Jasper Co. IAGenWeb
Past and Present of Jasper Co.


Past and Present of Jasper County Iowa
B.F. Bowden & Company, Indianapolis, IN, 1912

Sidney Foster, of Des Moines, is credited with originating the following phrase: "Of all things good, Iowa affords the best." And this sentiment applies justly to the public school system of the state. The common schools of our country are now looked upon as the safeguard of the republic. The first settlers of Iowa territory showed their faith by their works in planning for a greater and better common school system than had hitherto been known in any section of the country. Governor Robert Lucas, in his first message to the first Legislative Assembly of Iowa territory, which convened at Burlington November 12, 1838, said in reference to schools:

"The twelfth section of the act of Congress, establishing our territory, declares that the citizens of Iowa shall enjoy all the rights, privileges and immunities heretofore granted and secured to the territory of Wisconsin, and its inhabitants. This extends to us all the rights, privileges and immunities specified in the ordinance of Congress of the 13th of July 1787.

"The third article of this ordinance declares that religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government, and the happiness of mankind, schools and all the means of education shall be forever encouraged.

"Congress, to carry out this declaration, has granted one section of land in each township to the inhabitants of such township, for the purposes of schools therein.

"There is no subject to which I wish to call your attention more emphatically, than the subject of establishing at the commencement of our political existence a well digested system of common schools."

This Assembly addressed itself early to the task of providing for a system of common schools and enacting a law providing for the formation of districts, the establishing of schools, and authorized the voters of each district, when lawfully assembled, to levy and collect the necessary taxes, "either in cash or good merchantable property, at cash price, upon the inhabitants of their respective districts not exceeding one-half per centum, nor amounting to more than ten dollars on any' one person, to do all and everything necessary to the establishment and support of schools within the same."

The second Legislative Assembly enacted in January 1840, a much more comprehensive law to establish a common school system. But it was a little in advance of the public mind of the day. In the United States census reports for 1840 there were few public or private schools reported. One academy in Scott County with twenty-five students, and in the territory, sixty-three primary and common schools, with one thousand five hundred scholars enrolled, is the report of that day.

The first section of the act of 1839, for the establishment of schools, provided, that "there shall be established a common school, or schools, in each of the counties of the territory, which shall be open and free for every class of white citizens between the ages of five and twenty-one years." These districts were governed by a board of three trustees, whose duties were to examine teachers and employ the same, superintend the schools and collect and disburse the taxes voted by the electors for school purposes.

When Iowa was admitted into the Union, in December 1846, it had a school population of twenty thousand, one-fifth of its entire population. There were then four hundred school districts. By 1857, there had come to be three thousand two hundred and sixty-five school districts.

From the earliest day, in Jasper County, education was considered first in importance and well were laid the foundation stones for the present most excellent public schools.

The first schools in the county were taught in a private way, in the various settlements. These were what were termed "subscription schools." Sometimes they were taught in a rude log cabin, scarce fit for human habitation. Stoves and other heating appliances, now so common, were then unknown to this section of the country. A mud-and-stick chimney in one end of the building, with an earthen hearth, with a fireplace wide enough and deep enough to take in a four-foot length of wood for back-log and smaller wood to match, served universally for the warming of these early school houses. In summer time they served as a sort of conservatory. For windows, part of a log was cut out in either side, and maybe a few panes of eight-by-ten glass set in, or, in other instances, the opening would be covered with thick greased paper, which allowed a small amount of the sun's light into the rudely furnished school room. For writing benches wide planks were rested on pins or arms driven into some two-inch auger holes bored into the logs of the building, just beneath the windows. Seats were fashioned out of thick planks or hewed puncheons. The floor was usually made of the same material-sometimes only the soil of mother earth. Yet, from just such schoolrooms have gone forth many of America's greatest statesmen. In some other instances the "spare room" of some humble farm cabin home was fitted up for school purposes. But even there the furniture was of the same rude, homemade type, never having seen a saw or smoothing plane, but all had the score line and imprint of the handy pioneer's hand ax. All this has materially changed. In Iowa, a log schoolhouse has come to be looked upon as a rarity. In common with all the great commonwealth of Iowa, Jasper County now boasts of excellent schoolhouses and teachers fully up-to-date in their manner of training the young. The county superintendents and the city instructors in the graded schools rank as high as any in Iowa.


