History of Wabash, Indiana (Part 2)
From: History of Wabash County, Indiana
Compiles under the Editorial Supervison of
Clarkson W. Weesner
The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York 1914
FIRST SCHOOLS IN TOWN
And speaking of illumination, one is reminded of intellectual enlightenment - of the splendid public school
system of Wabash City. As in all new communities, private effort preceded public organization in the young Town
of Wabash. For the first two or three years after its platting by Hugh Hanna its people were too busy taking care
of the county seat, buying and selling town lots, erecting the county buildings, organizing the courts and otherwise
getting things ready for newcomers, to think much of schools for their children. But with the influx of permanent
settlers, the schools had to come just as certainly as the churches, and other evidences of up to date civilization.
SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1 ORGANIZED
Several other attempts were made by the good men and women of the raw little town to establish private schools, but in the winter of 1839-40 the citizens of the locality decided to organize for public education. Thus at that time was founded School District No. 1 of Congressional Township No. 27 north, range 6 east, in Noble Township, and citizens awarded a contract to erect a building for public educational purposes to Joseph Ray. Under his hands, in the spring of 1840, a little frame schoolhouse arose on the north part of lot No. 157, of the original plat of Wabash Town, a little south and east from the freight depot of the Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific Railway.
FIRST PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND TEACHERS
This first public school of Wabash was taught by Miss Mary Ross, daughter of William O. Ross, one of the pioneer
lawyers and leading men of the town. A few years afterward Miss Ross married a Mr. George Miller and became a resident
of Peru, Indiana. Daniel Jackson, one of the associate judges of the Wabash Circuit Court, a man of some means
and much influence, is said to be the power behind the building of the first public schoolhouse at Wabash.
FIRST SCHOOL REPORT
From a report submitted by Doctor Ford, district trustee, to the school board, in September, 1851, the following facts are presented:
It thus appears that the total expenses of the public school system of District No. 1 for the year were $430, and from a report furnished Doctor Ford by Miss Hunt - he calls it "a labored table" - it is also evident that of the 345 of school age there was an attendance of 290 - 147 males and 143 females.
BUILDING OF THE UNION SCHOOLHOUSE
Under the provisions of the state school law of 1852, the people of Wabash soon commenced to move for the erection
of a union schoolhouse befitting the growing town. In May, 1855, the board of trustees passed an ordinance levying
a tax of 50 cents per $100 valuation for building such a schoolhouse. But that levy and several subsequent levies
were failures, financial complications ensued, and it also seemed impossible for the town board of trustees to
agree upon any plan for the building of the union schoolhouse. Finally the following five trustees were appointed
for school purposes, viz.: Robert Cissna, M. R. Crabill, Albert Pawling, Warden McLees and Daniel Sayre.
WARD SCHOOLS OF THE CITY
In the meantime other ward schoolhouses had been erected - the West Ward, on West Maple Street, in 1877; the East Ward, on Walnut Street, in 1883; and the Miami school, in 1888. Following the completion of the new high school on West Hill Street, in 1894, were the building of the South Side school, on Vernon Street, in 1897, and the erection of the Century school, on Manchester Avenue, in 1900. The last named is one of the best constructed public school buildings in the city, being a massive two story structure of red brick, with high stone foundation and basement.
THE NEW HIGH SCHOOL
The ground for the new high school was broken in the fall of 1893, and the cornerstone of the building was laid
by the Indiana Grand Lodge of Masons on the 11th of April, 1894. Finally, it was completed and opened to pupils
on the 26th of November, of that year.
