Page 299Transcribed by: Jeanie Lowe
After a thorough investigation, it is pretty definitely ascertained that the first school in Petersburg was taught by Charles B. Waldo, a brother-in-law of John Bennett, Esq., mentioned as one of the early settlers and business men of the town. This school was taught in 1837, in a small log cabin which stood in the extreme south end of the village. In a year or two, a small frame building was erected, for school purposes, on the brow of the hill west of the village, and near the "Old Dr. Allen place." It is described as being "out in the brush" then, with a "little path leading to it." In this primitive temple of learning, the youth of the period laid the foundation of their education and - learned to shoot paper wads, until 1855, when the town purchased the building from the Masonic fraternity, which they had used as a hall, and turned it into a common or free school building, * flinging its doors open to all, rich and poor, alike.
* It seems a little strange, but it vouched for as true, that although the common-school law was passed in 1847, the first free school in this place was not taught until 1855. Up to this date, the old subscription-schools were the only kind in Petersburg.
About the year 1845 or 1846, the Masons started a school in the lower story of their hall, for the benefit of their children, and engaged W.A. Dickey as teacher. The school was not confined exclusively to their own children, but others were admitted upon a certain subscription. This was continued until bought by the town, as above noticed. After its purchase, an addition was built to it, making a large and comfortable building, which was used for educational purposes until 1874, when the present elegant building was commenced and pushed forward with such energy as to be ready for occupancy by February 1875. It cost $10,000 and has six large, well-ventilated rooms, three on each floor, besides several private rooms, for library purposes, offices, etc. The names of all the teachers employed previous t the inauguration of the common school cannot be given.
The first free school was taught by Judge J. H. Pillsbury, in 1855 and 1856. The following is a list of Principals, in regular rotation, from Pillsbury, down to the preset time; Judge J.H. Pillsbury, 1855 and 1856; John Dorsey, 1856 and 1857; Edward Laning, 1857 and 1858; J.H. Best, 1858 to 1860; A. Bixby, 1860 and 1861; W. Taylor, 1861 and 1862; Edward Laning, 1862 and 1863; M.P. Hartley, 1863 and 1864; W. Taylor, 1864 and 1865; C.E. McDougall, 1865 and 1866; J.A. Pinkerton and J.H. Pillsbury, 1866 and 1867; W.H. Berry, 1867 to 1869; C.H. Crandall, 1869 and 1870; ___ Mayfield, 1870 and 1871; M.C. Connelly, 1871 to 1876; C.H. Hatfield, 1876 and 1877; J.A. Johnson, 1877 and 1878; M.C. Connelly, 1878 and 1879.
It will be perceived from the above that Prof. Connelly has swayed the scepter over the schools of Petersburg six years, and has, we learned, been retained for the year just beginning. His assistants for the opening year are as follows; G.W. Shepherd, J.W. Whipp, Miss Grace Brown, Miss Clara McDougall, Miss Dora Lorentzen, Miss Mary Fisher and Miss Anna Morris. The school is graded, and includes in its course of instruction all the branches usually taught in the common schools of the country. Prof. Connelly's long administration as Principal shows him to be what he really is, "the right man in the right place."
In 1870, the public schools of the town having somewhat retrograded, or as our informant expressed it, "run down." John A. Brahm, Isaac White, H.W. Montgomery, David Frackelton, J.M. Robbins and B.F. Montgomery formed a joint-stock company, and erected a building on the hill, west of the public square, for the purpose of having a "good school." This building cost $3,750, and was styled the "Petersburg Seminary." As will be seen from the above facts, it was a private and individual enterprise, and the rate of admission to it was $36 per scholar, for a term of nine months. The first year of the new seminary, W. S. Bennett and Miss M. A. Campbell were employed as teachers; the second year, D.M. Bone and Miss M.P. Rainey. We may remark here, parenthetically, as a matter of interest to our lady readers, that both Principals married their assistants. Whether this fact led to the position of assistant being much sought after by young lady teachers or not, we are not informed.
School was conducted two y ears longer, when the public schools, under the efficient management of Prof. Connelly, had attained to such a degree of proficiency that the stockholders or Directors of the seminary wisely decided to close it. The building, accordingly, was sold, and is now used as a residence. Mrs. Rachel Frackelton bought the ground, and has since erected thereon one of the finest residences in the city of Petersburg.