Village Schools-The Old Academy-Its Incorporation-Its Early and Later History-The Building Now Used as a Church-Common School System Adopted-First Public School Building-Later Buildings and Teachers-Willow Hall School.
Among the pioneer settlers of Wellsboro were a number of men who had received the benefits of what was then termed a “liberal education,” and as might be expected , they took an active interest in the early establishment of good schools, in order to insure to their children, as far as conditions and environments made it possible, advantages similar to those they themselves had enjoyed in their youth.
Soon after Benjamin Wistar Morris built the Quaker Meeting House, classes were taught there, it being the only building in the village suitable for that purpose. In this rude and unpretentious structure the splendid educational system of Wellsboro had its beginning. A few years later came the move-ment which led to the establishment of the Academy and the employment as teachers of graduates of the best classical colleges in the land. This spirit, which manifested itself so early in the history of Wellsboro, has known neither waning nor relaxation, but, on the contrary, has grown broader and stronger with the passing years. It is true that the Academy has passed out of existence, being superceded by the common schools of the borough, after having nobly fulfilled its mission; but the pleasant memories which cling round its history are enduring as the rock-ribbed hills and are handed down by ancestor to descendant as priceless legacies.
Among the early teachers in the Quaker Meeting House were Lydia Cole, Chauncey Alford and Benjamin B Smith. The school was supported by subscription and the compensation of the teachers exceedingly moderate. The county, in compliance with a law then in force, paid for the instruction of poor children, the names of whom were required to be returned by the assessors.
The Old Academy.
One of the early institutions of Wellsboro, around which still cling pleasant memories , was the old Academy, which was chartered by the legislature March 25,1817. The act provided for a grant of $2,000 “ to be paid, by warrant drawn by the governor on the state treasurer, to trustees of the Wellsboro Academy, or a majority of them,” and that this amount “ shall be placed in some productive fund or funds, the increase whereof shall be applied in aid of the resources to compensate a teacher or teachers in said Academy, but the money hereby granted shall not be paid until the trustees certify to the governor that the sum of $1,000 shall have been secured to be paid by private subscription for erecting a suitable building and for the benefit of the said institution.” It was also provided that, “ there shall be admitted into said Academy any number of poor children, not exceeding five, who may at any time offer, to be taught gratis, but none of said children shall continue to be taught longer than two years.”
The trustees named in the act were: Samuel W. Morris, Alpheus Cheney, John Norris and William Bache, of Wellsboro; Justus Dartt and Nathan Niles, Jr., of Charleston; William D. Bacon, Robert Tubbs, Eddy Howland, Joseph McCormick and John Knox, on the Cowanesque; Uriah Spencer, Asa Mann, Daniel Lamb and Ambrose Millard, on the Tioga; James Gray and Nathan Rowley, of Sullivan and Isaac Baker.
The first meeting of the trustees was held at the prothonotary’s office in Wellsboro, Monday, May 5,1817. Daniel Lamb was elected temporary chairman and John Norris secretary, and rules adopted for the government of the board. A permanent organization was effected by the election of Samuel W. Morris, president; John Norris, secretary, and Benjamin W. Morris, treasurer, each to hold his office for one year. The meetings were first fixed for Monday evening of each court week, but were afterwards changed to Tuesday.
At the meeting held July 3 and 4, 1817, the site of the Academy was fixed, and a committee appointed to contract with Mr. Morris for the lot. It was decided to erect a brick building, and a committee was appointed to contract for the brick and lumber--the cost of the former not to exceed $5.00 per 1,000. A committee consisting of William Bache, Sr., Uriah Spencer, and Samuel W. Morris was also appointed to prepare a plan for the building and make an estimate of its probable cost. A building committee, consisting of Justus Dartt, William Bache and John Norris, was also appointed.
At a meeting held Tuesday, September 16,1817, the sum of $300 was appropriated for the purchase of brick and lumber, and a resolution adopted that a certificate be prepared to be presented to the governor for the purpose of obtaining the state appropriation, the requisite amount having been subscribed. The following resolutions were also adopted:
1. That the money when obtained shall be divided into four parts and loaned for five years upon unexceptional landed security, clear of every encumbrance; $500 in Delmar, $500 in Deerfield and Elkland and $1,000 in old Tioga township.
2. That those persons to whom the money shall be loaned subscribe two per cent annually on the sum loaned, and that they pay all expenses attending the security, recording the mortgage, etc.
3. That the sum of $500 each be loaned to John Ryon, Jr., John Gray, James Ford and Samuel W. Morris upon the conditions before named, and that the treasurer be directed to pay over said money when obtained, and he require good freehold security to at least double the sum loaned.
A special meeting was held January 19 and 20, 1818, at which it was resolved “that if James Gray, Sr., gives a mortgage on a certain piece of land, now held by John Gray, the said John first conveying his right to said James, and a judgment bond, it shall be sufficient security for $500 loaned to him by the trustees of the Wellsboro Academy.”
James Ford having declined the loan of $500 to him, Uriah Spencer applied for it , offering as security the Joseph Martin warrant. This was declined by a vote of the board, when, in addition, he offered the John Barron, Jr., warrant for which he had a tax title, and it was “Resolved, That the tracts be accepted as sufficient security from Uriah Spencer, provided, also that James Ford becomes bound with Mr. Spencer in a judgment bond for $500, to be loaned to said Spencer.” Mr. Ford, however, declined to sign the bond.
At the meeting held February 17, 1818, Mr. Spencer again applied to the trustees for the loan of $500 on the security of the two warrants mentioned above; but Judge Morris, the president, notified the board that he would not give an order on the treasurer for the money, as he believed the security offered to be worthless, and the matter was dropped.
At the election held April 16, 1818, the following members of the old board were re-elected: Justus Dartt, Nathan Niles, Jr., John Norris, Samuel w. Morris and Robert Tubbs. The new trustees were Roswell Bailey, Daniel Kelsey, Jeremiah Brown, Caleb Austin, Oliver Willard, David Henry, William Patton, Ebenezer Jackson, Ira Kilburn, Ebenezer Seelye, Arnold Hunter, Allen Butler and Richard Ellis. Uriah Spencer was among those not re-elected. The result was considered a vindication of Judge Morris for the firm stand he took against loaning the money on the doubtful security; though it would seem that other considerations might have affected the result, as at the meeting of the new board, May 4, 1818 , Daniel Kelsey was elected president; John Norris, vice president; Dr. Jeremiah Brown, secretary, and Nathan Niles, Jr., Treasurer.
It may be mentioned as a historical fact that ever after the failure of Mr. Spencer to secure the loan, he was an implacable and bitter foe of Wellsboro, and more especially of Judge Morris, and his hatred of the town only terminated with his death.
At the meeting of May 4,1818, the following preamble and resolutions were adopted:
Whereas, James Ford and Uriah Spencer have failed in giving requisite security for the loan of $500, therefore
Resolved, That the said money is now open to applicants from the north part of old Tioga township.
Resolved, That the sum $500 be loaned to Ira Kilburn upon his giving unexceptionable landed security to the satisfaction of the president and secretary.
