HISTORY OF HOWE'S ACADEMY
From Articles in the "Mt. Pleasant News", Mt. Pleasant, Iowa
Transcribed & Contributed by Leslie W. Saint
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"Mt. Pleasant News", Sept. 11, 1936
STORY OF THE "OLD MILL" AS TOLD BY A HOWE
Early History of Academy is Related.
Former Students will Gather at Saunders Park Saturday.
This issue is devoted somewhat to the memory of the "Old Mill" at Howe's Academy was, and is, affectionately known by the many students of that splendid school, and to its founder Prof. Samuel Howe. Tomorrow the old students gather at Saunder's Grove for an annual reunion.
The "Old Mill" is no more. For half a century it filled a great educational need in southeastern Iowa. It antedates the high school and the actual functioning of Iowa Wesleyan College. The present students in our high school and college know nothing of the old Academy. Merely its fame. No clearer picture of the school could be drawn that the one republished below, wherein Prof. W. P. Howe, son of the founder of the school, wrote in 1889-story of how the school was moved from Ohio to Iowa, its early struggle here in Mt. Pleasant, its successes and finally of its passing into history.
The story of W. P. Howe follows:
THE STORY OF THE "OLD MILL
My father's first visit to the beautiful country lying west of the Mississippi was in 1839, at which time he crossed the river at Flint Hills (now Burlington) and made a thorough examination of the territory. He was so delighted with the country that he determined to make it his future home, and after the election of General Harrison he moved his family from Ohio, and located in Henry County, Iowa Territory, near the then log cabin village of Mt. Pleasant. At the time of removal he was well situated in Ohio. Had established a flourish and successful academy at Lancaster, where he had very thoroughly trained for the active life the future General Sherman and his eminent brother, the late distinguished Senator from Ohio, as well as a multitude of other young men who afterwards filled honorable and useful careers. But he could not resist the fascination presented by the beautiful Eden beyond the Great Father of Waters. And so, at a great loss of money and putting aside the most flourishing prospects he turned his face toward the western world.
700 MILE DRIVE
We made the removal from Ohio in two-horse wagons, filled with house hold goods. Among other things were several barrels of the choicest apples, which proved a perfect godsend during the hard winter which followed. The journey was about 700 miles and occupied several weeks. Late in November 1841, we located in the boundless prairie some three miles east of Mt. Pleasant, Our first home in Iowa was near the Burlington Trail along which droves of Indians were continually passing to and from Burlington, either for their government annuities, food, supplies ammunition, blankets, or "fire water". Our cabin was very small, with only two rooms in it, in the midst of a sea of grass, that swept into the very door. A hole in the ground some, five or six feet deep, totally unwalled, and with no sign of a curb, was the only well.
This was the situation that confronted my mother, who had been accustomed, all her life to all the comforts and enjoyments of a refined and cultured home, in one of the best states of the Union. But she faced the new life with brave and patient heroism, and although she had many a silent cry over the many and severe hardships with which she was surrounded and the separation from dear relatives and life-long friends in the east, yet the spirit that animated the spartan mother hushed every heart-ache, overcame every obstacle. And this is true of all the pioneer mothers of Iowa. May their memory ever be kept green and sacred in the hearts of their countrymen.
For over two years all of our cooking was done by the open fire place. Such a thing took as a cook stove was unheard of. Corn bread and bacon with rye coffee, and with a frequent dessert of wild game formed the prairie bill of fare.
THE FIRST HOWE SCHOOL
In 1842, my father teaching in a little log cabin on his farm, set apart for that purpose and at the same time diligently carted on his agriculture world. From this little prairie academy two men went out into the world to fill important and useful stations in human life. One of them was sheriff of Henry County for seventeen successive years and the other becomes gallant captain in the Union Army, was desperately wounded before Vicksburg in 1864, and finally died of his wound.
