The Reverend Dr. David Craft
The first schools taught in the county were those established by the missionaries of the Moravian church, among the Indians, at Wyalusing and Sheshequin. These were intended chiefly for religious instruction, so that while there was time given to primary instruction, and the dusky children of the forest were taught to read in both Delaware and German, yet the Bible, the Hymn-book, and the Catechism were the text-books mostly used, and contained all the science it was thought needful to teach the children connected with the mission towns. With the abandonment of the mission, of course the schools were disbanded, and both teachers and pupils took up their wearisome journey towards the setting sun.
Previous to the battle of Wyoming, 1778, there were about forty settlers in old Springfield, many of whom were near or upon the site of the Indian town, and there is a tradition of a school taught there in 1777; but at this late date I have been unable to find evidence sufficient to establish the fact, although the tradition is probably correct.
Soon after the re-settlements began, in 1783 and ’84, the question of schools began to be discussed. The people had been impoverished by the war, were in a new country, far removed from the appliances of civilization, and the demands of absolute want taxed every energy of the pioneer; nevertheless, true to their New England principles, their first thought, after providing shelter, food, and clothing for their families, was to establish schools for the training of their children.
"A certain Master Root taught a school in the year 1788 or 1789, at Athens, the school-house standing on a lot almost directly west of the present school building." Among the other teachers in Athens, Mr. Keeney mentions Benedict Satterlee, who taught in a house near where the old school-house now stands, in 1808, and that a new school-house was built about 1811, which was probably occupied until the academy was opened. This house was on the east side of Main street, and nearly opposite the bridge across the Tioga river.
In 1789 or ’90, Uriah Terry taught a school in the house of Major Gaylord; but before this there had been a school at Wyalusing, but by whom taught I am unable to learn, but most likely by Thomas Wigton, who was an old school-teacher. As early as 1793, a school-house was built on the site now occupied by the Presbyterian church in Wyalusing, as in that year a church was organized in it. The old school-house burned down, and another was built just at the present entrance into the burying-ground, where for a number of years was the chosen site of the school-house.
In some memoranda relating to the first settlement of Merryall, found among the papers of the late Justus Lewis, he says, "Previous to this time (1790), the few that had settled here had erected a small log school-house on land now occupied by Jabez Elliott, and started a school, taught by David Lake, in the winter of 1791-92. The next summer Theodosia, sister of Reuben Wells, taught the school, and from that time a regular school,—and sometimes a first-rate one,—without any very long intermission, has been kept up, attended by scholars from the forks of the creek, from Asylum, Browntown, the mouth of the creek, and other places."
Schools were established at Wysox as early as at either Athens or Wyalusing. The first one of which I can obtain certain knowledge was opened in the house of one of the settlers, previous to 1790. In the fall of 1802, Eliphalet Mason, Esq., taught a school in Wysox, which continued for about a year. The school-house was near the one now standing, towards Strickland’s, on the flats. As early as 1795 there was a school in Ulster, and one in Sheshequin, while mention has already been made of the school of Mr. Brevost, at Asylum.
"The first school taught in Canton township was in the winter of 1801-2, Loren Kingsbury, teacher. A Miss Segur taught in Canton about the year 1805, in a school-house built by Capt. Samuel Griffin.
"In 1807, Miss Delight Spalding taught the first school in Granville township. The school consisted of about fifteen scholars, representing ten families.
"In 1807, a log school-house was built in Smithfield township, which answered for school purposes for the whole settlement, the teacher receiving his salary in work, by those who patronized him.
"About the year 1820, Gen. Samuel McKean built a school-house in Burlington, probably the first in the township."
