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Washington County, Ohio
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History of Belpre, Washington Co., Ohio
By C. E. Dickinson, D. D.
Formerly Pastor of Congregational Church
Author of the History of First Congregational Church
Marietta, Ohio
Published for the Author by
Globe Printing & Binding Company
Parkersburg, West Virginia


Page 167

     THE first school in Belpre was taught by Miss Bathsheba Rouse in the block house of Col. Ebenezer Battelle, during the summer of 1789.  Miss Rouse was the first female teacher in Ohio and it is significant that during the season that the first cabins were occupied the settlers made provision for the education of their children by the establishment of a school.
     In their minds the school was the direct and immediate associate of the home in the interests of the rising generation.  Miss Rouse taught a school for several subsequent summers and a winter school was taught by a male teacher, among the first of these were Jonathan Baldwin and Daniel Mayo, the latter a graduate of Cambridge College.  These pioneers seem to have followed substantially the plan of country schools in New England at that time, the plan of country schools in New England at that time, which was to employ a female teacher for three months in the summer and a male teacher for an equal time in winter.
     Universal education through the common schools in this country had its origin in New England.  The settlers there brought with them the town meeting as the unit of a democratic government, and, because all the citizens were Participants in such a government, all should be made intelligent.  It has been true in the history of various parts of our country that wherever a company of  settlers from New England have located there has very soon been a school and, before the settlement has become very large, plans have been made for an academy and college.
     When Stone's Fort was erected in 1793 there were forty children in the families domiciled there and a school house was built within the palisades.  We find mention of a log school house in the middle settlement in 1801 which had evidently been erected some time earlier.  There was also a log school house at Newbury as early as 1800.  These early school houses were warmed in winter by an ample

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fire place in one end of the room.  The entrance was on one side of this fire place and the teachers desk on the other side ; there were seats for scholars on the other three sides of the room with an open space in the center where the scholars recited, and toed a line when they stood in the spelling class.  A little later, and perhaps at this early day, a small silver coin was perforated for a string and worn home each night by the scholar who was at the head of the class, and borne away in triumph on the last day by the scholar who had worn it home most times during the term.  School houses were built in other portions of the township as they were needed.  Some small appropriations were made for the first schools by the Ohio Company but most of the expenses were borne by the parents.  Mrs. Preston, in her history of Newbury, states that the "wages of teachers during those early years were five dollars a month with what the parents of the children could give, the teacher boarded around."  The five dollars probably came from the Ohio Company's appropriations or from other public funds and the balance from tuitions and contributions.
     We have found no account of a strike of teachers for higher wages.  All sought to serve the good of all, even though it required a real sacrifice.  These early schools in Belpre were voluntary, established and maintained by the sentiment of the people.
     Having given this this account of the first movements in the cause of general education in Belpre, we may pause to consider the early history of schools in Ohio.  It was the sentiment for general education in New England which introduced into the Act for the Survey and Settlements of Public Land a provision for the reservation of section 16 in every township for the promotion of education.  It was this same sentiment which caused the Ohio Company, at a meeting in Providence, R. I. March 7th, 1788, to record the following action.
     "Resolved, That the Directors be requested to pay as early attention as possible to the education of youth and the promotion of public worship among the first settlers."  (It is interesting to observe by the date that on that day the first company of 48 pioneers were camped at Simrills Ferry (West Newton) Penn. constructing the boats which were to carry them down the rivers to the point where they

[Pg. 169]
were to commence the Settlement.) It seems to have been the idea ol" settlers in various parts of the state that Section sixteen in each township, reserved for schools, would in some way be made sullicient for the cause of education in the state, and as a result the schools laws enacted during the first two decades of the nineteenth century had almost exclusive reference to the sale or renting of these lands. It was for the interest of speculators to secure these lands as cheaply as possible and evidently some mistakes were made by the authorities during this period, and it became evident that some provision must be made for schools beyond the revenue derived from these lands.
     The settlers from New England desired to make provision for free public schools, as we may learn from the schools established in the Ohio Company's settlements, but there were many in the state who opposed the movements for free schools.
     The first efficient act for the establishment of free public schools was introduced to the legislature in 1819 by Hon. Ephraim Cutler the member from Washington County. This met with strong opposition but was introduced in the legislature the next year 1820-21, when it was passed by the House but was not considered in the Senate. The matter continued to be earnestly advocated by the friends of general education, and as violently opposed by those of different sentiments.
     In the legislature of 1821, Caleb Atwater, a representative from Pickaway County, secured the passage of a reso- lution providing for the appointment, by the Governor, of a commission of seven members "to collect, digest and re- port to the next General Assembly a system of education for common schools, and also to take into consideration the state of the funds set apart by Congress for the support of common schools." The members of this commission were Caleb Atwater (chairman), John Collins, James Hoge, Nathan Guilford, Ephraim Cutler, Josiah Barker and James M. Bell.
     This Commission made very extensive investigation and reported to the legislature of 1823-4, but this body was so much opposed to legislation both on public schools and internal improvements that no action was taken. In the

