William Frederick Howat.

A standard history of Lake County, Indiana, and the Calumet region (Volume 1) online

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founders. : .

Dennis Palmer

The Palmer family came from Ohio in 1854 and located in the north-
western part of the present township. The head of that family, Dennis
Palmer, was even then well advanced in years, his onlv son of the same


uame being a sturdy young man of twenty-five. It was, therefore, Dennis
Palmer, the younger, who was to prominently record himself as a maker
of local history. After residing six years near the original family settle-
ment at what is now Winfield, ^Ir. Palmer bought land in section 16, near
the Porter County line. He commenced to raise grain and live stock
and in 1882, when the Chicago & Atlantic (Erie) Railroad was built
through the county, he platted a town on his laud, which was promptly
adopted as a station by the railway named. Its founder and sponsor
engaged with renewed activity in farming, stockraising, shipping and
merchandise, and the settlement around Palmer station gi^ew apace.

Mr. Palmer not only worked for his own immediate locality, but was
forcible and generous in his efforts to secure benefits to other towns in
the county. He was of great assistance in getting the lines of the Penn-
sylvania (Panhandle) and the Erie roads to run through Crown Point.
He was the first to sign the right-of-way and give a mile of his own land
to the Erie road, with the understanding that the line should be con-
structed through the county seat.

The present railroad station is quite a point for the shipment of milk,
and some live stock and grain is handled there. The settlement shows a
couple of substantial stores, a brick schoolhouse and a number of resi-
dences, with a substantial farming country back of it.

Winfield is also on the Erie line, about three miles northwest.

Leroy, however, is the oldest town in Winfield Township and the most
prosperous. It is a product of the old Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago &
St. Louis Railroad, now the Pennsylvania line, but still popularly called
the Panhandle. The road has also gone by the name of the Cincinnati
Air Line, and in 1865, when it was completed through Lake County, Leroy
was made a shipping station. Year by year it has gi'own in importance
as a shipping center for hay and grain, especially the former. It has
several good stores, a large brick schoolhouse and Methodist and United
Presbyterian churches.



Mongrel Schools — First School in the County — Death of Mrs.
Harriet W. Holton — Mrs. Hervey (Jane A. H.) Ball — The Ball
Boarding School — First Literary Societies — East Cedar Lake
Teachers — An Old-Time Schoolhouse — School Finances — Two
Distinguished Graduates — Rev. William Townley's School — Miss
Mary E. Parsons and Mrs. Sarah J. Robinson — Other Select
Schools — Laws Affecting Lake County Schools — First Teach-
ers' Institute — William W. Cheshire — School Examiners of the
County — First Normal School — Lake County Gymnasium and
Normal School — Normal Schools Conducted by County Superin-
tendents — School and Total Population — Present-Day Field of
County Education — Outdoor Improvement of Country Schools —
Indoor Improvement — Teaching Children How to Play — Agri-
cultural Education — Wide Usefulness of Consolidated Schools
— Improving the Teaching Force — Statistics, 1912-14.

The readers of this history have no practical interest in matters relat-
ing to education previous to the year 1835, for the excellent reason that
there were no schools within the present limits of Lake County before
that time, and only one attempt had been made to instruct the few chil-
dren in the Crown Point neighborhood when the county was civiUy
organized in 1837. The early acts of the State Legislature provided for
the election of trustees and school commissioners, and for the distribution
among the school districts (to be created from the congressional town-
ships) of funds designed for the support of public education.

Mongrel Schools

It is believed that in the late '30s the teachers in some counties of
Northwestern Indiana were paid from the public school funds and that
these monies were distributed in districts which had established only
private institutions. But Lake County was not sufficiently settled until
some years later to receive such support generally, which is generally



fixed at about 1842 or 1843. Even for some years subsequently many of
the schools of the county were of a mongrel type — partly supported by
neighborhood subscriptions and partly by the inadequate public funds
distributed among the children in actual attendance.

The township trustees had charge of the schools, and the "es-
aminers," Avho passed upon the qualifications of the teachers, were
appointed by the circuit judges.

