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from the earth. Had free government in Illinois depended on free educational provisions and opportunities for the common man in the early period, it most surely would have perished. Either leaders like Coles and Peck were educated in the states from whence they came, or a few academies in the centers of population in the frontier districts instructed such leaders as Reynolds and Bateman. On the whole, the educational system of Illinois, from 1800 to 1835, was conducted on a purely individualistic basis.
Among the earliest plans for education in Illinois was that presented to the English King and Council in a petition by Leyman, a leader of a colony, to settle on the Mississippi about 1765. He says, “Another step I would propose to be taken which must have great effect towards Accomplishing the design, is that of a Colledge, or Publick School, to be Established in some proper place in that Country, and empowered to give honorary degrees, in order to instruct the Children of the English, French and Indians, and amongst the honorary Arts, the Art of Agriculture, or Laws of Vegetation should be taught and on Account of their knowledge and Skill in that as well as in other Arts, they should receive Honorary Degrees, and have a sufficient tract of Land appropriated to the use of the Colledge, and the pupils kept to work on the Land a certain number of Hours every day, which would instruct them in the Theory of Agriculture, and enure them to Labour at the same time and if it once toucht their ambition would soon Eradicate from their Minds, the Prejudice the Indians who generally have imbibed, that it is disrespectable for their Men to Work, which at present is an impediment to their Industry. And Occasions there leading in the Intervals of their Hunting, Lazy, Indolent and Unhealthy Lives, and if this plan should Flatter the Ambition of the Indians, so as to meet with their Approbation, I think it promises the best Effects: for what cannot be done by Force of Infant Education when you have a fair Chance for it, by obtaining the Free Consent both of the Parent and Child, or what reformation is to be despaired of, when Clothed, Lodged and Fed, alike according to the English Fashion, but in the Cheapest manner, which may likewise have a happy Effect on the Nations from whence they respectively come. Several
things Encourage me to believe that such an Attempt, would be attended with Success over and above the Great Force there is in Infant Education Amongst all Mankind.” 1
However, “the opportunity of these pioneers to educate their children was extremely small. Tf the mother could read, while the father was in the corn field, or with rifle upon the range, she would barricade the door to keep off the Indians, gather her little ones around her and by the light that came in from the crevices in the roof and sides of the cabin, she would teach them the rudiments of spelling from the fragments of some old book. After schools were taught, the price of a rough and antiquated copy of Dilworth's spelling-book was one dollar, and that dollar equal in value to five
“The first school ever taught for the American settlers, was by Samuel Seely in 1783. Francis Clark, an intemperate man came next. This was near Bellefontaine, in 1785. After this an inoffensive Irishman by the name of Halfpenny, was employed by the people for several quarters. Spelling, reading, writing and the elements of arithmetic, were all the branches attempted to be taught, and these in a very imperfect manner.”
“Following him the late pious and eccentric John Clark, a preacher of the gospel, taught the youth of these settlements gratuitously. He was a good scholar, of Scotch descent and education, and initiated the young men of that day, not only in the rudiments of an English education, but in several instances in mathematics, natural philosophy and the Latin language."2
Governor Reynolds said that “in the county of Randolph there was not a single school, or school-house in 1800, except John Doyle, a soldier of the Revolution under General Clark, might have taught a few children in Kaskaskia at or after this period.”
“In the settlement of New Design, an Irishman, not well qualified, called Halfpenny, at this period instructed some pupils. This school was the only one amongst the Americans at this early day. In the American Bottom, perhaps a school
1 Ill. Hist. Coll. v. 2, The New Regime, 1765-1767, p. 272. ? Peck, J. M., Annals of the West, p. 707.
might have existed, but not long at a time. Under the guidance of the Clergy in the French villages at rare intervals, schools were established, but their numbers and efficacy were limited."
The scarcity of schools, the opportunity for instruction, the dearth of books, and the ambition of some youths, who later were the pioneer leaders, were depicted by Governor Reynolds in these words: “Before any common school was established in the settlement, where my father resided, I mounted a horse nearly every evening during the winter, and rode about a mile and a half to the residence of James Hughes, to study under his guidance the arithmetic. Mr. Hughes, although he was raised in the backwoods, and was filled with fun and frolic, was a man of strong mind, and a benevolent heart. He took great pleasure in teaching me arithmetic, and during this winter I studied the most important principles contained in the treatise."
