J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

Chicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.5) online

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Jackman Cheney."


Recognizing the fact that education is the bulwark of the nation, the founda-
tion of civilization, the stimulus of all business activity and the source of all es-
thetic culture, and that good citizenship has its root not in any specific instruction
but in the development of the powers of perception that enable one to recognize the
needs and meet the conditions that exist, the history of John F. Eberhart cannot
fail to prove of widespread interest, for few men in the middle west have equalled
him in the extent and character of his service in the founding and promoting of
the public school system of the state and initiating plans and projects for its de-
velopment, expansion and effectiveness. He has come to an honored old age, hav-
ing passed the eighty -third milestone on life's journey, and the precious prize of
keen mentality is yet his and though, as Victor Hugo has expressed it, "the frost
of winter is on his head, the flowers of spring are in his heart." He has never
reached the habit of retrospection which is so often regarded as the accompaniment
of advanced years, for although many events are strongly impressed upon the
pages of memory, he is yet in close and active touch with the world's work and hope-
ful for the interests of the future.

The 21st of January, 1829, chronicled the birth of John F. Eberhart in Hickory
township, Mercer county, Pennsylvania. He is the son of Abraham and Esther
(Amend) Eberhart and a descendant of a very old European family. The genealog-
ical records show that as early as 1266 an Eberhart officiated as Bishop of Con-
stance. On the 13th of March, 1265, was born Duke Eberhart, "the Noble," who
was a most daring and successful warrior of Wurttemberg. He was of the royal
familj- and established the present kingdom of Wurttemberg with Stuttgart as its
principal city.

Following the thirty years' war in Germany, many representatives of the family
came to America and their descendants are now found in various localities, but
while several changes have occurred in the spelling of the name, there is a strong
similarity in characteristics and in appearance among the different branches. A
family noted for strong intellectuality and interested in intellectual pursuits, there
are found many preachers and teachers among them as well as those who have been
leaders in other walks of life. In 1727 Joseph Eberhart removed from Switzer-



land to Pennsylvania, settling in Lower Milford township, Lehigh county, in 1742.
Before his death, in 1760, he divided his one thousand acres of land between his
six sons. He was active in organizing and sustaining the Great German Reform
church and reached an advanced age.

When a youth of eight years John F. Eberhart accompanied his parents on
their removal to a farm at Big Bend, Venango county, Pennsylvania, and in the
work of the school and of the farm his youthful days were spent. He entered into
active connection with educational work when sixteen years of age, becoming a
teacher of the school on the present site of Oil City, receiving eight dollars and
fifty cents per month in compensation for his services and "boarding around among
the pupils." He studied writing and drawing during the following summer, at-
taining a high efficiency in these branches, whereby he was enabled to work his
Way through college by giving instruction along these lines. Two terms of prepara-
tory work at Cottage Hill Academy at Ellsworth, Ohio, qualified him for entrance
in Allegheny College at Meadville, Pennsylvania, from which he was graduated July
2, 1853. He provided for all the expenses incidental to his college course and yet
won high rank for scholarship and as an athlete. It is on record that he was able
to lift a brass cannon weighing nine hundred pounds in the Meadville arsenal. On
the 1st of September of that year he became principal of the seminary at Berlin,
Somerset county, Pennsylvania, where among the pupils was Rev. Dr. Hiram W.
Thomas, the noted liberal divine, who for many years was pastor of the Peoples
church of Chicago.