First School in the County

The first school in Lake County was taught by ]Mrs. Harriet Warner
Holton in the winter of 1835-36, the log cabin of one of the settlers at
Solon Robinson's town having been thrown open for the purpose. Mrs.
Holton was the daughter of Gen. Jonathan Warner, of a fine old Massa-
chusetts family, was well educated and had taught in Vermont before
her marriage to Alexander Holton, a lawyer, in 1804. After practicing
>for a number of years in Indiana, the husband and father died in 1823,
and in February, 1835, the widow located at Crown Point with one
daughter, two sons, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. Mrs.
Holton had seven sisters, nearly all of whom married professional men of
New England — usually of high standing and wealth. They were all
strong women, mentally and physically, and lived to be quite old.

Death of Mrs. Harriet W. Holton

Lake County's first teacher died October 17, 1879, in her ninety-
seventh year, having been born at Hardwick, Massachusetts, on the 15th
of January, 1783. Her remains were borne to Crown Point cemetery,
the progress of the funeral cortege being marked by the tolling of the
courthouse bell ; which was but a faint indication of the general affection
and honor accorded this noble woman.

The second school of the county, after that taught by Mrs. Holton,
was opened in the fall of 1837 at the Bryant settlement, in Pleasant
Orove, which had been founded two years before by five brothers of that
name. A man by the name of Collins was the teacher, and the log cabin
of Samuel D. Bryant the schoolhouse. A citizen of Crown Point who was
one of the scholars testified, after his experience had become a thing of
the long past, that he vividly remembered said Collins as one thoroughly
able to teach well and to wield the stick or the ruler with equal efficiency.
The Mr. Bryant who owned the log house in which Mr. Collins thus held
forth was one of the few members of his large family who made Lake
County his permanent home. But first he returned to his old Ohio home


By Courtesy of Frank F. Heigliway, County Superint«nclent of Schools.

Franklin School, Grifpith



Hlr imfflfi^^" i^'vJiBiPo

By Couitesj ot I'lank F. Heighway. County Superintendent of ScIukiLs.

Glen Park School, Callmet Township


and remained there a nuuiber of years, in 185-4 buying the farm south
of Southeast Grove, on which he spent the remainder of his life and died
as an octogenarian.

The next schoolhonse was built by Hervey Ball, on the west shore
of Cedar Lake, in 1838 ; and it must have been quite early in that year,
as the official records of the meeting held June 17th of that year for the
organization of a Baptist society state that ' ' a meeting was this day held
at the sehoolhouse at Cedar Lake. ' ' The Warriners, and the Balls, and
the Churches, and the Cutlers appear to have formed a coterie for the
dissemination of religious, literary and educational influences which for
3^eai*s made the settlement at Cedar Lake much respected and not a little

Both Mr. and Mrs. Ball were very competent teachers, and as they
conducted the school at Cedar Lake together, for a number of years it
was considered the most thorough and select institution of education in
the county. At the time the Cedar Lake colony gathered, Timothy H.
Ball, the eldest of their five children, was eleven years old. He attended
'the little school, and therefore speaks from direct observation when he
speaks of it, its settings and its surroundings.

]\Irs. IIervev (Jane A. II.) Ball

Like Mrs. Holton, Mrs. Ball was an educated and refined woman.
Bom in West Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1804, she was educated in
the best schools of Hartford, Connecticut ; was proficient in penmanship,
drawing, painting and map-making; was probably the best practical
botanist who ever resided in the county, and the only woman of the early
days who had studied the Hebrew language. William A. W. Holton, one
of Mrs. Holton 's sons, was school examiner when Mrs. Ball presented her-
self before him at Crown Point that she might receive the certificate enti-
tling her pupils to receive their due share of the public school money. It is
needless to add that she ' ' passed. ' ' ^Irs. Ball commenced her active work
as a teacher at once, continuing it for sixteen years, and, in an informal
way, until her death in 1880. For about ten years that large log school-
house at Cedar Lake was a center and a meeting place for schools, literary
societies, for Sunday school and chureli work, and then was appropriated
to private uses.

The Ball Boarding School

T. H. Ball, who became such an active participant in all these activities
himself, after describing the five Ball children, of whom he was the senior,


says : ' ' Associated with these in the Sabbath school and in the religious
meetings were the children of the Warriner families, of the Church and
Cutler families, of a Farwell family residing near the state line, and of
other families that were for a time neighbors around the lake.

