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Public Schools.

     The first school legislation in Nebraska territory is contained in an act approved March 16, 1855. This act stipulated that the librarian of the territory was also to be superintendent of public instruction. As librarian he was to receive an annual salary of $100, and as superintendent an additional $200. He was required to "have a general supervision of all the district schools of the territory" and to see that the school system should be "as early as practicable put into uniform operation" and to recommend to the several school districts a uniform series of text books. He was to prepare the necessary blanks and forms for reports required by the act, to make fill necessary rules, regulations, and recommendations, and to report annually to the legislature.

     County superintendents of schools were to be elected at the biennial county elections. The county superintendent was required to distribute to the several school districts the blanks and circulars sent by the state superintendent, to apportion the county school tax and other county funds for education, to establish school districts, to examine teachers and issue certificates to those found to be qualified to teach, to visit schools--and he was empowered to dismiss teachers whom he found to be incompetent. An annual report to the state superintendent was required.

     District boards of school directors, consisting of a president, secretary and treasurer, were chosen by the qualified electors of the districts at annual school meetings. In addition to the usual functions of locating and building the school house, buying supplies and books, employing teachers, the directors were required to examine teachers in spelling, reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history of the United States and English grammar, and to levy, collect and expend the district school taxes. An annual report to the county superintendent was to include information as to the number of white persons of school age (five to twenty-one years), number of schools and branches taught, pupils, teachers and their compensation, cost of buildings, amount and resources of funds expended and number of volumes in the library.

     The county superintendent was empowered to levy the annual county school tax of not less than three mills nor more than five mills on the total assessed valuation of the county, to be collected as other county taxes were collected, except that it was receivable only in cash. These funds, together with the proceeds of fines, collected for breach of the penal laws, the sale of water craft, lost goods and estrays were apportioned annually among the several districts in proportion to the school census--provided that the districts participating in this apportionment had raised locally a tax of not less than three mills for school support, The county superintendent paid over these funds to the several district treasurers. THE FUNDS FROM WHICH TEACHERS WERE PAID WERE NO PART OF THE COUNTY OR DISTRICT TAXES, BUT WERE RAISED BY VOLUNTARY SUBSCRIPTION AMONG SCHOOL PATRONS.

     This early school law was incorporated with slight additions in the code of Nebraska in an act approved January 26, 1856. These added provisions related to the sale of school lands, which were to be valued and sold by the county superintendents. Another act of this same date provided that county superintendents should have $2.50 for each quarter section of land sold and two dollars for each day devoted to the duties of the office. A report of the standing committee on education of the territorial council on January 11, 1856, stated that "as yet, no provision has been made for the support of free common schools within the territory, except a defective school law, and consequently no such institutions have been established." Governor Cuming's message of December 9, 1857, said "In many, if not all the counties, no districts have been formed,




no taxes levied, no teachers employed and no steps taken in respect to school laws."

     An act approved November 4, 1858, repealed the existing school law, and substituted an elaborate system which made the township the administrative unit for schools except for purely local matters, such as the employment of teachers, and maintenance of the school and school buildings, subject to such regulations as the township board of education might impose. This act provided for the establishment of township high schools, and school libraries. A county board of examiners was to be appointed by the probate judge. They were empowered to examine and certificate teachers.

     The territorial school fund was obtained from the proceeds of a levy of two mills on the grand assessment roll of the territory, and all additional one tenth of a mill was levied for the purchase and equipment of school libraries. The school fund was apportioned to the counties by the territorial treasurer, and by county clerks to the several school districts.

     This act created the office of territorial commissioner of common schools with a salary of $1,000. The salary was reduced to $600 by a statute of January 9, 1861.

     A joint memorial to congress, approved November 4, 1858, asked for the right to control and lease the school lands given by the federal government.

     An amendment to the school law of 1858 was approved on January 13, 1860. This amendment limited the territorial school fund levy to one mill on the grand assessment roll of the territory, and stipulated that funds so raised were "for the purpose of affording the advantage of a free education to all the white youth of the territory."