A new building committee, consisting of David Henry, Dr. Jeremiah Brown and Justus Dartt, as appointed and instructed to report at the next meeting a plan and estimate of the cost of a suitable Academy building. At the meeting of May 19,1818, this committee reported as follows:
Your committee, etc., have deliberately taken into consideration the subject referred to them, and beg leave to report hat it is our opinion , provided we erect the building of wood, forty-eight by twenty-two, making two large rooms below and a hall eight feet wide, one large room above and two small ones, all the necessary material and the work laid out for building the Academy would amount to $1,500.
The report was approved. The idea of erecting a brick building was abandoned, and the Academy was constructed in accordance with the plan recommended. At a meeting held June 15, the following resolution was adopted:
That Samuel W. Morris, Justus Dartt and David Henry be appointed a committee with full power and authority to erect a building agreeably to a plan approved by the board; that they or a majority of them be authorized to contract for materials for the Academy , engage workmen to do all necessary work, clear off the lot proposed site, and that they give certificates or orders on the treasurer in favor of those they may contract with, which orders, when countersigned by the president and secretary, shall be paid by the treasurer.
At the same meeting John Norris, Samuel J. Morris and Dr. Jeremiah Brown were appointed a committee “ to draft a set of by-laws for the government of the institution.” At an adjourned meeting held September 28, a resolution was adopted:
That the treasurer be authorized to receive from the subscribers to the Academy three-fourth in money, provided the same be paid before the next[February] court.
County orders were then the principal circulation of the county, and were at a heavy discount, being taken, however at par for taxes and debts due the county, and sometimes for commodities, their price being marked up to meet the exigency.
The next annual election was held April 5, 1819, when the following eighteen trustee were elected: Eddy Howland, Ebenezer Seelye and John Knox, of the Cowanesque; Justus Dartt, Roswell Bailey, Oliver Willard, Nathan Niles, Jr., and David Henry of Charleston; Daniel Kelsey, Samuel W. Morris, John Morris , William Patton, David Lindsey, William Bache, Ebenezer Jackson and Dr. Jeremiah Brown, of Wellsboro; Ira Kilburn, of Lawrenceville, and Richard Ellis of Pine Creek.
Experience had shown that a board of eighteen trustee was altogether too cumbersome and inconvenient, and the legislature was asked to reduce the number to nine, which was done by act of March 27,1819, to take effect after that year’s election.
At the meeting of the board held May 3,1819, Justus Dartt was elected president; John Norris, vice-president; Nathan Niles, Jr., treasurer, and David Lindsey, secretary. At an adjourned meeting held on the 15th of the same month the following was adopted:
Resolved, That the treasurer be directed to call on the subscribers for their respective subscriptions, and that suits be commenced against all who shall not have paid on or before the first day of July next; that the treasurer be instructed to pay aver all money that is in his hands , that has been collected from the subscribers of the Wellsboro Academy, to Samuel W. Morris, Esq., for the purpose of purchasing nails for said Academy.
The cost of nails was then twenty-five cents per pound in Wellsboro, as shown by bills found among accounts of the old Academy. When subscriptions began for the $1,000 necessary to be subscribed before the $2,000 could be paid over by the State, many men became responsible for sums they were hardly able to pay, and many suits were brought and judgments obtained, which under the then existing law, must be paid or the defendant imprisoned, or a resort be had to the insolvent court.
Under the law reducing the number of trustees to nine, at the election held April 3,1820, John Norris, William Bache, David Lindsey, Dr. Jeremiah Brown, William Patton, Nathan Niles, Jr., Oliver Willard, Israel Greenleaf and Samuel W. Morris were elected trustees; and at the meeting May 1, following, William Bache, was elected president; William Patton, vice-president; Samuel W Morris, treasurer, and John Norris secretary. At this meeting a third committee was appointed to fix up the by-laws; the treasurer was urged to collect forthwith, taking county orders at par, and the building committee instructed to complete the Academy as soon as possible, having due regard to the state of the funds.
At a meeting held December 1, 1820, John Norris, William Bache, and David Lindsey were appointed a committee “to engage a suitable person as teacher for one quarter; to make such a contract as they may deem conducive to the interest of the institution, and that they have a general superintendence over the conduct of the teacher and scholars, and are particularly desired to visit the school at least once in two weeks.”
At this meeting also the stated meetings were reduced to annual meetings to be held the first Monday in May of each year. The bail of the treasurer was fixed at $5,000, and it was provided that no person should be entitled to vote at an election for trustees, unless he has paid the sum of $5 in aid of the funds of the institution.
The first person employed to teach in the Academy was Benjamin B. Smith, who came into Wellsboro about 1819. At that time only one room in the Academy had been completed so that it could be used. In some reminiscences of the first teacher, which had been preserved, it is related that he used to tell many anecdotes about his teaching in the Academy, for he seemed never to have been engaged in any kind of business without finding a vast amount of fun in it.
At the election held April 2,1821, Oliver Wilson, Roswell Bailey, John Beecher, William Patton, William Bache, Sr., Samuel W. Morris, John Knox, B.B. Smith and David Henry were elected trustees; and at the organization of the board in May, Mr. Bache was chosen president; Mr. Patton, vice-president; Mr. Morris, treasurer; Mr. Smith, secretary, and Messrs. Willard, Henry, and Beecher, building committee. The building progressed slowly owing to the difficulty of raising money, and the trustees had to resort to various expedients to pay for labor and material . On September 31821, the following were adopted :
1. Resolved, unanimously, That the building committee be directed to proceed as expeditiously as possible in completing the Academy , and thast the sum of $300 be placed at their disposal.
2. That the treasurer be instructed to proceed immediately against all delinquent subscribers in the collection of all arrearages of subscriptions that, in his discretion, together with the advice of the president and secretary , shall be collectable.
3. That the president and secretary be authorized and instructed to obtain by loan, at six per cent interest , such sum or sums, in treasury orders, as shall be necessary to make up the residue of the $300 mentioned in the first resolution, after what may be collected by the treasurer from subscriptions.
In the fall of 1821 a strong effort was made to induce the trustees to start a common winter school in the finished room of the Academy, but without success. At a meeting held October 26, called mainly to consider that question, the following was adopted:
Resolved, That in the opinion of this board it is not expedient to occupy the room in the Academy this winter, and therefore the board refuse their assent to the same.
Mr. Patton then offered the following resolution:
Resolved, That the trustees pay a salary to teach English, writing and arithmetic in the Wellsboro Academy during the term of six months, and that the trustees apply the money arising from scholars to the fund granted by the legislature.
This resolution was defeated, only three voting in its favor. There was at the time a very strong feeling against employing any teacher except a college graduate. It is inferred that the three trustees in favor of the resolution were Messrs. Patton, Bailey and Henry, none of whom were re-elected the following year, the new members for that year being William Willard, Nathan Niles, Jr., Justus Dartt, Chauncey Alford and John Norris. Norris was elected president; Niles, vice-president; William Bache, Sr., treasurer; Benjamin B. Smith, secretary, and Norris, Beecher and Dartt, building committee.
The new board re-adopted the resolution concerning collections and a loan, and appropriated $300 for use by the building committee.
In 1823 Samuel W. Morris was chosen president ; John Beecher, vice president; Cooley Newcomb, secretary; Benjamin B. Smith treasurer, and Nathan Niles, Jr., Amos Coolidge and Benjamin B. Smith building committee. Ten per cent of the premiums on loans was appropriated toward the payment of the debts incurred in building. The trustees again declined to permit the room in the Academy to be used for “ a common English school.”
In 1824 Morris and Smith were re-elected president and treasurer and Elijah Stiles secretary. On May 22 of that year the following was adopted:
Resolved, That it is the opinion of this board that a school ought to
be kept in the Academy the ensuing season, and that a teacher competent
to teach the Latin and Greek tongues, and otherwise well qualified to teach
in the Academy, be employed to commence the ensuing fall; and that in pursuance
thereof the president be authorized and requested to issue proposals to
that affect, and when received to lay them before the board of trustees.
|This same building shows in the background of the postcard at top of page.||
At the meeting held October 14, 1824, the president presented a letter from Jeremiah Day, president of Yale College, recommending James Lowrey, a graduate of said college, as a person qualified for teaching the various branches of academic education. The following was then adopted: Resolved, That Samuel W. Morris, Elijah Stiles and Chauncey Alford be a committee to engage Mr. Lowrey to teach a school in the Academy for the term of six months, commencing the first day of November with instructions to pay a sum that shall not exceed $225 for said term, exclusive of board, washing, etc., and that if the trustees are not satisfied with him as instructor, they shall have the right to dismiss him by giving six weeks’ notice; and of he at any time shall be desirous of leaving the school , he shall be under similar obligations to give the trustees six weeks’ notice of his intention.
At a meeting of the trustees, held October 19, the committee reported that they had engaged Mr. Lowrey in conformity with the instructions. A committee was appointed to put the Academy in order for the reception of pupils, to furnish fuel and also procure board and washing for the instructor. The price of tuition per quarter was also fixed; Greek and Latin, $4.00; English grammar and the higher branches of mathematics, $3.00, and reading, writing and arithmetic $2.00.
Mr. Lowrey entered upon the duties of his preceptor ship Monday, November 1,1824, a period of more than seven years having elapsed from the time the institution was chartered until it was formally opened as a classical academy by a graduate of Yale. All through these years the trustees had been beset by difficulties and discouragements. The people were poor and it was hard for them to meet their obligations. Tact and patience were necessary, and as a consequence the work progressed slowly. When Mr. Lowrey took charge only the lower rooms of the building were finished, so difficult was it to procure money to hire labor and pay for material.
To the honor of the men serving on the several boards of trustees, be it said, they held the interest of the institution sacred, and jealously guarded the funds entrusted to them. This is shown by their refusal, December 27,1824, to exonerate Mr. Beecher, bail of Cooley Newcomb, constable of Delmar, from his liability for the amount of several executions in favor of the Academy, put into his hands and collected, the money arising from which he had neglected to pay over before taking his departure from the county.
At the end of the six months which Mr. Lowrey had contracted to teach, he retired from the Academy and commenced the study of law under Ellis Lewis. He was an excellent teacher, popular with his pupils and the patrons of the school were loath to see him retire.
The successors of Mr. Lowrey as teachers were Rev. Benjamin Shipman and Charles Nash. They commenced in May , 1825, were paid $200, for a year, out of the funds and were allowed all the proceeds of tuition.
At a meeting of the trustees held March 4,1826, Messrs. Shipman and Nash submitted the following proposals to teach the second year:
That the building be put in proper order for the accommodation of an extensive school by the first day of June next; the term of a school quarter to consist of eleven weeks; the sum of $200 to be secured to them from the funds, to be paid in equal half yearly payments; children in the vicinity be requested to attend the Academy at the expense of the county; all the contingent expenses of said school to be borne by its proprietors; Mr. Nash to remain in the school for the first half of the year, at the end of which the other will return if necessary or furnish other suitable assistant; to receive two scholars whose tuition shall be free, provided their bills do not amount in the aggregate to more than $400 per quarter.
To the above the following notice was appended:
If the above does not meet with your views, you are hereby notified that we shall leave you at the close of the present year.
This proposition was rejected, though some thought that it would be better for the school to accept it. It was impracticable so far as the tuition of pupils in the vicinity was to be paid by the county. It was objectionable as taking the control of the school out of the hands of the trustees, and the note appended was out of taste, as seeming to contain a threat.
At a meeting, however, March 20, the president was authorized to employ Mr. Nash on nearly the same terms as the last year, Mr. Nash to employ an assistant if necessary, and the requisitions of the act of incorporation in regard to indigent pupils to be complied with without further compensation ; and in the event that Mr. Nash would not accept the proposition, the president was directed to advertise in the Pioneer for a teacher. The proposition, however, was accepted, and the contract was made with Nash and Shipman jointly. A similar contract was made with Mr. Nash, as principal, in March, 1827, it being stipulated, however, that “if he wished to leave at the end of the year he should give three months’ notice, or be under obligations to continue another term.”
On March 20,1828, Mr. Nash and Mr. Shipman having given notice of their intention to leave the institution at the end of the school year, the trustees adopted the following:
Resolved, That the Rev. Benjamin Shipman and Charles Nash have by their talents and industry rendered our Academy respectable and flourishing; and that the president be instructed to wait upon the gentlemen aforesaid with a copy of our resolution and a tender of our thanks.
At the same meeting the president was directed to write to Yale, Union and Dickinson Colleges in order to procure a teacher.
There appears to have been an organized opposition to Messrs. Nash and Shipman, and to Mr. Nash in particular, by some of the young men in Wellsboro and some of the “Charleston friends,” on account of an alleged interference with certain amusements of the young, but not at all connected with the Academy, for as teachers and managers of the school no one found fault with them. It was in consequence of this opposition that they determined to leave, and the foregoing resolution was deemed but fair to them, as expressing the sentiments of the trustees and patrons of the Academy.
In accordance with a resolution of the board of trustees adopted March 20,1828, Judge Morris wrote to Dr. Nott, president of Union College, Schenectady, New York, to send them a teacher. Dr. Nott selected Josiah Emery, a graduate of Union College, who had previously passed through Dartsmouth College, New Hampshire, and proposed to him the propriety of accepting the offer. Judge Morris’ letter stated the average number of pupils during the past two years, the prices of tuition for the different grades and the amount of $200, out of the permanent fund in addition to the full avails of tuition, which they were willing to pay. Dr. Nott and Mr. Emery made a calculation of the probable amount a teacher would realize, and they figured it out at the from $1,200 to $1,500 a year! They, however, made their calculation on the basis of New York and New England academies, and very much overestimated the proportion paying the higher rates of tuition, as subsequent experience proved.
