Winona County, Minnesota
THE DISTRICT SCHOOLS
From the book
"History of Wabasha County"
Published in 1884
Concerning Wabasha and Winona Counties in Minnesota
Winona County was formed by the territorial legislature of 1854, from a part of Fillmore county, which had previously comprised the southeastern portion of the state. The first permanent settlements were made along the Mississippi river in the spring of 1852. There was no school taught in what is now Winona county during that summer. A subscription school was opened for a tern of three months in the autumn by Miss Ann Orton, with an attendance of about twenty pupils, at Minnesota City. July 9, 1853, a school district was formed by the county commissioners at Minnesota City, and organized under the territorial law, and Miss Hester A. Houck was employed to teach. The term began October 11 and continued thirteen weeks. The names and ages of the children that attended this term of school are given from the rate bill, by which the wages of the teacher were collected. The sum agreed upon was $48. There were twenty-seven pupils, eighteen of whom are now living (1883). The list is as follows (starred names are deceased):
- Mathew Foster,* age 11 years
- George Foster,* 6
- Milo Campbell, 7
- Thomas Thorpe, 8
- Robert Thorpe, 6
- John Thorpe, 13
- William Thorpe, 3
- Mary E. Cotton, 5
- Randolph Wright,* 12
- Dan'l W. Wright, 9
- John H. Wright (no age given)
- Edith Pike,* 11
- Emma Pike, 8
- Charlotte Denman,* 9
- Mary E. Denman, 5
- James L. Denman, 7
- Robert S. Denman,* 3
- Chas. Kellogg, 15
- Rollin Hotchkiss, 13
- Robert Hotchkiss, 13
- Lyenrgus Luark, 11
- Achilles Luark,* 5
- Elbridge G. Lord,* 4
- David Imes, 13
- Samuel Imes, 7
- Herman Hopson, 6
- Gerlana McClintock, 12
May 1, 1854, a petition was presented and district No. 2 was formed, comprising the town of Winona, and on June 5 following No. 3 was formed, comprising the north part of township 105 and the whole of 106, range 10. At a meeting of the county commissioners held July 3, 1854, the whole amount of tax authorized to be raised for school purpose for the current year was $152.05. In October district No. 4 was formed at Dakota precinct. Schools were opened in Nos. 2, 3 and 4 before the districts were formally organized, and the wages of the teachers were paid by rate bill or by subscription. No. 1 was for this year the only one that reported a three month' term to the state department. At the January meeting of the county commissioners, 1855, the boundaries of No. 1 were designated. Voting precincts had at first been established by the governor, and were afterward so established by the county commissioners, and the first school districts embraced the election precincts which were not clearly defined. At this meeting No. 2 was divided. July 3 the amount of school-tax voted was $632.34. At one of the meetings in this year a district was organized at Springers,' or St. Charles, and one in Lances' Valley, New Hartford township, one at Geo. Wiltzies' in Saratoga, and one in Whitewater at John Cook's. The school districts of the county now numbered eight. At the January meeting of 1856 they were increased to fifteen; at the April meeting to twenty-three; at the July meeting to thirty-five.
At the January meeting of 1856 the first record was made of the distribution of the school money. The amount collected was $1,336.47, which was apportioned among thirteen districts.
At the meetings of 1857 the number of districts increased to forty-eight. January 9, 1858, the county treasurer reported as apportioned among thirty-five districts $3,533.50. The largest sum to one district was $662, the smallest was $22.
The apparently unequal distribution of this fund gave rise to much dissatisfaction. The distribution was based upon the number of residents of each district between the ages of five and twenty-one. In many cases district boundaries were not definitely recorded, and it was claimed that the residents were more than once reported. It was also claimed that some districts, instead of revising the lists from year to year, simply added new names each year to the reported list, and consequently drew more money than they were legally entitled to. At the last meeting of the school board for the year 1858 the districts numbered sixty-two, an increase of fourteen for the year.
The amount of money apportioned among forty-seven districts for the year 1859 was $662. There were some complaints in regard to this distribution, as the organized districts numbered sixty-five, and while one district drew $90.75 another only received $3.85; but as the county business was now transacted by the chairman of the township supervisors, and each town in the county was represented, there was no cause of complaint, except as to unfair reports of residents of districts.