In an address delivered by Dr. E.P. Coburn, before the Bradford County Teachers’ Association, he says, "I find that a Miss Clarissa Woodruff taught school in Orwell, in 1804, and Laura Frisbie a year or two afterward, and as early as 1807-8, Roswell Lee taught a school in Warren." As the people began to improve their dwellings, the abandoned dwelling-house served for the first school-house. When a building was erected for the purpose of school, it was not much better. The people of the neighborhood assembled, put up a house of huge logs, laid up "cob-house fashion," so high that it would be about six feet between the floors. The floor was laid down loose, so that the scholars might take up a board to obtain whatever might have fallen through the crevices. The interstices between the logs were chinked with pieces of wood fitted for that purpose, and then an abundance of mud was spread over to make them right. The fire-place was from four to six feet long, and about the same height, the jambs of which were formed by large flat stones set up on one edge. The desks were made by boring in the logs and putting in pins for the shelf to lie on. The seats were slabs, with pegs put in for legs. The only furniture besides consisted of a cross-legged table, and, perhaps, a borrowed chair. The wood was hauled in drags, and cut by the teacher and older boys. The desks extended along two sides of the room, with benches in front, and the pupils sat with their faces to the wall. One end of the room contained the door, and the opposite one was occupied with the fire-place, which were occupied by the smaller pupils; here frequently they were compelled to sit from morning till night, on benches without backs, and often so high their feet could not touch the floor.
All the appliances of the school were in harmony with the rude character of the building. Professional teaching was unknown. The best educated of the sons and daughters of the farmers and mechanics were selected for this work, who enlisted in teaching only as a temporary employment, always leaving the school when a more lucrative business offered. The intellectual qualifications were not of a very high order. Reading, spelling, writing, and arithmetic as Reduction, or at the most through the "Double Rule of Three," were ample; geography and English grammar were unknown. Books were few and of the most indifferent character,—often three or four pupils using the same book. The only apparatus was obtained in the beech and hickory groves near by, and ability to use the rod with frequency and effort was an essential qualification for the school-master. Schools were kept open from six to eight months in the year; for the compensation for male teachers was about twelve dollars per month, for females from seventy-five cents to a dollar per week, in each case including board among the families of the neighborhood. In the earliest schools, the teacher was paid by a voluntary subscription from the people, which consisted sometimes of grain, or flax, or wood, or work, or whatever could be given in remuneration for the services rendered. Subsequently a rate-bill, based upon the of days each pupil had been in the school, was made out by the teacher, handed to the committee elected at the meeting of the inhabitants of the district, who collected the money and paid the teacher.
It will be remembered that the Susquehanna company provided that one fifty-third part of each township should be especially devoted to the support of a school; there were also two other fifty-third parts which were designated as public land. Owing to the imperfect manner in which the townships of Claverack and old Ulster were organized, the inhabitants in those townships received no benefit from this provision; but in Springfield, at a meeting of the proprietors, Justus Gaylord, Jr., Guy Wells, and Benjamin Stalford were appointed a committee to apply for the public land and secure the title in trust for the proprietors. The committee were subsequently authorized to sell the lots, which they did, receiving therefore $1316.19; and, at a meeting held May 13, 1811, at which John Horton was chosen moderator and Jeremiah Lewis clerk, it was voted that the town of Springfield be divided into five school districts in the manner following, viz.; "One at the old town, including Benjamin Ackley, John Taylor, and Humphrey Brown; one from Ackley’s northward to the town line, including Merryall; two on the west side of the river, and one at the Wigton settlement."
"Voted, That all children included in each of the said districts be entitled to privileges equal with proprietors’ children."
A committee, consisting of Benjamin Ackley, Reuben Wells, and Jonathan Terry, was appointed to settle with the old committee and distribute the funds in proportion to the number of children in each of the five districts.
Under date of May 20, 1811, "According to a vote passed on the 13th day of May inst., for settlement and division of the public money," the committee proceed to distribute it as follows: "Paid into the hands of Jonathan terry the sum of five hundred and ninety-five dollars and ninety-six cents, in trust for Joseph Ingham’s district, Terrytown district, and Fairbanks (Wigton’s) district.
"Paid to Wyalusing district the sum of five hundred and forty-six dollars and twenty-six cents, in the hands of Benjamin Ackley, in trust for the Wyalusing district.
"Paid to Merryall district the sum of one hundred and seventy-three dollars and eighty-one cents, paid in trust to Guy Wells for said district."
Excepting this, so far as I have learned, no appropriations were made out of any public funds for the support of common schools; expecting that the assessor of each township was required to return the names and ages of all indigent children whose parents were too poor to pay their tuition, when a warrant could be drawn on the county treasurer to pay their school bills.
