"History of Janesville's Public Schools"


From The 1924 Phoenix (Janesville High School yearbook)


pp. 16-17

The earliest settlers of Janesville pitched their camp and erected their first
log cabin in October, 1835, opposite the "big rock" near the southern end of the bridge connecting Monterey with the Spring Brook portion of the city. The first school was established in 1838 in the log school house on the property of Mr. Abram C. BAILEY, on the south side of the bend of the river. The first teacher was Hiram H. BROWN, who later lived in Green County. This was probably the first school opened in Rock County, if not in the entire Wisconsin portion of the Rock River Valley. This primitive schoolhouse was of the rudest construction. Its chinked walls were of rough hewn logs and the seats were basswood slabs. Thus at the "big ford" of the Rock River, within a few rods of the "Big rock," from whose flat summit Mucketay Muckekawkaik (Black Hawk) harangued his braves, was founded in 1838 the first educational institution in Rock County and the upper Rock River Valley. This log schoolhouse was used until 1843, when another log house was occupied by the school until the erection of the red frame schoolhouse of the joint districts of Rock and La Prairie in 1844, a full half-mile east of the first log house. Daniel NURSE taught the school in the winter of 1841-42, and Mr. BENEDICT in 1842-43. Orrin GUERNSEY was the first teacher to wield the birch rod in the new frame building during the winter of 1843-44. Mr. GUERNSEY in 1856 wrote the first history of Rock County, a work of 350 pages, published under the auspices of the Rock County Agricultural Society and Mechanics' Institute.
While school matters were well under way in the Spring Brook region, the
settlement near the JANES tavern and ferry also established a school. This school was opened in a log house in the woods near North Main Street three rods north of East Milwaukee Street. Miss Cornelia SHELDON (later Mrs. Isaac WOODLE) taught the first term of school in the summer of 1840. She was succeeded the following winter by Rev. C. W. LAWRENCE, who established the first debating society in 1841. Other instructors in the village school were Messrs. LITTLE, BENNETT, ARNOLD, WOOD, and WHITE. The names of the women who taught the summer terms of the school are Miss WINGATE, Miss TRUE, Miss BENNETT, and Mrs. CATLIN.
In 1845 a brick building was erected on Division Street which was regarded
as a model of comfort and convenience in the early '40s and '50s.
Before the days of the free high school, private academies were established
throughout the Middle West. In 1843 a charter was granted to S. Hyatt SMITH, E. V. WHITON, J. B. DOE, Charles STEVENS, and W. H. BAILEY for the establishment of the Janesville Academy. A stone building was erected on High Street near Milwaukee Street on the site of the present Lincoln School, and in 1844 the academy was opened with Rev. Thomas J. RUGER, and Episcopal clergyman, as principal. Many of the business men of that generation received their education at this old stone academy on High Street. Mr. RUGER was succeeded by Mr. ALDEN, and he by Messrs. WOODARD, WEBB, SPICER, and GORTON. In the early '50s the school was known as the Janesville Collegiate Institution. It was purchased by the city in 1855 and became known as the Janesville Free Academy. It was used for public school purposes until 1876, when it was superseded by the present Lincoln School.
For nearly ten years under the village charter Janesville maintained her
district schools, but these were crude in methods and, as the population increased, a higher grade of culture was demanded. A few enterprising citizens with wise forethought determined upon thorough organization, and enthusiastic promoters of this achievement were Hon. J. J. R. PEASE, Dr. Lyman J. BARROWS, Hon. W. A. LAWRENCE, Hon. James SUTHERLAND, Judge M. S. PRITCHARD, and Hon. B. B. ELDREDGE. In April 1835, the present system of schools was adopted, although it was not in practical operation until the schools were thoroughly graded in 1856.
At this time a record of education and literary institutions of the city
embraced a central high school, eight schools of lower grade, three select schools, the state institution for the blind, and the Janesville Lyceum and Mechanics' Institute, the latter society assembling for improvement in arts and sciences.
In 1856 commodious buildings were erected in the Second and Fifth wards,
and the schools were graded into high school, grammar, intermediate, and primary departments, the old academy becoming the central or high school of the system.
A demand for more room secured the erection of a high school building in
1858 at a cost of $40,000, and in 1859 the high school department, with Levi CASS as principal, was transferred to its new location.
An increase of population soon rendered additional accommodations
necessary, and in 1866 and 1873 buildings were erected in the First and Fourth wards. In 1875 requisite appropriation was made for the Lincoln School building, which was erected on the site of the old academy, now the Jefferson School.
Since then the Second ward school house has been rebuilt, new buildings
have been erected in the fifth, fourth, first, and third wards, and in 1895 the second new high school building; thus, year by year the school property has increased until its valuation in 1912 was approximately estimated at $1,300,000, with accommodations for nearly 4,000 pupils.
The High School proper was organized in 1856. The first class of three was
graduated in 1858. Since the first commencement in the old academy building, which occurred without public exercise, the school has graduated 2,151 students. Of this number 787 are boys and 1,364 are girls. It is interesting to note that about thirty per cent. of the 977 graduates since 1912 have continued their learning in schools of higher education. Of the Freshman who entered in 1919, about eighty per cent. graduated. The average has been about fifty per cent.
In February of 1923 the school was moved to the present site on South Main
Street. This new structure was erected at a cost of $800,000. It is one of the very few completely equipped high schools in this section of the country. It includes forty nine class rooms, four study halls, a music room, a lecture room, a library, five complete laboratories for experimental work in science, two large gymnasiums and swimming pools, commodious room for the manual training and for the domestic science department, a fine locker system, a splendid cafeteria equipped to serve 450, and a spacious auditorium which accommodates 1,500. At present there are sixty-three members of the faculty and 1,255 students.

Courtesy of Lori

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