Thursday, April 27, 2017

A History of the Bunker Hill Schools


Pictured: The First Church and Schoolhouse in Bunker Hill

Read about the History of Bunker Hill Schools from our earlier blog posting at

From the Gazette-News, September 20, 1973

Written by Miss Florence Seim

The full pdf document of Miss Seim's paper titled "History of Bunker Hill Schools" can be downloaded from:

    Scarcely had Bunker Hill shown signs of becoming a town until the early pioneers turned their thoughts to the education of their children.  These early pioneers, who were determined to develop this new country, were advocates of "Learning" and wished to have their children, who were to be the men and women of tomorrow, versed in the fundamentals of a workable education.

    A combined church and schoolhouse was erected in the fall of 1839 by the citizens of Bunker Hill.  It was an 18' x 26' and was only a few feet from the present Congregational Church.  Most of the material used was produced in this vicinity.  Other material, such as grease, oil, putty, locks for the doors, pine lumber for seats, etc. were store purchased.  The bill totaled less than $100.  It was a very rough, unplastered little room with blankets and shawls hung around the walls and doors to keep out the cold winds and snow.  This building, primitive an roughly built, was the first church and first schoolhouse.  In it, the early settlers worshipped [sic] and his children were taught to read.  In later years, the old schoolhouse became the property of W.J. Knibb and was used as a barn.  It has been moved many times; its last location being on the southeast corner of Mr. Knibb's yard, just back of the Methodist Church.  In March 1883, the building was torn down and destroyed.  

    Francis N. Burnham operated the school and was succeeded February 3, 1840 by John A. Pettingill.  In March, the spring term was in charge of Jane Putnam, who afterward became Mrs. Jonathan Huggins.  Dr. John Delano taught school here some years before going into practice with Dr. E. Howell.

From Reflections: A History of the Bunker Hill-Woodburn Area:
    The first school in Macoupin County was conducted at Staunton by William Wilcox in 1824.  He was paid $30 for ten weeks of work.  He was replaced by Roger Shell in 1827.  James Howard taught school in the northern part of the county near Apple Creek.  He taught until his death in 1824.  In 1831, the first school was established in Bunker Hill in a small house near the hat factory of Daniel Branscomb.

    The first schoolhouses were constructed of unhewn logs and covered with boards which were held in place by weight poles.  The floor was nothing but dirt.  Oiled paper, placed over a hole in the wall, was used to take the place of glass.  Heat was provided from a fireplace at one end of the building.

    Seats were usually made of split logs with wooden pins driven into them for legs.  The writing desks were simply split log shelves against the walls.

    The subjects taught in those early schools were reading, writing, and orthography, which was spelling.  In some of the better schools, arithmetic was taught.

Pictured:  Map of Bunker Hill area country schools

    The first schoolhouse in Bunker Hill stood on Section 21 and was later moved to Section 22 (Section 21 and 22 are in between Bunker Hill and Woodburn).  In 1831, a schoolhouse was built on Section 20 on the land belonging to John T. Wood.  Mr. Richardson was the first teacher and he was succeeded by Josiah B. Harris.  John Wilson, Jesse Wood, and Aaron Leyerly were also early school teachers in the township.  

    The first schoolhouse in the City of Bunker Hill was built in 1839 and was one of the last of a number of buildings built that year.  Most of the materials used were produced in this vicinity, and it was said that the cost was less that $100.  It also served as a church.  In it, the early settler worshipped [sic] and his children  were taught to read.  this building stood until 1883, when it was torn down and destroyed.  The  building had been moved a number of times, and in the later years became the property of W.J. Knibb.  Its last location was at the southwest corner of a lot, just back of the Methodist Church.

    In the years following the building of the first school here, Bunker Hill proved to be a popular place for settlers, and soon outranked Woodburn in population and continued its growth to become the second largest town in the county.  This shift in population from Woodburn, which was settled before Bunker Hill, can largely be attributed to the coming of the railroad, which ran its first train through Bunker Hill in 1855.