"A day school was commenced in 1838, which soon became a family
and a boarding school, where attended, as boarders in the family, Maria
Bradley, Melissa Gossett, Ann Nickerson, Sophia Cutler, Augustus Wood,
Abby Wood and John Selkirk. Here much attention was given to spell-
ing and penmanship, to reading and to English composition, as well as
to other elementary branches; Latin and natural philosophy were dili-
gently studied, and drawing, painting and botany were successfully
taught. The largest and best library then in the county was accessible
to these students, periodicals from the East were secured and diligently
read; and while some read Paley's works, and Dicks', and Smelley's, and
Johnson's and Addisons's, others read the writings of Cooper, and
Bulwer, and many other choice ^vriters of fiction. A somewhat curious
mixture, both in respect to literary and religious writings, formed the
range of reading for all the children of the lake household. It is not to
be supposed that anything positively bad was within their reach, but
they were left for the most part, or entirely, to their own taste and
judgment in gaining a knowledge of some of the choicest of English
literature, in reading the best of American novels and in becoming ac-
quainted with such works as "Elizabeth the Exile of Siberia,' as Bulwer 's
'Zan Oni' and the 'Last Days of Pompeii,' and even of such as Eugene
Sue's 'Wandering Jew.' In their hands were the writings of Baxter and
Doddridge and Flavel and Bunyan and Sehougal, and also of Unitarian,
Universalist and skeptical writers.

First Literary Societies

' ' Connected with the school and home life of the lake household were
two literary societies. An intense love for intellectual pursuits and for
literary exercises had commenced to grow among the children before they
left the valley of the Connecticut ; and here, notwithstanding the fascina-
tions of the chase — and to hunt and read Ossian were for a time the great
delights of the oldest boy, who was for several years the principal hunter
of the family, furnishing large supplies of game — notwithstanding the
great attractions of the lake, in summer for boating and bathing and fish-
ing, and in winter for sliding and skating; — here that love was cultivated,
entering into every heart and rendering every one of the children in-
tensely fond of literary efforts and intellectual life.

"Very soon, therefore, societies were organized. The first was called


the Cedar Lake Lyceum. Visitors were admitted, but no girls were
among its members. The second bore the name of the Cedar Lake Belles
Lettres Society, This admitted girls to an equality of membership and
participation in its exercises. It met once each month, when sure of
moonlight nights; the former society held meetings each week during
the fall and winter. Between twenty and thirty young people derived
much profit from the exercises of these two societies. "When they had
both accomplished their work they were disbanded; but several of the
members retained a lifelong love for such exercises and for literary pur-
suits. ' '

East Cedar Lake Teachers

Among the early teachers on the east side of Cedar Lake were Albert
Taylor, Lorin Hall and Norman Warriner, who taught in the winter of
1838-39, Miss H. Caroline Warriner, in the winter of 1843-44, and T. H.
Ball himself a little later (some time in 1844). Others of these pioneers
in the field of mental and moral training — for the two were seldom separ-
ated in those days — were Eliza Kinyon, at Southeast Grove in 1843, Miss
Rhoda Wallace in 1844, and Miss Ruby Wallace and her sister, now Mrs.
William Brown, in 1845.

An Old-Time Schoolhouse

As we have learned, not a few teachers of the pioneer era were men
and women who were highly educated, several of them being clergy-
men, and although then, as now, church and state were jealously parted
by the constitution, in practice there was considerable admixture of
religious and intellectual education. The teachers were far ahead of the
schools and the appliances provided to further their work. As a descrip-
tion of one of those crude, old-time schoolhouses will substantially apply
to all, a picture is drawn of one built at a very early day in the southern
part of the county. It was of unhewn logs, "chinked" with pieces of
wood and plastered on the outside with clay mortar. The fireplace was
made of compressed mortar, supported by pieces of wood, and the re-
mainder of the chimney was built with long strips of wood, like lath, laid
in common mortar. The roof was made of long shingles or clapboards,
supported by logs and held in position by poles laid across each tier. No
nails were used in the roof.