The first schoolhouse erected in Jasper County was built on the claim made by David Edmundson, near the site of the present county farm. This was built in 1848, of logs, and was about sixteen feet square. The floor, doors and desks were all made from rough-hewn puncheons. The windows were glazed with greased paper. The chimney would be a startling curiosity to any person, old or young, today. A huge log was laid inside and parallel with the outside walls. On this the flue was constructed, sloping to the roof. Thus the space usually left in cabins for a recess was left open as a toasting place for the little scholars. The flue walls were covered with a thick mortar of clay.

This school was taught by William C. Smith on the "subscription" plan and lasted three months, In the dreary winter of 1848-9 might have been seen huddled together such boys as were later prominent men in this county, and known as Messrs. A. T. Prouty, W. M. Springer, Lewis Herring, John Moss, Moses Lacy and D. Edmundson.

The first schoolhouse in the southern portion of the county was that near Jasper Whitted's, at Tool's Point, which structure was completed in the fall of 1848 also. This was a much superior building, in that it had a chimney clear up from the earth to above the roof and it stood on the outside of the building. The windows also were provided with glass. These window lights possibly came from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, via the Ohio and Mississippi River, round by way of the Des Moines River to this county. This school was taught by E. R Wright and it was held in the winter of 1848-49. He had an attendance of about fifteen and some weeks as high as twenty pupils.


Jesse Rickman, the first county school fund commissioner, had but little trouble in looking after the finances, as turned in to him, as will be observed by the following: Only six school districts had so far been organized by the fall of 1849-50. David Hinshaw, treasurer for district No.2; Newton Township, receipted for $18.08; Ezekiel Shipley, of district No. 3, same township, $20.60; Levi Plummer, for district No. 1, Poweshiek Township, $34.06; Joseph L. Doan, for district No. 1, of Newton Township, $44.90; William Hayes, No. 1 of Des Moines Township, $48.77; Jacob Fudge, No. 1, of Fairview Township, $51.63.

The school fund apportionment in March 1851 was as follows: No. 2, Fairview, $8.29; No. 2, Newton, $19.35; No. 1, Elk Creek, $12.27; No. 3, Newton, $17.15; No. 4, Newton, $23.34; No. 1. Poweshiek, $18.25; No. 1, Lynn Grove, $42.61; No. 1, Newton, $24.34; No. 1, Fairview, $24.34; No. 1, Des Moines, $26.00; No. 1, Clear Creek, $19.97; No. 2, Des Moines, $13.27. Five districts were formed in 1851.

In 1854 four school districts were organized in Jasper County. That year marks the beginning of better school days in the county, for its first formative stages were then at an end - the log school house was then doomed to be superseded by frame and brick structures, for the mighty tide of settlement then set in had brought hundreds of settlers, some of whom had means, and all had an idea that education was a good thing to have in opening up a new country. By 1856 the rush of immigration was great and it brought new life and the true spirit of education and general progress from the older Eastern states. In August 1854, the annual tax levy was: State, one and a half mills; county, three mills and a poll tax of fifty cents; roads, two mills, and a poll tax of one dollar and fifty cents; Schools, three-fourths of a mill.


For Newton Township, see "City Schools."

In Monroe, in Fairview Township, the first regular schoolhouse of any consequence was erected in 1851.

The independent district of Jasper City (now Kellogg) was organized May 25, 1868, with S. C. Monett as its president. June 8th of that year it was voted to erect a schoolhouse by the issue of a ten-mill tax for bonding purposes.

The independent district of Lynnville was created in March 1870, with A. O. Ailver as its president, and Benjamin F. Arnold, treasurer. In August 1871, the board ordered the old school house sold and appointed a committee to confer with the Friends society of the town, with a view of selling the property and then leasing of them if possible. At that date, the Friends had a large building, which had been used by them as an academy, but was then not in use. The board finally made satisfactory terms and the old meetinghouse of the Friends was secured and served the district until in 1876, when it was found too small for the increasing population. The Friends believed in the school and recommended it to the surrounding settlement of Friend's, and in this way large numbers from outside were sent to school in this district, thus giving a nice town school revenue. The land owned by the Friends was not thought legal to build a public school house upon and hence, after an injunction suit had been commenced, the matter was not protested against, but the district went ahead and bonded for two thousand dollars to build on grounds of their own purchasing. The building was twenty-eight by forty feet and two stories high.

