Thursday, June 30, 2016

Schoolhouse Revolution of 1896-1897

 In 1920 or so, Sarah wrote reflected on her school days in Carrollton, Kentucky. What an intriguing moment in the history of education in Carroll County! This post combines Sarah's thoughts about the 1895-96 school year, one of discord and upheaval. These excerpts include a lot of names that might be of interest to readers with Carroll County roots. Transcriber's notes are in brackets. All else is original to Sarah's writing.

While Papa was still in New York [on one of his buying trips for Howe Brothers Department Store], school began, and I started in at the 6th street school on the bewilderingly different basis which led to such a change later on. Carrollton High School, under Prof. Melcher, (and indeed under his predecessors) had been a really fine and thorough, tho of course limited, school as to courses.  . . . in ’95, they had had 4 years of Latin and mathematics, altho there was only a three year High School course, for they had Latin 1 and Algebra 1 in the 8th Grade. . . . In 1895-96 . . . the school had a “principal” (superintendent was not used then as a term) Howard Peak, rosy-cheeked black haired youth of about  22 who encountered more than his match in the 17 and 18 year old boys of the senior year, among whom were the famous "Dirty Dozen" referenced to in an earlier book. [I'm still looking for that reference. I know people who want to know if their Carrollton ancestors are on that list!]

[After Mr. Peak left for a new college-level position] . . . there was no one who seemed competent  or would work for the salary offered (or a combination of both) as a principal from 1896-97. . .  so the school board yielded to pressure by various groups who thought an 8th grade education plenty for the average student – (and in those days a teaching certificate could be obtained with the county exam after finishing the 8th grade) – so they decided to add a 9th grade as a substitute for high school, teach first year Latin and Algebra in the 8th and finish a two year course in the 9th. Mrs. Ribelin, daughter of Mr. D.H. Bridges (cashier of Carrollton National, elder of the Christian church, and prominent Mason, and beloved by all) . . .  was made principal of the school and teacher of the 8th and 9th grades. [She] was a fine teacher, had taught in County Schools and in the lower grades of Public School but had never tried such an experiment as this.

Carrollton School, 1880s. See below for details & 1896 graduation invitation.
 I started [8th grade] there, around the first of September and went two weeks, but didn’t like it at all – altho I was sitting in what had long seemed the “hallowed halls” (one room) where Mr. Melcher had held sway so long, where Will Salyers, Roman Goslee, Charlie Kipping, Bob Salyers, John Howe, Frank Grace (and other members of the Dirty Dozen) had carved their names on the desks. But a change was coming for me.

Prof. John T. English had opened an “academy” in the old building occupying the square between 4th and 5th and Clay and Seminary (named for the Carroll Seminary which had been an honored school for many years past, but had pretty well fallen into disrepair) – however, he fixed up one or two rooms to be a livable place for his pupils, put in new desks and didn’t disturb the rest of the building. As for the yard, the grass and weeds were cut before school started, and several cows were thriftily pastured therein, bringing Mr. English a small sum, and keeping the grass within limits. John Howe [one of Sarah's cousins], John Adcock, and others of the ’96 graduating class and quite a few of the junior class who would have normally finished C.H.S. in ’97, and an even greater number of sophomores and freshmen (those who had finished Freshman year and Eighth Grade in ’95-’96) had enrolled. But three or four parents wanted their children to go to Carroll Seminary, as it was again called, or “Mr. English’s school,” as more called it, so Mr. English got in touch with Cousin Lille Howe then just nineteen (in Nov. 1896) who had graduated the year before from Science Hill School then, as for many years the outstanding girls’ school in Kentucky, a preparatory for Wellesley, and very thorough as to English literature and history, as well as Mathematics and languages, tho really only a very advanced High School; for Lille went immediately there without attending C.H.S. at all.

. . . In the meantime, When Papa came back he made an arrangement with Lille to pay her, and she was to receive as part tuition Jenne’s schooling in the 8th grade, mine, and Beverly’s and Cooper’s (they were just in the 6th grade. Mr. English fixed up the room for her (a very small front one) with two desks in it and a recitation bench, a small stove, and eventually a sheet of blackboard paper. Bev Howe and Cooper Winslow sat in the room also Dick Stanton and Florian Browinski another pair of cousins (their mothers were daughters of Dr. Conn) who tho only in the 6th grade the year before, were advanced to the 8th so that we could all take the same instruction – they were my[?] age anyway.

