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6. Conditions in Northern Oregon (Washington)
Washington Territory was not separated from Oregon until the year 1853. However, on August 20, 1845, the territory north of the Columbia was given legal recognition and called the District of Vancouver. Lewis County was created in December 1845, being named in honor of Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Vancouver District later became Clark County in honor of the other member. Lewis County embraced all the territory west of the Cowlitz River. No other county was organized until February 1851, when Pacific County was established.
In 1852 there were the following: Thurston County, named after John R. Thurston, county seat, Olympia; Pierce County, named in honor of President Franklin Pierce, with the county seat at Steilacoom City, on the land claim of John M. Chapman; King County, named in honor of W. R. King, with the county seat at Seattle, on the land claim of David S. Maynard; Jefferson County, named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, the county seat being placed on the land claim of Alfred A. Plummer. Island County was organized in January 1853, the county seat being located at Coveland, on the claim of Richard H. Lansdale. At the time of the separation of Washington Territory from Oregon there were eight counties.
The factor of population had much to do with the slow growth of education north of the Columbia. There were 1,201 persons in the Territory in 1850, while there were only 304 in 1849. The first move. ment into the Territory was in the year 1845. Thus there were only 304 persons arriving in 4 years. Meany points out that the slow growth of population was due to the Whitman massacre of 1847, the newly found gold fields of California in 1848, and an Indian war at Nisqually in 1849.27
In addition to those already mentioned there was a school at Vancouver “under the superintendence of Mr. and Mrs. Carrington." This school was not a public school under the lowa law, but was operated by the Hudson's Bay Company. The Carringtons taught also at Fourth Plain, where they took up a homestead in 1848.
Richard Carrington was an Englishman and an accomplished scholar, brought to this land by the Hudson's Bay Company. He was an artist of no mean merit, and was a lover of music, having brought a piano, violin, and guitar from England with him. Mrs. Carrington was a very accomplished woman. They went to Fourth Plain in the fall
of 1846. It is said that when General Grant was stationed at Fort Vancouver he spent much of his time with the Carringtons.28
The educational situation in northern Oregon by the year 1850 is told tersely in the following table.
TABLE 5.-Census of 1850—colleges, academies, and private schools 1
There were two schools in Clark County, with three teachers. There were two teachers in the Hudson's Bay Company's school; but that there was another school in the county, seems to be evident from the above report of the United States Census Bureau. There seems also to have been a school of one teacher in Lewis County.
In a personal interview with one of the authors, George H. Himes expressed the opinion that the Lewis County school was possibly on the Cowlitz River. In a published document he states that Urban E. Hicks, in the spring of 1851, "joined his stepfather, Stephen Dudley Ruddell, and crossed the plains to Oregon; spent the winter on the Catlin place, near Kelso of the present day; taught school there—the second school in Cowlitz County, Wash.—the first teacher being F. D. Huntress." Urban East Hicks was born in Boone County, Mo., May 14, 1828; he learned the printer's trade in Paris and Hannibal, in Missouri. He knew Samuel M. Clemens, better known as "Mark Twain", and taught him how to set type. Besides the teaching experience mentioned, he taught two terms of school in 1855–56, George H. Himes being one of his pupils.
If he taught the school in the winter of 1851, and was the second teacher, there is a possibility that this school existed in 1850, and was the school referred to in the census. In a search for substantiating facts, however, two items have appeared that bear upon this point, both of which rather cast doubt upon the above.
In the Washington Standard of February 16, 1861, a correspondent from Cowlitz County wrote: “One or more schools have been established since 1851." The other document is a letter which bears on the point. Isaac N. Ebey was the leader of a movement to have a separate county organized for the country around Olympia, and on December
» Alley, B. F. History of Clark County, p. 340.
16, 1850, he addressed a letter to the government of Oregon Territory praying for such a county organization. This is of considerable value, in view of the fact that it is subscribed to by a number of citizens of Olympia.
These citizens reported that there was no school in Lewis County entitled to school funds in the latter part of 1850 and asked that the money be distributed to them as individuals to educate their own children. As Kelso is many miles from Olympia it is quite likely that they were unaware of the Huntress school.
The first “American" school in Vancouver was taught in the winter of 1852–53 in a log hut situated in a brushwood a little north of where
a the Lucia Mill stands. The teacher was Mrs. Clark Short.29
Schools at Olympia and vicinity.—Early in Washington's history we find that Olympia was the center around which the activities of the Territory revolved. It was in the section of country first settled; and, as may be expected, it soon took the place of leadership in the affairs of economic and political life. We are not surprised to learn, therefore, that the first newspaper was published there. This was the Columbian, which appeared September 11, 1852.
If we bear this fact in mind, we shall see in clearer perspective the reason why Olympia usurped the leadership in educational affairs. Much of the history of the pre-Territorial period and of the early Ter. ritorial period as well, will naturally revolve around the little city on Puget Sound, which became the capital of Washington.
