Mt. Morris, Past and Present, first published in 1900 by Kable Bros., 2nd edition published in 1938 by Harry G. Kable.
A. Quinby Allen, teacher, surveyor, and auctioneer, taught the first public school opened in Mount Morris. It was known as the Pine Creek Grammar School and was the nucleus from which Rock River Seminary was established. He was the son of Capt. Isaac and Mary Allen, and was born October 4, 1814, at Little Britain, Pa. He came to Mount Morris in 1838 and taught school until 1841 when he returned to the east and was married to Elizabeth Swingley, daughter of Michael Swingley. They came to Mount Morris in 1845 and became the parents of seven children as follows: Samuel, Mary (Mrs. Menzo Keith), Emma J. (Mrs. Will Cosgrove), Lydia W., Robert Q., Edwin J., and Elizabeth (Mrs. Robert McClure). Mr. Allen became a very prominent citizen of Mount Morris and for 18 years served as County Surveyor of Ogle County. He passed away in 1883 at the age of 69 and Mrs. Allen died March 19, 1900, aged 77 years.
Ogle County Democrat, Mount Morris, IL
Thursday, February 15, 1883 p. 2, col. 3
Early Recollections of Aaron Q. Allen
(To the Editor of the Democrat)
QUINCY, ILL., Feb. 12th, 1883 --
Dear Mr. Editor
: -- a late number of the DEMOCRAT brought to me the sad intelligence of the death of Mr. A. Q. Allen, and as I had the honor as well as the pleasure of being one of his pupils for many years -- I feel that I owe the family and to his dear memory a tribute of praise pen cannot express. In the early days (I mean in the forties,) school houses in the neighborhood of Mt. Morris and Oregon were few and far between. The first school ever attended by the writer was taught in a log school house in 1847 near the residence of Simon Seyster. The Seyster, Young, Fridley and Gigous families went to this school. The school house was situated about a quarter of a mile south of the present Young school house. This school was taught by one Hicks and was a failure, and was discontinued after the first term, and the building was then used by Simon Seyster for a carpenter shop.
The following winter, 1848, A. Q. Allen opened a school in a log school house situated about midway between Mt. Morris and Oregon. The school house was quite a distance north of the main traveled road, I think nearly half a mile from the Thomas residence. It was here the writer first met Mr. Allen and recited to him from the "Baker" spelling book. He was then a young man, full of energy and determination. Students came to this school from a radius of five miles north and south, and some even from the villages of Mt. Morris and Oregon. It was patronized by all classes, black and white, -- I remember well the Crawford boys (colored) who came to this school. They lived then not very far east of Mr. Allen's late residence -- Besides the families who patronized the old Seyster school there were the Phelps, Wagners, Thomas, Sprechers and a few other families. The writer distinctly remembers many of the pupils, among whom were Napolean Phelps, Ben Wagner and others, then young men.
Mr. Allen lived a few miles north of the school house and quite frequently went home to his dinner leaving us "little boys" and the "big boys" and girls in full charge of the school house. The school house was furnished with seats made of slabs, auger holes having been bored into them and wooden pins driven in for legs. These, when school was in session, were placed near the wall in close proximity to another slab or board which rested against the wall, and was used for a desk. Quite frequently when Mr. Allen came back from dinner he found all the school furniture at the bottom of the hill, with the legs broken off -- the boys and girls having used them for coasting. Mr. Allen had frequently told the boys not to do this, but they paid no attention to his request. One day just as he was leaving the school house for dinner he said: "Now boys if you take those benches out of this school house I will whip all who are engaged it." Mr. Allen was no sooner gone than the "big boys" had every bench out and the whole school was soon sliding down the hill, over the hard beaten snow. The benches turned up side down, the legs were used for handles until they were broken off, which often occurred on the first trip, especially when they carried a heavy load. On this occasion Mr. Allen returned to find the interior of his school house again at the bottom of the hill. He soon called the school to order, and arranged the boys in a row according to their sizes. He then divided the line somewhere near the middle, sent the division which contained the smaller boys away, saying he would not punish them, but he proposed "to whip the big boys," and right well did he do it. He gave each of them fifteen stokes, the writer escaping punishment on account of his youth. From that time on the boys and girls never disobeyed Mr. Allen. When he returned he always found the benches in their places.
