Newton Bateman.

Historical encyclopedia of Illinois online

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pany, changed its name to the Galesburg and
Great Eastern, completed the road to Victoria
and Etherly. and put it in good running order,
with new equipment. Trains are regularly run
and the management contemplates extending
the line from Wataga to' Galesburg and east
from Etherly to Lacon.

In 1879-80. the Peoria and Farmington Rail-
road Company completed a line of road through
Knox County. Soon afterward it was sold to
the Central Iowa Company, and finally, through
several transfers, came into the hands of the
present company. It runs for about twelve
miles through Cedar. Indian Point and Chest-
nut townships, and has but two stations in
Knox County. Abingdon and Hermon.

The Rock Island and Peoria road is of but lit-
tle importance to the county. It has no station
in Knox, and runs for only two or three miles
through Lynn Township.


The first school in Knox County was taught
by Franklin B. Barber, at Henderson Grove, in
1830. The second was in Cherry Grove, taught
by Robert Bell in the winter of 1832. These were
decidedly primitive as regards both equipment
and surrounding, and without much system or
order. They were gotten up by the local resi-
dents without reference to the rest of the county.
and without regard to State law. simply for the
rudimentary instruction of their own children.
In each township the United States Government
set off one section, generally No. 16. to be grant-
ed to the State for school purposes, in consid-
eration of the exemption of the government
lands from taxation for five years after sale.
The law of June 22. 1829. authorized the ap-

pointment by the County Commissioners of each
county, of a School Commissioner. He was to
sell these school sections for each township and
'a\est the proceeds for the benefit of the public
schools. In 1831, the Knox County Commis-
sioners first appointed A. D. Swarts; but he
failed to qualify. In 1832, they appointed Wil-
liam McMurtry, who was certified September 11.
1854, by the County Clerk, as duly appointed
and qualified. Two school trustees were also ap-
pointed about this time for Henderson Town-
ship. Theoretically, each township should have
had then, as it has now, trustees to take charge
of its school management. But for many years,
while some townships had their trustees and
treasurer, and managed their own affairs, others
hp.d only their lands, while their funds were
managed by the County Commissioner.

The first school district was organized at Hen-
derson Grove, in 1836, on petition addressed to
the Commissioners, as is now done by petition
to the township trustees. The second was in the
Edgar district, embracing part of the southern
end of Knox and Galesburg townships, and was
organized in 1837. The third was the Abingdon
district, including part of Indian Point and
Cedar townships. By 1840. there were eighteen
district schools, with a total attendance of four
hundred and eighty-nine.

These were regular districts; but often schools
were organized without any petition to the
county authorities. In a sense, these were pri-
vate schools, but they received public funds in
proportion to the number of attendant pupils,
just as those which were regularly organized.
A pupil might attend the school of his choice,
whether he lived in its special district or not.
and the school received a pro rata payment
from the fund of each township whence it had
pupils. Hence, the ability of a teacher was
shown, in a great measure, "by the number of
pupils in his school. The choice being unre-
strained, it usually fell upon the best instructor.

The revenue of the public schools has always
been derived from four sources. First, from the
grants of Government land, one section in each
township. The main duty of the early School
Commissioners was to sell these lands and in-
vest the proceeds for the benefit of the town-
ship of which the section sold was part. The
sales were made at public auction, and in oome
townships, as in Galesburg. where section Ifi was
within the city limits, the sums realized were
large. In Henderson, one quarter of section 16
was occupied by a squatter. His neighbors



thought he ought to be allowed to buy at the
Government price, and so would not bid against
him at the sale. Hence the township received
only two hundred dollars for as fine a quar-
ter as there was in Knox County. To-day every
township receives some income from this source.
the total amount for the county being a little
less than $2,100.

The second source of revenue is the State
fund, distributed among the counties on the
basis of the number of persons of school age
in each, as compared with the whole number
of such persons in the State. This number tas
grown smaller as Cook County's comparative
growth has increased. In 1895, Knox County
received $8,437.15 from the State. In 1874, the
sum was $15,443.

The third source of income is the fines paid
into the treasury by the Justices. This sum is
comparatively small and unimportant.

The fourth and main source has always been
the special tax levied for school purposes. The
total expenditure in the county for all school
purposes in 1895-6 was $173,419.28. The total
value of all school property was $409,960.

The School Commissioner of the early days
was an educational officer only to a very limited
extent. He examined applicants for teachers'
certificates and was present at the institutes
and took an active part therein: but his main
duties were financial. He did not visit schools,
or assist in preparing courses of study; but he
did sell the school lands and invest the pro-
ceeds. William McMurtry resigned this posi-
tion in 1840. In March following, C. K. Harvey
was appointed to succeed him. The next Legis-
lature made the office elective, and C. K. Harvey
was chosen by ballot, August 2, 1841. There-
after, the Commissioner was elected biennially,
until the law of February 16, 1865, which abol-
ished the ofiice anrf provided for the election of
a County Superintendent of Schools, who should
hold office for four years. The Superintendent
is really an educational oflScer. He grants the
teachers' certificates, visits all the schools reg-
ularly, and has supervision of the course of

The school lands have long since been sold,
and the proceeds are in the hands of the town
trustees, so that the sole financial duty im-
posed upon this officer is the reception of the
State fund, and its proportionate distribution
among the townships.

Next to the Superintendent come the Town-
ship Trustees, of whom there are three in each

town. Their term of office is three years, and
one is elected annually. They appoint the
Town Treasurer and have supervision of his
work. The last named official has charge of
all the school finances of his town. He loans
the moneys and receives the State fund, and
to him the Collector turns over the taxes. He
pays out money on the order of the Directors.
There are three Directors in each district, who
are elected for three years, one being chosen
every year. They engage the teachers, deter-
mine the necessary tax levy for their district,
build the school houses, and in general see to
the immediate operation of the school. In place
of these Directors, there are Boards of Educa-
tion in Galesburg, Knoxville, and Oneida, who
exercise all supervision and authority over the
schools in their respective districts.

The methods of instruction are now uniform
throughout the county. The course of study fol-
lowed is the one recommended by the State
Superintendent. It is believed that the Knox
County schools equal those of any county in
Illinois. The one weak point in the system,
as administered, lies in the fact that the selec-
tion of teachers rests wholly in the discretion
of the Directors, who are often absolutely with-
out knowledge of the fitness of the applicants
who seek to teach. They are not infrequently
guided in their selection by considerations of
economy, and hire teachers- simply for their
cheapness. It follows that the latter are some-
times very poorly qualified.

To increase the efficiency of the teachers and
broaden their ideas by bringing them in contact
with each other and with specialists in the
various lines of teaching, a County Teachers'
Institute is held annually by the County Super-
intendent. The custom has been followed since
1856, when the first Institute was held at Knox-
ville, October 21-24. J. H. Knapp was presiding
officer, and the meeting is said to have been
both profitable and enjoyable. Now the Insti-
tutes are held during the summer vacation.
Their main function is inspirational. The best
men possible are secured to talk on subjects
connected with teaching, and the ideas pre-
sented are then discussed by the assembled
teachers. Local town Institutes are also some-
times held by the County Superintendent, and
their good effect is marked.

The report of Matthew Andrews, County Su-
perintendent for the year ending June 30, 1896,
contains the following statistics:

There are seven High Schools in Knox County,


Online LibraryNewton BatemanHistorical encyclopedia of Illinois → online text (page 136 of 207)