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History of Kewanee Schools

"Portrait and Biographical Album of Henry County Illinois", 1885

Copied by Linda Lang; Transcribed by Susie Martin-Rott


The first school in Kewanee was in a small frame building, built by George A. Morse and donated by him to educational purposes. It stood just north of the railroad track on Main Street. School was conducted here for nearly two years, when the structure was moved into the town proper, on the lot now the East School, and here used until it was moved again to make room for a better building. This little building was soon wholly inadequate to the town's growth, and the trustees rented rooms over Schrivers store and also of Austin Sykes. These were occupied until 1858. To this time these two commodious rooms it seems were room enough, and the old pioneer school-room, mentioned above, was sold and became the printing-office of the Henry County Dial; it lived through the rough experience of the printer and his "devil" and again was transferred and became the Christian Church, and after faithful service here was again changed and became a private residence. Its varied experience and migrations remind one of "Japhat in search of a father." In 1865 the East School-room becoming wholly inadequate, steps were taken for the enlargement of the building, and the erection of two others. In 1866 the East building was enlarged to double its former capacity, and the two brick structures known as the North and West Schools, were determined upon. They were built in 1867, and first occupied in 1868, each containing two rooms. The schools were thoroughly re-graded in 1866 by Superintendent S. M. Etter, afterwards State Superintendent of Public Schools. Mr. Etter was Principal of the Kewanee school three years, and laid well the foundations of the excellent graded schools that have marked the history of the place. He was followed by Mr. H. W. Russell, who was, with short intervals, for about 11 years in charge of the schools. From Kewanee Mr. Russell went to Chicago, and was for some years in charge of the High School at the Stock yards. He was succeeded by the present Superintendent, Mr. E. C. Rosseter, who is also County Superintendent of Schools.

The brick buildings were erected at a cost of about $6,000.

The High School was established in 1856. It grew out of a general desire for a higher grade of education than the village school of those days could give. Kewanee and Wethersfield joined hands in this commendable movement. At first each village struggled to have the school located within its limits. The matter was finally settled by locating it on or near the dividing line between the two towns. James Elliott donated two-and-one half acres of ground for the location, and here the building was erected. For some time only the upper story was completed for school purposes, the lower one being used for lectures, lyceums, and a public hall. Here lectured Horace Greely and John B. Gough, among many others of more or less note. Rev. Waldo was secured as the first Principal of the school assisted by Miss Atwood. The first furnishing was somewhat primitive and rough. Tough pine desks and benches, running half across the room, with three aisles thus formed, is the picture of the school-room as remembered by those who first attended the school. Of those who were school-girls at this opening of the High School we learn, among others, are the following: Laura Pratt (Mrs. Northrop), Lillie Burns (Mrs. Raymond), Nellie Little (Mrs. Geo. Perkins), Libbie Cuttia, Helen and Lucy Lyle, Fanny Lay, Ella Way, Addie Cheany, Lottie Talcott (Mrs. T. P. Pierce).

At that time there were no side-walks by which the children could reach the school, and at time the way was practically impassable. A large wagon was often used to haul the children to and from the school-house.

Mr. Waldo, at the end of his second school-year, resigned, and was succeeded by Mr. Blodgett, who was assisted by Miss Stocking. He determined on having better furniture, and got up an exhibition, and thus raised a fund and re-furnished the room. Mr. McPheran then was in charge, and he was succeeded by Mr. Bradford, and he by Mr. Tabor, who made the first attempt to grade the school. He made the novel and daring experiment of arranging a course of study and had it printed. Mr. Beckington next succeeded, and he was followed by S. M. Etter, and he by Russell, and he by the present Mr. E. C. Rosseter. During Mr. Etter's term he arranged an exhibition, and raised $83 to found a library. it was a small beginning, but it was bravely invested as a start toward a library, until now, through the efforts of friends, the town and the successors of Mr. Etter, a fine library is part of the High School. In Sept., 1870, the town of Kewanee purchased the interest of Wethersfield in the school and has since had entire control. It was mentioned above that Mr. Russell was absent at certain intervals. He served about two years as principal of the schools at Moline, and during this time Mr. Gray was principal one year, and Mr. Carver for a term.

There are now six school building sin the town, and it has been arranged to construct another next year. The High School has five rooms and five teachers; Prof. E. C. Rosseter, J. Williams, Principal of the High School; Anna A. Schriver, Assistant; Mrs. M.H. Keyes, Grammar; Miss Maggie G. Blish, Intermediate. East School: There are three buildings on these grounds. These are to be replaced by one large new building, and the High School is also to be taken down and an elegant, large and commodious building to take its place next year. In the East School the teachers are Miss Jennie Chase, grammar; Miss A.A. Johnson and Miss Anna Scott, intermediate; Miss H. Villa Card and Miss Franc Otis, second department; Miss Escher Loomis and Miss Jennie Halline, primary. The West School is a brick building of two rooms. The teachers are Miss Ida Palmer, secondary; Miss Hattie Maul, primary. The North School: Miss Anna Eack, secondary; Miss Franc Porter, primary. The enrollment is 800; the average attendance, 710. School is taught nine months. Total school expenses, $9,000; of this sum $6,800 is paid teachers; $800 to janitors, and the remainder miscellaneous. Mr. Rosseter has been seven years with the Kewanee school; Miss Johnson has taught thirteen years, Miss Halline, eight years, and Miss Loomis nine years.