The first record of the number of persons upon which the apportionment was based was made at the January meeting of this year (1859), the number recorded being 2,393. This was the number reported by the forty-seven districts, upon which the apportionment was made, although there were eighteen more organized at the time. During the year ten more were added to that number, making in all seventy-five, showing a remarkable growth for the two years.
The school tax, as reported by the finance committee of the county board for the year 1859, was $5,346.37.
In 1860 the legislature changed the law in regard to county boards, and the commissioner system was again adopted, and the county treasurer, in his report to the board, February 1, 1860, reported as school money on hand $2,967.72, and in March following an apportionment of $4,480.96 was made among the districts, which reported 2,724 persons of schoolable age.
March 7, 1861, the school law was materially changed by the legislature in regard to forming school districts, etc. There was a revision of the whole code, which was framed from that of the State of Michigan. In unorganized townships the county commissioners were authorized to form districts, but where townships were organized the supervisors had authority to change boundaries, to form new districts, to levy taxes, to appoint a town superintendent and to direct the collection of taxes through the town treasurers.
The legislature having neglected to provide for blank books, reports, records, etc., there was no uniformity of reports or records. In some towns the teachers were license and the school business transacted without regard to any particular form or system, and if any records were made they have not been preserved.
Although the law required that existing boundaries of districts should remain if practicable, the loose records and changes, and want of system, involved the district boundaries in great confusion. Township lines interfered with district authority, and under this law districts were divided and new ones created without regard to designation by numbers as recorded in the county auditor's office. Owing to this condition of things it was found difficult to properly and legally levy school district taxes and to collect delinquencies. The delinquent taxes were reported by the town treasurer to the county auditor to collect with the county taxes, which placed a part of the fund in the hands of the county treasurer.
When districts were without funds to payt their teachers, orders were issued upon the district treasury, whether the particular district was entitled to any money from the county treasury or not. If the county treasurer had no fund collected for that district the orders were usually sold to outside parties at a discount. The collection of these orders gave teachers a good deal of trouble. It was said that the county treasurer always stood behind outside parties in buying them at a discount, and that the district accounts were not properly adjusted. This system was not satisfactory to the people. Some of the local boards would not levy a sufficient tax to maintain good schools, and, owing to delinquencies, funds could not at all times be made available.
There are very few names on record of town superintendents. Among them are found Charles Heublin, A. T. Castle, William Murray and Milton Buswell.
From the years 1861 to 1866 there was no material change in the school work. The attention of the people was directed almost wholly to the war, and little or no attention was in some places paid to school matters. January 4, 1866, the county board appointed to the county superintendency Albert Thomas, salary fixed at $1,200 per year. Mr. Thomas had taught the village school at Stockton for several terms. He was the principal of the first high school in Winona City, and was known as a teacher of marked ability. A previous business engagement prevented him from accepting the appointment. May 22, 1866, the county was divided into five commissioner districts, and a school examiner appointed for each district, in lieu of township supervision. Geo. P. Wilson was appointed for No. 1, V. J. Walker No. 2, M. R. Lair No. 3, Thomas P. Dixon No. 4, and Henry Gage No. 5. Under the operation of this plan the experience was found to be dearly bought. Certificates of qualification to teach were obtained by asking for them. "There was no definite standard of examination and no uniformity among examiners. They were not required to visit the schools, or to exert any official influence for their welfare, and they felt no responsibility for the work of the persons licensed." There being no unity nor system, no reliable statistics could be gathered from the districts and no groundwork laid for improvement. The county board now consisted of J. J. Randall (chairman), P. P. Hubbell, Collins Rice, H. C. Jones and S. W. Gleason. After much discussion, and owing mainly to the influence of Mr. Randall, it was resolved to change the plan of school work, and at a meeting of the board, September 7, 1867, a resolution was adopted to organize the school work of the county under a provision of the school law of 1864, providing for a county superintendency, in lieu of the general law as specified in section 28 of the same act. In this resolution was also embodied the appointment of Luther A. West as school superintendent, to hold his office until January, 1868, at an annual salary of $1,000. January 1, 1866, Mr. West was reappointed to served until January, 1869. Mr. West entered upon the duties of his office in 1867. He was a good scholar, a teacher of large experience, and was well qualified to perform the duties of the office. A great deal of the work required was of the missionary order, as the teachers and the people did not clearly understand the duties of the superintendent. Mr. West met with considerable opposition at first.