This is the base of the present school system at Lynnville, which from an early date has been noted for good order and most excel1ent public schools, as well as the old academy conducted by the Friends, first in the near-by country and later in town, an account of which will appear: elsewhere in this chapter.

The independent district of Colfax was not formed until in April 1876. William Kelsey was the first president of the school board. During that year the district voted and bonded itself for the amount of three thousand five hundred dollars with which to erect suitable school buildings. Its cost was really over four thousand dollars. It was a two-story, forty-foot square building.

At Prairie City an independent district was voted into existence at the March election of 1867. Caleb Bundy was chosen first director. In 1868 an exceptionally good schoolhouse was erected at a cost of six thousand dollars.

The district in which Reasoner is located was formed in 1878 and since then the schools of the village have been on a par with most small town schools in Jasper County.

With the passing of the years there were built schoolhouses all over the fair domain of Jasper County, wherever the settlement demanded it, and this appears to have been in almost every nook and corner. The present county superintendent's report to the state authorities, dated 1910, discloses many facts relative to Jasper County schools, which should be carefully read by all interested in the subject of education in this county. But before entering into that subject, it will be best to note some things concerning the city schools of Newton, for they have, indeed, made an almost enviable record in the last quarter of a century among the cities of Iowa, and that largely perforce of having the right men at the helm, both on the board of education and as instructors.


To have been educated at the Newton high school has been to be well-trained fit for entering into a college or an active life of business, in whatever calling one might adopt. However, this excellent school did not come by mere chance, but by long, hard struggles. It has had its foes within and without, but at last came off conqueror and stands out prominent among the foremost schools in any section of the Hawkeye State.

The early records show that Newton was within what was styled district No. 3, of Newton Township, from 1858 on to the spring of 1863, when it was placed within an independent district. The records show the first officers to be in this independent district, J. B. Hough, president; Josiah Wright, vice-president; William R. Skiff, treasurer; Jesse Rickman, secretary; Milton Anderson, director.

The first teachers employed were Baxter George; Mrs. Margaret Carss, Mrs. Emily McCord and Rebecca Donnal.

The board resolved that "the teachers and each and everyone of the larger scholars be required to sweep the school house by turns," and that the teachers should have pay only for actual time employed.

May 25, 1864, the board contracted with Hugh Rogers for the erection of two schoolhouses, for one thousand four hundred and eighty dollars, twenty-five by thirty feet, one located in Edmundson's addition to Newton, and also one in Pardoe's addition.

In the spring of 1865 a new roof was placed on the brick schoolhouse, at the cost of five hundred dollars.

In the summer of 1867 the West End schoolhouse was built by Connelly & Eastman, for seven hundred and eighty dollars, and the same season a building was erected in the east part of town, by C. L. Connelly, costing the district eight hundred and seventy-eight dollars.

August 10, 1868, a vote was taken on the question of issuing bonds for the purpose of extending the school accommodations of Newton, which election resulted in five majority against the proposition. On the 25th of the same month, however, another vote was taken and resulted in favor of the pending proposition, the vote standing one hundred forty-two to one hundred one.

In March 1870, a ten-mill tax was voted by the people for the construction of buildings to be centrally located. In May 1871, the old school house site, north of the public square, was selected after a close contest. The building (still in use) was erected in 1871. It is three stories high and sixty by eighty feet in size. A high tower encloses the bell. The material is Milwaukee brick. The five thousand dollars, which it cost, was raised by floating bonds. The redemption fund commenced in 1872, with an eight-mill tax. In 1873 four thousand five hundred dollars was levied; in 1874, 1875 and 1876, ten mills each year was levied. In 1878 the building was filled to its entire capacity and the patrons of the schools were again commencing to wonder what would be the next schoolhouse plans for Newton. In its day, this schoolhouse was among the best in Iowa, was well constructed and is still doing excellent service.

What is known as the West school, it being on West Main Street, was erected in 1897, at a cost of ten thousand dollars, including all connected there with. It is a two-story brick structure of modern architecture.

The next building required was the one in the northeast part of the city, erected in 1901, at a cost of nine thousand eight hundred and seven-five dollars, including furniture.

The pride of the city, however, is the high school building, erected in 1907, just west from Central school building. This beautiful large structure cost the district the sum of seventy-two thousand dollars, all furnished. It is built on the most modern and approved plans for school buildings, even to the items of sanitary drinking fountains.


