The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 2, Page 13.


Development of Educational System Covering a Century, Is a Story of Achievement

It's a far cry from the first school held in the dwelling of Jesse Morgan in Westchester township in the winter of 1833-34 with a handful of pupils to the modern day consolidated school with its hundreds of students and thousands of dollars of plant equipment.

Whereas, the plant investment was practically nill one hundred years ago and teachers were paid by subscription, today the value of buildings, land and equipment take care of the 3,377 pupils, 918 of whom are in high school, is more than $1,100,000. One hundred and thirty-five teachers are employed and sixty janitors haul the children to the various schools.

The history of Porter county schools is properly divided into four epochs. The first has to do with those pioneer fee schools which served the county from 1837 to the fifties. The second epoch relates to the establishment of the public schools system with the levying of a tax for the maintenance of free education. The third dates from 1873 when the schools were reorganized under the general school law of Indiana, and extends until the turn of the century. The fourth epoch treats with the modern-day development of schools.

And now to consider the public school story through the years.

Providing educational facilities was among the earliest thoughts of the settlers and the legislature passed many measures to aid in the creation of a public school system. In 1838 an act was passed providing for the establishment and maintenance of county seminaries which would receive their support from fines and penalties for violation of the law. The county commissioners were authorized to appoint trustees with general powers to establish and control the seminaries and receive and administer the seminary fund until it was sufficient to establish a seminary.

During the period prior to 1848 there was much complaint throughout Indiana against district schools and particularly because of the employment of incompetent teachers which had much to do in the general support given in the election of 1848 to the levying of a tax to support county schools and employed well trained competent teachers.

In 1850, Union schools, so called had been established through several school districts uniting their funds and forces and establishing a school at some central point easy of access to the united school district.

By an act approved January 17, 1849, the treasurer of state was constituted the state superintendent of common schools, but this was changed in the Constitution of 1852, and the office of state superintendent was made a separate elective office.

In the period from 1850 to 1855, various acts passed by the legislature laid the foundation of a great era of school progress and may be said to be the real beginning of the public school system. An act passed in 1853 transferred the appointment of school examiners from the circuit judges to the county commissioners and the applicants for teachers' positions were required to take a rigid examination in reading, writing, arithmetic, geology, English grammar, orthography, physiology and United States history.

In 1855, each civil township and the township trustee were constituted school trustees. Incorporated towns and cities were authorized to establish public and graded schools and provision was made for township libraries.

County supervision has come through a long process of development and next to the law to permit local taxation, the county superintendent's law was the most important piece of school legislation ever achieved in the state. It did more to integrate and elevate the county schools than any other one law. The enactment of the law was the direct work of the State Teachers' Association to elevate the standard of teachers and make better school districts.

Prior to enactment of a law in 1873, schools affairs were in charge of one or more school examiners. In that year the legislature abolished the office of school examiner and created the office of county superintendent to be elected by township trustees.

Timothy Keene was elected in 1873 by the township trustees as the first county superintendent. He had previously served as school examiner. He was succeeded in 1875 by James McFetrich. Reason Shinabarger was elected in 1877, and re-elected in 1879 and 1881. He resigned on Dec. 1, 1881, and Homer W. Porter was named in his place. Porter was re-elected in 1883, 1885 and 1887, defeating H. h. Loring and B. O. Wise.

In the 1889 election, Mr. Porter and H. H. Loring tied with six votes each. The tie was decided by Auditor John W. Elam, who voted for Mr. Loring. Mr. Loring was re-elected in 1891, defeated O. M. Daugherty, and re-elected again in 1893, defeating W. A. skinner, and again in 1895. He resigned on Sept. 2, 1895, and A. A. Hughart was named to fill out the unexpired term, defeating Eugene Skinkle.

A. A. Hughart was re-elected in 1897 and 1899, the latter time for a four-year term. He resigned on Aug. 1, 1902, and Samuel O. Farrell was elected over Spencer Roe and Eugene Skinkle. Mr. Farrell was re-elected in 1903 and 1907, but resigned on Aug. 15, 1908, to take the superintendency of the Shelbyville, Ind., schools.

Mr. Farrell was succeeded by Fred H. Cole, who defeated Spencer Roe, of Chesterton. Mr. Cole was re-elected without opposition in 1911, and again in 1917 when he defeated M. Earl Dinsmoore, of Hebron. In 1921, Mr. Cole was re-elected over Charles H. Reider, each man getting six votes. The tie was decided by County Auditor Byron H. Kinne who voted for Mr. Cole. Mr. Cole was re-elected in 1925 over Mr. Reider, and again in 1929 over Charles Palmer. He went down to defeat in 1933 when M. Earl Dinsmoore, of Hebron, defeated him 7 votes to 4. A. A. Hughart received one vote.

Consolidation of schools in Porter county really had its beginning in 1907. Much of this centralization occurred during the regime of Fred H. Cole, who served as county superintendent from 1908 to 1933, or a period of twenty-five years.

Advantages of consolidation are that pupils are better classified and the work of the teachers is much better organized and presented and the pupils enjoy the advantage of music, drawing, manual and household arts and agriculture. Pupils also have the advantage of high school facilities. Schools can also be conducted at less expense than a number of separate one-room schools.

From school records of 1901 and 1902, it was ascertained that the total number of town schools in Porter county was ninety-four, composed of seven town school and eighty-seven one-room schools. At the present time there are thirty schools, made up of ten high schools and twenty grade schools.

Thus in the course of a little over thirty years of consolidation, the number of school plants has been reduced to fifty-eight, or nearly two-thirds.

Despite the great era of building which has been going on during the last thirty years, the bonded debt of the county school system is only $264,100, spread over twelve townships.

The ten high schools of the county, outside of Valparaiso, are equipped to teach all subjects taught in schools of the cities.

Porter county employes no attendance officer, the county board of education having abolished the office several years ago and imposed the duties on the county superintendent.

Changes made in the schools during the last quarter of a century are as follows:

The Wheeler school rebuilt in 1922 by Trustee A. O. Dobbins, was remodeled and a new gymnasium added in 1930 by Trustee John M. Brown.

The Liberty Center high school was built in 1927 and a five-acre athletic field added.

A new building and gymnasium was erected at Crisman in 1929 by Trustee Harry Lenburg.

The Kouts school, erected in 1896 by Trustee Peter Lyon, was enlarged in 1906 by Trustee Clarence Dillingham, at a cost of $21,000, and further enlarged in 1914 by addition of a domestic science room. Now a new consolidated high and grade school building costing $167,000, is in the process of construction.

A new consolidated school was erected at Morgan in 1922 and 1923 under Trustees John Bell and John Trode. The new school resulted in the closing of seven district schools and the transferrance of the pupils to the Morgan school.

The Hebron school was built in 1914 by Trustee E. E. Dilley.

The Westchester school at Chesterton was built in 1923 at a cost of $140,000. The school is equipped with a fine gymnasium and auditorium, seating six hundred.

The Washington township school was begun in 1914 by Trustee Elias D. Cain, and an addition made to it in 1917 by Trustee Fred Schwinkendorf. In 1928, the building was remodeled by Trustee Morgan Porch. New class rooms and a gymnasium was added.

The Boone Grove school was built in 1910 under Trustee Lewis W. Stevens. It was remodeled and enlarged in 1931 at a cost of $42,500 under the same official.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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