As giving a picture of the schools of these times, the following vivid description, published in the Athens Gleaner of June 23, 1870, may not be out of place. The writer says:
"I graduated some time in the winter of 1804-5, in a log school-house in Wysox. The institution was presided over by an ancient Irish gentleman, who daily carried a bottle of whisky in his pocket. One day he was sitting partially asleep, when some of the larger boys stole the bottle from his pocket, drank the whisky, and returned the empty bottle to its place. The old chap did not discover his loss until he went out of the door to drink, as was his custom. That afternoon most of us graduated, receiving our diplomas on our backs. The above is literally true, and such were many of our schools in those days. The settlers being poor, and having enough to do in providing for the physical wants of their families, had not much time to devote to those of an intellectual nature."
With the general progress of the country the schools improved somewhat upon those just described, but as a rule, teachers were poorly qualified, school-houses were unfurnished even with a blackboard, irregularity in the attendance of the pupils, irresponsibility in those who had charge of schools, insufficiency in the number and variety in the kinds of text-books prevailed until the law of 1834 went into operation. This law met with much opposition, especially from those who were in possession of considerable property, had educated their own children, and now thought it a great hardship to be taxed "to educate other people’s children." The beneficial effects of the law were soon apparent, and all opposition to it ceased. It was, however, as late as 1857 before it was everywhere accepted in the county.
The establishment of the office of county superintendent was, at first, bitterly opposed in the county, the office being considered unnecessary, and the salary paid as so much money thrown away. Emanuel Guyer was elected to the office in May, 1854, and the salary was fixed at $500 per annum,—a sum shamefully inadequate when the amount of work to be done is taken into consideration. Through misunderstanding of what was required of that officer, or, as in this case, through sheer and spiteful opposition to the law, many other country superintendents found themselves in the same dilemma. To afford an opportunity of relief, and trusting to the just and liberal spirit of the people, a law was enacted empowering the superintendent to call a special meeting of the directors for the purpose of fixing the salary. Mr. Guyer availed himself of the privilege, called the convention, and, notwithstanding a most determined opposition of a part of the directors, his salary was raised to $1500 a year. This gave rise to what has since been known as the "Guyer war." The newspapers were filled from week to week with angry communications on the subject, the object of which was to make both the office and the officer odious to the people, and for a time Mr. Guyer was the best-abused man in the county. The official work performed by him, though greatly injured by the unjust aspersions cast upon him, was, nevertheless, beneficial to the interests of the county. It seemed that a certain amount of opposition was bound to be developed at the outset, but it spent its fury upon the first incumbent, who must needs be sacrificed to appease the storm which the act had provoked.
Charles R. Coburn, a native of Warren township, in this county, and professor of mathematics in the Susquehanna Collegiate Institute, a man of rare executive ability, and of great experience as a practical and successful teacher, was elected superintendent in 1857. He brought to the discharge of the duties of his office rare tact, and devoted to them all the time, ability, and energy he was master of. He was bound to conquer opposition and elevate the cause of common-school education in the county. The establishment of the County Teachers’ Association about this time, and of the teachers’ institutes soon after, at which questions relating to the law, its principles, its policy, and what was needful to its success, were freely but temperately discussed, were powerful coadjutors in disarming prejudice and subduing opposition. "He took up the work began by his predecessor, and carried it forward with signal acceptability to the people. A terror to the poorly-qualified teacher, lashing with fearful-sarcasm those who were to indifferent to properly qualify themselves for their work, he endeared himself to all true teachers with whom he came in contact, elevated the cause of education in the county, and reared for himself an enduring monument in the affections of his contemporaries." Mr. Coburn held the office for two terms, when he declined a re-election, and soon after received the appointment of State superintendent of common schools, which office he filled with fidelity and honor. Soon after his appointment for a second term to this latter office he was obliged to resign on account of failing health, and after a few months of decline ended a life of rare usefulness, an example of well-earned success in his chosen undertaking.
Mr. Otis J. Chubbuck, of Orwell, who was also a practical teacher, an earnest defender of the school law, and in full sympathy with the work of his predecessors, was elected to the superintendency in 1863. His work was comparatively easy. The school law had become popular, the people had learned to appreciate the services of the superintendent, the policy of school management had become established. There was less of experiment and discussion, and more of routine. Mr. Chubbuck exhibited great patience, conscientiousness, and earnestness in his official duties, and was generally popular with the teachers and friends of education in the county. He held the office two terms.
