Old Times In Schuyler 

First School In 1826
By Howard F. Dyson, 1918

Jonathan D. Manlove, first county surveyor of Schuyler county, taught school in those pioneer days, and was one of the few men who realized the worth of early history, and in later years, thru articles in local papers, preserved to future generations important facts of local history. In detailing the account of an attempt to establish free schools in Schuyler county in 1826, he says: "The first school house in the county was built near Benj. Chadsey's in 1826. A log house was put up and perhaps covered, but no school was ever taught in it. It was built under a very imperfect law, the first in the state that was called a free school law. But at that early period the same difficulty in regard to the ways and means and location of school houses existed that too often yet exist, and the school house was never finished because of ignorance and prejudice then extant."

The first free school law passed by the Illinois legislature in 1825 foreshadowed some of the most valuable features of our present efficient free school system, but it was apparently in advance of the times. The people preferred to pay tuition rather than submit to taxation, and the law was amended in 1827 so as to virtually nullify it by providing that no person should be taxed for the maintenance of any school unless his consent was first obtained in writing.

Even at the present day our splendid educational system would not survive if put to such a test.

The first building erected for school purposes in Rushville was a small one-story brick house that stood where the Christian church now stands. It was erected in the early '30s, and among the first teachers was Levi Lusk.

Mr. Lusk was a teacher of more than usual ability for those pioneer days, and during that period he was one of the foremost Masons of the state. He was initiated as a Mason in Kentucky in 1821, and after removing to Illinois took a prominent part in the work and was elected Most Worshipful Grand Master in 1845, and served as grand secretary from 1846 to 1847. He was also the first grand lecturer of Illinois, engaging in this work as early as 1843, and brought the unwritten work before the lodges of Illinois at the time the grand lodge was instituted.

Men of this character moulded public sentiment in those early days, both in the school and the community at large, as they were not only teachers but men of affairs, and were looked upon as leaders in the community. They instilled a sentiment for educational work that led the way to a better system of schools in Rushville, which was finally accomplished in 1868 when the Rushville Union school district as now organized, was created and the public schools of the city were united under governing body.

Of the early schools of Rushville we can give but passing notice. There was the Western Seminary, Cottage Seminary, Female Academy, Scripps Academy, The Seminary, M.E. church high school, and Parrott high school, all of which thrived and flourished for a time but eventually gave way before the progress of the system of free schools.

In looking thru my scrap book of Schuyler county history, I found the following advertisement of the Rushville high school for the year 1848:

Rushville High School in 1848

The next session of this institution will commence on Wednesday, the 9th day of August next, under the management of A. J. Sawyer, A.B. The Trustees take great pleasure in informing the public that they have secured the services of Mr. Sawyer, whom they believe to be a gentleman, eminently qualified, morally and intellectually, for the instruction of youth. To the feelings and manners of a gentleman he unites the principles of a christian, the information of a diligent and ripe scholar, and considerable experience as a teacher.

In addition to Miss Dayton, who has been engaged in the female department of the school for the last term, the Trustees have succeeded in making arrangements with Miss Williams, a graduate of the Female Institution at Monticello, and who has been recommended to them as a lady, not merely possessing scholastic qualifications of the highest order, but also an unusually happy talent in imparting her information to others.

Competent associates will be added as the wants of the Institution may require.

The course of study in this Institution will be thoro and extensive; such as will fit the student for college, for either of the professions, or for entering at once on the duties of life. It will embrace the primary and advanced branches of an English education, the Latin and Greek languages, and a full course of Mathematics.

Tuition--Reading, writing and Intellectual Arithmetic $2.50
Arithmetic, Grammar and Geography 3.00
History, Rhetoric, Botany and Logic 4.00
Philosophy, Chemistry, Algebra and Geometry 5.00
The higher branches of Mathematics and Latin and Greek 6.00
Contingent Expenses .25

The Trustees confidently offer to the public a school from which every advantage may be derived that talent and attention can afford. The efforts of the Teachers will be constantly directed to imparting to the pupils sound instruction, and to training their character, that by careful moral and mental cultivation, they may become good and useful members of society--that they may be well fitted to refine and adorn it.

No scholar will be received for less than one term.

Trustees of the Rushville High School Association.
J. L. Anderson, Secy.
Rushville, July 12, 1848.

In the sixty-five years that have elapsed since the founding of this first Rushville high school the free school system as we now know it has been perfected.

In the early days of Schuyler county our schools had the support and encouragement of the best type of American citizenship, and to that is due in no small degree the fine school sentiment that now exists.

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Copyright by Judi Gilker 2006