in the

several counties and townships within this State from an equal

participation in the schools, academies, colleges, and universities

within this State which are endowed in whole or in part from the

revenue arising from the donations made by the United States for

the support of schools and colleges; and the doors of the said

schools, academies, and universities shall be open for the recep-

tion of scholars, students, and teachers of every grade, without

Popular Education on the Western Reserve

Popular Education on the Western Reserve.     39


any distinction or preference whatever, contrary to the intent for

which the said donations were made."

"Sec. 27. Every association of persons, when regularly

formed, within this State, and having given themselves a name,

may, on application to the Legislature, be entitled to receive let-

ters of incorporation, to enable them to hold estates, real and per-

sonal, for the support of their schools, academies, colleges, univer-

sities, and other purposes."

And this was all. The late Dr. Eli T. Tappan, one of the

foremost educators that the State has produced, who investigated

the subject with great care, said it was doubtful whether anything

more was contemplated by the framers in regard to schools than

the granting of corporate powers and the protecting of rights of

person and property. The framers seem to have believed, he

says further, that the school lands, including the university lands,

would be adequate for the support of schools, academies, colleges,

and universities. However this may be, all legislation relative

to a public school system down to 1821 dealt with the school

lands only. Touching this legislation, it will suffice to say that

the General Assembly first attempted to lease the lands, and, that

plan failing, finally offered them for sale, and in due time they were

all sold. This was the source of the Irreducible School Fund of

the State, which amounts to about three and a half million dollars.

The last of the Reserve lands were sold in 1852. The portion of

the whole State Fund that belongs to the Reserve is something

more than a quarter of a million dollars. These results seem

small; but we must remember that the problem of handling

school lands in great quantities was a new one, that Ohio was the

first State to grapple with it, and that, in those days, wild lands

were more abundant than buyers.

In the first of the three periods, the General Assembly did

very little for education. It legislated concerning the two uni-

versities at Athens and Oxford: beyond this it did nothing except

to authorize school companies. All education previous to 1821 was

purely voluntary, - as voluntary in provision as it was in attend-

ance. Associated effort was of course resorted to where schools

were established, for in the Ohio wilderness there were few fami-

lies who could keep a private teacher. Citizens living within per-

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mitting distances would naturally act together in the provision

and maintenance of schools for their children. School houses

would be furnished and teachers employed. In such a state of

affairs, charters of incorporation would often become desirable,

if not necessary. Accordingly, acts incorporating schools begin

to appear in the Statute book as early as 1808, and in 1817 a gen-

eral act was passed to provide for the incorporation of school and

library companies. Such companies were authorized to own

property valued at ten thousand dollars, but were forbidden, on

pain of forfeiting their charters, to employ any portion of their

funds for banking purposes. How generally the schools took ad-

vantage of this legislation, and how generally they remained mere

private associations, it would not be easy to ascertain.

In January, 1821, the General Assembly passed an act to

provide for the regulation and support of common schools. This

act authorized the division of townships into school districts, the

election by the householders of the districts of school committees,

the acceptance by these committees of gifts of land for school

house sites, and the taxation of the property of all residents in the

districts that were subject to State or county taxation for the pur-

pose of erecting school houses, and also for the purpose of making

up any deficiency that might accrue by the schooling of children

whose parents or guardians were unable to pay for the same. The

amount of taxes so levied in any district should not exceed one-

half the amount levied for State or county purposes. The school

committees were authorized to employ competent teachers, and

to assess the expenses of the schools on the parents or guardians

of all scholars in proportion to the whole number of scholars at-

tending, provided that they might remit the assessments, in whole

or part, made on parents or guardians who were unable to pay

them. The committee might buy lots for school purposes if none

were given or purchased by subscription. Every school in a

township should have its proportion of rents arising from the

school lands.

Such are the salient features of the first Ohio general school

law. The law calls for a few words of comment. In the first

place, its language is permissive merely, not mandatory: it author-

izes the doing of a few things, but commands the doing of noth-

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Popular Education on the Western Reserve.     41


ing. In the next place, it authorizes taxation for but two pur-

poses - to provide school houses and to pay the fees of chil-

dren whose parents are too poor to pay them. This is a sugges-

tion of the so-called pauper schools, of which we hear more in

some of the other States than in Ohio. Not a word is said about

fuel, furniture, or incidental expenses. It is assumed that the

people who use the schools will meet the major part of the expense

directly, without any reference to the tax collector. The property

of non-residents is not to be taxed for school purposes. The

voluntary principle, it may be observed, was counted on by the

General Assembly long after this time. Taxation for school

furniture and fuel was not authorized until 1838; the school bill

as a means of partially paying teachers lingered until 1853, and

the good old plan of boarding around, which was a device for

lengthening out the school money, perhaps still lingers in some

parts of the State. How generally the people availed themselves

of the powers of the act of 1821, we cannot tarry to inquire. Nor

can we or need we follow step by step the evolution of the school

system of which it was the beginning. Still, some of the more im-

portant facts cannot be omitted.