Ill health compelled Dr. Eberhart to resign his position at Berlin and, hoping
to be benefited by a removal westward, he arrived in Chicago, April 15, 1855, and
after a short stay moved on to Dixon, where he engaged in hunting, fishing and other
outdoor exercises. It was his custom thereafter to spend a portion of each year in
outdoor life and this has constituted the foundation of his splendidly developed
physical manhood the basis of intellectual effort that has made him one of the
foremost and most honored residents of Chicago. At Dixon he became part owner
and editor of the Dixon Transcript and later went upon the popular lecture plat-
form, speaking in various institutions of learning on chemistry, natural philosophy,
meteorology, astronomy and kindred topics. He next devoted a year to travel as the
representative of various school-book publications and then began the publication
and editing of the "Northwestern Home and School Journal" in Chicago. He was
equally successful in the financial and literary departments of that paper and at
the same time he conducted many successful teachers' institutes in Illinois, Iowa
and Wisconsin. He held many of the first institutes in the northern and central
counties of Illinois and assisted in establishing the graded school system in most
of the larger cities of the state outside of Chicago. Thus he came into close con-
tact with many distinguished educators of the west and the value of his work
suggested him for active yet broader service of a similar character in Chicago and
Cook county, as the city was forging to the front in population and buisness inter-

The name of Dr. Eberhart is inseparably associated with the development of
the public-school system of Illinois. In 1855 he assisted in formulating a measure
that passed the state legislature and the following year became substantially the
present school law of Illinois. For sixteen years thereafter he attended every


legislative session at his own expense, in order to further the necessary amend-
ments and those required by the advancement of the times. He also attended the
constitutional convention of 1870, where he championed the cause of public educa-
tion. In 1859 he was elected school commissioner of Cook county at a time when
there was here no well organized system of schools and for ten years he continued
to act in that capacity, although the title of the office was soon after changed by
his effort to that of superintendent of schools. After being elected superintendent
of schools of Cook county, Mr. Eberhart was brought down to the practical work-
ing of the school law in the rural districts of the state. The teachers of Cook
county, outside of Chicago, then numbered more than two to one in the city and
yet little attention was paid to the country schools. Realizing this fact, Dr. Eber-
hart commenced a series of visits to the country schools and while he soon ex-
pended the salary allowed him, he continued the work in which he was most deeply
interested, recognizing its vital importance. His salarv of two dollars per day for
one hundred days during the first year was increased to three dollars per day for
two hundred days in the second year, and in addition one dollar for each certifi-
cate issued and two percent commission on all school moneys paid out.

When he became superintendent of schools he could not find qualified teachers
for the salary that could be paid in the rural districts and he soon found, too,
that examinations, however wise and exacting, did not qualify teachers. He also
discovered that many generally well educated people were not qualified to instruct
young children who were mostly to be found in the rural districts, while some of
less extended knowledge would be more successful in teaching them. The law at
that time gave only two grades of certificates and Mr. Eberhart busied himself in
getting a change of the law, giving a permit of six months to teach. He offered the
proposed change at Springfield but State Superintendent Bateman did not favor
the third-grade certificate, as it was called. On Mr. Eberhart's presentation of
the case and the conditions as he found them in the country, however, Dr. Bateman
gave his consent to the passing of the law authorizing three grades of certificates.
This was the only amendment to the school law which Mr. Eberhart at any time
proposed that State Superintendent Bateman was not from the first in hearty sym-
pathy with and in favor of the change.

Dr. Eberhart also found that the township and district school officers were not
all bookkeepers and it was difficult to understand their reports, so he advocated
blank forms for statements by them to the superior officers, to be supplied by the
state. This was heartily indorsed by Dr. Bateman and the plan carried through.
Impressed with the fact that the larger boys and girls of the country should in
some way have free access to a high school as well as city youths he prepared
a form of law and presented the matter to Mr. Bateman, the law authorizing one or
more districts in the township to build a high school for the free instruction of all
qualified to enter if they were living in the high-school district. He also provided
that two or more townships could unite in building a high school; and the first
high school in the state under this law was organized in Cook county the Jeffer-
son high school now in the city and called Carl Schurz high school. As a result
of his investigations Mr. Eberhart learned that many of the children in the country,
a large percentage of whom were foreigners, had no access to proper books for


reading and study, and interested himself in having libraries placed in the schools
for free use to all who lived in the district.

The existing law of that day did not permit school houses to be used for anything
except school purposes, and as a rule there was no other building in the district in
which public meetings could be held. With Mr. Bateman's assistance the law was
changed so that the directors could permit the school houses to be used for other
useful gatherings. In Cook county Mr. Eberhart especially urged its use for
spelling schools, singing schools and literary societies. He was also instrumental
in securing an appropriation of fifty dollars for the first session of the Cook county
teachers' institute held at Oak Park, then Harlem, April 11, 1860. The attendance
of seventy-five teachers proved so encouraging that another institute was held in
Englewood in the following fall, after which semi-annual sessions were regularly
held. Also teachers' meetings were called inr different parts of the county and the
board of supervisors in response to his request appointed a standing committee on
education. Paul Cornell, of Hyde Park, was the first chairman. Dr. Eberhart
afterward asked the county board for an appropriation of six hundred dollars for
a three months' teachers' institute, which was referred to the committee on educa-
tion. In the meantime a new board of supervisors was elected and E. J. Whitehead,
who is still living and practicing law in this city, became the chairman of the com-
mittee on education. He was warmly interested in its cause and accompanied Dr.
Eberhart in some of his trips visiting the schools. After the matter had been care-
fully considered and extensively discussed by the committee and members of the
board of supervisors from different parts of the county, Mr. Whitehead reported
in favor of an appropriation of twenty-five hundred dollars per annum for two
years for an experimental normal school. The report was adopted and the school
opened at Blue Island in September, 1867, with twenty-eight pupils, and Professor
D. S. Wentworth became the first principal. The arrangement for the rooms and
conveniences of the school was undertaken by Dr. Eberhart. Two years later
the normal was removed to Englewood and in September, 1870, the new normal
school building was taken possession of. The original purpose of the school was
to fit teachers for country schools, but the work was soon broadened in its scope
and this result was largely achieved through the efforts of Dr. Eberhart who con-
tinued as county superintendent of schools until December, 1869. His interest, how-
ever, did not cease with the termination of his official connection and in 1878 he was
chosen a member of the county board of education. As its chairman he set himself
to the task of adding a kindergarten department to the Cook county normal school
and this was accomplished and the first class was graduated in December, 1881.
The free kindergarten established in connection with the common schools is also
directly due to the efforts of Dr. Eberhart and the first free kindergarten in the
state as a part of the free school system was opened at Chicago Lawn, when he
was president of the school board at that place.

Dr. Eberhart has been most generous in his contributions to school work not
only in Cook county but elsewhere. He has given one hundred thousand dollars
to Allegheny College, his alma mater, and has made a smaller gift to Wheaton Col-
lege, presided over by Dr. Charles Blanchard, to whom Mr. Eberhart gave his
first certificate to teach, and whose father, at one time president of Knox College,
was one of Dr. Eberhart's foremost and ablest educational friends. He also issued


a certificate to Bishop J. H. Vincent, of the Methodist Episcopal church, of Chi-
cago, to Frances E. Willard, who called him her "literary godfather," and to the
late Bishop Charles H. Fowler and many others who have since earned distinction
in the world.

The work which Dr. Eberhart has done and its far-reaching influences have
found wide recognition. Professor W. L. Steele, president of the Illinois State
Teachers' Association, in his annual address said: "Honorable John F. Eberhart
did valiant service for the cause of education by carrying the gospel of the free
school to those who had never heard of it, by warming into life and activity those
grown lukewarm, by preaching the doctrine of union graded schools to the larger
towns, where their educational energies were being dissipated by the independent
system, by organizing county institutes and by his educational paper, The North-
western Home and School Journal. A veritable missionary was he." Dr. Bate-
man, state superintendent of public instruction, in his 1867 and 1868 report spoke
in praise of Dr. Eberhart's work as a pioneer in the Cook county normal school
movement and said: "In thus practically demonstrating the feasibility of this new
and most successful mode of increasing the supply of superior teachers, Cook
county has rendered the state a very eminent service." Other important work in
the educational field, in which Dr. Eberhart was active was the organization of the
Illinois State Teachers' Association, in 1855; the drafting of a state law, author-
izing the establishing of county normal schools ; the organization of the state as-
sociation of school superintendents, in 1860, of which he was the first president.
He was also prominently identified with the American Institute of Instruction and
the National Education Association. Of the last named he was formerly an active
representative and in 1864 was made a life member. He is today the oldest life
member of the association and as such was honored at the Cleveland meeting in
June, 1908.

Many positions, including the professorship and presidency of leading insti-
tutions, have been tendered Dr. Eberhart from time to time. He was offered the
presidency of the College at Naperville when it was first started at Plainfield in
1855; and in early manhood he was called to St. Louis, to assist in the organization
of its first high school and was proffered its principalship. In 1866 Senor Dar-
mienta, generalissimo of the revolutionary armies of the Argentine Republic, visited
the United States to study its government and its public-school system and meet-
ing Dr. Eberhart at a convention of the National Education Association offered him
the national superintendency of schools of the Argentine Republic. But his in-
terest centered in Cook county and her schools, which have constituted the model
for much public-school work done throughout the country, especially in the middle

Dr. Eberhart was married on Christmas day, 1864, to Miss Matilda C. Miller,
who in her infancy was brought from Toronto, Canada, to the United States by her
parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph C. Miller. She was educated in the schools of Aurora
and Chicago. There were six children in the family of Mr. and Mrs. Eberhart:
Maude, who died at the age of six years; John J.; Frank N.; Mary E., the wife of
George Tobey; Grace, the wife of Clarence B. Herschberger ; and Winifred, who
has passed away. The two sons are associated with their father in the real-estate


business to which Dr. Eberhart turned his attention when he severed his active
connection with public-school work.

Soon after his arrival in Chicago he purchased property here and his judicious
investment and the rise in Chicago realty have made him a wealthy man. He has
owned nearly three thousand acres in the city and has been chief promoter of Nor-
wood Park and Chicago Lawn, making his home in the latter suburb. The first
real estate he ever owned was one and a quarter acres on Larrabee street just south
of Fullerton avenue, which he purchased from P. F. W. Peck, father of Ferdinand
Peck, for sixteen hundred dollars, making a cash payment of four hundred dollars
with agreement to pay the rest in one, two and three years with six per cent interest.
Before the second payment was due he sold this to the city for a site for the Lincoln
school for nine thousand dollars which he had to take in city bonds and which he
disposed of for about eight thousand dollars. This was his first operation in real
estate and he is proud to know that the Lincoln school now honors this sacred spot.
He was the owner of eighty acres which he sold to the Irving Park Company and
on which the town of Irving Park is located. For this he paid seventy dollars per
acre and within two years sold it for three hundred and twenty-five dollars per acre.
He afterward bought three hundred acres in what is now Washington Heights for
seventy dollars per acre and soon disposed of an undivided half interest so that
his half was entirely clear. This he subsequently sold for one hundred thousand
dollars, yielding him that amount clear in the transaction. After the fire he pur-
chased the ruins of old Trinity church, now the site of the Illinois Theater for
fifty-two thousand dollars. He was at one time owner of forty acres now fronting
on Humboldt Park and south of Division street, paying three thousand dollars in
cash for it, and was largely instrumental in fixing the location of Humboldt Park,
In the region west of Union Park, on Warren and Park avenues, Honore, Wood,
Madison and Monroe streets, he owned about one hundred lots and thereon built
a number of houses. He was the prime mover in establishing Norwood Park, recog-
nizing the fact that there was the highest land on the Northwestern Railroad be-
tween the Lake and the Mississippi river, and believing, therefore, that it would
make a desirable place for a suburb. He obtained the refusal of about eight
hundred acres and was associated in this undertaking with other prominent men,
including T. H. Seymore, James E. Tyler, John H. Wrenn, George Fields, Leonard
Hodges, Rev. Dr. W. W. Everett and others. They organized the corporation and
established the town and after considerable difficulty were instrumental in securing
commutation rates on the railroad, which also led to the extension of the same
rates to Evanston and other outlying towns and districts on the North-
western. As superintendent of schools he sold about one hundred acres on
petition from the residents, as the law required, in the fractional town of Bloom,
it being purchased as meadow land by farmers at the rate of from ten to fifteen
dollars per acre. He also received petitions, as required by law, for the sale of
section 16, township 38, range 13, which was school land and which would probably
have sold for twenty to twenty-five dollars per acre had not Mr. Eberhart felt that
this was throwing away land for mere nothing that would some day be very valuable ;
and instead of complying with the petition, he sought the assistance of "Long"
John Wentworth, who was a member of the constitutional convention of 1870. Dr.
Eberhart also attended the convention and assisted in the matter of having the