In May, 1869, Austin A. Keeney, of Tuscarora, was elected to succeed Mr. Chubbuck. Although much younger than either of his predecessors, he had the advantage of several years’ experience in the school-room, and had the reputation of being one of the foremost teachers in the county, so that at the close of Mr. Chubbuck’s term he was elected with but little opposition, and was twice re-elected, each time on the first ballot, and with a large majority above all competition. He labored incessantly to elevate the standard of popular education, and inspire his teachers with a just and laudable professional pride. By introducing prominent educators from abroad into his institutes, by making the grade of examination continually higher, and by constant encouragement, he endeavored to bring the teachers under his direction to desire still higher qualifications for their work, and give more earnest labor to their calling. Soon after his last election his health began to fail, but, notwithstanding his increasing weakness, he continued to fulfill the duties of the office until the 22d of January, 1878, when his earthly career was closed, and J. Andrew Wilt, Esq., was appointed his successor.
It may help to form some idea of the progress of common schools of the county during the last quarter of a century to compare some of the statistics furnished the school department during this period. In 1854, according to Mr. Guyer’s report, the number of schools was 342; the number of teachers, 468; the number of pupils, 13,628; and the total expenditures, $18,321. In 1855 the number of schools was 328; the number of teachers, 433; the number of pupils, 14,651; total expenditures, $17,582. In 1857, number of schools, 334; number of teachers, 430; number of pupils, 13,473; total expenditures, $27,626. In 1866 the number of schools was 363; number of teachers, 514; of pupils, 14,171; total expenditures, $61,642. In 1877 the number of schools was 400; of teachers, 684; of pupils, 15,328; and the expenditures $82,061.
Under the old system the common school, as we have seen, was a vastly different institution from the one to-day. It would be instructive to note all the steps of progress form the first rude attempts at popular instruction to the high place which the public schools—"the people’s colleges"—have now attained, but the data cannot be obtained. The more intelligent and enterprising sought to supplement the common school by establishing academics and high schools in the villages and older, thickly-settled portions of the county. The first attempt to found an academy in this county was at Athens.
At a meeting of the inhabitants of this place, held Feb. 11, 1797, the matter of higher education having been discussed, a series of resolutions were passed in which it is declared to be the earnest wish of many of the inhabitants of this town that a public building should be erected, to be occupied for the accommodation of an academy or seminary of learning for the instruction of youth, also to be occasionally occupied as a place of public worship and other public purposes; the building to be erected on one of the public lots of Athens; the capital stock to consist of at least twenty shares, at thirty dollars each, in which each share should have one vote, and the business of the association to be managed by three trustees. The building which it was contemplated to erect was to be forty feet in length, twenty-four feet in width, and two stories in height; the upper story to be finished in one room, or hall, with arched ceiling. There was to be an "elegant balcony," and the windows were to have venetian blinds.
The subscribers to the fund held their first meeting at the house of Capt. Elisha Matthewson, March 2, 1797. Noah Murray was elected chairman of the meeting, Clement Paine secretary, and Maj. Elisha Satterlee, John Spalding, and John Shepard, trustees of the society. Among the numerous resolutions passed at this meeting was one that the name of the association should be Athens Academical Society; that the legislature should be applied to for an act of incorporation, and for the grant of a lottery to raise an endowment fund, and the Susquehanna company asked for a grant of land.
The institution, however, was of slow growth, for although at a meeting held May 12, 1798, it was voted that the trustees be requested immediately to take measures to procure the frame for an academy, to be completely inclosed, it was voted, May 21, 1808, that the trustees be and are hereby directed to advertise the academy for sale. The sale, however, was not effected, and subsequently the resolution was revoked, and the trustees required to have the building repaired and painted, and "not to allow any person to put hay or flax or any other thing whatever in said building, as it has heretofore received essential injury from such means."
June 21, 1811, the proprietors sold to the Masonic lodge the upper room for $80 and to finish the upper story, in which the lodge expended $400.
The academy was incorporated by act of legislature, Feb. 27, 1813, and the sum of $2000 granted to the trustees to be invested, and the interest appropriated to the purposes of the institution, which was to be available when the owners should relinquish to the trustees, for the use of the institution, all of their interest in it.
