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he desired the presidency of Harvard College. In May of that year the president, his father, died, and Cotton's diary tells us he as much as begged for the position. In November the corporation elected another man. Even this was not enough; their first choice declined the honor, and six months later the trustees called the Rev. Benjamin Wadsworth to the position. As both of these gentlemen were pastors in Boston where Mather himself preached, he must have felt keenly the double slight thus heaped upon him. To-day Cotton Mather is but little more than a name, and people know no more of the author of over three hundred books than they do of that sad affair for which he was so largely responsible.
HISTORY OF EDUCATION IN OMAHA.
BY MRS. M. B. NEWTON.
[Read before a meeting of the Society, January 14, 1890.]
There is very little doubt that the first school in the city of Omaha was held in the basement of the old brick church erected by the Congregational Society, in the winter of 1855 and 1856. The church stood on the lot which is now in the rear of the Y. M. C. A. building. A Mrs. Smith came from New York state, rented the northeast basement room, and there taught a little private school. Very soon after a Mrs. Purple, then a young lady, had a private school in the state house building, on Ninth and Farnam. Almost from the first there were more children in the city than could be accommodated in the schools. Many of the early settlers were people of education and culture and they organized classes among themselves for mutual improvement in different studies.
One person after another would instruct. People who were able sent their children to St. Louis and other cities, but this involved an expensive and tedious trip. Facilities for travel in those days were limited and therefore this was not a popular method.
Others employed teachers in their homes. The children of those days however speak well in their later development for the character of the instruction received. There still remained a large class of children who demanded the American right of education. Omaha was incorporated in 1857, was then divided into three wards, and a school director from each ward was elected, A. D. Jones, G. C. Monell, and Mr. Kellom, being first to fill the office.
Mr. Monell had known Howard E. Kennedy in the East and his services as superintendent of education were engaged by these three directors. Mr. Kennedy arrived in 1858 and at once began his work. He found plenty to do. Not a building or a book could
the city claim. Mr. Kennedy rented rooms in the state house and Nov. 1, 1859, after attending personally to every arrangement, opened three schools. He, himself, taught in the state house assisted by Mrs. Nye. A little one story, one room frame building on Thirteenth street near Douglas, was in charge of Mrs. Rust, and a similar school on Cuming street near the old Military Bridge was taught by Mrs. Torry. For a year these teachers did most excellent work. The schools were crowded with pupils of all ages and attainments. Efforts to follow a system of grading, which Mr. Kennedy planned, were made, but in schools like these, this is almost impossible. The
of 1860 was an unlucky one for Omaha schools.
The financial troubles of the approaching war affected Omaha greatly. Public school funds were exhausted. Classes formed at intervals by people, whose occupations afforded sufficient leisure, were again resorted to. Mr. Kennedy left for the east, expecting to return soon and resume his work, but changed his plans later, and did not return for several years.
In 1860, Samuel D. Beals, a gentleman whose reputation was not un*known in Omaha, organized a private school, which he conducted for nine years. It was extensively advertised as the Omaha High School, and is mentioned by that name in the report of W. E. Harvey, Territoriai Commissioner, in 1860. This report gives the number of pupils in all the schools as 267, or a fraction over 50 per cent. of the school population.
From 1860 to 1863, there were no public schools, although a few efforts were made to establish them. In 1862, a Mr. McCarthy, school director from the 1st ward, made application to the city council for permission to erect a school building on Jefferson Square, and the permission was granted. Raising the funds for that building, however, was not easy, and sufficient money could not be obtained till 1863. Then the first school building ever owned by the city was erected on the southwest corner of Jefferson Square. It was a frame building of medium size containing at first only one room. This school was erected under the personal supervision of B. E. B. Kennedy, and was opened in September, 1863. It was crowded to
. excess from the first day. The unhappy teacher first engaged was utterly unable to control the crowd, and was dismissed at the end of the month. Another gentleman, whose methods of discipline appear to have been original at least, was employed. He fashioned a wooden instrument, something like a small spade, with a long handle and with this he alternately spatted and punched disorderly pupils even at quite a distance from him. He too, stayed only a month, and was succeeded by Mrs. Cooper, under whose care the school flourished.
In a very short time the room was divided, thereby accommodating a larger number of pupils, and Mr. Hutchinson was employed as principal. The following year ground was purchased on Cass street, between Fourteenth and Fifteenth, and the building moved over there, where it remained until 1878, when it was removed to Burt and Twenty-second streets, and is now used as a stable. From this second start, Omaha schools have progressed steadily.
In 1863 Lincoln's decision that Omaha should be the terminus of the U. P. R. R., gave a great impetus to its growth, and what had before been a struggling western village became an ambitious town. School accommodations were limited, and in 1864, the Episcopal church organized a school for young ladies out on Saunders street, in what is now known as the Saratoga district. Its first pupil was Mrs. Flemon Drake.
Pupils who could not be accommodated in the public schools, were thus afforded another chance for home education, which they were not slow to grasp.
The school was removed to Sixteenth and Jones in 1867, and remained there in care of the Rev. J. H. Dougherty until 1880. A beautiful building was then erected on South Tenth street and the school removed there. It is under a board of fifteen directors, of whom the bishop of this diocese is president.
Several small parochial schools were started about this same time, by the Catholic societies of the town.
From 1864 to 1869, the schools were largely under the care of B. E. B. Kennedy, John Evans, Dr. Miller, J. M. Woolworth, John Rush, and many others, who are still residents of the city. The buildings were inferior, but the care bestowed upon their inmates was superior.
Full records of these schools were kept and turned over by B. E. B. Kennedy to the board of education in 1872, but these records unfortunately, have every one been lost.
In 1868, the Catholic 'residents of the city made a request for a portion of the public school money to be used in maintaining the
This the board of directors refused to pay, even after a vote to give them $1,000 had been passed by the legislature. To compromise the matter, the directors rented the building owned by the German Catholic church on Eighth street, near Harney, paying $1,000 rent.
This wise arrangement averted all trouble at that time and the rooms were occupied until the church society was obliged to retain them for its own use. Since then there has been little or no effort in this direction. There are now about 1,800 pupils enrolled in the twelve Catholic schools, including nearly two hundred students of Creighton College. In 1868 the capitol building was vacated and the legislature of 1869 presented the grounds and building to Omaha for a high school. Six gentlemen, constituting the board of regents, organized by the legislature, held their first meeting in the office of one of the members, J. M. Woolworth. A Chicago architect, G. P. Randolph, by name, examined the building and pronounced it unfit
The treasurer of the board was qualified by law to receive the $38,840 due from the state. The regents also thought that $12,500 were due from the board of school directors, and requested the payment of that sum. John Evans was then the treasurer of the directors, and after consultation with his colleagues, refused to pay it on the ground of illegality. After several efforts to obtain it, the board of regents resolved to sue the board of directors for $25,000. Early in 1870 the directors offered to pay the regents the sum of $20,000 on condition that the suit then pending should be withdrawn, that all pupils from the city schools who could pass examination should be admitted into the high school, and that there should be one general and harmonious system of grading throughout.
These conditions were accepted. These directors, B. E. B. Kennedy, John Evans, and Mr. Simpson, made also another change, and one thoroughly in harmony with Nebraska enterprise and justice. They established the custom of paying for the work itself, without regard to the sex of the teacher, Omaha being the first city in the United States to do so.
Money matters being now adjusted, at the request of the board of regents and the board of directors, Mr. S. D. Beals arranged a system of grading. Children are permittted to enter at five years of age. The child so entering is placed in the first or A class of the first