PRESENT STATUS OF CITY SCHOOLS
From the last report of the city superintendent of schools the following information is taken, the table being
SOUTH WABASH ACADEMY
The South Side School. a substantial and handsome structure, two stories and basement with stone foundation and brick superstructure, is surrounded by spacious and beautiful grounds which were formerly the property of the South Wabash Academy. The old academy was established in the '60s by Prof. F. A. Wilbur, of Wabash College, as a girl's preparatory school for the institution named, which was under the general management of the Presbyterian Church. It was originally known as the Female Academy, but after some years of unsuccessful experimenting in that circumscribed field the scope of the institution was enlarged so as to include both sexes. In this form the academy was more successful, but evidently did not reach the expectations of Professor Wilbur who resigned its principalship in 1873. At that time the Presbyterian Church also ceased to be its controlling body, the institution falling into the hands of the Society of Friends. Prof. S. G. Hastings of Earlham College then assumed charge, being succeeded as principal, in 1874, by J. Tilghman Hutchens of the Spiceland Academy. The academic course aimed to give both a preparatory training for college and a practical business education and on the whole, the institution was well managed. Of course, it had its ups and downs, and eventually succumbed, as did similar academies, to the advancing excellence and breadth of the Wabash High School.
SUPERINTENDENTS OF CITY SCHOOL
As stated W. E. Spilman was the first superintendent of the public schools of Wabash. He served from 1859 to 1861; Joseph Mackey, during two terms of 1861 and 1862; Miss Hattie E. Grosvenor (afterward Mrs. Mackey), in the spring term of 1862; E. P. Cole, from 1863 to 1865; R. H. Wilkerson, 1865 to 1866; Samuel C. Miller, during a portion of 1866; R. C. Ross, earlier part of 1867; J. B. Yeagley, 1867-68; Pleasant Bond, 1869-71; J. J. Mills, 1871-73; I. F. Mills, brother of the foregoing, also during 1873; D. W. Thomas, 1873-86; Miles W. Harrison, 18861903; Adelaide S. Baylor, 1903-11; Orville C. Pratt, 1911.
ADELAIDE S. BAYLOR
None connected with the educational system of Wabash has made a higher or more enduring record than Miss Adelaide Steele Baylor, for thirty six years identified with every step in the progress of the public schools, whether of the city, county or state. During a period of fourteen years she served as principal of the Wabash High School and eight years as superintendent of the city schools, while since July, 1911, she has been the able assistant to the state superintendent of public instruction, as a lecturer and active organizer in the field. Aside from her abilities as a clear, luminous and convincing expositor of both practical and advanced theories in the field of higher education, and her inspiring work at teachers' institutes and other meetings of the profession, Miss Baylor has achieved a national reputation for the strength and profundity of her mental attainments in mathematics, philosophy, psychology and other provinces of deep investigation and learning. Officially, she is a leader in both the state and national teachers' associations.
What makes this record a special cause of pride to the home community is that Miss Baylor is a native of Wabash,
her mother being of the well known Steele family of which Col. William Steele, one of the fathers of the town and
the county, Was one of the most popular and highly honored citizens who ever lived within their limits. In 1878
Adelaide Steele Baylor graduated from the Wabash High School, and the same year was employed as a teacher in the
city schools. In 1884 she assumed her first position in the high school as assistant to the learned and able Prof.
A. M. Huycke, its principal, whom she succeeded in 1889. Her fine administration of the affairs of that institution
earned her an advancement to the head of the city schools, which she assumed in 1903, being the first woman in
the state to hold that position.
HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPALS
Following Miss Baylor, as principal of the high school, was C. W. Knouff, who succeeded her in 1903, and served until 1908. In the latter year C. H. Brady was placed at the head of its affairs, and in 1911 he was succeeded by the present incumbent, O. J. Neighbours.
WARREN BIGLER'S SERVICE TO THE SCHOOL
In here taking leave of the public schools of Wabash, it would be inexcusable to omit anything but enthusiastic mention of the services rendered to them and to the cause of higher education, by Warren Bigler, who has served as a member of the city school board since 1885 to 1903, and during a large portion of that period as its president. If any one man can be mentioned in the same class with Miss Baylor, it is Mr. Bigler, albeit force of circumstances has made it necessary for him to make the dedication of his time, means and strength to the cause of education and individual culture, somewhat auxiliary to the insistence and pressure of a business and financial life. It is needless to add for the information of those who know Mr. Bigler that he is one of the stanchest admirers of the abilities, services and character which are associated with the personality of Miss Baylor.