Some persons supposed that the whole school authority was transferred from the district officers to the superintendent. Some were opposed on account of the large salary, and some regarded the office as entirely useless. Mr. West made his first special effort in the direction of improving the scholarship and methods of the teachers, in which he was very successful, and as the people became acquainted with his plan of work his efforts were appreciated and cordially seconded.
The first teachers' institute held in Winona county was organized by Mr. West, assisted by Prof. Wm. F. Phelps and his corps of instructors of the normal school. It was held at St. Charles, in October, 1867, with twenty-three teachers in attendance, and was considered very profitable to those in attendance.
From the annual report for the year 1858 it is shown that ten good, attractive and convenient schoolhouses have been built this year, at a cost of $11,000; also a building at St. Charles for the graded school, at a cost of $15,000. During this year Mr. West made a strong effort to secure greater regularity of attendance on the part of the pupils, and to awaken a deeper interest in the schools on the part of parents. That he succeeded in doing a good work in this direction will be seen from the statistical reports to the state superintendent. The average daily attendance for the year 1867, winter and summer terms being 2,000, increased in 1868 to 4,393, though the enrollment of pupils in the last year, according to school population, had decreased from 52 per cent in 1867 to 48 per cent in 1868. Excellent schoolhouses were built at Pickwick, Saratoga and Witoka. A teachers' association was formed and meetings were held at four different places in the county. These meetings produced good results. The people became interested and took part in the discussions, and extended to teachers in attendance the hospitalities of their homes.
In October a state teachers' institute was held at St. Charles, with seventy-five in attendance. The exercises were conducted by an able corps of instructors, and diffused among the teachers a great deal of enthusiasm.
October 26, 1869, a county teachers' institute was held at the normal school in Winona, in charge of Prof. Wm. F. Phelps. The attendance numbered 118. The lessons were presented by the teachers of the normal school and of the public schools of Winona. Gymnastic exercises were introduced by Prof. McGibney. Prof. Carson gave instruction in penmanship. On Tuesday evening Dr. Guthrie, of St. Charles, gave a lecture on geology. Prof. Hood, of the city schools, participated in the discussions. On Thursday evening the Hon. Mark H. Dunnell, state superintendent of public instruction, addressed a large audience upon "Education." The success of this institute was due mainly to the ability, activity and earnest supervision of Prof. Phelps.
In the report of Mr. West for the year ending September 30, 1869, he regrets that he is not able to make the financial part accurate, owing to the errors of district clerks. He reports having granted certificates to eighty-four teachers ~ twenty-three to males and sixty-one to females; fourteen of first grade, forty-five of second, and twenty-five of third, and in a comparison of the year's work with that of 1867 shows that great progress has been made, not only in the character of the certificates, but in the increased interest in school matters by the parents, as shown by the increase of teachers' wages, and in the discipline, order and conduct of the schools. This improvement he attributes to the institute work and to the influence of professional training of some of the teachers in the normal school. There were eleven new schoolhouses built, at an aggregate cost of $9,227.
At the legislative session of 1869 the law was changed as to the term of county superintendents, and the county board appointed Mr. West again to serve until April, 1870. At the meeting of the county board in March the Rev. David Burt was appointed, and entered upon the duties of his office April 5, 1879. Mr. Burt had taught in the common schools of Massachusetts for ten years, when he entered upon an academic course to prepare for college. He graduated at Oberlin, Ohio, in 1848, and then spent three years in the theological seminary at Andover, Massachusetts. He removed to Winona in 1858, and took an active part in all educational work; he acted as member of the school board of Winona city, and served as superintendent of its public schools. In 1866 he assumed the duties of general superintendent of the colored schools of Tennessee, where he served for two years. Impaired health compelled him to return to Winona.
His appointment to the county superintendency was considered, and afterward proved to be, a fortunate and wise measure for the public schools. In addition to his great natural ability, he was fortified in the work by a useful and varied experience and untiring energy and faithfulness. He continued to hold the office until appointed by Gov. Davis to the state superintendency in 1875.
Mr. Burt's first public examination for teachers was held at Stockton, April 22, 1870, and before the close of the month others were held at Winona, Fremont, Elba and Witoka. For this year there were issued 114 certificates; ninety-three schools were visited and lectured given on "Our Common Schools" at Utica, Whitewater, Elba, New Hartford, Saratoga, Hillsdale, Lewiston, Stockton, Pickwick, Minnesota City and Dresback; also in districts Nos. 9 and 74.