Mr. Allen soon had a reputation as a school teacher, and what was more he had the love and esteem of all his pupils. The writer lived on what was then known as the widow Harshey farm, situated about three quarters of a mile south of William Young's place, just at the edge of the timber. The distance to school was nearly three miles. We thought nothing in those days of going three, four of even five miles to school, walking there and back. For several years Mr. Allen taught this school, -- settlement then began to spring up on the prairie south of Mt. Morris and a good frame schoolhouse was built near Mr. Brooks' residence, where the Buffalo and Oregon road crossed the Grand Detour and Mt. Morris road; it was a mile east of the Boveys. Mr. Allen opened this school about 1850 and the writer attended, it being a little nearer than the old Wagner school house.
So successful was Mr. Allen with his school that he was in demand wherever they had a school house. Men came from every direction to engage him. The next school Mr. Allen taught was the Pine Creek school near the residence of Johnny Coffman. Reuben Wagner afterward taught this school. The writer attended this school through Mr. Allen's administration, and also Mr. Wagner's term of four months. Samuel Allen, son of Mr. Allen was first noticed by the writer as an attendant, we have no recollections of Sammy before this. He was a bright noble boy, and was the pride of his father. Mr. Allen frequently had spelling schools on Friday afternoons and Sammy distinguished himself on these occasions. He and Charley Baker were the best spellers in school. We attended school with Sammy for many years afterward, in the public school of Mt. Morris and in the Seminary, and side by side with him we drank from the cup of living light, and explored the paths of learning years afterwards. Poor Sam was foully murdered in one of the Territories; peace be to his ashes. Father and son are now joined in heaven only waiting to welcome those they knew so well on earth. We loved Sammy with the ardent affection of a brother.
Mr. Allen at the close of his Pine Creek school began teaching school at Mt. Morris; this was in the year 1852. He taught until 1856, and during all this time or most of it, we attended that school. We remember in this school, Miss Barnes, Mamie and Sammie Allen, Miss Eliza Sharer afterwards Mrs. Rine, the Clarks, the Stones, the Coffmans, the Strohs, the Glosses, the Potters, the Newcomers, Wm Isenhart, and many others. Mr. Allen had several assistants and some three hundred scholars. The school house was the best in the county except the Seminary. It was a one story frame with several large rooms containing double seats similar to those now in use. Two students occupied a seat, and where quite frequently caught playing puzzle; we remember two now prominent persons whom Mr. Allen detected at that game. They were saying "from this one to that one" when Mr. Allen heard them; the ever present rod came down on their backs with the exclamation from the teacher, "from this one to that one, and from that one to this one" giving each of them alternate strokes. This shows how quickly Mr. Allen punished violations of rules and settled all matters of this kind in their incipiency, though he punished very seldom.
Soon after, Mr. Allen was elected County Surveyor, and did not teach for several years. He afterward taught in Adeline and one or two other places. In 1857 he was elected superintendent of the M. E. Sunday school which position he held to the satisfaction of all, for many years. The writer was his chorouster from 1857 to 1861; the organist was Mrs. Falensbee, now of Quincy, Ill., assisted by Miss Lizzie Harlow, Now Mrs. Dr. Williamson. During that time we were a student at Rock River Seminary. Mr. Allen displayed the same energy in the work of the Master as he did in the training of the intellectual faculties.
Aaron Q. Allen was truly a great man. Greater than the people gave him credit for. He knew how to gain and keep the love of his pupils. No man ever worked more faithfully; he was not selfish, but self sacrificing; he had a deep love for the calling and he put his whole heart into the work. We never heard one harmful word said of him by his pupils; they all loved him. The writer can safely say that not one outside of his relatives feels the loss more keenly and sympathize more deeply over his demise. A kinder husband, a more affectionate father, a man with deeper emotion and greater charity, the world seldom produces.
This great and good man has fallen -- yet his works live in the hearts of his pupils. He is our inspiration, our ideal of the true teacher; and he carries with him to his grave our fondest affection, and tenderest love. The many acts of kindness, encouragement, and hospitality shown us by Mr. and Mrs. Allen, shall never, never be forgotten. May God in His own good time and way unite the family in an unbroken circle in the paradise above; and may his pupils so live that when they cross the river and join hands with their beloved teacher, he will not be ashamed of their work.
John T. Long
Contributed by Peg Allen Arnold
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