SCHOOL IN COUNTY HALL
In 1843, father moved his school to Mt. Pleasant, than a small village, of straggling log cabins. It was located in the upper room of the old log jail, and here flocked the bright, ambitious lads and lassies of the "village of the plain", as eager to learn and quite as smart as the smartest Iowa Children of today. I still remember the names of some of father's pupils who went to school to him at that time. They were, Wm. Hill, Jasper Hill, and Cordelia Hill, children of the late Enoch Hill, one of the pioneer merchants of Mt. Pleasant; Martha Lash, daughter of the late John B. Lash, Thomas Spearman afterwards for many years one of the honorable officials of Henry County; Joseph John and Ellen Newell. From this school in the old log jail graduated one of the foremost merchants of Mt. Pleasant and one of the leading and most public spirited citizens. Also a noble youth went out from this school who afterwards became governor of Nebraska, and a member of the United States Senate.
SCHOOL MOVES AGAIN
In the course of a few months I the school was removed to the Campbellite Church, then located near the present residence of Mrs. Presley Saunders, southwest corner of the Square, where it greatly increased in numbers and usefulness. In the winter of 1843 - 1844, the school was transplanted to the Cumberland Presbyterian Church building, corner of North Main and East Madison streets, and afterwards the residence of the late Dr. Wellington Bird.
OLD MILL IS BUILT
During the spring and summer of 1845, my father completed what was esteemed at that time a very handsome and commodious academic building consisting of basement and three upper stories all large and well adapted for the purpose of dwelling and school room combined. The academy was indeed a perfect delight, and would accommodate easily the neighborhood of hundred pupils. On the west end was a large brick cupola, surmounted with a neat belfry which contained a school bell of rare sweetness and power. This dear, delightful bell clustered round with so many pleasant memories, is still doing sweet service for the rising generation at the Central school edifice, this city. Howe's Academy grandly flourished in its new and truly scholastic home, especially prepared for it in 1845, for a period of more than fifty-two years in unbroken and glorious succession. It was in 1845 that the school first received the name of "Old Mill". The name was given to it in derision by its enemies as a term of reproach, but instead of being and injury, it became a crown of glory, a name which is still loved, honored and cherished everywhere for the "Old Mill" ground out such a grist of rare talent, ability, culture and patriotism that the whole state honored and loved it with the supremest devotion. The name "Old Mill" should still adorn the brow of this alma mater for the term: Mill" is a misnomer, and does not reflect any of the sacred association' that cluster around the old familiar and nobler term.
During the next few years some of Burlington's most distinguished citizens laid strong and solid foundations for life's work in this school. Among them were Judge Browning, and Tracy Hon, B. J. Hall, Claiborne Rorer, a son of the late David Rorer, Park Woods, Arthur Narrett and Hon. H. Fletcher, Judge J. C. Hall, and Judge Rorer, were among my father's warmest personal friends through their political opinions were as wide apart as the poles.
When the Liberty Part was organized, my father, who had always been an abolitionist in principle, left the Whig party and joined the new organization. As an abolitionist and free soiler, he was almost alone in Henry County in the advocacy of those great principles which have since become the very cornerstone of our national government. His property was destroyed, his stock stolen, emissaries were sent to take his life, and he was mobbed by the pro-slavery men in the streets of Mt. Pleasant. I have heard my mother often say that she expected to see him-brought home dead almost any day, a victim of the deadly malice of the pro-slavery men. But being a man of the fearless and heroic courage, he denied hatred, malice and prosecution and even dared death itself in defense of the immortal principle to which he had consecrated his life.
MT. PLEASANT'S FIRST PAPER
In 1848 he became a stock holder in the only abolitionist paper in the great -west. It was called the Iowa Freeman and was published by Alanson St. Clair and D. M. Kelsey at Fort Madison. In 1849, the paper was removed to Mt. Pleasant where my father bought it and published it. At the same time he still conducted the school with all that marvelous ability and energy for which he was noted. During the presidential campaign of 1856 (Fremont and Dayton) my father's paper with its grand motto "Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor and Free Men", was one of the most -powerful advocates of the principles of the republicanism in the state, and I presume that no man, no newspaper did more effective work for the election of Governor Grimes, Iowa's first Republican Governor, than did my father, for not only did his newspaper exercise a potent influence in every portion of the state, but during the vacation of his school he also made a personal canvas of the state and delivered ringing and eloquent speeches in many of the larger cities and towns. My father lost something like ten thousand dollars in his heroic newspaper, but he never regretted all his marvelous and self-sacrifice and toil, for he lived to see his life-long principles at last triumph.