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next legislature which convened in 1824 the paramount is- sues were the common schools and the canals. 
     It is an interesting fact that these two subjects were closely associated in the legislation of Ohio and they really aided each other.  The more intelligent members of the Assembly were in favor of the schools and the more progressive favored internal improvements.  A goodly number of members were embraced in both classes, and by joining forces both projects succeeded.  As a result of the report of the Educational Commission a bill was presented, drawn by Nathan Guilford, which embraced the principles presented by Mr. Cutler five years earlier.  This bill provided that a "fund shall be annually raised among the several counties of the state, in the manner pointed out by this act, for the use of the common schools, for the instruction of youth of every class and grade without distinction, in reading, writing, arithmetic and other necessary branches of a common education."  This money was to be raised by a tax on all property in the counties.  There were also provisions for laying out the townships into convenient school districts and the appointment of examiners without whose official certificate no one could draw pay for teaching.  This bill was entitled "An Act to Provide for the Support and Better Regulation of Common Schools" and it became a law Feb. 5, 1825.  The following circumstance relating to its passage is given in Randall and Ryans History of Ohio (Vol. 8, Page 383)  "When the bill was on its final vote for passage in the House, Ephraim Cutler, who was a member of the Senate from Washington County, stood anxiously beside Mr. Guilford waiting for the result.  For years he had advocated the principle then pending before the House.  In the constitutional Convention of 1802 and in the General Assembly he had long sought this end.  When the vote was announced showing that the bill had passed, Mr. Cutler turned to Mr. Guilford and reverently repeated the words of Simeon (Lu. 2:29)  'Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.'  Thus was accomplished the greatest educational work in Ohio's history."
     The three men to whom Ohio owes this legislation were Ephraim Cutler, of Washington County, Nathan Guilford, of Hamilton County, and Caleb Atwood, of Pickaway Coun-

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ty, although they represented different portions of the state it is an interesting fact that all these men and also Samuel Lewis, appointed first State Superintendent of Education in 1837, were born and educated in Massachusetts, so that our excellent school system is due to the sentiment instilled into the minds of these gentlemen in the old Bay State, and the home of Mr. Cutler had been in Belpre township.
     Supplemental laws have been passed since that time especially about 1850 when an act was passed which opened the way for special union districts and the establishment of High Schools in townships and villages.  These laws have affected the subsequent history of schools in Belpre.
     In the educational systems of New England down to half a century ago the common schools provided the rudiments of an education for all classes of children.  The higher English branches and languages were taught in Academies or tuition schools, where scholars were fitted for college. It seems to have been this idea of an education which led Messrs. George Dana, A. W. Browning, Lorin E. Stone, and Charles Cook, to construct the building, immediately south of the Congregational Church, which was called Belpre Academy.  The first principal in this school was Miss Hannah Temple, a grand-daughter of Rev. Samuel P. Robbins, second pastor of the First Church in Marietta and Belpre.  She was a superior teacher and her work is still remembered by many of her pupils.  After a few years Miss Temple was succeeded by Miss Nancy Porterfield who continued in charge of the Academy until it was superceded by the High School.  This excellent teacher decided to change her name to Mrs. William Armstrong and become a prominent citizen of Belpre where she has devoted her life to the improvement of the community.
     About this time there was some rivalry among the families in the village and J. B. Hulburt, who had been a teacher in one of the neighboring township schools, was placed in charge of another tuition school known as Belpre Seminary.
     Through efforts of W. W. Northrup, Esq., a special school district was organized in Belpre Village in 1872, and