The internal arrangement was as crude as the outside of the building.
The floor was made of puncheon split out of logs. The seats were made of
slabs with the level surface upward, supported by wooden pegs and, of



course, were without backs. The houses were generally warm in winter
and comfortable enough for the kind.

School Finances

The teachers boarded around with the parents of the scholars, the
time of boarding at each place being in proportion to the number of
scholars. At the end of the terms the teachers would make out their
bills and collect them at their leisure. That arrangement, with the coUec-

IJy Courtesy of Frank F. Heighway, County Superintendent of Schools.

Abandoned District Schools Nos. 4 and 9

tion of such monies as could be obtained from small county and state
funds, constituted the financial system by which the schools were sup-
l)ort('d until the ado]ition of the state constitution of 1861.

Two Distinguished Graduates

But for twenty years previous tg that year and for nearly a decade
afterward. Lake County had several academic and boarding schools of
really high grade. The pioneer of that class was the Cedar Lake institu-
tion opened under the active direction of Mrs. J. A. H. Ball, which she
conducted with such honor for sixteen years. During that period it sent
six students to colleges and seminaries and fitted many for business and
the varied duties of life. Among its boarders from other counties were
five girls from City "West, the ambitious town on Lake Michigan in Porter
County. Two of them became well known both as academic teachers and
church workers — IMaria Bradlev, '\\ho became ^Irs. J. P. Early and Elisa-


beth H. Ball, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hervey Ball, who, after her school
days, went to New York City and to Alabama, where she became a suc-
cessful teacher in the (irove Hill Academy and married Judge Woodard,
of Clarke County.

Rev. AVilliam Townley's School

About 1848 Rev. William Townley, pastor of the Presbyterian Church
at Crown Point, opened an academic and boarding- school, in which in-
sti-umental musie was taught for the first time in the county. The school
was so well conducted that after a time the teachers in the public schools
of the locality, and for quite a district around, were largely its grad-
uates. In November, 1852. Air. Townley stated that he had had nearly
five hundred scholars, and that not hve young men had gone out as teach-
ers. In 1856 he severed his connection with tlie cluirch, closed his school
in Crown Point and left for the West.

AIiss Makv E. Parsons and ]Mrs. Sarah J. Robinson

In the year named ^liss Mary E. Parsons, a graduate of Mount Hol-
yoke Seminary, having taught at Oxford, Ohio, opened a school at Crown
Point to succeed the one closed. She accomplished much for the cause
both of secular and Christian education, but lier efforts were terminated
by her death at Crown Point, on November l-t, 1860.

A primary school for children was opened, about this time, by Mrs.
Sarah J. Robinson, a daughter-in-law of Solon Robinson, and a young
widow. She was pronounced by T. H. Ball to be "one of the best teachers
of little children ever in Crown Point, kind, patient, loving, unselfish
and truly Christian.'' In July of 1864 she went to Nashville in the serv-
ice of the Christian Connnission. She was also at Memphis, Vicksburg
and New Orleans. She returned to Crown Point in September, 1865, but
not to teach. In 1866 she was married to Dr. AY. H. Harrison, an army
surg(^on, and went with him to Alexico.

Other Select Schools

The next schools of the county to be luentioned here are a girls' school
started by Miss Alartha Knight and Miss Kate Knight in 1865 ; the
Crown Point Institute, also commenced in 1865, having a preparatory
and collegiate course of study, and in one of its years having about sixty
boarding pupils, educating a few hundred young men and young ladies
and its property being sold to the Town of Crown Point in August, 1871,


for $3,600; and the Tolleston school, established by A. Yander Naillen.
a French mathematician, about 1866, in which was taught civil engineer-
ing, and which was removed to Chicago in December, 1869.

Laws Affecting Lake County Schools

For a number of years previous to the adop'tion of the 1861 constitu-
tion, the State Legislature had passed several measures which had tended
to further the school interests of the several counties. By the act ap-
proved January 17, 1849, certain taxes were to be assessed for school
purposes, and the treasurer of the state was constituted the state super-
intendent of common schools. Under the 1852 constitution the state
superintendency was made a separate elective office.