In 1825 the General Assembly passed a new law, which dif-

fered from the previous one in two important particulars. First, it

was written in the language of command. It shall be the duty of

the auditor, of the trustees, of the school directors, etc., the sec-

tions run. The new style suggests, what was no doubt true, that

the people, as ministers say in relation to another subject, had not

lived up to their privileges. A mere permission to educate con-

ferred by law never yet produced a good school system. Selfish-

ness is always strong enough to defeat general education on that

basis. Experience has proved conclusively that three things are

essential to an educated state: The provision of schools must be

made obligatory; tuition must be practically free, and attendance

upon the schools must be compulsory. The other change in the

new law was the much wider range of powers conferred. The

very first section provided for raising funds by taxation for the

use of common schools, but not to exceed one-half a mill on the

dollar. Boards of County Examiners were provided for, and only

certificated persons could be employed as teachers. From this

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time forward there was a State fund available for the payment of

teachers; but until 1853 it was never large enough, unless in

favored localities, to permit the disuse of the rate bill.

The two laws of 1821 and 1825 were secured largely through

the efforts of Judge Ephraim Cutler, of Washington county. It

is soberly written in history that in 1825 there was in the Legis-

lature a "school" party and a "canal" party; the first wanted

schools, and the second canals, but neither one could secure a

majority for its favorite measure; so the two parties worked to-

gether, and, as a result, won both schools and canals. The fact

shows how times have changed; the proposition to connect the

fortunes of the public schools and of the canals of Ohio at the pres-

ent day would be ludicrous indeed.

From 1825 onward the State, participating in the general edu-

cational movement of the country, continued to make slow but

steady progress. Sometimes a step was lost, but it was soon re-

gained. It was the day of the common school revival. The Con-

stitution of 1851 marks a great advance on 1802. Besides throw-

ing its shield over the State School Fund, and casting a bulwark

about the treasury to turn aside sectarian assaults, the new instru-

ment declares: "The General Assembly shall make such pro-

visions, by taxation or otherwise, as, with the income arising from

the school trust fund, will secure a thorough and efficient system

of common schools throughout the State." The act of 1853 en-

titled "An Act to provide for the reorganization, supervision, and

maintenance of common schools", was the speedy fulfillment of

this promise. This law provided an augmented school fund, es-

tablished a central education office at the State capital, strength-

ened local authorities, and gave to common schools an impulse

that they have never lost.

A few words touching the third period will answer the present

purpose. The progress that the State has made in education is

very great indeed. A few statistics will tell the story. In 1854

the pupils reported enrolled in the schools were 456,191. In 1895

the number was 817,490. The average attendance for the two

years was 277,196 and 593,465 pupils. The school year had also

considerably increased in length. The high school attendance

at the first date was 4,611; at the second date 48,390. The total

Popular Education on the Western Reserve

Popular Education on the Western Reserve.     43


expenditure for public schools in 1854 was $2,266,457. In 1895,

not counting interest on bonds redeemed, it was $12,496,345. The

average pay per month of male teachers has nearly doubled, of

female teachers considerably more than doubled. Still it must

be said that the statistics are much more full and accurate now

than they were then.

In no feature that strikes the eye has the improvement been

so great as in school houses. Marvelous is hardly too strong a

word to describe the change. In the year 1850 there were ten or

more district school houses in the township of Wadsworth, Medina

county, all well filled with pupils when the winter school was in

session. I was familiar with the exterior of nearly all of these

buildings, and with the interior of three or four of them. It would

be quite safe to say that there was not a building among the num-

ber that to-day would sell for one hundred dollars. The one that

I knew best was clapboarded and shingled, but there was not a bit

of mortar about it, save what had been put into the chimney;

while a Webster's "Elementary Spelling Book" could have been

passed from the inside to the outside without opening the door

or raising a window. But it would be a mistake to suppose that

this district was behind others in enterprise.

Three Ohio men now deceased have exercised a far-reaching

influence upon popular education throughout the country, and

one of these belongs to the Reserve. These men were known in

quite different ways. William H. McGuffey was little more than

McGuffey's Readers, and Joseph Ray little more than Ray's Arith-

metics and Algebras. But Thomas W. Harvey, in Ohio at least,

was much more than Harvey's Grammars. This is not the place

to recount at length Mr. Harvey's personal or educational history.