In the border ruffian conflict in Kansas, two of his sons stood side by side with the old John Brown in 1856, in this the approaching struggle before the great rebellion of 1861. When the Civil War broke out my father sent three sons and two sons-in-law to the Union Army and from the spring of 1861 to the 21st of Jul 1865 there was always a member of the family at the front, maintaining the honor of the old flag and the integrity of the nation. In due time larger and more commodian buildings wave added, the faculty was increased with additional whole souled, energetic teachers and for a long series of years the career of the school was one of unbroken prosperity and usefulness.
THE END OF THE SCHOOL
But all earthly things must end at their allotted time. The venerated and beloved founder of the school died in February 1877. Two of his loved and deeply cherished pupils, the Rev. W. R. Cole and the Late E. P. Smith preached his funeral sermon and it can be truly said that the whole city and county was in deepest mourning. And now even the "Old Mill", that superb monument to his memory, and into which he put so much toil, and so much Christ-like and sublime self-sacrifice, has silently passed away. It is gone forever. It is only a precious historic memory and was cherished with the deepest love by the old settlers and pioneers of Henry County many of whom, as well as their children had been educated within its precious walls. But the dear old glorious building was doomed to destruction and with iconoclastic and relentless hands it was leveled to the ground. And now, where the venerated academy and the beloved homestead stood, the presiod pride of Henry County, an enduring monument of its noble and illustrious founder are only heaps of rubbish and ghastly ruins.
"Mt. Pleasant News", C. S. Rogers' Bystander's Notes, Sept. 11, 1936
I shall never forget the first impression of the house "visiting" school at Howe's Academy. Having been used to the quiet dignity of New England high school, the commotion, the lack of discipline, the disorder of routine, was a shock. Of course the jammed assembly room was putting on a special show for visitors, but the hour was a revelation in western school methods. However it was not long before I became aware of the real worth of the school, and the remarkable instruction given the young men and women who thronged the rooms. It was a school adapted to the times, and before school organizations prescribed text books, size of rooms, size of classes, preparation of instruction income and expense. The school was adjusted on the moment of any need. A student could enroll at any time. It was like shopping, you looked over the shelves and picked out what you wanted and in any quality. It was a sort of scholastic cafeteria, but with no cabaret attractions. Prof. Samuel Luke Howe died in 1877, and Prof. Seward Hove took charge of the school. Later the Old Mill was abandoned and the academy affiliated with the college, but that was not a success. Later the academy was moved to the building formerly owned by the German Presbyterian Church on South Jefferson Street, where it ended its long and glorious career.
Of the different buildings occupied by the old school during its years of existence not a vestige remains. All but a bronze tablet on a boulder on the site of the Old Mill and mark be headstones at the graves of the Howes in the City Cemetery. Of the influence of the Howes, and the school however much remains, and there are many still living, who were students of Howe's Academy, and delight to gather annually to recall those fine old days. In another column will be found the highly interesting article of Prof. William Howe in his tribute to his great father, the founder of the old Mill.
Seward Curtis Howe was born at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa on May 27, 1850 he crossed the plains with his father driving an eight mule team and prairie schooner to Boise in 1866. From Boise, he and his father proceeded without guides - alone on horseback to San Francisco.
THE RETURN TRIP TO MT. PLEASANT AND NEW YORK.
In 1871, he went to New York City where he taught in the Public Schools of that city for three years. In 1874 with a keen sense of disappointment in giving up what appeared to be a most promising career in the educational system of that city, he yielded to his father's pleadings to return to Mt. Peasant so that Howe's Academy might live on after S. L. Howe's death. Feeling that duty and right lay in that course of action. On August 15, 1874, he and Mary Glenny were married.
In 1877, on the death of his father, he assumed the principalship of Howe's Academy, continuing in that position until its close in 1916. The death of his wife, on February 2, 1919, was a blow from which he, already broken in body and spirit, could not survive. In October 1917, he went to Buena Vista, Colorado to spend the winter with a niece, Mrs. Charlotte Howe McGinnis. His death occurred there most unexpectedly on April 2, 1918, as he was preparing to leave Buena Vista.