Mr. Emery* accepted the situation and started for Pennsylvania as soon as he could complete his arrangements. He arrived in Wellsboro on Wednesday evening, April 23, 1828. The next morning he presented a letter from Dr. Nott to Judge Morris recommending him as a competent and experienced teacher, and the Judge at once called a meeting of the old and new boards. The following entry is found among the records of the Academy:
At a meeting of the trustees at the house of James Kimball on Thursday evening April;24, called on account of the application of Mr. J. Emery as a teacher, the following members present of the former and present boards: Samuel W. Morris, John Norris, Daniel Kelsey, William Bache, Chauncey Alford and B.B. Smith, of the old board, and of the new board to wit: those elected on the 7th of April instant, were present, Daniel Kelsey, C. Alford, Amos Coolidge, B. Gitchell and Francis Wetherbee. The question arising which of the two boards was the legal one and ought to act in the application aforesaid, on motion, the following resolution was unanimously adopted by the vote of all the members present of both boards:
Resolved, That Daniel Kelsey, Chauncey Alford and Amos Coolidge be authorized to contract with Josiah Emery to take charge of the Academy for the term of one year from the first Monday in May next, on the following terms, viz: to pay him $200 in semi annual payments out of the Academy fund in addition to the tuition bills; the quarter to consist of twelve weeks, and in other particulars to be granted by the late contract with Messrs. Shipman and Nash
* Mr. Emery, who was a very methodical man, wrote out a minute history of the Academy, and published it in the Agitator many years ago, from which this sketch has been condensed.
The contract was executed, and on Monday, May 5, the school was opened, from the very commencement of his connection with the Academy Mr. Emery insisted that the upper part of the building should be finished and some time in June, at his request, a meeting was called at which all the resident trustees were present; A committee was appointed to raise funds for that purpose, and the membership to entitle a person to vote for trustees was reduced from $5.00 to $2.50. The necessary funds were raised, and the upper rooms were finished; thus, at the end of eleven years completing the Academy.
On February 12,1830, Mr. Emery resigned, having in the meantime married and entered his name as a law student in the office of James Lowery.
Mr. Emery ever dwelt with pleasure upon his early days in the old Academy, and it was his delight to recall the names of his pupils and their success in life. In his reminiscences of the Academy he thus refers to some of them:
I would like very much to give the names of all my pupils, or at least of those who occupied prominent and influential positions afterwards; but I find that my memory is at fault, and I can recall only a few names. All the older members of Judge Morris’ family, of Mr. Bache’s, Mr. Beecher’s, Mr. Jackson’s and indeed of all the families living in Wellsboro and vicinity were members of the school, as well as pupils from all parts of the county. William E. Morris became a practical and able engineer; Benjamin W. Morris , who, I used to think, was not inclined to study, but who could write a good composition , is now Episcopal bishop of Oregon and Washington; and a sister of his wife, who, so far as talents was concerned, was at the head of the family, used occasionally to deal in light literature and poetry, and is now one of the most practical women of the country, but might have occupied an important niche in the literary temple had she devoted her whole life and soul to literary pursuits. But it is not always the most brilliant student in youth that becomes most useful in after life; neither is it the man or woman who climbs up the ladder of fame or notoriety that is generally the most useful*** I have seen many very brilliant, precocious boys who excited high hopes for their future, and in their manhood I have looked for them in vain among talented and useful classes, and succeeded at last in finding them in some obscure and un-influential positions. My experience and observation have taught me that the steady, industrious and conscientious boy makes the practical and useful man of the world. And it is such men that the world most needs.
Mr. Emery was succeeded as principal of the Academy for a short time by a gentleman named Upson. On January 10,1831, Henry Barnard, a graduate of Yale College took charge at $500 per annum, with the addition of $21 for board per quarter. No student was permitted to enter the academic department unless able to read in school books in common use. For those excluded, however, an usher provided who occupied one of the lower rooms. Mr. Barnard’s engagement was but for three months, at the end of which time the trustees offered him $150 and all the avails of tuition for one year. He, however, declined the offer and left. He was a first class teacher and very much interested in educational matters and, later in life, was for a number of years at the head of the National Bureau of Education at Washington, D.C..
On April 26,1831, permission was granted by the board of trustees to a Mr. Farnam to teach a common school in the two lower rooms of the Academy.
On October 24,of the same year, a contract was made with Almon Owen to take charge of the Academy at $150 per annum and the avails of the tuition. He began teaching October 31,1831, and remained one year.
On October 13,1832, the trustees authorized Henry N. Moore to occupy one of the lower rooms of the Academy for a common English school.
About this time a change in the number of trustees and the duration of their respective terms began to be discussed. The annual change, often of nearly the whole board, was considered a great evil, as well as the shortness of the term of service. It was finally decided to ask the legislature to reduce the number and lengthen the term of service to five years; five trustees to be chosen the first year, to be classified by lot so that their terms, respectively, should expire in one year, two, three, four and five years, and that thereafter only one trustee should be elected annually to serve five years. The legislature, March 6,1833, passed a law to that affect, and in April; Samuel W. Morris, R. G. White, Chauncey Alford, Benjamin B. Smith, John F. Donaldson, were elected. On casting lots Donaldson drew one year; Smith, two; Alford, three; White, four and Morris five. Judge Morris was chosen president; John F. Donaldson, secretary, and Israel Merrick, Jr. though not a trustee, was continued as treasurer, having been elected in 1832.
In November, 1833, Alexander Wright was employed to teach for one year at $150 and the avails of tuition.
From November 4,1833, to April, 1835, there is no record of what was done, though three blank pages were left in which to enter the record at “a more convenient season.” To Mr. Donaldson, who was secretary, that more convenient season never came. It is inferred, however from after records that Mr. Wetherbee was elected in April,1834, to succeed Mr. Donaldson, who was re-elected in April,1835, to succeed Mr. Smith.
D. McEwen appears to have been appointed principal of the Academy in the fall of 1834 and to have taught two years, being released in September,1836, at his own request, a resolution of the trustees expressing regret at his departure, and their approval of the “ able manner” in which he “acquitted himself,” and of “his gentlemanly deportment as a citizen amongst us for the last two years.” He seems to have been in every respect a gentleman, an excellent scholar and an able teacher.
In April, 1836, Josiah Emery, the former principal, was elected a trustee to succeed Mr. Alford. In 1837 James Kimball succeeded R.G. White, in July of which year Joshua Sweet was appointed principal, with a salary of $150 and the avails of tuition, and the school was re-opened August 7,1837. Mr. Sweet was very popular, and at the end of his first year was re-employed at a salary of $300 in addition to the tuition bills. When the number of pupils exceeded forty-nine he was to employ a competent assistant and receive $100 additional. The quarter was reduced to eleven weeks and the tuition to one-half the former rates. Mr. Sweet afterwards became an Episcopal clergyman; was a missionary at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, in 1852; Fort Ridgely in 1865, and at Glencoe, Minnesota, in 1869.
In 1828 Benjamin B. Smith was elected a trustee to succeed Judge Morris, then serving in Congress. At a meeting of the trustees August 7, 1839, Messrs. Smith and Kimball were authorized to employ some person or persons to repair the Academy; to repaint the outside, and also to purchase a new bell. Mr. Pinkham was employed as principal. He taught one year.
In 1840 Josiah Emery was elected president; Mr. Donaldson, a trustee and secretary, and Mr. Kimball treasurer.