The room was reported finished Dec. 6, 1813, and the school was opened by Sylvanus Guernsey as principal, with a salary of $500 per year.
March 4, 1842, the academy was burned to the ground. Rooms were immediately procured for the use of the school, and at a meeting held Feb. 21, 1843, steps were taken for the erection of a new building. This building was completed in 1845, and was used for academical purposes until sold to the school-board of Athens borough, in 1872, since which time it has been occupied as a graded school, which has now four teachers and about two hundred pupils.
There have been other academies established in the county from time to time, as follows:
Le Raysville academy, Jan. 8, 1830, with Giles De Wolf, Josiah Benham, L.W. Woodruff, Isaac Seymour, Lyman Bostwick, Lemuel C. Belding, and Gould Seymour as trustees.
Towanda academy, June 16, 1836. Trustees, James P. Bull, J.D. Montayne, Isaac Myer, Hiram Mix, Burton Kingsbury, Enos Tompkins, David Cash, N.B. Storm, and George A. Mix.
Wysox academy, April 8, 1840. Trustees, Harry Morgan, William Myer, Joseph M. Piollet, Joseph M. Bishop, Harry N. Spaulding, Victor E. Piollet, Daniel Coolbaugh, and David H. Owen.
Rome academy, March 24, 1848. Trustees, John W. Woodburn, Lemuel S. Maynard, William W. Woodburn, William E. Maynard, Samuel C. Mann, Joseph Allen, and W.W. Kinney.
The exact date of the establishment of the Troy academy has not been ascertained, but it probably was about the year 1839 or 1840, Rev. Freman Lane having been the first teacher.
Wyalusing academy was incorporated under the name of the Wyalusing Educational Union, Sept. 17, 1859, with Henry Gaylord, Augustus Lewis, E.R. Vaughan, J.R. Welles, Washington Taylor, J. Depue, and Benjamin Ackley trustees. The board was organized with Henry Gaylord president, and Andrew Fee secretary. A commodious building was erected, which was opened in the winter of 1861, with Miss L.A. Chamberlain principal, who was succeeded the following autumn by Mr. La Monte. The building is now used for both public and private schools.
These institutions all did good work in their respective localities, and promoted the cause of education until the improved system of common schools rendered them unnecessary, when one by one they were either abandoned or merged into the higher or graded public schools.
At Camptown (in Wyalusing township) and at Terrytown are school buildings which have been built by stock association, or by subscription, and controlled by trustees, the object of which, as of some of the others named, has been simply to furnish a suitable room for a public or high school in the communities where they are located.
SUSQUEHANNA COLLEGIATE INSTITUTE.
August 13, 1849, the presbytery of Susquehanna, in session at Wyalusing, through its committee on general Christian education, composed of the following members, Rev. S.F. Colt, Rev. F.D. Drake, Hiram Stevens, and J.D. Humphrey, petitioned the court of common pleas in the county of Bradford to incorporate a Christian literary institute, to be situated in the township of Wyalusing, and to be known by the corporate name of the Collegiate Institute of the Presbytery of Susquehanna. The petition was dated Wyalusing, Sept. 1, 1949, and on the 13th day of the following May a charter was granted by the court.
The object of the institute, as set forth in article 3 of the charter, "is to afford thorough instruction in the various branches of learning, useful and ornamental, English and classical, and in the religion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and to prepare suitable teachers for parochial and common schools."
Feb. 9, 1852, the court, at the request of the trustees, made amendments and alterations to the original charter, by which the name was changed to Susquehanna Collegiate Institute, and the said institute was to be located in such place in Bradford county as the trustees should direct. Towanda, having offered greater inducements to locate the new school in her boundaries than any other place, was selected. Nov. 23, 1852, ten acres were purchased in South Towanda, for a money consideration of $2000, on which to erect buildings for the school. This sum was subscribed by a few gentlemen in Towanda, $12,560 in addition was raised by subscription, as a building fund. July 4, 1853, the corner-stone of the institute was laid, and on the 6th of September, in the following year, the first term opened with one hundred thirty-seven students.