Mary Glenny Howe, was born at Green Bay, Wisconsin an August 10, 1855, the oldest child of William and Adelia Glenny. In infancy, she was taken by her parents to Missouri, where the family lived until political pressure became too unpleasant, when they removed to Iowa, living first at Keosauqua for a short time and then Mt. Pleasant. Her education was received in Mt. Pleasant Public Schools at Howe's Academy. She and Seward C. Howe were united in marriage on August 5, 1874. For a short time after that she was an instructor in Howe's Academy. Later in 1905 she again resumed active work in the school until its close. She was a member of the P.E.O. Sisterhood. Her death took place in Mt. Pleasant on February 2, 1917, following a long illness.
"Mt. Pleasant News", June 1, 1971
MONUMENT ERECTED AT HOWE GRAVE SITE.
The attractive monument at the left was erected some months ago at the Seward Howe grave site in Mt. Pleasant. Much of the cost was paid from contributions of former students at Howe's Academy. Three of those who had greatest interest in the project are shown: (from left) Stanley M. Howard of Hillsboro and Mt. Pleasant, Rev. E. K. Parrott of Fairfield and Perry Mathews of Mt. Pleasant rural. Names on the base are Prof. Seward C. and Mary Glenny.
HOWE'S ACADEMY HISTORY REVIEWED AT MEETING.
Howe's Academy was the topic of the May meeting of the Henry County Historical Society. Miss Gladys Watton, a former student and part time teacher at the academy, presented the program. The local Howe's Academy was the second school of its kind founded by the Howe family. The first was located at Ohio and was organized by Samuel Luke Howe. Mr. Howe was born in Kentucky, but his family moved to Ohio when he was very young. The future educator attended public school and Athens University where law was his first interest, but later changed to teaching as his major area of study. At the age of twenty Howe was employed to teach at Lancaster Academy, one of some six thousand similar institutions registered in the United States. At that time little public money was spent on what we today know as secondary schools so private academies were organized for post elementary school education purposes.
In 1835, Samuel Luke Howe organized an academy in Lancaster. Among its notable graduates were William T. Sherman and his brother, Ohio Senator John Sherman. General Sherman once remarked that Luke Howe was "one of this nation's finest teachers."
In 1841, the Howe family moved to Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Why the family left Ohio or why they came to Mt. Pleasant is not recorded. Their first home was five miles east of Mt. Pleasant, later moving into the small town in 1842 to start another academy school was located on the west side of the square on the second floor of a building which housed a jail on the first floor! The enrollment soon demanded a larger facility, and the Cumberland Presbyterian church was purchased. It was located on the present site of the Mt. Pleasant Public Library.
Soon this building also became inadequate for the enrollment, and an old mill building on East Monroe Street was purchased. It was located east of the present high school building and a boulder marks the site. The two story structure had dimensions niture including a stove to heat the room. The second floor was used for school activities, with a large assembly hall at the north end and classrooms in the south end.
Mr. Howe taught in many areas but his favorite subjects were mathematics, grammar and Latin. He had written a grammar textbook that was used as the basal book not only in Mt. Pleasant, but in other schools as well, including some in Chicago Classes were no-nonsense classes and demonstrations were no n at the academy.
The largest attendance occurred during the winter when farm work was slack. Often night classes were held because the facilities could not handle the enrollment during the day. Extra-curricular activities were limited to the literary societies. These were intended for both education and entertainment, and included recitations and literature readings, but most important were the debates.
Mr. Howe had another interest - the abolition of slavery. To promote this cause he purchased a newspaper in Fort Madison and bought it to Mt. Pleasant where it was located on the southwest corner of the square. This paper, the IOWA FREE SOILER, was not operated at a profit, but Mr. Howe felt this was his contribution to the antislavery movement. A large bundle of papers were taken to Salem by horseback where the paper found ready readers among the Quakers.