There is a break in the record from July, 1840 to April 5,1841, but it appears that that Henry Booth, a graduate of Yale College, succeeded Mr. Pinkham as president. The value of his services is attested by the following resolution, adopted by the trustees April 5,1841:
Resolved, That the trustees of the Wellsboro Academy regret that the ill health of Mr. Henry Booth compels him to leave the institution; that during the time he has been with us he has by his gentlemanly deportment and ability as a teacher, deservedly secured the esteem of all with whom he has associated.
This resolution was not dimply an unmeaning compliment. Mr. Booth was a man of very superior mind. He afterwards studied law; entered into practice in Towanda; removed thence to Chicago; served as a circuit judge, and was for many years dean of the faculty of the Union College of Law, of that city. He married Ellen Morris, a daughter of Samuel W. Morris, making the third principal of the Academy to find a wife in Wellsboro, James Lowrey having married another daughter of Judge Morris and Josiah Emery a daughter of John Beecher.
July 12,1841, Charles Miner was unanimously elected principal of the Academy to succeed Mr. Booth, at a salary of $500, and continued principal either fifteen or eighteen months. It was in the fall or winter of his second year that the Academy took fire and had it not been for the most strenuous efforts and plenty of snow, it would have been entirely consumed. The damages were settled at $175, and paid by the Tioga County Mutual Insurance Company.
May 4,1842, the trustees authorized the employment of an assistant in the Academy “for the present term,” the salary to be $25. During the spring and summer of 1843 the Academy was undergoing repairs and was not occupied. In the fall of that year Henry B. Rockwell was employed to teach six months at a salary of $250. His term, which began October 23, was afterwards extended to one year.
January 29,1844, Stephen F. Wilson was employed as an assistant in the Academy for one term,” at the price and sum of $52, if employed the whole time; But if not employed but one half of the time, then the price to be $10 per month.” At a trustee’ meeting May17,1844, on motion of Judge Morris, the president was authorized to employ Miss Margaret Dennis as principal of the female department, at $3.50 per week. Mr. Nash, then stationed at Towanda was invited to take charge of the Academy at the close of Mr. Rockwell’s term, but denied. August 14,1844 George R. Barker was employed as an assistant to Mr. Rockwell, at $17 per month. At the close of Mr. Rockwell’s year, the trustees adopted the following:
Resolved, unanimously, That the trustees of the Wellsboro Academy in parting with Henry B. Rockwell, the principal of the institution for the past year, cannot do it without tendering to him the expression of their kindest feelings for the singular ability with which he has managed the school, for the high reputation it has obtained through his instrumentality, and the universal satisfaction he has to all with whom he has been connected. In what ever walks of life he may hereafter be found, they most cheerfully wish him success, and commend him to the confidence of all with whom he may be associated.
Resolved, That the above be entered on the records of the institution, and a copy duly certified be handed to Mr. Rockwell.
Mr. Rockwell was an excellent teacher and a strict disciplinarian. He never spoiled a child by sparing the rod. At the election of trustees April 7,1845, James P. Magill, editor of the Eagle, and John C. Knox, afterward associate justice of the Supreme Court, and attorney general of the State were candidates. There were forty-nine votes; but on counting out the votes they found fifty-one-twenty-six for Magill and twenty-five for Knox, and not knowing any other way of getting out of the difficulty the election board returned Mr. Magill as elected. The following is taken from the minutes:
May 5,1845, trustees met; present Morris, Kimball, Emery and Nichols. John C. Knox and James P. Magill each appeared and presented their claims as trustees of the Wellsboro Academy.
On motion, the returns of the election of trustees were read, by which it appears that J.P. Magill had twenty-six votes and John C. Knox twenty-five votes. Mr. Knox presented a certificate from the judges, dated April 21,1845, stating as follows:
We, the undersigned, judges and clerk, certify that an election held at the house of B.S. Sayre, in Wellsboro, Monday the 7th of April, A.D. 1845, for a
trustee of Wellsboro Academy, there were forty-nine legal votes given; that on counting the ballots it appears that James P. Magill had twenty-six and John C. Knox having produced to us satisfactory evidence that a majority of the number of legal votes given were east for him, as appears by the certificate hereunto annexed, we therefore certify accordingly.
A.P. Cone L Cleveland, Abel Strait
Then follows a certificate signed by twenty-five persons, certifying that they voted for John C. Knox. The report then continues:
On Motion, Resolved, That Samuel W. Morris and Josiah Emery be a committee to investigate and report on the late Academy election. The meeting adjourned to five o’clock p. m, when the following report was received from the committee, Messrs. Morris and Emery:
The committee to whom was referred the late election of trustee report that they have investigated the same as fully as the time allowed would permit, and find that the said election was conducted without any regard to the requirements of the by-laws, and is therefore void and of no effect. They, therefore, recommended the adoption of the following resolution:
Resolved, That an election be held at the house of B.S. Sayre, in Wellsboro, on Saturday, the 17th instant, between the hours of 1 and 6 P.M., of which the secretary is required to give general notice.
The election was held at the appointed time. Both the old candidates were dropped and Joseph W. Guernsey was elected, receiving all but one vote.
Emerson J. Hamilton succeeded Mr. Rockwell in the fall of 1844, and taught till the spring of 1849, nearly five years. Mr. Hamilton and his wife were decidedly among the most successful teachers the Wellsboro Academy ever had. The school under their principal ship was more popular and flourishing than under any other teachers. It is true they began under very favorable circumstances. Mr. Rockwell had brought the school under very rigid discipline by his physical mode of government, and had beaten into the pupils a sense of the beauty of good behavior, the necessity of hard study, and a realization of the value of good recitations as a protection against the hard knocks of school life. And the pupils were thus eminently prepared for an entirely new mode of governing a set of boys and girls at school. It did not take them long to understand the practical difference between physical government and moral government; to know the difference between fear and enforced respect, and love with involuntary respect. Mr. Hamilton’s school became at once very popular. The principal and his wife, who was at the head of the female department, inspired at once respect confidence and affection, and all over the country are now men and women who look back to the time they were students under the Hamiltons as among the happiest years of their lives. Some of the results of Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton’s teaching ,may thus referred to as a part of the history of the old Academy.
At a meeting of the trustees, July 31,1845, an appropriations of $100 was made for the purchase of philosophical apparatus. Further appropriations were made, as the final cost of the apparatus was nearly $300, so willing were the trustees to encourage not only the teachers but the pupils.
On November 18,1845, the board adopted a resolution that a catalogue of the students of the Academy for the last year should be published. This was the first catalogue authorized since the foundation of the school, and there are men to-day who would pay three times a reasonable price for a copy, as a souvenir of the pleasant says spent within the walls of the institution. On the same day a resolution was adopted requesting the treasurer to prepare and present to the next meeting “a full and complete statement of all bonds and mortgages in his hands, with the amount due thereon,” also to procure a book “in which individual debtor’s accounts and all further payments” should be kept. This resolution revealed the fact that no financial account prior to 1840 could be found. The date of the beginning of the treasurer’s term was changed to the beginning of the year, and Benjamin B. Smith chosen for the ensuing year. The president-- Judge Morris--- was requested to invite Rev. Mr. Beck, Rev. Mr. Calkins, Rev. Mr. Cochran, William Garretson, Dr. Saynish and Dr. Parkhurst to visit the Academy at the closing exercises of the quarter and by their presence encourage the pupils.