The following teachers composed the first faculty: Rev. Samuel F. Colt, A.M., principal; Rev. James McWilliam, A.M., ancient languages; Chas. R. Coburn, mathematics and normal school; Miss Margaret Kennedy; preceptress; and Miss Fanny Biles, assistant and teacher of music. Mr. Colt remained principal three years. Mr. Coburn was elected county superintendent of common schools, and then State superintendent of common schools. Mr. McWilliam followed Mr. Colt as principal, but having accepted a pastoral call during the year, Rev. D. Craft, A.B., who was professor of mathematics and teacher of male department, was elected principal to complete the year, and continued in charge of the school the year following. Messrs. O.H. and W.H. Dean, graduates of Lafayette college, were then elected principals, and remained for three years, O.H. Dean having been teacher of mathematics the year before. They were succeeded by Mr. McWilliam, who was principal for five years. John D. Hewitt, a graduate of Lafayette college, was acting principal for the following year, when Mr. Colt was elected principal for the second time, and remained until the all of 1870, when G.W. Ryan and E.E. Quinlan was elected associate principals for the period of ten years. At the close of three years Mr. Ryan severed his connection with the institute, and became principal of the public school of Towanda, Mr. Quinlan remaining, who is the present principal, this being the eighth consecutive year of his principalship.
During the twenty-four years the institute has been in session probably not less than fifteen hundred students have received their education, either in whole or in part, within its walls. Its foster-sons may be found in the halls of congress, in the State legislature, on the bench, in the Christian ministry, and in all the professions and vocations of life.
The great work it has done in elevating the standard of education in the public schools of the county, through the common-school teachers it has sent out and the influence of its own instructors never has nor ever will be fully appreciated. Probably no other agency in the county during the last quarter-century has done so much to advance the standard of education, directly and indirectly, in the common schools of the county. It was largely through the teachers of the institute that the Bradford County Teachers’ Association, which has been an agency for good in the county for nearly a quarter of a century, was organized. Thorough instruction has been furnished from the first in the English, classical, and mathematical branches, bookkeeping, and natural science. The institute, having a chemical laboratory, apparatus for a course in philosophy, charts, maps, globes, etc., is well prepared to teach the sciences, and while many pursue those branches, yet it has been best known as a classical institution. A large percentage of its students always have studied Latin. A large number of young men have been prepared for college, and entered with credit. Many young men, whose time or means did not allow them to enter college as a means of general culture, or as a preparation for the study of a profession, have pursued a classical course here with great advantage. In addition to the higher English, college, preparatory, and normal courses, the institute has a thorough and liberal course of studies in ancient and modern languages, mathematics, history, and natural sciences, on the completion of which by its pupils they are graduated and receive a diploma. The institute by its charter is empowered to confer literary degrees, but it has never attempted to maintain a regular college course.
The religious influence of the school has always been excellent, a large number of its students having become Christians while in attendance upon their studies, some of whom are in the Christian ministry.
The institute at its organization was placed under the care of the presbytery of Susquehanna. When that body became merged into the presbytery of Lackawana, on the reunion of the two great divisions of the Presbyterian church, the institute passed under the control of the latter presbytery. The school, however, is non-sectarian, the action of presbytery being limited to a general supervision of the school and the election of its trustees.
BRADFORD COUNTY TEACHERS’ ASSOCIATION.
A call having been issued by Emanuel Guyer, county superintendent, a number of teachers and other friends of education met at the Susquehanna collegiate institute on Friday, Jan. 5, 1855, and organized by electing Rev. James McWilliam president, and P.D. Morrow secretary.
It was resolved to form an association to be called the Bradford County Teachers’ Association, and a committee was appointed to draft a constitution. After adopting a constitution and by-laws, the work of the first session consisted in the discussion of resolutions, with an address at the close by Rev. Samuel F. Colt, when the meeting adjourned to meet in Smithfield the 23d of the next February. Thus was started an agency which has probably done more than any other in promoting the cause of education in the county.
As the new school law was just going into operation, the association proposed for discussion questions relating to its provisions, which gave friends and foes alike an opportunity to express their opinion, and served greatly to dispel prejudice and awake public sentiment in favor of the law.