In 1863 Albert Lufkin, Milton Anderson and Josiah Wright were appointed to grade the Newton schools. The following year there were four teachers employed at salaries ranging from twenty-five dollars to forty dollars per month. Darius Thomas was "principal teacher" and he held the position to 1864, the end of that school year. E. H. Fenton was employed at twenty-five dollars per month and four other teachers were employed.

In 1865 W. H. Shaw was employed as "principal teacher" at fifty dollars per month. During all of these years of national struggle not a word' is to be seen in the records about the great Civil war, then in progress, yet no one can doubt that Newton was filled with a true and loyal spirit of patriotism, from the number of men she sent to the fighting front at the South.

In 1866 the teachers were L. B. Westbrook, Mary Hickey, Emily Fenton, Cynthia Lindley, Lavinia Rickman and Lydia S. Clark. The salaries run from forty dollars down to as low as twenty-five.

In 1867 the principal was J. A. Clippinger, who was paid sixty dollars per month for his services. Admission to the highest department of the schools was based on ability "to advance beyond fractions." The man at the head of the schools was not permitted to use his own judgment, but must needs consult the directors about any changes in school affairs.

From 1869 on, the record shows that nine months' school was counted as a "school year." E. S. Everly was elected as principal, but, refusing to teach for less than seventy-five dollars a month, the board re-elected Mr. Clippinger and he was assisted by five other instructors.

In 1868 among the teachers mentioned in the records was Mr. Martin, who received the largest salary.

In 1870 nine teachers were employed, G. M. Doud receiving sixty dollars per month. W. G. Work remained superintendent.

In 1871 O. M. Schee was superintendent, at one hundred dollars per month, an innovation in wages. W. W. Wallace was hired to teach music at fifty dollars per month. Nine other instructors were engaged at that time.

In 1872 Albert Loughridge was superintendent at a salary of one thousand dollars per year. He had ten assistants.

In 1873 and on to 1876, William Hog was the superintendent. In November 1874, a new course of study was adopted and the first class graduated in March 1875, and was as follows: Emerson Hough, Bertha Fehleisen and George Fehleisen.

From 1880 to 1883 R. G. Young was employed. In this connection it should be said that in 1882 a high school course was first adopted that met with the general approval of educators in this section of Iowa, generally, and was looked upon as advanced ground in the matter of better educational facilities. Again in 1887 another change was effected in grading the high school of Newton.

Prof. E. J. H. Beard, the present capable instructor, was employed at Newton in 1892, as the superintendent of the public schools. Since then three schoolhouses have been erected. When he commenced his work here he had fourteen assistants and now the work has advanced to that degree that more than twenty are required to do the work of instruction. Within the past ten years the colleges of the land have increased their requirements, by the addition of several branches, but the fact that up to 1903 no pupil had graduated who was not prepared to enter the freshman classes of accredited colleges speaks much for the work of the Newton school.

Seventeen classes, numbering in all one hundred and eighty-six pupils, graduated during the employment of other superintendents, while under Professor Beard's administration nineteen classes have graduated, and these have a total of four hundred and twenty-eight pupils.

In February 1910, Professor Beard, superintendent of the city schools, said:

"It is frequently said that the studies of the high school courses lead boys to choose professional careers and do not promote the choice of productive industries or ordinary business pursuits. In the past seventeen years one hundred and thirty-five boys have graduated from the Newton high school. So far as I am able to ascertain the following occupations and the number of students in each is here indicated:

Lawyers or students of law 4
Proprietors or partners in mercantile business 7
Clerks in various establishments 8
Farmers 18, students of Agriculture so far as known 27
In banks 4
Grain dealer 1
Railroading 1
Architects 3
Agents for manufacturing and mercantile houses 6
Electrical engineers or student of electrical engineering 8
Civil engineers or students of civil engineering 7
Professors of colleges 4
Veterinary students 3
Real estate dealer 1
Justice of the peace 1
Editor or printer 2
Evangelist 1
Dentists 4
Dead 5
Lumberman 1
Doctors or medical students 3
Professor of music 1
In factories as proprietor or workmen 15
In college, courses not known 14
Students concerning whom have no data 4
Total Students 135

"It will be seen from the foregoing that the frequently repeated assertion that the modern high school courses prepare students for the so-called 'learned professions' only is not true and has not been true so far as the Newton high school history for the past seventeen years goes."

Continued on the next page

Transcribed by Ernie Braida in July 2003