As teacher and superintendent at Chardon, Republic, Massillon,

and Painesville, as State Examiner and Commissioner of Com-

mon Schools, and as institute lecturer, he gained, it is probable,

a wider personal knowledge of the teachers and schools of the

State than any other man of his time. He was a charter member

of the State Association, and for more than forty years was closely

identified with every forward educational movement in the State.

If not the greatest scholar or pedagogical thinker of the circle in

which he moved, he was a good scholar and thinker; while his

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companionable ways, wisdom in council, long experience, sense

of honor, and devotion to his chosen calling drew men to him

wherever he went. All things considered, it may be doubted

whether any other man has left a stronger impress on public edu-

cation in Ohio than Thomas Harvey.

Let it not be supposed that I have forgotten the subject.

The historical outline that has been drawn embraces the Western

Reserve as well as the other parts of the State. Still from the be-

ginning until 1853 the Reserve more than participated in the great

educational advance that was made: She often led the column.

Some examples of this leadership may be mentioned.

Previous to 1853 special school laws were often passed for

particular localities. This was permissible under the old Con-

stitution. Perhaps the best of these laws, and the one most

widely copied, was the Akron law, enacted in 1847. This law

now seems to us a very simple matter, but it was a great matter

in its time. It was enacted in response to a popular demand that

was led by the Rev. Mr. Jennings, at the time pastor of the Con-

gregational church of Akron. The law made the town one school

district, created one school board of six members, authorized a

suitable number of primary schools and one central grammar

school, and conferred power to levy taxes sufficient to meet the

expense of the system. It has been said that the State law of 1853

was little more than an amplification of the Akron law. Under

this law the late General M. D. Leggett organized the schools of

Akron as superintendent, for which service he received the munifi-

cent salary of five hundred dollars a year. In 1847 Akron witnessed

another interesting event. This was the organization of the Ohio

State Teachers' Association, which has exercised such an import-

ant influence upon education in the State. Not only was the As-

sociation organized on the soil of the Reserve, but the meeting

was called and the organization effected mainly through the ef-

forts of Western Reserve men. Again, the first teachers' insti-

tute ever held in the West was held on the Reserve. The place

was Sandusky, the year 1845. And, once more, Cleveland joined

hands with Cincinnati to secure the school law of 1853. This act

was carried through the Legislature by the Hon. Harvey Rice,

then a senator from Cuyahoga county. And, generally, it will

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Popular Education on the Western Reserve.  45


be found that the men of the Reserve were at the fore when there

was an opportunity to do anything for schools and education.

Books of chronicles, while dry and uninteresting to most

people, are full of marrow and fatness to those who have been

touched by the historical passion. The educational chronicles of

the Reserve in the early days are scanty, but eloquent for that

very reason. We shall look into some of these books. And first

a little volume called "Memoirs of Rev. Joseph Badger."

Father Badger, first of the missionaries sent to New Connec-

ticut by the Connecticut Missionary Society, reached Poland at

the end of December, 1800. The oldest Reserve settlements were

but three years old, and the total population was 1302. Badger

spent several years in missionary work in the Northeastern part

of the State, commonly making his home in Austinburg. He re-

lates that he found three families at Cleveland in June, 1801, and

that he assisted in organizing the first church on the Reserve, at

Austinburg, in October of the same year. Badger was a college

man, and, as he revolved in his mind the question of removing

his family to the Western wilderness, he reflected: "Our family

of six children must now be taken from school to grow up in the

woods without any advantage of even a common school for years."

Occasionally he speaks of visiting a school. Early in 1803 we

meet this entry: "Visited a school of sixteen children, the first at-

tempted in this place." The place was, apparently, Austinburg.

A year later he speaks of preaching in the North School House,

Harpersfield, language which seems to imply a South School

House also. As late as April 8, 1810, he wrote: "By preaching

in different settlements, and visiting all schools now beginning to

be set up, I learned the great want of school books, and by family

visits I also learned the want of suitable books in families." Ac-

cordingly Badger, forming an Eastern connection for that pur-

pose, undertook to supply both wants, in which he confesses he

was not very successful.

Rev. Thomas Robbins, D. D., was the second missionary sent

to the Reserve by the Connecticut Society. He arrived in De-

cember, 1803, and returned in May, 1806. His particular field

of labor was Trumbull and Mahoning counties, but, like Badger,

he traveled over the whole eastern half of the Reserve. While

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Robbins' diary, consisting of more than two thousand octavo

pages, covering fifty-six years of life, is as dull a book of its kind

as could well be written, the two hundred pages covering his

experience in New Connecticut contains many an interesting item.