    Bunker Hill had 4 private schools in 1867.  Professor T.L. Sawyer advertised his school as a "Classical and Scientific Institute", and opened the fall term on September 3, 1866.  According to Professor Sawyer's advertising, "Young ladies and gentlemen wishing to qualify themselves for teachers would receive the instructions required." Spelling, reading, and writing were daily exercises for the entire school.  Forty-five minutes of every day were devoted to penmanship.  One afternoon each week was devoted to composition, and every scholar capable of forming a sentence was required to compose.  Commercial arithmetic and bookkeeping were exclusively attended to for those preparing for the counting room.  

    Costs for a session for ten weeks in the private school were:
  • Primary Department - $6.00
  • Junior Class - $9.00
  • Senior Class - $12.00
 Incidental expenses in each were $.50 and French and German languages were $5 extra.  No deductions were allowed for absence, except in protracted illness.  

    Rev. J.H. Hilmes opened a German evening school on October 23, 1874 starting at 7 p.m. at the public school building.  

    In 1879, the highest paid salary was $100 per month, and the lowest was $17.50 per month.  Teachers were stricter than they are now.  They did not put up with horsing around.  The students knew what was expected of them.  In some cases, there were eight grades in one room.  If a child did misbehave, he was punished in one of many ways.  A child might have to stand in the corner, be hit with a ruler on the knuckles, or maybe paddled.  If a child was paddled at school, then more than likely there would be a second punishment when he got home.  Teachers were respected much more than they are now.

    With Bunker Hill growing as it did, the school was too small, so that by the 1860's, the City Hall was leased to the school.  Read more about the City Hall - Bunker Hill's Second School, at the blog posting at

Pictured: City Hall, leased by the public school in 1863-1869


...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, September 20, 1973, April 27, 2017.

Redford, Carol, and Betty Triplett. "Bunker Hill History." In Reflections: A History of the Bunker Hill-Woodburn Area, p. 102. Bunker Hill: Bunker Hill Publications, 1993. Provided by the Bunker Hill Historical Society.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Bunker Hill Ordinances of 1873

Pictured: The cover of the booklet for Ordinances of the City of Bunker Hill - 1873

Some of the Ordinances of Bunker Hill, circa 1873 booklet on display at the Museum.

Ordinance relating to Misdemeanors:

 Sec. 17: Whoever shall, without the consent of the owner or occupant of the premises, fasten any horse or other animal to any tree or to any boxing place around any tree, shall forfeit and pay the sum of not less that one dollar.

Sec. 19: Whoever shall purposely, rapidly, or immoderately ride or drive any horse or mule, or any cattle, or other like animals, or any team in any street or alley of the City of Bunker Hill shall forfeit and pay for each sum of not less that ten dollars. 

Sec. 37: The running of large cows within the city limits of the City of Bunker Hill, between the 15th day of November and the 1st day of April each year, shall forfeit and pay the sum of one dollar for each cow, and in addition, shall pay the sum of one dollar for every twelve hours said cow shall continue to run at large.

Sec. 42: Any person or persons who shall within the city limits carry any concealed on their persons any knife, Bowie knife, pistol, revolver, slingshot, or any dangerous or deadly weapon for the purpose of unlawfully using the same, shall forfeit and pay the sum of not less than twenty-five dollars.

Sec. 44: That any person or persons who shall ride, lead, or drive any horse, mule, or ox upon or over any plank or brick sidewalk within the city limits shall on conviction thereof, be fined not less than three or more than ten dollars.

Ordinance relating to fees and salaries:

Sec. 1:  The superintendent of streets shall receive one dollar and fifty cents per day for each day actually employed in laboring or superintending the labor on the streets, alleys, or reads in said city.  For removing each dead horse, mule, cow, or ox out of the city limits, one dollar, for removing any other dead animal, fifty cents.

Police shall receive two dollars per day when employed.

The calaboos (jail) keeper shall received one dollar for each person confined and one dollar per day for caring and boarding each person confined.

All ordinances passed on May 17, 1873, by Mayor J.F. Cummings.

...Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, April 20, 2017.  