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W. W. Northrup, N. B. Adams, and C. A. Brown were chosen a Board of Education.  This Board organized a High School with J. B. Hulburt as principal and Mary Barkley, Edna Hubbard and Parks S. Browning, assistants.
     The following year Prof. E. S. Cox became superintendent of the schools and principal of the High School.  He graded the village schools, systemized the course of study, and thoroughly organized the several departments and so prepared the schools for greater usefulness.  Mr. Cox was an eminent teacher for many years.
     Mr. L. D. Brown was superintendent in 1874.  This gentleman was afterwards superintendent of schools in the state and still later was President of the State University of Nevada.  It is pleasant to record that Belpre contributed her mite in preparing Mr. Brown for greater usefulness.
     Previous to this time the village schools were held in the frame building now occupied as a dwelling by Dr. Charles Goodno.  The size and importance of these schools increased so rapidly that in 1875 the citizens decided to construct a new and more extensive building of brick.  This was completed at a cost of about $10,000 and the following year was occupied by the schools.
     The village continued to increase so that even the new building was too small, and in 1907 it was enlarged by the addition of four school rooms and a Superintendents office.  The frame building was used as a school for colored children until 1887, when in compliance with a state law, this school was closed and all children without distinction of race or color were received into the public schools.  This movement caused some objections to be raised at first, but it was soon approved by all classes of the people and it aroused in many of the colored children an ambition to make themselves worthy of their larger opportunities, a very respectable number have already completed the High School Course.
     The first class consisting of four members was graduated from the High School June 10th, 1875. The program of exercises was as follows:

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(First Page) -

"Diligencia Vincit."
In Methodist Episcopal Church
at Eight P. M.
Saturday, June 10th, 1875

(Second Page)

at Methodist Episcopal Church
on the evening of
June 11th, A. D. 1875

(Third Page) -


Music - Qui Vi ......................................................................................Wilhelm Guaz
Music .......................................................................................Com Again with Song
Ovation - To the Victors Belong the Spoils ..........................................
     .............................................................................................. David P. Guthrie, Jr.
Music - The Rover ................................................................................Alexander Lee
Essay - Stepping Stones.......................................................................Annie B. Paden
Music ............................................................................................................Quartette
Essay - The Port to Which We are All Sailing .......................................Annie Guthrie
Music - The Land of Swallows ........................................................................Mossine
Essay - A Scholars Aim .................................................................Annie E. Lockwood
Music - Ah!  With Rapture My Heart is Beating .....................................................
     ........................................................................................................Mrs. Dora Shaw
Conferring of Degrees

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     Mrs. Shaw sang at each commencement until an orchestra was introduced.
     This school has graduated a class each year since that time.  It is a first class High School and its graduates are admitted to the colleges of the state on their diplomas.
     There are now within the township four special or union districts; the village, with ten rooms; Rockland, with four rooms; Center Belpre, with two rooms, and Little Hocking with two rooms.  Besides these there are three small schools in remote neighborhoods, Newbury, Red Bush, and Mill Branch.
     When pupils from these small rural schools enter the High School they usually maintain as high rank in scholarship as those from the union schools.  The standard of scholarship is high in all Belpre schools and there are a respectable number who enter higher institutions each year.  There are also some who for various reasons secure their High School course at Parkersburg, and a considerable number each year graduate from Commercial Colleges at Marietta and Parkersburg.
     Most of the time representatives of Belpre may be found availing themselves of the privileges of a College Education either at Marietta or other similar institutions.


     Intelligence was a very marked characteristic of the inhabitants of New England from the beginning.  It is probable that no settlement ever made embraced so large a proportion of liberally educated men as the settlement in Massachusetts Bay.  Schools, Colleges, private and public libraries appeared very early in the history of New England.  The pioneers in Belpre were nearly all from New England and brought with them the habits and tastes under which they had been reared.  At that time there were none of the almost unlimited variety of magazines now within reach, and there were no daily papers, and even if there had been there were no means of delivering them in this distant wilderness.  The information of the people must be derived from books and these were not very abundant in the log cabins of the settlers.

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This condition will help us to understand why the first Library in the North West Territory was in Belpre.  About 1880 a newspaper discussion arose between three libraries in Ohio respecting priority, which each claimed.  The matter was referred to Hon. John Eaton, then United States Commissioner of Education.   He referred it to a committee of literary gentlemen in Ohio, who reported as follows: "Hon. John Eaton, National Commissioner of Education, Washington, D. C, Dear Sir:  The undersigned, who were named by you as a Commission before whom could be brought claims to prove the establishment of social (or public as distinguished from private) libraries in the Northwest Territory, beg leave to report that they have had before them the claims of three localities, viz: (1) Cincinnati, (2) Ames Township, Athens County, called Coon Skin Library, (3) Belpre, Washington County, and that they are unanimously of the opinion that the claim of the last named place has been made good. * * *

                                                                       Respectfully submitted,
                                                                              EDWARD ORTON,
                                                                              ISAIAH PILLARS,
                                                                              J. J. BURNS.