In the course of his journeyings he speaks of schools twenty or

more times. Generally his mention is the mere fact, "Visited a

school"; but sometimes he adds a word of comment, as that the

school was small, or poorly governed but ambitious, or was well

instructed, particularly in the catechism. He saw the frame of

the first Burton academy in December, 1804, and was urged to

become its first head, and the minister of the church.

Persons who are familiar with New England history will not

be surprised to learn that a movement was on foot in those early

days to found a college in New Connecticut. Both Badger and

Robbins mention it several times. Boards of trustees were elected,

sites were canvassed, and an act of incorporation was secured

while Ohio was still a part of the Northwest Territory. Robbins

mentions that one prospectus was sent to Connecticut to be

printed. These efforts at college building were tentative only;

still they point forward to Western Reserve College, founded at

Hudson in 1826.

It is to be hoped that none grow weary of these old chronicles,

or think them trivial. They are not dead but living; as was said

of the words used by a great master of speech, cut them and they

will bleed. We are standing at the sources of a great history, and

we need not be in haste to descend the stream. We are not deal-

ing with the smart new brick school house that stands on the

main street in the village; or with the little red school house that

stands in the country at the crossing of the roads; but with the old

log school house that stood in the edge of the clearing which,

with strong hands, was chopped out of the forest. Things have

changed mightily since Hooker and Davenport made their plant-

ings at Hartford and New Haven early in the seventeenth century;

but in the thirst for education and zeal for schools the Connecticut

stock have not changed. These chronicles tell us that, almost be-

fore the surveyors were out of the woods, the little communities

sprinkled here and there through the wilderness were doing what

they could to meet present educational needs and to plant for the

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Popular Education on the Western Reserve.    47


future. It was, indeed, a day of small things; but in these small

things lay the potency of the century that has now come to a close.

The chronicles of education often touch the heart and cause

the lip to quiver. There is often pathos in the efforts that young

men and women make to obtain mental culture, whether they

are made in pioneer schools or in great universities. Take the

story of Platt R. Spencer, the teacher and author, who traveled

twenty miles and back again on foot to borrow a copy of Daboll's

Arithmetic; or of Joshua R. Giddings, the statesman, who, denied

the privileges of education after he was a small boy, never thought

that he could have a profession until he was twenty-three years

old, when he went regularly to school to a Presbyterian minister

residing in the same town; or of Samuel Bissell, the minister and

educator, who walked from Portage county to New Haven carry-

ing his pack on his back, that he might study at Yale College.*

In the pioneer days we come upon no trace of a character

who is familiar in many of the Southern States and in parts

of Ohio. I refer to the Scotch-Irish schoolmaster. The New

Connecticut Yankees had no use for him. The teachers of those

days were not itinerants, but resident members of the several com-

munities. They worked for small pay, and often received this in

forms that would embarrass the modern schoolmaster or school-

ma'am. Thus, the late Peter Hitchcock, of Burton, taught a win-

ter's school in Burton and received his pay in pork and provisions.

The Presbyterian and Congregational ministers did good educa-

tional service in those days, sometimes teaching the schools and

sometimes private scholars in their own homes.

It would be inexcusable to omit from this summary the acad-

emies of the early time. The first of these schools, and one of

the best, was the Burton Academy, opened to scholars in the

winter of 1806-7. The building was 25x50; two school rooms

and a hallway below, and a room for a church above. This struct-

ure burned in 1810, and was replaced with a more commodious

one in 1819. It is said that the first term boys attended who lived


* Dr. Julian M. Sturtevant's Autobiography edited by J. M. Sturte-

vant, Jr., gives an interesting account of the manner in which some Ohio

boys (1822-1826) obtained a college education. Fleming Revell Co., N. Y.,

Chicago, Toronto.

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at a distance of five and six miles, which they doubled on foot

twice every day. This academy flourished and narrowly escaped

expanding into a college. "Students came in from every direc-

tion," says the local chronicler; "The Tods and Wickses from

Youngstown, the Austins and Hawleys from Austinburg, the Per-

kinses and others from Warren." Another celebrated school of

the same kind was founded at Norwalk in 1826. One authority

pronounces this the largest and most famous institution of the

kind in all the West. Here President Hayes, Governor Foster,

General McPherson, and many others who attained a good de-

gree, studied. Edward Thomson, afterwards president of Ohio

Wesleyan University, and a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal

Church, was at one time the principal. This school also nar-

rowly escaped becoming a college; but as Burton had its Hud-

son, so Norwalk had its Delaware.