In April,1846, William Bache, Jr. was elected a trustee, his father, who had served for many years on the board, having died in 1844. In this year an addition was build to the back of the Academy, the contract being taken by Messrs. Sturrock & Culver for $380. Under date of August 2, 1847, the record contains the following:
Trustees met: present Bache, Donaldson and Nichols. James Lowrey was appointed trustee to fill the place of S.W. Morris, deceased. James Lowrey elected president, L.I. Nichols secretary, and B.B. Smith treasurer.
Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton appear to have terminated their connection with the Academy in March,1849.Their influence on society in Wellsboro and on the students under their charge, was all-powerful and far-reaching, and although nearly half a century has passed since their departure from the school, their names are still held in grateful remembrance.
H.W. Thorp, the next principal, remained but a short time, and was succeeded in 1850 by Andrew Upson, who taught about a year and a half, his successor being Samuel C. Hosford, who remained two years. Then followed Mr. Reynolds, John B. Cassoday, who taught a few weeks, and John A. Broadhead, whose stay was also short.
The minute book of the trustees shows the following entry under date of December 12,1857:
Mr. S.B. Elliott presented a plan for the proposed new Academy, which the Board accepted, and on motion of R.G. White, Mr. Elliott was employed to prepare building plans and specification for the purposed new Academy at the price of $50 for the whole.
During the years 1857-58 a strong desire was manifested to build a new and a better Academy building on a new and a better site, and the employment of Mr. Elliott to prepare plans and specifications had that end in view. The movement, however met with strong opposition on the part of a number of citizens. The plans and specifications were made out and the matter agitated until 1859, when it was dropped, Mr. Elliott in the mean time having been paid the $50 promised him. The following appears in the minute book of the trustees under date of January 18,1859:
At a meeting of the trustees of the Wellsboro Academy at the store C.& J.L. Robinson, it was resolved that the paper marked A, purporting to be assignment of the interest that the respective members of the order of the Sons of Temperance had in the funds of said society to the trustees of the Wellsboro Academy, be placed on file as part of the proceedings and action of said board.
On motion, it was further resolved that the vouchers in the hands of J.F. Donaldson assigned by said paper marked A, be placed in the hands of the treasurer of the said Academy, and that a statement of the names of the persons against whom the claims are, the amount, etc., be also placed on file.
At a meeting held March 30, 1859, the treasurer, Benjamin B. Smith, was instructed “ to collect the balance of interest now due on bonds and judgments in favor of the Academy;” also “the balance due on subscriptions for repairing the Academy.” At this meeting, also Mr. Donaldson handed over the vouchers for the claims assigned by the Sons of Temperance, and a full statement of the same was entered on the record. The principal
amounted to $513.49.On this various payments had been made, but not enough to cover the interest. At the time of the assignment the fund assigned could not have been less than $575; but whatever the amount was it went finally into the Wellsboro common school fund.
Mr. Broadhead’s successor as principal was L.R. Burlingame, who took charge in the winter or spring of 1858 and remained until the fall of 1859. He was a good teacher, but like some of his predecessors, was a strong believer in the use of the birch.
On January 21,1860, the number of school terms was changed to three of fourteen weeks each, and M.N. Allen was employed as teacher and continued till September,1863, when he resigned.
In February , 1861 John N. Bache was elected treasurer in place of Mr. Smith, who served continuously since January, 1846.Judson Allen, a brother of M.N. Allen, finished the term in which his brother had taught two weeks, September 22,1863. The next teacher was Benjamin Eglin, a graduate of Yale College, and highly recommended by Mr. Cobourn, the state school superintendent. He commenced November 30, 1863, and taught two terms, receiving $40 per term and the avails of tuition. He was succeeded by John B. Grier, A.B.., of Danville, who was elected president in 1864. Mr. Grier taught two terms of fourteen weeks each, and three weeks on a third term, and resigned May 25,1865. The secretary was at once authorized to employ a new principal and to put the Academy in full repair, which was done. The fall term opened September 7, with the following faculty: Rev. D.D. Van Allen, A.B., principal; Miss S.A. Van Allen, preceptress; Miss Fannie J. Holland, vice-preceptess; Mrs. Mary Bryden, teacher of drawing and painting; Mrs. Juliet Sherwood and Miss H.W. Todd, teachers of vocal and instrumental music. Although their names appear on the catalogue, it is due to Mrs. Bryden, Mrs. Sherwood and Miss Todd to say that they were only nominally connected with the Academy, permitting their names to be used as a matter of courtesy, but teaching at their own homes, independent of Mr. Van Allen.
In May, 1866, the trustees adopted resolutions complimenting Professor Van Allen and his assistants on their success in conducting the school and expressing an earnest desire that they remain another year.
In October, 1867, F.D. Hodgson took charge as principal, remaining one year, when he was succeeded by William A. Stone, now a member of Congress from Allegheny county. He taught two terms. In September, 1869, a contract was made with Mr. Hunt to teach during the ensuing year. He remained two terms and then engaged in preaching. This closed the Academy. For forty-five years, with the exception of a few brief interruptions, it had been maintained as a classical school, numbering among its principals many men afterwards notable as educators, lawyers, ministers and public officials. Its influence, always for good, still endures. It did much, not only for the intellectual life of Wellsboro, but for its moral betterment. It passed away only when the spirit in favor of a higher education, which it had fostered and strengthened, took a new direction and devoted itself to the better up building of the common schools of the borough, which, as at present conducted, fill the place it occupied for nearly half a century.
On November 21,1871, Josiah Emery resigned as president of the board of trustees and John R. Bowen was elected to fill the vacancy.
In his reminiscences of the Academy Mr. Emery informs us that after the adoption of the common school system it soon became apparent that it would be a difficult matter to sustain an Academy in such a village as Wellsboro without a very large fund on the interest of which to draw, and a high standard of instruction, especially when the common schools are so well managed as they are in Wellsboro. Long previous to 1870 the subject of uniting with the common school system and establishing a first-class High School, under the joint direction of the directors and trustees, had been suggested; but this project was deemed injudicious as well as impracticable, and it was finally decided by the trustees that the best thing that could be done was to transfer, under certain conditions, the whole Academy fund, together with the Academy building and land, to the Wellsboro school district, to be made the foundation of a High School wholly under control of the directors. A bill was accordingly drawn and presented to the legislature at the session of 1870, and it passed finally April 6 of that year.
It authorized the transfer, by assignment or delivery, of “all articles of personal property, including moneys, bills, notes, mortgages, judgments, or other evidences of debt due and belonging to said Wellsboro Academy, to the school district of said borough of Wellsboro, and to transfer by deed of quit claim or other sufficient conveyance all real estate belonging to said Wellsboro Academy to the said school district.” It also provided that all the property, money, bonds, etc., should be used “ to defray current expenses of the school in said district,” and that the “real estate shall not be disposed of, or principal reduced, except for the erection of new or the enlargement of the present graded or union school buildings.”