     We are informed by Dr. S. P. Hildreth that General Israel Putnam during his life time collected a large library of useful books, embracing History, Belle letters, travel, etc. for the benefit of himself and children and called it the "Putnam Family Library."  After his death, in 1790, these books were divided among his heirs and quite a number of them found their way to Belpre, brought out by his son and grandchildren, when Colonel Israel returned with his family after the Indian War in 1795. 
     The family, with their generosity and public spirit, knowing the habits and tastes of their neighbors, were not willing to enjoy these books alone and so made them a nucleus of what came to be known as "The Belpre Farmers Library."
     As evidence of the early establishment of this library we have the following:

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                                                                                                                       Marietta, Oct. 26, 1796.

     Received of Jonathan Stone, by the hand of Benjamin Miles ten dollars for his share in the Putnam Family Library.

                                                                                                                         ISRAEL PUTNAM

     In the record of Probate Court in 1801 we find the estate of Jonathan Stone credited with his share of library stock.  From this we infer that other shares were distributed and other books purchased from time to time.  In Howe's History of Ohio we have a significant mention of this library.  Under Meigs County we find a quotation from a letter written by Amos Dunham who lived several miles from where the library was located.  He says: "The long winter evenings were rather tedious, and in order to make them pass more smoothly, by great exertion I purchased a share in the Belpre Library, six miles distant.  From this I promised myself much entertainment, but another obstacle presented itself—I had no candles;—however the woods afforded plenty of pine knots,—with these I made torches by which I could read, tho I nearly spoiled my eyes.
     Many a night have I passed in this manner till twelve or one o'clock, reading to my wife, while she was hatchelling, carding or spinning.  "This wife left the testimony that her husband "could always find time to attend the meetings of Belpre Library regardless of the pressure of other work."
     Isaac Pierce was librarian and the books were kept in his house.  We have found no record of the whole number of books in this library, nor what books were purchased from time to time, we may safely say that the library was highly prized and was of very great benefit not alone to men like Amos Dunham but specially to the generation then securing an education and forming habits.  The library continued in circulation about twenty years.  In 1815 the association was dissolved by mutual agreement and the books divided among the stockholders.  We have no record of the reason of this dissolution but we are confident it was not through any decrease of interest in education or in the value put upon books.  A considerable number of these



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books are now in possession of descendants of the stockholders.


     We find a record of the fact that when Mr. L. D. Brown was principal of the High School in 1874 he made the beginnings of a High School Library.  Quite a number of books were secured, and are still in existence at the School Building.  No additions seem to have been made to this library for a considerable number of years and the books are not regularly distributed.  It is true that inhabitants of Belpre can secure books from the Parkersburg Public library by the payment of annual dues, but the people of Belpre are sufficiently intelligent and should be sufficiently enterprising to maintain a library of their own.  One of the objects of the Belpre Historical Society, described in another part of this history, is to collect and preserve Historical documents and relics.  This Society might very properly be associated with a Library Association in erecting and sustaining a building which should be used both as a library and historical museum.
     In our visions of the future we hope to see before very many years a trolley line extending westward and eventually connecting us with all the river towns as far at least as Cincinnati.  When that time comes the land along the river will doubtless be divided into small farms devoted to intensive gardening and the hill sides will be variegated by fruit orchards.  Many fine residences will also be built as country homes.  When this vision becomes real the citizens will be as intelligent and enterprising as any who have gone before them and there should be in some central locality a fire-proof building in which a free public library should be sustained for the town.  Such a library is really needed to supplement our excellent schools and so help prepare the constant stream of young people who shall be educated here and go forth to act their part in the progress of the coming years. It may be possible, if the inhabitants of the township will pledge themselves to fulfill certain specified conditions, to secure funds to erect a building from the generous gifts of Mr. Carnegie.
     If this should fail what more valuable or lasting monument could be erected by a descendant of a pioneer or of a later citizen of Belpre than to build and endow such a library.



So called because first books were purchased with Raccoon Skins.


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