Questions relating to the qualifications of teachers, the duties of directors and parents, the general management and discipline of the schools, were discussed by the best educators in the county, and a vast amount of information was given to both teachers and the public. In addition were essays and addresses on educational subjects. Discussions of such topics in the various townships of the county could not fail to produce beneficial results, and so early as its second meeting it took high ground in favor of graded schools, in which the higher branches follow the primary, and thoroughness is the first and last consideration. The welfare of society requires that our common schools should be so arranged as to place within the reach of all children of the commonwealth the blessings of a full and ample schooling in every department, and that it is the true and interest of the commonwealth, by the appropriation of a sufficient sum, to furnish gratuitous normal instruction to those who will pledge themselves to teach in the commonwealth for a given time."
These, and such like principles, are to-day widely prevalent throughout Bradford County, and, in accordance with them, schools of high grade are established in Troy, Canton, Athens, Ulster, Le Raysville, and Towanda, in which Latin, Greek, higher mathematics, and, in some of them, French, German, and instrumental music, are taught.
Until 1867 great confusion, in regard to text-books, had prevailed in the schools. In but very few of the townships had any attempt been made to secure uniformity, each school being at the mercy of the whim of every new teacher, and the appeals of every book-agent. In 1866 the association appointed a committee, who, after a careful examination, recommended a series of books to be used, and so great was the influence of the association at that time, that the series recommended was speedily adopted throughout the county. It also made valuable contributions to the history, botany, and geology of the county, its papers on these subjects possessing permanent interest. So general had been the interest evinced in the reports and essays upon these topics, that the association resolved to issue a Teachers’ Annual, for their better preservation and wider circulation, which, however, did not prove as successful as was anticipated, and but one number was issued.
"Meeting in every part of the county, the association seeks to reward the hospitality enjoyed at the several places by furnishing instruction, blended with agreeable literary entertainment. The quarterly reunions of the association afford a pleasant and profitable change in the routine of the teacher’s toil. To these meetings each one comes with the choice offerings of past thought and study.
"The roll of the association, during these twenty-three years of vigorous life, registers several hundred of the most respectable and public-spirited citizens of the county. Many of these have passed from among us, and are happily and honorably engaging toiling in almost every part of the continent, and some have gone from earth; all came with their diverse gifts for the common good, and all are gratefully remembered. Venerable age has brought to the association the ripe fruits of intelligent observation, and the interesting reminiscences of the early days, and of the winter schools for the girls and boys of the first settlers. From the middle zone of active life, earnest minds of all professions and pursuits have brought to us the somber summer sense of wise designs and far-reaching purpose, to be patiently wrought for the public good, and at every meeting have poured out precious seed-thoughts, germinant either with progress, enlightenment, and happiness for the people, or else curative of prevalent evils, and ever conservative of sound principles. And, like our hilly county, the association has ‘both the upper and the nether springs,’ for its ranks are ever full of youths, who, emulous of success as teachers, always glad to learn aught conducive to their school-craft, or to their upward soaring in self-culture of mind and heart, for science and society. Nor are these young men and maidens mere associate recipients; they come with cheerful contributions, carefully gathered from recent studies, as precious as they are fresh, and all aglow with happy hope and joyous zeal. Their ever-swelling numbers prove that the Teachers’ Association has lost in no respect the popularity with which it was welcomed at its organization twenty-three years ago."
Besides the meetings of the association, the other great agency for improving teachers and advancing popular education is the Teachers’ Institute. The sessions of the institute are held annually in various parts of the county, and are intended for drill in the subjects studied in the common schools, and are under the immediate direction of the county superintendent. The sessions ordinarily are held in the early autumn, and continue five days. In addition to the review of studies, new methods of teaching, hints, and suggestions as to school government and discipline, lecturers from abroad are frequently present, so that the institute affords not only opportunity for normal training, but of bringing the teachers into contact with the best educators of the country.
The school, with all of its appliances, is becoming of more and more importance in the minds of our people, and what a few years ago would have been deemed a good education, now would hardly be considered as more than the commencement of it; and it is to be hoped that Bradford will in the future take rank among the foremost of the counties of the commonwealth in securing the blessings of it for her children.
*The author is indebted to the report of the late A.A. Keeney, superintendent of common schools for Bradford County for 1877, for much of the material of this article.