Samuel Luke Howe and his son Seward set out for California to visit another son serving as principal of a school in San Francisco in 1850. The wagon train was plagued with troubles, often times by Indian attacks. Near Boise, Idaho a large force of Indians attacked the wagons, and it seemed all would be killed due to the superior attacking force. As often occurs in western novels, the U.S. Cavalry had heard about east to meet it and saved the day. Most of the people decided to remain at Boise or return east after this experience, but the Howe's, after waiting for another wagon train, and none appearing, decided to travel alone on horseback!
Fortunately, they encountered no further Indian problems and reached San Francisco Safely. On the return trip they sailed south to Panama, crossed the isthmus, and again traveling by boat reached New York with considerably less trouble than their cross country trip. After the Civil War the health of the father began to fan, and Seward Howe took over the school. As public high schools began to assume a greater role in secondary education, Howe's Academy began to emphasize teacher education.
For a short period of time, Iowa Wesleyan and Howe's Academy worked together, but this was not successful, and the academy was again moved to a church on South Jefferson, now the site of the Lynn Byrne home. In 1916, due to diminishing enrollment, Howe's Academy was closed.
A number of persons who had attended the academy were in attendance. They were: Helen Howard Williams, Danville; Rev E. K. Perrott, Fairfield; Alma Beck Jones, Middletown; Gladys Barr Baldosier, Porter Forbes, Ethel Niece Freeman, Stanley Howard, Perry O. and Luella Mathews, and Mr. and Mrs. George Scott, Mt. Pleasant; Myrtle DeLang Jarvis, Mildred Lenz, Catherine Martin, and Elizabeth Calloway Shelledy, New London; and Nell Graff Farr, Salem, and the speaker, Gladys Watton, Lowell.
Stanley Howard, President of the Howe's Academy Association arranged the program and introduced the speaker. The same group provided refreshments after the meeting.
"Mt. Pleasant News", Nov. 11, 1972, By Sandy Williams, Staff Writer
In 1841, a young schoolteacher from Ohio came to Mt. Pleasant and established what John Briggs, editor of the Oct. 1931 edition of the "Palimpsest", calls "a splendid school".
The teacher was Samuel L. Howe. His school came to be known as Howe's Academy although Howe had given it the lofty title Mount Pleasant High School and Female Seminary.
The school's beginnings were far from lofty, however. Howe first held classes, in the winter of 1841-42, in a small log cabin on the prairie about four miles east of Mt. Pleasant on the Burlington road.
Sometime in 1842, Howe moved his school to the upper story of the log jail, where Home Furniture is presently located. In 1844, classes were conducted in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church on the corner of Madison and Monroe where the Public Library now stands. Finally, in 1845, Howe constructed a building for his school. There are conflicting stories of the building's origin.
Some say the main part of the building had once been a mill, others say Howe built the whole building from scratch, and still others say the main part was renovated (but have no information on the original use) from another building, with units added on by Howe.
At any rate, the school was established in its own building, for the first time. The Academy was often referred to as "The Old Mill," but whether it was because the building originally housed a mill or because of the Howe process of "grinding out" educated students seems to be debatable.
According to a description by R. S. Galer in the Oct. 19, 1931 edition of "Palimpsest," Howe's Academy was located just east of the present high school. He says "The building consisted of two stories and a basement, about 70 feet long and perhaps 60 feet wide. The north half of the second story was the main school room, seating as many as 150 pupils, not nearly enough space for the crowds each winter.
"There were two regular recitation rooms extending south from the main room to the south front of the building. The east end of the lower part of the building was brick and occupied by the family of Samuel Howe. The rest of the building was frame. Below were a number of bare, barn-like rooms which were rented unfurnished to students."
According to Briggs, and "Henry County's Yesterdays," students at Howe's Academy were classified into four groups. The most advanced students, called Aristomachians, studied trigonometry, logic, Latin, Greek, mental philosophy, moral philosophy, political economy, natural theology and evidence's of Christianity. Students in this group paid $9 for each ten week session. The Philomoatheans, or juniors, paid $8 for each term and studied higher algebra, Latin, Greek, geometry, rhetoric, universal history, astronomy, American literature, botany and zoology.
