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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

A Brief Sketch Of Warren County's Early Educational System

Dallas Bogan on 28 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
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A brief sketch of Warren County's early school system will be our subject for this week. We shall at this time examine many of these schools and their progress. This writer inserted a profile of the first school in Lebanon into The Sunday Western Star on May 7, 1995. Francis Dunlevy established the school in 1798, who had immigrated to this county in 1797.

Dunlevy was a scholar in language and mathematics. He had opened a school as early as 1792 at the settlement called Columbia, this probably being the first classical school between the Miamis.

Many early settlers have purchased lands previous to their settlement because of the constant Indian uprisings. However, after the Indian Peace Treaty, William Beedle, along with others, built the only blockhouse in Warren County in the Fall of 1795 (Beedle's Station), thus forming the first settlement in the county.

About the same time William Mount, his family and four other families, established Mount's Station on the south side of the Little Miami, just off Stubbs Mill Road.

Settlements were soon being established all throughout the Miami Valley. In our county, Deerfield, Franklin, Waynesville and Lebanon were all being settled. Dayton's first permanent settlement commenced in April 1796, and Fort Hamilton in present Butler County was laid out in 1791. The anxious, the new landholder and the prospective businessman were overrunning all these early settlements.

Judge Ignatius Brown taught Deerfield's first school about 1800. Mathias Rose taught a school at the site of Ridgeville, possibly as early as 1801. Thomas Newport was teacher at a school about one mile north of Lebanon's old boundaries about 1805.

The first schoolhouses served as temporary dwellings and no special care was taken in their construction. The first settlers, without any taxation or subscription of monies, constructed these early schools of logs. On a chosen day the neighbors would assemble at a designated site and the labor would begin.

A large fireplace usually occupied one entire end of the building. A hewed slab, or puncheon, extending from the walls on three sides of the room, served as the writing and study desks for the whole school.

The seats were of slabs of wood and without backs. The pupils sat with their faces to the wall, the teacher occupying the central part of the room. A cutout in the wall structure was used for lighting. This section was framed so as to insert "greased paper" into the openings.

The first account of Franklins' schools was those taught in private homes. Clear Creek Township's first schools were taught in a hewn log structure that doubled for a church and a school.

Francis Glass, a quality scholar, taught a private school in Springboro in 1816. Richard Way and Noah Leeds later followed him. Top-notch private schools were provided here until the passage of the general State School Law.

Hamilton Township's history mentions that a log structure was used for a school in 1804, which was on the present site of the Bethel Graveyard. This was replaced by another log structure, and this building was replaced by a stone structure. In 1850, the stone house was torn down to make way for a more modern brick one.

Washington Township's first school was built in 1807, the first teacher being John Cochran. Possibly the next school was built in 1813 and taught by Charles Clark.

Deerfield Township was famous for its "Old Stone" building. Beers history states, "This was one of the most popular places of former days. Singing schools, literary societies, and Sunday meetings were held there, thus bringing together people from far and near to chant their melodies from 'Old Missouri Harmony'"

Franklin Township's early school system finds that many of the instructors were Irishmen. They were often men with a great deal of education, but were squanderers and reckless individuals who often lost their status and prestige at home, came to America, and preferring anything to manual labor, taught school.

The early scholars were in the care of the teacher at school, but during the time occupied to and from the school building, the students were presumed to have absorbed the information and manners learned at school.

All students were taught to bow to a stranger or be reprimanded by the teacher. Corporal punishment was used in all its various forms, as needed or otherwise.

In some county schools, the only text books used were Webster's Spelling Book, the New Testament, the English Reader, and Pikes, or Deibold's Arithmetic, and grammar was not generally taught.

An indenturing program regarding an apprentice usually required the master to provide for the student an education only so far as to teach him to read, write, and decipher arithmetic only as far as the "rule of three." Pounds, shillings and pence were given as exclusive examples of arithmetic.