It must not be supposed that these schools of higher grade

were few in number. The fact is they were many. At some time

previous to 1850 nearly every enterprising township had its

academy, or at least its select school, and, collectively, these

schools exercised a prodigious influence upon society. The best

of them were regularly incorporated institutions, owning their

own property. They drew within their walls the ambitious sons

and daughters of the most cultivated families, and often attracted

students from a considerable distance. The Wadsworth Acad-

emy, taught by John McGregor, who had studied at the University

of Edinburg, called students from Cleveland, Canton, and Mil-

lersburg. The teachers were often scholarly men. While these

schools did much elementary teaching, as we should esteem it,

they also did much real secondary work. The Brahman families

of Northeastern Ohio towns sent their sons to Burton Academy

to be fitted for Yale College.

These higher schools explain how it was that the Western

Reserve became a nursery for school teachers. The supply was

in excess of the local demand, and many young men wandered

away to the southern part of the State or to other States in search

of employment as teachers. Young James Garfield went to Mus-

kingum county on such an errand. The veteran Judge Lester

Taylor, of Claridon, speaking of Geauga county, once said: "Ev-

Popular Education on the Western Reserve

Popular Education on the Western Reserve.     49


ery township has more or less kept up schools for the benefit of

advanced scholars, to study higher branches, during winter

months. From all classes of these schools there has been gradu-

ated a class of qualified teachers, largely in excess of the home de-

mand, who have for the last forty years gone south and west to

teach in the winter, leaving in the fall as uniformly as the wild geese

and other migratory birds, and returning to spend the summer

in labor."

As the public schools increased in number and improved in

quality, the academies began to lose ground. Wholly dependent,

as a rule, on tuition charges for existence, they could not compete

with free schools of equal grade. The law of 1853 gave them the

finishing stroke. Some of the buildings were sold to boards of

education, and many of the teachers entered the public schools;

some of the old schools struggled bravely for existence, but in

time nearly all, if not indeed all, of them passed into history.

There are two reasons for mentioning another celebrated

school, which will appear in the sequel. The Western Reserve

Teachers' Seminary opened its doors to the public in September,

1839, being established in the upper stories of the Temple at Kirt-

land, Lake county, which the Mormons had abandoned a short

time before when they left the "First Stake" for the far West.

This seminary existed about twenty years, and for much of the

time was a very flourishing school. It drew to itself, as teachers

and students, a number of persons who made a name in the

world. Its foundation was mainly due to the efforts of the

Rev. Nelson Slater, who served as first superintendent or prin-

cipal. Dr. A. D. Lord was the head of this school for several

years before he went to Columbus, and with him were associated

M. F. Cowdery, Alfred Holbrook, and other well-known teachers.

T. W. Harvey came from the printing office at Painesville, and M.

D. Leggett from the farm in Montville, to study at Kirtland.

Leggett was also employed for a time as one of the teachers. The

other fact for which the seminary is noteworthy is the great atten-

tion that it paid to the preparation of teachers of both sexes for

the common schools. In this respect it far surpassed any school

on the Reserve that had gone before it, and, relatively speaking,

it has perhaps not been equalled by any school that has suc-

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ceeded it. It was founded only two years after the first Normal

School in the United States was established, that at Lexington,


In dealing with the Reserve I have been dealing with Cleve-

land. The majority of men are so little gifted with imagination,

or are so poorly instructed in history, that they continually assume

that all things continue as they were from the beginning. It is a

very great mistake. In respect to education Cleveland is in no

way marked off from other towns and villages until in quite recent

times. The city merely repeats the history of Youngstown, Ak-

ron, and other places, only it has come to do things on a much

larger scale. We can, therefore, run over the Cleveland story

somewhat hastily.

Tradition tells of a school of five pupils in Cleveland when

there were but three families on the ground. Who taught this

school, as well as its exact date, cannot be told. We hear noth-

ing more on the subject until 1814, when a school taught by a

Mr. Chapman is mentioned: Vox et preterea nihil. In 1817, when

the population had grown to two hundred and fifty, a school house

was built on the lot now occupied by the Kennard House; just

how it was built, it is hard to say. This was undoubtedly the first

school house built on the site of Cleveland, unless there may have

been an earlier one at Newburg or some other of the numerous

centres that have been swallowed up by the growth of the city.

In this school house children were taught on the payment of tui-

tion fees. The Cleveland Academy, afterwards called the Old

Academy, was built by subscription on St. Clair street in 1821.

There is no trace of a public school system until the granting of

the city charter. The trustees do not appear to have exercised

the powers conferred by the acts of 1821 and 1825. The only

schools were private schools.