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Hard Road - The End of Old Dirt Roads through Bunker Hill


Pictured: A hand sketch of people travelling on old dusty roads to Bunker Hill by Stage coach

Read our earlier blog posting about the Bunker Hill Hard Road at ...

    When the first homesteaders came to Bunker Hill, there were no roads as we think of them today.  You would just go out in the direction of your destination and go across country.  Over time, certain paths and trails were more heavily traveled and became the early roads.  As people went through the road and made ruts, it would wash deeper and deeper making the road bed lower than the sides of the road.  There were no organized maintenance of these roads.  People often had hard times getting to and from town.  

    In dry weather, the dust was six to eight inches deep and sometimes the visibility was cut to almost zero when following another vehicle.  Getting stuck in the mud was one of the inevitable happening following big rain storms or in rainy or thawing seasons.  Some teams and wagons would get stuck the axle deep slop.  Sometimes travelers would have four or five horses per wagon to pull it through muddy roads.  Not only the main road, but all roads through the area were like this at some time.  After many years of traveling this way, residents of the community began to complain.

Pictured: Travelling was done by horseback on dirt roads to the Lincoln Post Office

    The town council, for the purpose of keeping streets, alleys, and highways in repair, was authorized and empowered to require every able bodied male over twenty-one years of age and under fifty to labor on streets, any number of days not exceeding three in each year.

Pictured: Looking South on Franklin Street before paved roads were introduced. 

    When the practice of oiling roads started, the neighbors would chip in and oil the roads.  Very little oil was spread on country roads.  This job was not done mechanically, but was done by manual labor.  Very few streets were all weather during the winter months.  In 1923, the city began to oil the streets.  The roads and city streets were very messy and the oil ran off the dust like water.

Pictured: North Washington Street before 1920's

    In 1925, Senator A. Cuthbertson, who was a former merchant and resident of Bunker Hill, initiated the idea of a hard road to the area that would replace the old stage coach road running north and south through town. The planning was done in the next several years with Cuthbertson's help.

Pictured: The Lincoln statue before the hard roads

    The road work started in Bunker Hill in 1927.  One problem that had arisen was that the state wanted to take the Lincoln Statue out when the road was put in, however, popular sentiment won out and the road was built around the statue instead.

    The foundation of the road was made from bricks and dirt.  Workers who helped on the road used over one hundred mules to haul materials to construct the foundation.  Big scoops were used to move and to place materials where they wanted them.   After the foundation was finished, the concrete was poured and smoothed.

Pictured: The map of the first hard road through Bunker Hill

    September 28, 1928, there was a big celebration to celebrate the opening of the hard road.  The old stage coach that had run the route through here on the Springfield and St. Louis route from 1822-1850 was brought here from Edwardsville for the celebration.  There was a big chicken dinner.  It rained so hard that the celebration had to be moved to the new Lincoln Hall.  The scheduled platform dance was postponed until October 6, when a huge platform was laid out between the Lincoln monument and the bandstand for dancing.  

Pictured: An early Bunker Hill automobile

    The final touches were made and the new Route 112 was finished in the early 1930's.  A few years after the route was completed, the hard road's name was changed to Route 159.  There have been slight changes in the road since then.  Several years after the road was completed, the road that ran south of Bunker Hill was changed.  This alteration took out three turning points which were located just south of the present location of the big blue water storage tank and north of the Madison County line.  The highway is still a two-lane road as it has been for eighty plus years, but has been resurfaced and widened to fit present day needs.

Pictured: Bunker Hill Ordinance-Notice to Automobile Owners

    Read more about this and other Bunker Hill, IL historical stories at

--Cite this story: The Bunker Hill IL Historical Society. "A Look Back in Bunker Hill History." Bunker Hill Gazette-News, December 13, 2012, April 6, 2017. 

Redford, Carol, and Betty Triplett. "Bunker Hill History." In Reflections: A History of the Bunker Hill-Woodburn Area, pp. 25-26. Bunker Hill: Bunker Hill Publications, 1993. Provided by the Bunker Hill Historical Society.