law changed, so that the land could be rented but could not be sold except under
conditions which did not then exist. Thus was saved a property which is today
very valuable and which will some day be worth millions and belong to the city,
becoming a very large permanent factor in the support of city schools. If the story
of Dr. Eberhart's real-estate operations could be given in detail it would indicate
largely the growth and development of Chicago. Suffice it to say that his opera-
tions were carried on carefully, wisely and honorably, bringing to him substantial

Dr. Eberhart gave his early political support to the abolitionist party and as
a natural sequence joined the ranks of the republican party. He has ever stood
for integrity in politics as he has in private life. Although reared in the faith of
the Methodist church he afterward became one of the founders and a leading
member of the Peoples church, serving in his later years as president of its board
of trustees. He was also an early member of the Young Men's Christian Associa-
tion and is in thorough sympathy with .all movements that uplift humanity and
advance civilization. Continuing throughout his life a lover of outdoor sports,
he became an expert with rod and gun, and was one of the founders, and during
twenty years of its existence the president, of the Nippersink Club, which included
in its membership some of the most eminent men of Chicago, such as Marshall
Field, Reid and Murdoch, of Reid, Murdoch & Fisher, Eugene S. Pike, Colonel
George Clark, S. M. Moore and others.

Dr. Eberhart has found in his wife an able assistance in the charitable work
which he has done, whereby the hard conditions of life for many unfortunate ones
have been ameliorated. The honor and respect which are uniformly tendered him
constitute a fitting crown to a life that has largely been given to the service of


James Andrew Pugh, president of the Pugh Terminal Warehouse Company,
was born in Columbus, Ohio, December 27, 1864. The family is of Welsh origin
in both the paternal and maternal lines. David Pugh, the paternal grandfather,
came from Wales to America. The father, John M. Pugh, was a native of Colum-
bus, Ohio, and became a distinguished lawyer of that city, where for thirty-five
vears he served as judge of the probate court. He died about six years ago at
the advanced age of eighty-four years. He married Martha F. Cook, a daughter
of David and Eliza Cook, of Columbus, who also came of Welsh ancestry. Mrs.
Pugh died twenty-six years ago.

James A. Pugh, the sixth in a family of seven children, pursued his education
in the public schools of Columbus, and following his graduation from the high
school, entered railway circles as clerk in a railroad office. He filled various po-
sitions in that connection for nine years and then came to Chicago in 1889, here
entering the local office of a foreign glass house. About ten years ago he secured
the removal of all the displays of the furniture houses to Michigan avenue and built
the furniture exhibition buildings at 1819, 1411 and 1414 Michigan avenue, which



he still owns and conducts. About seven years ago he erected the Pugh terminal
warehouse on East Illinois street, which is the largest in the world, being eighteen
hundred and fifty feet long, one hundred and twenty feet wide and seven stories
high. It is a fire-proof structure, in connection with which he is conducting a
general merchandise storage and transfer business. About four years ago he
established the lighterage business on the river, organizing the Chicago Lighter-

Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.5) → online text (page 30 of 74)