The late S. H. Mather, in a published document, states that

in 1833 or 1834 an attempt was made to organize a mission sun-

day school in the Bethel church; that the children were found so

ignorant that proper sunday school teaching was out of the ques-

tion; and that, to make good this deficiency, a day school was

established to teach the children to read, the teacher being paid by

voluntary subscription. This school, says Mr. Mather, was con-

Popular Education on the Western Reserve

Popular Education on the Western Reserve.   51


tinued on this basis until the city, in 1835, assumed the charge of

it and made it a city free school. So far as existing records show,

the first public expenditure ever made for education in Cleveland

was the cost of maintaining this school one year, $131.12. Not a

large educational budget surely for a city that has come to ex-

pend something like a million dollars annually on its schools!

In 1836 Cleveland became a chartered city. The population

was then five thousand. Two sections of the charter related to

schools. The Common Council was authorized to levy a tax of

not more than one mill on the dollar for the purchase of school

sites and building school houses, and an additional mill for the

support of a school in each of the three wards into which the city

was divided, which should be accessible to all white children not

under four years of age; the council should fix by ordinance the

beginning and end of the school year, and appoint every year a

board called the Board of Managers of the Common Schools, in

which the particular administration should rest. This Board

should make rules and regulations for the schools, examine and

employ teachers, fix their salaries subject to the rules of the Coun-

cil, make repairs of school houses and furnish supplies, and certify

to the Council all expenses incurred in the performance of its

duties. On July 7, 1837, the Common Council passed an or-

dinance in accordance with these sections of the charter, and this

ordinance is the real beginning of public schools in Cleveland.

The ordinance was drawn on the lines of the charter, only the

school year was made four months instead of six. The schools

were to provide only elementary education.

The Board of Education built its first public school houses,

two in number, in 1839-40. In 1840 there were sixteen teachers

and 1,040 pupils. The principal schools were divided into two

departments, each department having a boys' school and a girls'

school. An academical department, as it was called, or a high

school as we should say, was opened in 1846, with Andrew Freese

as principal. This school was opposed by some heavy tax payers,

and it was never beyond danger until it was authorized by a special

act of the Legislature, which came in 1848-49. The West Side

High School, of which A. G. Hopkinson was the father, was

opened in 1854. The training school went into operation in 1874.

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The first superintendence that the schools received was given

by a duly elected member of the Board of Managers, called the

Acting Manager of the Schools. This form of superintendence

lasted from 1841 to 1853. In the latter year Mr. Freese was

elected Superintendent, and Dr. E. E. White succeeded him as

the head of the High School. Mr. Freese was followed as super-

intendent by Mr. L. M. Oviatt, he by Rev. Anson Smythe, and he

again by Mr. A. J. Rickoff. These gentlemen all devoted them-

selves with singleness of mind to the work of the schools, and all

were rewarded by seeing the fruits of their labors. The pressing

school questions of those years all over the country related to

organization and system. The Cleveland history supports this

view. Mr. Rickoff came to the superintendency in 1867 and held

it until 1882. An educator of ripe experience and force of char-

acter, and the possessor of the confidence of a strong Board of

Education for many years, he impressed himself deeply on the

school system of the city. The existing organization is very

largely his work. Under his direction the schools came to attract

attention from far and near, and, in particular, they called out

some glowing enconiums from foreign visitors.

Standing in the relation that it does to the Western Reserve,

the City of Cleveland ought to lead in educational matters; and

the other towns and cities would generally, if not universally,

recognize the fact of such a leadership almost from the beginning

of the union school movement.

At first the Board of Education was only a committee ap-

pointed by the City Council, but since 1859 it has been elected by

the people at the popular election. Once more, the Board was

wholly dependent upon the Common Council for funds until

1865; in that year it became fully autonomous, levying and ex-

pending its own revenues subject only to the law.

For many years there has been a growing conviction in many

American cities, if not indeed in a majority of them, that the busi-

ness administration of the public schools is getting, or rather has

got, into a bad way. The trouble is thought to arise from the

character of men who are often elected members of boards of

education, from a vicious method of doing business, and from the

nature of the business organization of the schools. At least this

Popular Education on the Western Reserve

Popular Education on the Western Reserve.     53


was the view taken by a great number of citizens of this city; for

in response to a popular demand the Legislature passed, in 1892,

the Reorganization Act, under which the schools are now carried

on. I refer to this act with no purpose of discussing its pro-

visions or of commenting on its operation. My aim is very dif-

ferent. The evils that it was intended to correct have become

widespread; the act itself has attracted very general attention;

in a sense, it is now on trial before the public, not of Cleveland

alone, but of the country; and if experience shall finally prove

that it accomplishes the end for which it was devised, Cleveland

will become the teacher of the country in the important matter of

city school administration.