The matter of schools soon attracted the attention of the first settlers. Bancroft says that it is claimed that the first schoolhouse was erected on the Kindred farm on Bush Prairie, by the Kindred family and others.30 This farm was several miles south of Olympia. David Kindred was one of the pioneers who first settled in the region in 1845, and George W. Bush came in at the same time. We have gone to some effort to locate the site of that little schoolhouse, and have come to the conclusion that it was not on the Kindred farm at all, although it was in the neighborhood. Through J. S. Bush, the site has been pointed out. He says that there never was a school on the Kindred farm. The exact date of the erection of the school is not known.31
In his history of Thurston County, J. C. Rathbun states that the first school in the county was taught by D. L. Phillips in the summer of 1852.3 The D. L. Phillips mentioned, no doubt, was David Lucas Phil. lips. Whether or not this was the Bush Prairie School has not yet come to light.
* Alley, B. P. History of Clarke County, p. 324. » Bancroft's works, vol. XXXI, p. 375.
11 The site, according to J. S. Bush, was as follows: On the 29-acre tract on the Harper place, the N.E. % of the N.E. % of sec. 10. T. 17 N., R. 2 W. It is on the southwest corner of the crossroads.
First school in Olympia.-The first school in Olympia has been graphically described in a letter in the Columbian of November 27, 1852, dated 4 days previously:
Yesterday was a great day for Olympia. (This makes the first school at Olympia es tablished Nov. 22, 1852.) Not in the common parlance, a great festival, a great mass meeting, or a great celebration—but there was a school actually commenced in town, by means of which the children heretofore roaming about our streets listless as the Indian, will begin to imbibe the knowledge requisite to make them good citizens, good republi. cans, good Christians, and, in short, prepare them to fill the position in which the death of their parents must soon place them.
This being the central point for northern Oregon we hope, in a few years, to see a university as one of our most conspicuous buildings.
Mr. A. W. Moore is now teaching the district school at Olympia. He is a man of er perience, character, education, and ability; and if anyone wishes to send scholars, they may rest assured that they are entrusting them to safe hands. Scholars by hiring a room, and two or three going together in cooking their board, might make the expense but little more than living at home.
Definitely, then, it is established that A. W. Moore taught the first school in Olympia, which started November 22 of that year. In the fall a tax was levied and collected for the purpose of erecting a school building. The building was completed in December, being constructed of split lumber. It occupied a site on the northwest corner of Sixth and Franklin Streets.33 After it was all paid for, the sum of $400 remained in the treasury, which was used for hiring a teacher. There were 21 children of competent age in the district, of whom a little more than half were in school. This low percentage in attendance, as the Colum. bian points out, was due to the scarcity of schoolbooks. The little village was far from the seat of production of such material, and books were slow in coming.
The citizens taxed themselves heroically for the erection of their first schoolhouse, but this initial effort of the good people of Olympia came to sudden grief. The roof of the building gave way under the pressure of 4 feet of snow, and it was completely demolished. The accident occurred at night when the building was unoccupied, and fortunately there was no loss of life. It happened on Sunday, December 26, 1852. Bancroft gives it a little human touch when he relates that the Reverend Benjamin Close, the first Methodist minister in Olympia, preached his first sermon in the school that day, and that the congregation had
82 Rathburn, J. C. History of Thurston County, p. 19. 33 Blankensbip, Mrs. Geo. E. Early History of Thurston County, p. 15.
just left the building when the roof fell in. 34 School was continued in another building.
An editorial in the Columbian, July 16, 1853, gives some light on the educational situation at that date with regard to the number of schools then in existence and also the attitude of the people toward schools. They point out that there were but three schools north of Cowlitz Landing: One at Olympia, taught by E. A. Bradford, another at the house of William Packwood, taught by Miss White, and a third near the house of S. D. Ruddell, taught by D. L. Phillips. There were several other neighborhoods with a sufficient number of children to warrant the engagement of teachers. The Columbian urged the civic necessity of prompt action in the establishment of schools, even with the aid of private contribution when taxes were not sufficient to meet the expense.
The locations of the three schools referred to have been definitely established. William Packwood's place was on the Nisqually River between Olympia and Steilacoom where he settled in 1847. He obtained permission from the commissioners of Thurston County to start the school in the fall of 1852, the teacher being Miss Elizabeth White. The S. D. Ruddell place was 6 miles southeast of Olympia, the teacher being David Lucas Phillips. The third school was the one in Olympia
The identification of the site of the first public school in the State of Washington is still somewhat indefinite, but in the light of the facts at present in our possession it seems quite probable that the honor of having erected the first structure of this nature should go to the city of Olympia
# Bancroft's Works, vol. XXXI, p. 373.