By an act approved in March, 1855, each civil township was made
school township, and the civil trustees were constituted school trustees,
but in the enumeration of children of school age the trustee was still
required to specify the congressional to^w^iship in which the children
resided. Incorporated towns and cities were now authorized to establish
public and graded schools, and provision was made for township
libraries. As in the act of 1849, negroes and mulattoes were still excluded
from taxation, and their children from enumeration and school privileges.
The children could attend the schools on payment of tuition, if no white
persons objected.

By the act approved March 4, 1853, the school examiners were ap-
pointed annually by the county commissioners, instead of by the cir-
cuit judges. At first they were to examine teachers in orthography, read-
ing, writing, arithmetic, geography and English grammar, physiology
and United States history being afterward added. In legal regulations
and in practice as well, the public school system of Lake County showed
marked advancement in the early '50s. No cause contributed more to
that progress than the establishment of teachers' institutes.

First Teachers Institute

The first teachers institute in Lake County opened at Crown Pointy
on the 1st of November, 1852. From records made by Heman Ball, of
Cedar Lake, the following extracts are given : ' ' Left home at 4 o 'clock
for CrowTi Point amid the rain and mud. Went to the Presbyterian
Church. The sexton was just lighting up the house. Went over to Mr.
Townley's to inquire the prospects. In about half an hour Mr. Jewel,
the superintendent, and Mr. Hawkins, of Laporte, arrived in the stage.
After some salutatory remarks, the conversation turned upon the pros-


pects of the institute and educational interests generally. Mr. Townley
remarked that when he came here six years ago the district schools gen-
erally were very poorly kept. He had supplied from his school most of
the female teachers. He had had nearly five hundred scholars, and not
five males had gone out as teachers. The cause — compensation not suf-

"At 7 o'clock went back to the church. Mr. Jewel gave the opening
lecture. He said that he had been traveling all day over the prairie.
He had been pleased with the almost boundless prospects. He thought
that all that was wanted to make the people of the West great was energy
and perseverance. He spoke of the educational prospects East and West ;
of Normal schools as they exist in the Eastern States.

"Tuesday moniing: The students assembled in the Presbyterian
meeting house and organized by appointing a treasurer and secretary.
Morning exercises opened by prayer. Then we received instruction in
vocal music and the best methods of teaching it in schools. This is
followed by reading. A lecture is then given on physiology by the

'"During the later part of the week Dr. Boynton, a traveling lecturer,
gave lectures illustrated by a manikin or artificial man.

"We are occupied the remainder of the forenoon upon mental and
written arithmetic. The afternoon exercises are as follows: First,
geography ; secondly, grammar ; thirdly, composition ; fourthly, a lecture
upon school tactics. Public lectures are given every evening."

William W. Cheshire

Such is the outline of the first teachers" institute held in Lake County,
arranged and carried out by private enterprise. Since 1866 they have
been held under state supervision and support, and have increased in
scope and importance year by year. The institute of that year, con-
ducted under the Indiana State law. was held during the term of more
than three years that William W. Cheshire was school examiner of the

Mr. Cheshire, who accomplished so much good for the early system of
public education in Lake County, was a southern man, born in North
Carolina, and a foot-traveler to Indiana. He first went to work on a
farm, in 1854 was a student in Franklin College, and graduated at Miami
University in June, 1858. Next, he became a teacher, in 1861 married
Miss Bessie Boone, and a few months afterward came with her to Crowm
Point. On September 2, 1861, he opened a select school, but soon was
appointed superintendent of the Crown Point public school, and in June,


1864, school examiner. At that time, he held the office but nine months,
but was reappointed twice afterward — first, in December, 1865, when
he held office two years and six months, and secondly, in October, 1878,
after the office of county superintendent had succeeded that of examiner,
continuing in the latter office three years and six months. The period
between his terms as county examiner and superintendent he had served
as county clerk, and he relinquished his work as an educator to assume
his duties as examiner of pensions at AYashington.

William W. Cheshire stands among the foremost of those who placed

Online LibraryWilliam Frederick HowatA standard history of Lake County, Indiana, and the Calumet region (Volume 1) → online text (page 21 of 44)