One who attempts to write the educational history of a state

or community is likely to commit the fault of confining himself

too closely to professional educators. It is perfectly right that

this class of persons should be emphatically recognized. But

education has its business side as well as its pedagogical side.

Teachers and superintendents alone, no matter how able and de-

voted, cannot make a school system. Educational discussions

too much tend to run on professional lines. Accordingly, I wish

to recognize in the heartiest manner the educational services to

Ohio of such men as Ephraim Cutler, Rufus King, Samuel

Lewis, Harvey Rice, and others; also the service to particular

communities of such men as Charles Bradburn and George Wil-

ley, of this city, who not only served as members of the School

Board for years, but actually did efficient duty as acting managers

of the schools.

The decade 1835-45 is an important one in American educa-

tional history. It has been called our educational renaissance.

In this period Massachusetts created the first State board of edu-

cation, the first American normal school, and the first efficient

State school superintendency, with Horace Mann in the office;

Dr. Henry Barnard of Connecticut called the teachers' institute

into being; New York established the first public school

libraries; Michigan laid the foundation of her educational system

on the lines of the Prussian ideas; the City of Providence, R. I.,

first established the local school superintendency. German in-

fluence now began to be felt by American scholars, teachers, and

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schools. The decade ushered in a period of school renovation,

within and without. We shall form the best idea of this period by

looking at it under a single phase and by limiting our view to


It must be remembered that the largest cities of the State were

once small villages, and that a single school answered all purposes.

Time added scholars, and therefore called for new schools and new

school districts. These schools and school districts were wholly

separate and independent in organization and management. The

educational world was without form and void and darkness was

upon the face of the deep. Such legislation as the Akron school

law was enacted to correct this state of things, and under it the

organization of city and town schools commenced. The schools

of Cincinnati were organized in 1840. The facts in regard to

Cleveland have been already related. Dayton, Columbus, Akron,

and other towns soon followed the example thus set. The law of

1853 gave the movement a great impulse. The name "union

school" or "union schools" came into general use as expressing

the prevailing tendency of the new time. If this name is now

seldom heard, it is because the great work of unification in the

city and town schools has been accomplished. Perhaps the new

rural school movement will bring it into use again.

The union movement raised some difficult external problems.

for legislators, members of boards of education, and superintend-

ents to solve. It also raised some internal problems that were

even more difficult. The establishment of a system of grades and

the classification of pupils now became a possibility. This possi-

bility involved the evolution of a course of graded study, the adop-

tion of canons and methods of promotion, and the provision of

suitable text-books. These problems rested heavily on the hands

of such men as Harvey, Henkle, Rickoff, and Cowdery for many

years. Some people now believe, perhaps most people, that these

problems were solved too successfully. Those who hold this view

believe that too much stress came to be laid on system and uni-

formity. Considering the utter chaos that had reigned, together

with the known tendency of the human mind to value machinery,

this was in no way strange. Matters were sometimes carried to

such a point that the schools of great cities were regularly halted

Popular Education on the Western Reserve

Popular Education on the Western Reserve.      55


once a month, that the children's minds might be examined, their

contents inventoried and tabulated, and reports made to the super-

intendent's office, there to be compared and systematized. There

is now a refluent tide. The peculiar work of that generation of

educators has been accomplished, and we are now face to face

with a new and a still more difficult series of problems. How

shall we find room in our school system for freedom and spon-

taneity? How shall we adjust the individuality of the child to

the necessity of school organization? These are some of the

questions of the new era.

At the end of 1869 there was formed in this city the North-

eastern Ohio Teachers' Association, which is still in vigorous life.

It is not pertinent or necessary to enlarge on the history of this

useful society. As soon as formed it plunged into the discussion

of some of the most pressing questions of the time. In his in-

augural address, Dr. Harvey, who was the first President of the

Association, drew attention to several of these questions. He

put first on his list a subject that, to my knowledge, has never

seriously occupied the attention of the Association from that day

to this. Reviewing the history of twenty years, he said while the

schools in the towns and cities had made marked progress, and

ranged among the best of their kind in the Union, those in the

rural districts had not improved as they ought to have done. In

some localities, he said, no progress whatever had been made.

This subject is now beginning to claim the public attention, and

there is some reason to think that we are on the eve of changes

in the rural schools quite as striking as those that have been ac-

complished in the town and city schools. This topic may well

be the last one to the treated in this address.

There are obvious difficulties in the way of bringing the

country schools to as high a standard as the town and city schools,

and it is by no means certain that it can ever be accomplished.