It was furthermore provided that upon the conveyance of the property it “ shall be the duty of the school directors to provide one or more additional departments in the school in which the higher English branches , mathematics and the languages may be taught, and provide a competent teacher therefore.” The directors were also authorized,” at their option,” to admit into the school pupils who may reside the limits of the district and charge therefore such rates of tuition as they may adopt.
The last meeting of the board of trustees was held in the First National Bank, of Wellsboro, October 23,1877. There were present J.R. Bowen, president; William Bache, treasurer; H.W. Williams, secretary, and J.L. Robinson. At this meeting the following preamble and resolution were adopted unanimously:
Whereas, The school district of Wellsboro has complied with the provisions of the Act of Assembly relating to the organization of a graded school in said borough, by the erection of a suitable building and the employment of a sufficient number of competent teachers for the instruction of the pupil, so as to be entitled to a conveyance of the real estate held and owned by the said Wellsboro Academy, therefore,
Resolved, That the president and secretary be directed to execute and deliver to the school district of Wellsboro a deed by which the title of the said Wellsboro Academy to the lot and buildings owned and lately occupied by them as and for an Academy shall be released and quit-claimed by the said Wellsboro Academy to the said school district of Wellsboro; and that said deed be further attested by its exection by such of the trustees as are still resident in the county.
Resolved, That the secretary be authorized and directed to deliver the books and papers in his hands to the school directors of said borough for safe keeping whenever the deed shall be delivered and the property of said Academy transferred to the said school district.
Adjourned to meet on call of the chair. H.W. Williams- Secretary
It will be remembered that in 1817 the Wellsboro Academy secured from the State an appropriation of $2,000, which was to “ be placed in some productive fund or funds and the increase thereof applied in aid of other resources, to compensate a teacher or teachers of said Academy.” The Academy fund was also increased by some $500, a donation from the Sons of Temperance, making in all at least $2,500. This sum was loaned out to different parties, in in larger or smaller sums, from $600 down as low as $10.It was frequently changing hands, being paid in and reloaned and yet from 1817, when the $2,000 were received from the State, to May 19,1873, when the Academy funds were paid over to the Wellsboro school district, not one cent was ever lost or squandered.” All loans,” Mr. Bache, the treasurer, afterwards said, “ were fully paid; nothing was lost from the beginning down,” a period of fifty-six years. This speaks well for the administration of the fund committed to the trustees for the benefit of the school. But this is not all. The fund, including the Sons of Temperance fund, was increased to$3,252,and, adding the avails of the sale of the Academy building and lot, to $3,852, which have been received from the Academy by the school district. The transfer was a judicious act on the part of the trustees and was generally approved by the people. The old Academy accomplished great good in its time and did much in molding the character, both moral and intellectual, of its pupils. It exercised a strong influence over those who passed through its portals, and was not only beneficial to the people in whose midst it was located, but to those of the surrounding country. The healthy influence which it wielded is plainly seen to this day in the cultured and vigorous men and women who are now the old and the middle-aged; and all will recur with pride to the members of the old Academy on the hill.
In 1881 the Academy and lot were purchased by Rev. John McDermott and the building was remodeled and turned into a Catholic church. It is still used by that denomination.
Common School System Adopted
The common school law of Pennsylvania, approved April 1,1834, among other things, provided for the election, on the third Friday in September, 1834, of school directors in the various townships of the different counties, and that the directors should meet in their respective townships and boroughs within ten days after their election, and organize in the manner set forth in the provision of the act. It was also provided that on the first Tuesday in November, a convention composed of the county commissioners and one delegate from each township and borough school board should meet at the court house in each county, to decide whether or not a tax should be levied for the maintenance and support of public schools in the several townships and the amount of money to be thus raised, etc.
In compliance with the provisions of this law, an election was held in the several townships and boroughs of Tioga county and school directors elected, and their names reported to the court of quarter sessions. In Wellsboro the following named directors were elected.: Ellis M. Bodine, John F. Donald-son, Jonah Brewster, David Caldwell, Levi I. Nichols and Josiah Emery. In casting lots for the length of their respective terms, Messrs. Nichols and Emery drew the short term, lasting until the next February, when they were both elected for a full term of three years. At a meeting held in March,1835, Mr. Bodine was elected president, and Mr. Nichols secretary of the board. On Tuesday, November 5, 1834, the county convention, provided for in the law, met in the court house in Wellsboro and was composed of Amariah Hammond, Chauncey Alford and George Knox, county commissioners, and the following delegates from the various township school boards: Brookfield, Jonathan Bonney; Chatham, Henry Eaton; Charleston, Cyrus Dartt; Covington township, Avery Gillet; Covington borough, John Gray; Deerfield, James Knox; Farmington, Jonathan Sorber; Jackson, Norman Wells; Lawrence, Buel Baldwin; Liberty, John Levegood; Mansfield, William B. Mann; Middlebury, Israel P. Kinney; Morris, Charles Duffy; Rutland, Peter Backer; Shippen, George Huyler; Sullivan, David Hazzard; Tioga, Joseph W. Guernsey; Union,, Charles O. Spencer; Westfield, Samuel Baker; Wellsboro, Josiah Emery. Delmar and Elkland were not represented. The former, however, was so closely identified with the interests of Wellsboro that it might be called an integral part thereof.
The convention organized by electing those old pioneer teachers and friends of education, Chauncey Alford, President, and Josiah Emery, secretary. It was a memorable meeting, because its action was to mark the beginning of a new epoch in the educational affairs of Tioga county. The question of levying a tax for the support of the common schools of the county was decided in the affirmative by the unanimous vote of the twenty townships delegates and the three county commissioners. Out of this number sixteen voted for raising $3,000 and seven for various other sums. The vote, therefore, authorized $3,000 to be levied and collected. This was the first apportionment of money made by Tioga county for the beginning of the common schools. By comparing this sum with the amount of school tax laid for 1895- $88,657.20- we are enabled to judge of the progress made in education in sixty years.
The amount of tax laid in those days was small. One of the first levies for school purposes was fixed at one-third of one per cent. The highest tax levied was against Samuel Well Morris, $6.54. He owned more real estate than any other resident of the town. William Bache’s tax then was $1.98. His brothers, John N. and Laugher Bache, then single men, paid seventeen cents each. Several others paid the same. Forty years afterward William Bache paid $225, and his brothers were required to pay dollars where cents had once sufficed.
Chauncey Alford, who presided over the convention, was early identified with the cause of education. It is a matter for regret that so little of his personal history has been preserved. It is probable that he was a New Englander by birth and came to Wellsboro early in the century, for it is shown that he was one of the early teachers in the Quaker Meeting House, and in 1822 he was one of the trustees of the Academy. That he was a man of some standing is shown by the fact that he was appointed a justice of the peace in 1827; and during the great slave chase in the winter of 1829 he was a deputy sheriff, made the arrest of the slaves and took them before Judge Kilburn, at Lawrenceville. In 1833 he was elected county commissioner and served a term of three years. He lived for a long period in Wellsboro, and later on the Locke farm for some time. Tradition says that he was a “clever, social, upright, honest man.”