“We had not the least idea when a school would be established in the neighborhood; and I was advancing in years; so that it was a matter of necessity to study with Mr. Hughes.
“This was the first step I took towards an education, since we immigrated to Illinois. I attended to my ordinary business on the farm during the day, and in the evenings after the stock was fed I studied arithmetic with Mr. Hughes. In a few years after, schools were established in most of the colonies."
“In the New Design Robert Lemen, an aged and respectable pioneer of Illinois, taught a school. Others were opened in Goshen Settlement, and other colonies."
“About the year 1805, a small school was formed in the settlement, where my father resided. I was a scholar at this humble institution during part of the winters, and the wet days, we could not work on the farm, for one or two years while we remained in the settlement. At times the school was not kept up for want of teachers. The scarcity of school books was also a great inconvenience to the scholar."
“As soon as I commenced the study of arithmetic with Mr. Hughes, I commenced also an ambition and a small en
thusiasm for education generally. This disposition induced me to study and read almost every book I could obtain. It must be recollected at that day in Illinois, not a man in the country, professional or otherwise, had any collection of books that could acquire the name of a library. There were some books scattered through the country but they were not plentiful. Although my father was a reading man, and possessed of a strong mind, yet as far as I recollect, he brought with him to the country no books, except the Bible. Many of the immigrants acted in the same manner as to books."
“One exception I remember was: That John Fulton, who settled in the vicinity of my father, brought with him Rollin's Ancient History. My father loaned it, and I read it day and night at the times I spared from labor. This was the first history I had ever seen, and it gave me a new field of mental existence."
“I made arrangement with my father to go all one winter to school. I had raised a colt he gave me, and I gave it to a man to work in my place on the farm, while I attended school."
“At this school I studied reading, writing and arithmetic. I revised my studies of arithmetic I had commenced with Mr. Hughes. It was my energy and ambition more, , I presume, than my capacity: But I learned rapidly—so my teachers always reported."
“At that day, neither grammar, geography, nor books of science ever appeared in schools. And no branch of mathematics was taught except arithmetic. The custom of the day was also to study the lesson aloud. Each one in the school read out at the top of his voice if it suited the convenience of the scholar. This unenviable habit is changed at this day."
“My father purchased a few books, and among them was a treatise on geography. This was a good work in four volumes, and presented a tolerably good geography of the inhabited globe. In this work was also contained a sketch of astronomy, and particularly, the solar system. This study surprised and astounded me. It was incomprehensible to me how it was possible, that the knowledge of the heavenly bodies could be obtained. I reflected on this science with all my humble abilities, and became well instructed on it, so far as that short sketch afforded me the means. My father understood the general principles of astronomy tolerably well, and instructed me considerably in addition to the treatise mentioned above. "4
About the time Illinois was admitted as a state in the Union, educational conditions and opportunities were scarcely better than those which Reynolds described. An article in the Illinois Intelligencer, September 5, 1816, says that “at least one-third of the schools were really a public nuisance, and did the people more harm than good; another third about balanced the account, by doing about as much harm as good, and perhaps one-third were advantageous to the community in various degrees.
An example of the schools in Kaskaskia appears in the same paper, January 1, 1818, entitled “To the Patrons of Literature." J. Cheek “Informs the friends and guardians of erudition that he has opened a school in the town of Kaskaskia, for the instruction of youth, in the different departments of English Literature. He will extend the sphere of instruction so as to include the following sciences, viz: Reading, Writing, Orthography, Arithmetic, English Grammar, Geography, History, Rhetorick, Composition, Elocution, etc. He flatters himself that from his attention to the morals and scientifick avocations of his pupils, he will share no inconsiderable portion of the patronage of the judicious and discerning people."
“Mr. Cross respectfully informs his fellow citizens of Kaskaskia, and its vicinage, that he intends, should sufficient patronage be afforded, to open a School in this town, for the instruction of youth, in Orthography, Orthoepy, Reading, Writing, English Grammar, Arithmetic and Elocution.
“Scholars who have graduated in these branches of tuition, will be instructed in the rudiments of History, Geography, Natural Philosophy and Mathematics."
“Mr. C. will endeavor to instill in the minds of his scholars the vital importance of sound moral principle, and correct manners, which he will elucidate, by a regular course of lectures every Saturday. As soon as he can produce the necessary appendages, his school will be Lancasterian. No
• Reynolds, My Own Times, p. 92.