Sophomores or Philotaxians, paid $7 per term to study U. S. history, higher arithmetic, physical geography, algebra, English grammar, physiology, chemistry, natural philosophy and Latin.
First year students, the Philagathians, began with such subjects as orthography, reading, object lessons, mental and written arithmetic, geography, English grammar and Latin. Cost to freshmen was $6 per term, but Latin was deemed so important that it was offered free to induce students to begin study of that subject early.
The Academy offered four sessions a year, each lasting 10 weeks. The school year was so divided as to be convenient for the students, most of whom were rural. Accordingly, Galer's account relates, students came and went as they pleased, their school time based on the work on the farms. In 1885, says Galer, the school started in September with 26 students, ran up to 250 in January and closed in June with 40.
Both Briggs and Galer call the school unique and outstanding ahead of its time in promoting individual study. Galer calls it "a paradise for the exceptional student." Any student could go as fast as his abilities permitted and step from one class to another at any time. There were no, examinations and no time limit governing promotions." As soon as a student learned, he taught, for Howe's primary goal was to produce teachers. As a student grasped an idea, he was to recite and explain to the others in the class--a practical education course throughout a student's years with Howe.
Galer recalls that life outside the classroom was remarkably free. "No arbitrary rules of conduct existed. Freedom of personal conduct shocking to the Victorian ideas prevalent at the time prevailed. The school had no fixed hours or rules of study. The only requirement was to master certain subjects by diligent study."
This is not to say the students received no guidance. Both Howe and his son Seward, who succeeded him, were firm in their ideas of morality and values. To this end, both men were fond of disrupting a class or even a whole morning to give an impromptu lecture dealing with morals, dignity, the value of self-discipline, etc. If lack of rules and regulations made Howe's Academy unique, the reason they were not needed could stem from the - state of education at the time for the Howe philosophy of education. Probably both.
Pioneer education was almost a luxury. There were no public schools and no compulsory education. A student worked diligently because he wanted to be in school and was willing to pay for the privilege. To become a teacher was to rise in status, to be able to make a living. And the field was much respected. Even under lesser men than Samuel and Seward Howe, students wanted education badly enough to sacrifice time and money to attend school. But with the Howes in charge, education was exciting and challenging. He was, according to Galer's recollections, an intense man. One of his sidelines was editing an abolition newspaper, a cause he espoused with zeal.
"His manner in the school room was arbitrary, dogmatic, imperious. To him thoroughness was next to Godliness ... we thoroughly believed they (Samuel and Seward) were the greatest teachers ... and their methods the best ever devised. We had a personal affection for them as well." Ironically, the strength of the school-Samuel and his son Seward-was also one of the reasons for the school's demise in 1916. Samuel Howe died in 1877, and while Seward, according to Galer's account, was just slightly less dynamic and excellent, he was alone, with no one to join or follow him, in maintaining the same force. In 1897, the Academy affiliated with Iowa Wesleyan College--an unfortunate alliance. Temperamental, the two schools were poles apart. The marriage lasted for only five years.
In the meantime, the Old Mill had fallen into disrepair, was torn down, and the site sold off for residence lots. Seward Howe, to re-established his Academy, bought the old and disused German Presbyterian Church on Lot 3, Block 20 on South Jefferson. (One source gives 304 S. Jefferson as the address.) The church was remodeled to contain a residence and classrooms, but too many social and economic changes prevailed; and in 1916, Seward was forced to close the school.
There were a number of reasons why the Academy failed. Public schools, supported by taxation, had sprung up in each small community, and the students had no need to pay for education. The Howe method and curriculum had not kept up with the times, and an increasingly industrialized society made new demands the Academy was not prepared to meet. The final blow came by way of new state teaching certificate requirements. Although during its years of existence the Old Mill had turned out innumerable teachers, its graduates were no longer permitted to teach without further education in accredited colleges.
And so, the widely acclaimed Howe's Academy passed out of existence, but not without leaving its mark in Henry County history. A granite boulder now marks the spot on East Monroe where two dedicated men and their able staff inspired many Henry County youngsters to follow in their mentor's footsteps.
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