THE WOMEN FOUND A LIBRARY
The Carnegie Public Library of 'Wabash is an educator of wide usefulness, and everybody takes a just pride in
its work. The earlier efforts to supply the public with mental food and stimulus are credited largely to the women;
and that is the rule, as the histories of all similar movements will prove.
MRS. C. E. COWGILL
Mrs. C. E. Cowgill was the first and only president the association ever had, being reelected each succeeding
year. In this connection it may not be out of order to say that Mrs. Cowgill deserves special mention, in any discussion
of library history in Wabash. She gave liberally of her time and money, and without detracting from the credit
due others, it may be said that the success of the enterprise was due in no small degree to her indefatigable energy
and marked liberality.
WABASH CITY LIBRARY
In 1900 the Woman's Library Association consolidated with the High School Library, the former passing out of existence, the new organization being known as the Wabash City Library with Mrs. Nelson Zeigler as librarian. The board of directors consisted of members of the school board, Mrs. C. E. Cowgill and Mrs. J. I. Robertson. Shortly after the formation of the Wabash City Library, the books and headquarters were transferred from the high school to Memorial Hall. There the public library remained until the opening of the Carnegie building in 1903.
AS A CARNEGIE PUBLIC LIBRARY
At different times during the few previous years applications had been made to Mr. Carnegie for a donation,
at least a dozen letters having been written to the noted founder of libraries. On February 23, 1901, Warren Bigler,
then president of the school board and ever a steadfast and influential promoter of library matters, wrote again
to Mr. Carnegie, and two days later Mrs. Cowgill added her earnest plea to the steel magnate. The latter especially
gave a history of the hard struggle made by the ladies for the establishment and maintenance of a library at Wabash.
Although Mr. Carnegie, through his secretary, had previously intimated that he was limiting his appropriations
for library purposes to cities of at least 50,000 inhabitants, he evidently capitulated before these last pleas,
for about two weeks afterward Mr. Bigler received the following from James Bertram, Mr. Carnegie's secretary, dated
March 6, 1901: "Dear Sir: Yours of 23d received. If the city of Wabash will furnish a site and agree to spend
$2,000 a year on the support of its library, Mr. Carnegie will be glad to give $20,000 for a free library building."
At this time the library had 3,300 volumes on its shelves.
The city has two pretty public parks, both located north of the Wabash. Hanna Park, which is on the eastern outskirts of the municipality, is in process of improvement. The rounds of the city park toward the west are laid out to a certain extent, provided with a music pavilion and refectory, and other public conveniences. There also is the Lincoln Log Cabin, with its historic museum and pretty rest room.
The cabin is not only historic, but the adjacent ground. The depression in front of its steps was caused by incessant travel along the first road running through the site of Wabash - the old road running from Vincennes to Fort Wayne, of which this rut in front of the Lincoln Cabin was a small section. The Indians made this trail through the woods while on their travels to and from these cities. They rode horseback, single file, both men and squaws astride their ponies, and would halt at the cabin of Little Charley, which was located where the abutment of the railroad bridge now stands on the west side of Charley Creek. On their way they would also stop at Paradise Spring, afterward known as Hanna Spring. This road angled through the city as it is now located.
THE CITY PARK
The city park was formerly the grounds of the old Agricultural Society of the county, and something about the
early steps leading to its establishment as a beauty spot in Wabash is thus given in a souvenir edition of the
old Wabash Times, published in 1897. The story reads: "In no other city, probably, of like population can
be found a public park possessing more natural loveliness, grandeur and magnificence than the One owned by the
city of Wabash. The grounds comprise about thirty five acres and were formerly the property of the now defunct
Wabash County Agricultural Society. The site was selected by that society many years ago when it was yet a part
of the virgin forest. Its most attractive natural beauties were retained, and these have been made more pleasing
of late years to the artistic eye by intermingling with them adornments of a less primitive character.
[Return to History of Wabash, Indiana Part 1]
Continued with the biography of Clarkson W. Weesner.