Fortunately, however, there are some compensating advantages.

One of these difficulties is the sparseness of rural population and

the consequent insufficiency of pupils to be handled in the schools,

which interferes with expansion and tends to repress interest and

enthusiasm. This difficulty has been greatly intensified by the

decline of population in many rural districts. For example, every

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decennial census since 1850 has shown a decline in the population

of Geauga county. It is now about twenty-five per cent. less than

it was at its maximum. Medina county also fell off for twenty

years, but has slightly recovered itself at the last two censuses.

Trumbull county lost two thousand five hundred people at the last

census. Many townships in counties that have held their own in

population, or even gained, have gone the same way. And so it is

in many parts of the country: The last census showed that more

than four hundred counties in the Union had lost population in ten

years for other causes than reduction in size. These losses of

population are an important factor, not only in education but also

in religious and social life. Many schools once of good size, or

even large, have become small; some have actually ceased to

exist. Schools of two, three, and five pupils are by no means un-

common on the Reserve. My attention was first called to this sub-

ject about twenty-five years ago. A chart showing the size of the

schools in different parts of the State prepared by Dr. T. C. Men-

denhall formed part of the Ohio exhibit at Philadelphia in 1876.

This chart made it very evident that, in this sense, not only parts of

Ashtabula county, but parts of other counties, were "benighted."

I publicly urged the consolidation of schools as a means neces-

sary to correct the existing evil. Perhaps I may be pardoned for

quoting a few sentences from an address that I delivered and pub-

lished in 1878.

"Centralization is the only remedy for this state of things.

There must be fewer school officers, fewer schools, fewer teachers,

and more pupils in the schools. You cannot have a fire without

fuel or a school without scholars. The Western Reserve Yankee

is very conservative. Having always had a school house on the

corner of his own or of his neighbor's farm, he cannot reconcile

himself to the idea of sending his children three or four miles away.

But in many places it must come to that in time; in such towns [as

those mentioned] the children will be taught in consolidated

schools or not at all. People will not long be so absurd as to

keep up a district school for three scholars. When they make up

their minds to the inevitable, which is in this case also the desir-

able, they will find that the necessary steps are both few and short.

Popular Education on the Western Reserve

Popular Education on the Western Reserve.    57


It will be found both cheaper and better to carry the children to

the distant school than to go on in the old way."

I now hear with no little satisfaction that the Reserve is

beginning to move in this direction. The necessary legislation

has been procured in several cases, and the schools of several

towns have been more or less consolidated. Old buildings are

abandoned if necessary and new ones built. The schools and

teachers are much reduced in numbers and greatly improved in

quality. A competent correspondent in Geauga county writes me

as follows: "We carry the children to and from the school when

necessary in closed hacks hired at public expense. We get the

inspiration that comes from large numbers; we can classify ac-

cording to advancement of the pupils; we are able to have a much

better grade of teachers without any increase of taxes; we secure

a more uniform attendance, and the children are never tardy; the

instruction is at once better and cheaper." He adds that some

people are opposed to the movement (people who are always op-

posed to new methods to meet changed conditions), but the opin-

ion is spreading that the country district school does not measure

up to the educational demands of the time.

This is progress. There is little more reason in having eight

or ten district schools in a sparsely populated Ohio or Michigan

township than there is in having an equal number of churches.

We have now taken a general survey of the large subject that

was set for the hour. We have considered popular education on

the Western Reserve, both in its general relations to the educa-

tional development of the State and in itself. However imper-

fect the treatment may have been, I hope the interest and dignity

of the theme have at least been made apparent. How very credit-

able the record is to those who have made it! Nothing in their

history does them greater honor. Born on the Reserve, of Con-

necticut stock; reared and educated here, and living here the

greater part of my life; familiar with the history, conditions, and

spirit of the people; proud of what has been accomplished on this

soil, - I have counted it an honor to be called to participate in

the observances that mark the close of one century of history and

usher in a new one. Forgetting for the moment my removal

from the State, and reasserting my rights as a child of the soil, I

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58        Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


mingle my felicitations with yours, that we have behind us so

glorious a history. We do well to recount the story of the past,-

the sacrifices of the pioneers; the wisdom and constancy of the

later founders; the fidelity of a great host of teachers; the educa-

tional zeal and intelligence of the public: but we do better reso-

lutely to face the future, determine to do our own work as well as

our predecessors have done theirs. If we and those who succeed

us shall meet this high demand, then those who gather here a

century hence to celebrate the second centennial of the founding

of Cleveland and the beginnings of the Western Reserve will see


"Another morn

Risen on mid-noon."