Pictured: The First Church and Schoolhouse in Bunker Hill
Read about the History of Bunker Hill Schools from our earlier blog posting at https://bunkerhillhistory.blogspot.com/2015/05/a-history-of-bunker-hill-schools.html
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: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1UDvSjqh2WAwZfMhEQHMe7h-QzmGBFtMy/view?usp=sharing
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.
Pictured: City Hall, leased by the public school in 1863-1869
--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.