Miss Lydia Lock was the first teacher employed under the new system in Wellsboro, and Miss Mary E. Nichols was the second. This was before a school house was built. The wages these early teachers received was small compared with the salaries of to-day. As a curiosity the following minutes relating to the employment of Miss Nichols is copied from an old school record:
Minute of agreement made with Mary E. Nichols, December 5, 1836.Said Mary E. Nichols is to commence school December 5, 1836, and to teach twelve or sixteen weeks, find her own room, firewood and board, for which said Mary E. N., is to receive $3.00 per week. Directors to be at the expense of stove and fitting room with benches, etc.
No elegant brick school houses existed then, fitted up in first- class style, and equipped with all the appliances, have to facilitate the work of instruction. The female teachers of to-day, surrounded with all the comforts and conveniences, have but to carry their imagination back to that time and contemplate Mary E. Nichols in her humble school room, laboring for $3.00 a week and “find her own room, firewood and board,” to convince themselves of the progress that has been made in three- score years, and that they are peculiarly blessed that they did not live in her day and generation.
First Public School Building
On March 11,1835, David Caldwell, Josiah Emery and James Kimball were chosen a building committee, it having been agreed that the directors raise a sum of money by subscription for building a school house. The subscription paper read as follows, and sounds strangely when contrasted with the method of building public school houses today:
We, the undersigned, promise to pay to Jonah Brewster, David Caldwell, E.M. Bodine, J.F. Donaldson, L.I. Nichols and Josiah Emery, the several sums affixed to our names for the purpose of erecting a school house in the borough of Wellsboro; said house to belong to the subscribers, in the proportion of the sums subscribed, but to be under control of the school directors for the year to come, and to be let for the purpose of a school , at a reasonable rate. And we hereby agree to sell to the said borough the house after its completion, at the first cost, should the directors pass a vote at a legal school meeting to purchase the same. The house is to be placed as near the center of the town as circumstances will admit, to be finished as soon as convenient, and the sums of money payable on demand.
The school house was built of logs and served the purpose for which it was designed, until it was forced to give way by the march of improvement. Erastus P. Deane, who became prominent as a surveyor, was one of the first male teachers employed. On November 20,1835, he was engaged to teach for five months at a salary of $16 per month. The subsequent year he was again employed. When the new log school house was completed he was engaged , November 7, 1836, to teach for five months at a salary of $ 28 per month, a great advance over the price previously paid him; but it was stipulated in the contract that he was to board himself and “ be to the expense of firewood and chopping the same.” “Good exercise,” it will be marked by some; but to-day it would be a strange spectacle to see the male teachers of Wellsboro engaged in chopping wood for the school house. In those days it was the custom for the teacher and larger boys to chop the wood, which was generally delivered in long pieces by order of the directors. As times advanced the teacher usually “shrieked” that duty by assigning the “ larger boys” to perform the chopping act. This was the practice for many years, but now it has almost entirely disappeared, except in some of the remote rural districts , where coal cannot be obtained, or the board of directors feel too poorly to employ some one to “ cut up” and store the fuel.
While the Academy was in existence more attention was given to it than to the village school under the common school system; but when the managers of the institution “on the hill” decided to wind up the school and transfer their money and property to the free schools, a new impetus was given the latter. The action which led to this conclusion is set forth in the closing part of the history of the old Academy.
Later Buildings and Teachers.
As early as March 7,1860, the school district had purchased of Laugher Bache a lot on the east corner of Pearl and Norris streets, and soon after erected thereon the primary school building. During the years 1869 and 1870 proceedings were had by which the Academy property was turned over to the school district, and in the fall of 1870 Prof. A.C. Winters was engaged to teach at a salary of $1,600 per year and three assistants were also employed. This forms a striking contrast with the salary of Mr. Deane only thirty-four years before. The schools steadily increased. In 1871 eight teachers were employed and 477 pupils were on the rolls. In 1873 there were 530 pupils in attendance, but the number of teachers remained the same.
This rapid increase in the number of pupils made it apparent to the people as well as the board of education that the time had come for enlarged facilities by the erection of an additional building. Meetings were held in the court house to discuss the question and speakers were emphatic in their utterances that action should be taken. Public sentiment was speedily aroused and in accordance with popular expression the school board purchased a lot and erected thereon a substantial building which cost, with the furnishings, $33,500. The dedication of this building, which took place August 20,1875, was an event of no ordinary importance for the town and called forth a large attendance. In honor of the event addresses were made by Rev. N.L. Edwards, James H. Bosard, Esq., Hon. Henry W. Williams, Rev. J.F. Calkins, Hon. Stephen F. Wilson, Hon. Jerome B. Niles, Rev. Dr. Charles Breck, and others. They all congratulated the citizens of Wellsboro on the auspicious event, and the advancement in the cause of education.
In order to complete the historical record it must not be omitted to state that the school board under whose administration the building was erected was constituted as follows: President, John W. Bailey; treasurer, William Bache; secretary, James H. Bosard; Jerome B. Potter , Hugh Young, Chester Robinson and Jerome B. Niles.
In 1874, in order to meet the demand for additional room, a new primary school building, costing $12,000 was erected on the lot adjoining the High School building on the southeast. This was a large, two story “ brick veneer” edifice, ventilated by the Smead system, and furnished with the latest improved desks and school apparatus. On the night of August 28,1896, this building was destroyed by fire. The school board immediately resolved to rebuild in accordance with the old plans, and the new building was ready for occupancy January 1,1897.
The borough schools are in excellent condition. They comprise two school buildings, with twelve school rooms and twelve teachers--two males and ten females-- the average pay per month of the former being $96.78, and of the latter $43.30. The graded schools were organized and the first principal appointed in 1870.This position has been filled as follows: A.C. Winters, A.M..,1870-73; P.M. Edick,1873-77; E. Francis,1877-79; Henry E. Baesly, A.M., 1890-92; A. Frank Stauffer, A.M.,1892-96, and Daniel Fleisher, A.M., Ph.D., the present incumbent, who took charge in September, 1896.
The number of pupils registered in June, 1896, were as follows: Males, 352; Females, 337. Total, 689.
Willow Hall School
In 1891, during the rectorship of Rev. A.W. Snyder, an affort was made
by a few of the leading members of St. Paul’s Protestant Episcopal church
and other citizens to establish a school for girls, with the purpose, if
sufficient support were given the enterprise, of making it a permanent
boarding school. With this end in view, William Bache and John L. Robinson
purchased the building on Central Avenue, since known as Willow Hall, and
deeded it to St. Paul’s church. A school was opened with Miss Mary H. Burrows
as perceptress and was continued for two years. The number of those who
felt able to send their children, and pay tuition in addition to their
public school taxes, was too limited to make the school self-sustaining.
The burden of the financial support, therefore, fell on a few whose liberality
had already been heavily taxed, and they declared that they could not become
personally responsible for a constantly recurring deficit. The school was
accordingly closed, and the building, which is still church property, is
used for meetings of the guild, the sewing society and for sociables, etc.
At the present time a kindergarten school is carried on in it by Miss Mae