     The duties of territorial school commissioner were given to the territorial auditor by an act of February 15, 1864. An elaborate law of the same date authorized the "town council of Nebraska City to raise money to erect a central or high school building." This act was further amplified by an act approved February 12, 1866.

     A law governing the registry, disposition and control of the common school, University and agricultural college lands was approved June 24, 1867. The state normal school was established at Peru by an act of June 20, 1867.

     At the first session of the state legislature, the school law was completely revised by an act approved June 24, 1867. This act granted school suffrage to "every inhabitant of the age of twenty-one years, residing in the district and liable to pay a school district tax therein." The township or precinct system was abandoned and county superintendents provided for.

     An act of February 12, 1869, endowed the state normal school at Peru with twenty sections of state land. The general school law was amended by this same legislature by making specific provisions concerning the conduct of schools in incorporated municipalities, by levying a common school fund tax of two mills on the grand assessment roll of the state to be in addition to the "funds derived from the sale of school lands and interest thereon, and fines and forfeitures as provided by statutes," by describing in greater detail the duties of county supeintendents, and by providing for the election of a state superintendent of public instruction. The state superintendent was required to organize teachers' institutes, to visit schools and teachers' institutes, to name the text books to be used in all the schools, and to apportion the state school fund among the several counties. The act establishing the University of Nebraska was approved February 15, 1869.

     The issuance of bonds to build a high school building in Omaha was authorlzed by an act approved February 7, 1871. Similar legislation for certain districts in Washington, Johnson, Gage, Saunders, Pawnee, Calling and Lancaster counties was passed by the legislature of 1871, and succeeding legislatures passed many such acts. An act regulating the public schools in cities of the first class was passed by the legislature of 1873. A curious act of this legislature empowered the common council of Nebraska City upon petition of a majority




of the taxpayers to employ teachers to give instruction in the German language in the public schools.

     The legislature of 1875 limited the school suffrage to "every male citizen and unmarried woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in the district and owning property therein which is taxable for school purposes in such district." The school levy was limited to twenty-five mills. An institution for the blind was provided for at this session. An act regulating public schools in cities of the second class was also passed.

     Upon the adoption of the constitution of 1975, the legislature of 1877 passed laws concerning the disposition of educational lands and funds. The office of the superintendent of public instruction became constitutional in 1875, and his term of office was extended by constitutional amendment adopted in1920, to four years, beginning 1922.

     The origin of the present school code to found in an act approved March 1, 1881. By this instrument, school suffrage was limited to residents of the school district having either property within the district taxed in their own names at the last election, or children of school age. Since this act was approved it has been amended and added to. Certification of teachers is directly under the control of the state superintendent, who prepares all questions for teachers examinations. Since 1891 a free text book law has been in force. In 1901 a compulsory education law was approved, and in 1907 this was supplemented by a child labor law, which depends upon school authorities chiefly for its enforcement. Provision is now made by law for free high school education, rural high schools, county high schools, normal training and instruction in agriculture, manual training and home economics in high schools.

     A house resolution of 1913 created a school code commission to revise the school laws, and report their findings to the legislature of 1915,

     The legislature of 1917 provided for non-partisan election of regents of the university, and state and county superintendents.

     The legislature of 1919 provided for a redistricting of the entire state for consolidated and high school purposes. It also passed laws requiring teachers to be citizens of the United States, and prohibiting the use of any foreign language for instructional purposes in grades below the high school in any public, private or parochial school in the state. Boards of education were required to have physical examinations of pupils made in all schools of the state.

     Higher education has not been neglected in Nebraska. The records of the early territorial legislatures contain many acts of incorporation of colleges, most of which never materialized, and none of which now survive. Permanent provision for higher education was made by the state in the establishment of a university and four normal schools. Numerous denominational and other schools and colleges have been founded. 