From his report to the state department of November 1, 1870, there were ninety-nine organized districts and eight unorganized. The schoolable population was 5,463; number enrolled, 4,059.
A teachers' institute in charge of Mr. Burt was held at St. Charles, October 3,4,5, and 6, 1871. The enrollment of actual teachers was sixty-five, and the institute was conducted on the plan of class recitations, and was pronounced by all in attendance a decided success. The instructors are named as L. T. Weld, J. R. Richards, E. Holbrook, Miss C. Harding, Miss F. Barber, C. Pickert, G. Olds, Miss E. Fisher, Geo. Wilson, Miss A. Bingham, Miss N. Taft and C. Boyd. There were three evening lectures: on Tuesday evening, on Reading, by Mr. Burt; on Wednesday, Motions of the Earth, by Mr. Richards; and on Thursday evening, Our Common Schools, by Hon. Wm. H. Yale.
At the fall examinations of 1874 sixty-one teachers were licensed. The schools, except ten, were visited during the winter following. In the spring of 1875 Mr. Burt, having accepted an appointment as state superintendent, was requested by the county commissioners to grant certificates to a sufficient number of teachers to enable the districts to go on with their schools for the summer terms, or until his successor could be appointed. The school law at this time required a county superintendent to hold a state certificate. Special examiners were appointed and held a meeting in Winona, at which there were only two or three candidates. The successful one was Mr. John M. Cool, of St. Charles, who was then appointed county superintendent by the board. Mr. Cool had received a common school education in Tomkins county, New York, where he had also taught two terms of school. He came to Minnesota in 1857, and taught in St. Charles seven terms of school. He was recognized as a very capable and efficient teacher. Mr. Cool issued two certificates of second grade, four of third and rejected two applicants. He visited a few schools in the beginning of summer, and was taken sick, from which he was unable to do any more schoolwork. At his death the vacancy was filled, at a special meeting of the county commissioners on the 28th of September, 1875, by the appointment of O. M. Lord, who entered immediately upon the duties of the office.
Owing to the resignation of Mr. Burt and to the sickness of Mr. Cool, the summer schools received very little supervision.
The county superintendents' report to the state department was required to be made October 10, the school year closing September 30. The new incumbent found in the office teachers' term reports for the winter term, but some teachers did not report the summer terms, and several district clerks failed to make financial reports. There was only ten days of time in which to report to the state department, and no personal knowledge could be obtained of the condition of the schools in that limited time; the consequence was, that the county superintendent's report for the year 1875 was very imperfect, but, from observations subsequently made, there was probably no material growth of change in the condition or character of the schools from that reported for the year 1874.
The superintendent held five examinations in the fall, and spent the winter in visiting the schools and in becoming acquainted with the teachers and school officers. Examinations were also held in the spring and the schools visited during the summer. In this year, 1876, under the state supervision of Mr. Burt, a very important change was made in county school work by issuing a more simple form of blanks to school officers and to teachers, and by furnishing a better form of clerks' and treasurers' books, and of school registers. A change was also made in the law in regard to reporting persons entitled to appointment of the state school fund. Only those reported by the teachers as enrolled in the public schools, of schoolable age, were now entitled to the school fund, instead of the resident population fo the same ages. Through these changes and by this system the school statistics may be considered as entirely reliable.
For the purpose of showing the extent of the growh of the schools of Winona, the following statistical tables, taken from the reports of the county superintendents of schools to the state department for the years 1867 and 1852 respectively, are given.
It may be mentioned here that the table of 1867, which was prepared by the then superintendent, Mr. Luther A. West, previously mentioned, is an especially valuable one, as it is the first on record of the schoolwork of the county combined as a whole. Attention is called to a comparison of the following items of both tables, whereby some idea can be formed regarding the growth of the schools of the county for a period of fifteen years.
SCHOOL STATISTICS OF WINONA FOR THE YEAR 1867
Number of school districts 99; frame schoolhouses 71, brick 1, log 14 ~86; value of all schoolhouses and sites $92,194; whole number of scholars, male 3,248, female 3,259; whole number of attendance in winter schools 1,721; length of winter schools in months 216; number of teachers in winter schools, male 42, female 41; average wages per month of each teacher in winter schools, male $29.24, female $19.24; whole number of pupils in summer schools, male 789, female 720; average daily attendance in summer 978; length of summer schools in months 229; number of teachers in summer schools, male 5, female 80; average wages per month of teachers in summer schools, male $18.66, female $16.92; whole number of different schools for the year 168; whole number of different persons in school for the year, male 1,833, female 1,661; per cent of aggregate attendance to the whole number of pupils in the county, 53; whole amount of wages paid teachers for the year $11,608; for building, purchasing, hiring, repairing or furnishing schoolhouses and purchasing lots $6,500.12; amount paid as teachers' wages $17,185.58; amount paid for other school purposes $1,551.79; cash on hand in district treasuries $718.45; number of new schoolhouses built during past year 11, value of same $62,800; amount received from state school fund $92,194; amount received by taxes voted by districts $30,550.84; per cent of school money raised by tax on taxable property in county .0101.
Number of school districts, common school 111, special 2 ~ 113; number of frame schoolhouses 91, brick 7, log 7, stone 2 ~ 107; value of schoolhouses and sites $58,210, of school libraries $59, of school apparatus $695; whole number of schools enrolled, summer 4,089, winter 5,351; average daily attendance in winter 3,677; average length of school in months 61; number of teachers in winter schools, male 47, female 107; average monthly wages of teachers for the year, male $35 18/59, female $28 30/37; average daily attendance in summer 3,082; number of teachers in summer school, male 18, female 114; paid for teachers' wages and board $21,465.09; paid for building, purchasing, hiring, repairing or furnishing schoolhouses, purchasing lots, etc., $10,545.53; cash on hand at end of the year $18,021.59; number of new schoolhouses built, frame 2, value of same $1,100; received from school fund, liquor licenses, fines and estrays $8,068.55, from one-mill tax collected $6,978.98, from special taxes collected $21,937.03, from bonds sold $850, from all other sources $914.56
From the report of the county superintendent for 1867 it appears that there were sixty-three certificates granted, eleven of them to males and fifty-two to females. Of these certificates, three were of the first grade, fifteen of the second and forty-five of the third.
The superintendent complains of the parsimony of boards in hiring teachers, and in supplying the schoolhouses with comfortable seats, desks and other fixtures. The average wages for the year was $19 per month.
From the report of Mr. Lord, the present superintendent, for 1882 we learn theat one hundred and forty-two certificates were granted in the previous school year; of these, thirty-four were received by males and one hundred and eight by females.
The class of certificates issued were three only of the first grade, while there were ninety-four of the second and forty-five of the third grades. This, together with the fact that thirty-four applicants were rejected, goes to show that the standard of teachers' examinations in Winona under Mr. Lord is a high one.
From the year 1880 until the present (1883) there have been no marked changes in the condition and character of the schools, except such slight ones as might be expected in the natural growth of educational work. With the yearly development of the country, its increase in wealth and material prosperity, the expenditures for school purposes have been more liberal, tending to better schoolhouses and fixtures, and to the employment of a higher grade of teachers. At the close of this year, thirty years will have passed since the organization of the first school district in this county. As the present superintendent of schools for this county was one of the trustees of that first organized district, and for the past eight years has been engaged in active schoolwork, it affords us pleasure to give the following brief recapitulation, furnished by him, of some of the important matters connected with the schools of then and now: "Thirty years ago our only schoolhouse was a small, roughly-covered log cabin, furnished with one small window and a door creaking upon wooden hinges and fastened with a wooden latch. This rude structure was, after a short time, superseded by a small but snug frame building, which, soon proving too small for the accommodation of the rapidly growing district, was enlarged by putting an addition to it. This enlarged frame schoolhouse in turn gave place to a substantial brick one, which Mr. Burt has described as having been built at Minnesota City. The teacher of that first
school received $48 for three months' work. The trustee made the rate-bill and collected the wages, and the text-books used by the scholars had been formerly used by fathers and mothers in nearly every state between the Atlantic seaboard and Minnesota.
there are in Winona county (outside of Winona and St. Charles City) one hundred and eight schoolhouses, valued at over $50,000, while the teachers' wages for a single year aggregate $214,650. Besides this increase in the county schools, the school buildings and educational expenses of one independent district in the county aggregates a much larger amount than that above noted. Then
(thirty years ago) there were about twenty children in that one school district of the county. Now
, including those in attendance at the normal and parochial schools, they number nearly 7,000."
End of Chapter