The other cousin on the Conn side Vachel Rowland, son of Brother & Mrs. Molly Conn Rowland who had been with us in the 7th grade was also in our class. Therefore my cousin Lille’s pupils were her brother (Bev) and sister (Jenne) and cousins Cooper Winslow and myself; and the three Conn cousins Dick, Florian, and Vachel. . . .  The only “non cousin” among Lille’s pupils was Mamie Merrill, and she was a distant cousin of Florian’s on the Dean-Browinski side (also kin to Mildred Goslee, who was now living at Lakeland Hospital, where her father was Superintendent (appointed by Governor Bradley) and was for the second year attending Bellwood Seminary, a famous local Presbyterian school. . . . This is the school mentioned in The Little Colonel at Boarding School written sometime later.

. . . I can’t possibly describe to you what that year meant to me. While I had studied conscientiously in all the grades, working hard and worrying about examinations! without avail, as I think Jenne and I and James Webster always either tied or alternated with each other for the highest marks, and these were high, mostly over 95 – I had never really extended myself in any way, or fed the thirst that was in me for knowledge [until] this year.

. . . Lille with her fine training in literature opened new doors to all of us – to me at least – that have never been closed. She was an enthusiastic teacher, too, being only nineteen. Then, it was so very wonderful sitting in the “Big Room.” In our row, the first, sat the Freshmen, next row the sophomores, then the Juniors and Seniors, mixed, for they sometimes took the same classes. It was my first “bout” into Latin and Greek, hearing these boys recite (for there were no girls in those two high grades, just boys preparing for college – very few if any Carrollton girls then attended any except a junior college or “finishing school”). “Analysis”[ ?] was the Greek book they read, and I heard about “parasangs” and the like, and heard Cicero’s “Palatine orations" delivered in thundering (tho sometimes faltering) measure.

Lille gave us a great deal of class instruction, a good many themes to write, quotations to learn, and of course “problems” for 8th grade mathematics is hard. We had Physiology too, and of course History (United States history). But by chance I did a good deal of that work at home, as there was so much noise in the big room, and how I loved it! So I was generally all ears for the recitations of the “upper classes.” Then I began to really discover Poetry. Lille had us to read Miles Standish and Evangeline for class assignments, and Aunt Lou [Louisiana Winslow Howe] lent me two leather bound, gold edged volumes of Longfellow, containing, beside these [word illegible] poems the “Golden Legend” and “Hiawatha.” After starting to read these, all other things were forgotten, I only entered my seat to live in those precious volumes.

About 24 years after the year of upheaval in education, Sarah searched her memory and wrote this list of fellow students in her scrapbook.
6th grade: Beverly Howe, Cooper Winslow

8th Grade: Jenne Howe, Mamie Merrill, Sallie Howe [the compiler/writer of the scrapbooks], Florian Browinski, Dick Stanton, Vachel Rowland

Freshmen: Will Rowland, Giltner Donaldson, Velma Donaldson, Effie Browinski, Norie [?] Foulk, Anderson (Daisy) Adcock, Harry Grobmyer, Harold Grobmyer, Will Shoesmith

Sophomores: Chowning Shepherd, Will Garriott, Anna Butts, Grace Snelgrove, Bob Salyers, Virgie Giltner, Oscar Kipping, Will Barrett, Jim Chowning, Barrett Cox

Juniors-Seniors: Lewis Darling, John Howe, John Adcock, Allen Gullion, F.B. Forbes, Kirby Cox, Will Arnold, Evertson Ashby, Charlie Kipping, Ralph McCracken, David Jett, Charlie Blessing

[Note written by Sarah:] I think Minnie and Bessie Shoesmith went for a while too. Henry Darling came in our Freshman year, also Carroll Gullion.

The Class of 1896 was the last to receive diplomas from Carrollton High School before the school board temporarily dropped grades 10, 11, and 12.


About the School Building Photo: The image is on a postcard pasted into one of Sarah's scrapbooks. On the page she wrote: "I believe Will [William Levi Salyers, who would become Sarah's husband] started to this school when it looked pristine and pink like it does in the picture, but by the time I began to go there in the fall of 1890, it was certainly a good deal dirtier, outside and in. This picture is taken from the long side along Taylor Street (tho we didn't know its name then). The door that is visible and marked X was for the upperclassmen; we went in at the other door you cannot see. I have been a pupil in every room except the second story front, or High School, for by the time I got there I went to Prof. English's school. In the lower room, this [left] side, I went to Miss Minnie Parker in the 4th Grade (my most hated year of school!). In the one above to Miss Hallie Masterson in the 5th grade, my most happy year! – from contrast, probably, but Miss Hallie certainly had a lot to do with it."


Jana Iverson Last said...


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Grant Davis said...

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