The teacher to know how to spell all the words in the spelling book than those that were in ordinary use in writing stressed more importance. High honor was given the student who excelled in spelling, and who could "spell down" the rest of the pupils.

How were the first schools financed? After the initial building procedure, most were by subscription. An advertisement in The Western Star of March 7, 1817, tells of a meeting at Westfield, now Red Lion, and its plea for finances. It reads:

"NOTICE - the inhabitants of Westfield, together with the adjacent neighborhoods, will please to observe that as soon as practicable the subscriber intends opening a school at the brick schoolhouse at the customary price of two dollars per quarter, one half in produce at market price. Those who wish to encourage literature may spend a short or longer time, directionally with themselves, of which there will be an accurate account kept, and strict attention paid by the Public's Most Obedient Humble Servant - Anthony Geoghegan."

The first law in Ohio authorizing taxation for school purposes, and providing for the management of schools by elected officers, was passed in 1825.

By 1837, it seems there were no free schools in the State outside of Cincinnati. These less fortunate schools barely afforded more than three or four months of instruction in the three "R's."

Mention of public schools was first indicated in the county about 1830, but no facilities were built until several years later.

The first public schools in Lebanon began about 1837, their classes being held in the basements of two of the churches. The classes soon outgrew these locations, and on September 8, 1847, it was resolved by the taxpayers of District No. 8, Turtle Creek Township, to levy a tax of $7,000 for the purpose of erecting a building large enough to accommodate the pupils.

Beers history states that in the year 1840 average monthly wages for male teachers in Warren County were about $20, and for female, about $14. Top salaries in the 19th Century peaked about 1870, with average monthly salaries for males being $45 and their counterpart, about $34. In 1880 males received $39 per month, while the ladies received $32.

In this year there were in the county 103 schoolhouses that contained 149 classrooms; total value, $114,000.

Franklin was the location of a private Girl's Academy soon after 1850, its success not being detailed. A Presbyterian minister, J.M. Hare, was one of its founders.

The Lebanon Board of Education, on September 27, 1851, employed Josiah Hurty as its first superintendent of public schools, with a salary of $650 per year. Mr. Hurty taught the senior classes of the school as no high school had yet been organized.

On June 21, 1853, a high school was established by the vote of the board, while Mr. Hurty was still in charge of the schools.

On April 4, 1863, the "school law of 1849" was adopted by the board of education. One improvement was that six members of the board of education were elected instead of three.

The first Teacher's Institute in Warren County was held in the Academy at Maineville in the summer of 1852, and extended for five days. County teachers were used as instructors during the assembly, with special entertainment and selected readings being given. Adoptions of resolutions requested the court to fill the vacancies then existing on the County Board of Examiners. Also discussed was a resolution desiring the establishment of lyceums and libraries in every town and neighborhood.

As was mentioned earlier, the Bible was a teaching instrument in early county schools. Passage of a resolution, in 1869, by the Cincinnati Board of Education, forbade the reading of the Bible and other religious books in its public schools. Because of this resolution teachers of Warren County, until the close of the 19th Century, voluntarily refrained from religious readings or teachings.

Hampton Bennett became superintendent in Franklin in 1866. He organized the first high school departments, although most people fought it at first. Soon, the changes proved positive and the opposition subsided.

An African American school is mentioned as early as 1854 in Lebanon that existed for many years.

The first union schoolhouse built in Wayne Township was in 1857, with George P. Brown as its first superintendent.

A Township Superintendent is first mentioned in Deerfield Township in 1878. His function was to make the different township schools more comparable.

Washington Township had, in 1881, nine school districts; taxes levied for school purposes were $4,040.

State supported common schools were generally accepted by the middle of the 19th Century, but provision for this system was not fully provided for until the adoption of the State Constitution in 1850-51. This system lasted for over half a century, and included many improvements in organization, a great change in industrialization, and a growth of urban communities.

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This page created 28 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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