Simpson university at Omaha

March 9, 1855

Nebraska City collegiate and preparatory institute, Fontanelle

March 15, 1855

Nebraska university

February 28, 1855

Memorial to congress for 15,000 acres land for Simpson university

March 14, 1855

Nemaha university at Archer, Richardson county

January 25, 1856

Washington college at Cuming City

January 26, 1856

Western university, Cassville, Cass county

January 26, 1856

Plattsmouth preparatory and collegiate institute

January 26, 1956

Memorial to congress for 10 sections of land and $5,000 for Nebraska university

January 25, 1856

University of St. John in Dakota county

February 13, 1857

Rock Bluffs seminary, Rock Bluffs, Cass county

February 10, 1857

Dakota City collegiate and preparatory institute

February 12, 1857

Brownville college

February 9, 1657

Omadl college, Omadi, Dakota county

February 12, 1857




Salem collegiate institute

February 10, 1857

University of Nebraska, Saratoga

February 11, 1857

St. Mary's female academy at St. John, Dakota county. Catholic. Compliance with external forms of worship required.

February 12, 1857

Memorial to congress for 10,000 acres of land each for Simpson university, and Nebraska City collegiate and preparatory institute

February 10, 1857

Peru seminary, Methodist Episcopal Church

January 11, 1860

University of Columbus, at Columbus. Catholic

January 12, 1860

Florence seminary

January 13, 1860

All-Soule college, Bellevue

February 15, 1864

Nemaha Valley seminary and normal institute, Pawnee City

February 35, 1864

Johnson county seminary (control of county commissioners)

February 9, 1865

Peru seminary and college (Methodist Episcopal Church)

February 12, 1866

Institute for deaf and dumb, Omaha, Incorporated

February 12, 1867




President or Principal

Boyles College


H. B. Boyles

Chadron State Normal


R. I. Elliott

Cotner University


A. D. Harmon

Creighton University


F. X. McMenamy

Dana College


L. A. Laursen

Doane College


John N. Bennett

Fairbury Business College


F. R. Shelby

Franklin Academy


G. W. Mitchell

Grand Island Business College

Grand Island

A. L. Dunn

Grand Island College

Grand Island

Arthur T. Belknap

Hastings Business College


F. L. Groom

Hastings College


R. B. Crone

Hebron Academy


P. H. Buehring

Holy Family Academy


Sr. M. Teresa

Holy Trinity School


Fred Scbmuttgen

Immaculate Conception Academy


Sr. M. Virginia

Kearney Military Academy


H. R. Drummond

Kearney State Normal


Geo. E. Martin

Lincoln Business College


E. C. Bigger

Luther College


Rev. A. T. Seashore

Lutheran Teachers Seminary


F. W. C. Jesse

Mt. St. Mary's Seminary


Sr. M. Aquin

Martin Luther Academy and Normal


G. Bergstraesser

Nebraska Central College

Central City

Homer J. Coppock

Nebraska School of Agriculture


C. K. Morse

Nebraska School of Business


T. A. Blakeslee

Nebraska Wesleyan University

University Place

I. B. Schreckengast

Northwestern Business College


F. R. Shelle

Peru State Normal .


E. L. Rouse

St. Agnes Academy


M. M. Henriett

St. Bernard Academy

Nebraska City

Mother Severin

St. Catherine Academy


Sr. M. Walburga

St. Francis Academy


Sr. M. Agnella

St. Francis School


Andrew B. Kucbens

St. John's High School


Rev. T. J. Livingston

St. Mary's Academy


Mother Leonl

St. Paul Normal and Business College.

St. Paul

Jos. S. Zoeholl

Sacred Heart Academy

Falls City

Sr. M. Anastasia

Sacred Heart Convent


Madam Gorman

Sacred Heart High School


Sr. Mary Jerome

Spalding Academy


Sr. Mary Dolores

Spalding College


Father Lonas D. Lynch

Teachers College High School


Cora B. Hill

Union College

College View

Harvey A. Morrison

University of Nebraska


Samuel Avery

University School of Agriculture


H. E. Bradford

University of Omaha


Daniel E. Jenkins

Van Sant School


lone C. Duffy

Wayrie State Normal


U. S. Conn

York Business College


M. O. McLaughlin

York College


M. O. McLaughlin


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© 2001 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller