History of Linn County Schools

Compiled by Workers of the Writer’s Program
Of the Work Projects Administration
In the State of Oregon
Sponsored by the Linn County Pioneer Memorial Association
Published about 1945

As far as it is possible to learn, the first school in Linn County was taught by Rev. H. H. Spaulding in a log house one mile above where Brownsville now stands, in the summer of 1849. This was a subscription school. The first public school district was organized on the Calapooia in 1853, being the third district in Linn County (339). It was also known as the Brush Creek District, and as Gouger’s Neck. It originally comprised Crawfordsville and all the Brush Creek valley and for many years had the reputation of being the best district in the country (340).

         A copy of the original subscription paper circulated for the purpose of building a schoolhouse in School District No. 3, reads as follows:

 Linn county, O. T.

June the 24th, 1852

Articles of agreement drawn up and entered into by the undersigned subscribers wherein we bind ourselves to pay the amounts hereinafter subscribed by us, for the purpose of building a school house in Brush Creek Valley on the claim of T. A. Riggs, which shall be for a school house and also for a meeting house, which shall be free for all. Said house to be a frame building 24 feet long by 16 feet wide, one story high.

Name of Subscribers

Levi Russell    


N. Shanks   


Win. Robinette   


Miles Carey   


Stewart Lewis   


William Splawn   


Win. McCarr   


Robert Glass   


Richard Finley   


T. A. Riggs   


H. L. Brown   


Thomas Riggs   


Thos. Woodpin   


        The first school in district No. 3 was taught in 1853 by Nathan Hull, followed by Mrs. Colbert, Miriam Johnson, W. R. Bishop and others (340). In 1862 the school house was moved north on the road to the land of Noah Shanks. It became necessary to build a larger house. In 1866 the school board let the contract to E. P. Large to build a new house 24 x 36 feet. Mr. Large furnished the material and built the house for $689.00. This building was used for school purposes until 1885 when the school was moved to Crawfordsville, one mile west. The building was sold to W. B. and J. H. Glass who moved it to make an addition to their Sash and Door factory. The first few terms of school in this district were financed by voluntary subscriptions by the patrons of the school, and the teachers boarded with the different families. Many of the pupils of this early school have, and some are still, holding high places in the business world (340).

The second school in Linn County was probably a “Dame school”, carried on by Mrs. Abram Hackleman in her own home for her own children and others of the region. It is said that she taught them as she sat in the kitchen picking her geese. Another school was opened by Dr. Hill, or Rev. R. C. Hill, in Albany, during 1851.52. This was a private school. Sessions were held in a small log house which stood on a place that is now (1878) the middle of the street in front of Ans Marshall’s livery stable (341). R. C. Hill was a versatile man. He was not only Albany’s first minister of the gospel, but the town’s first practicing physician. On Sundays he preached in the log school house, and when called to see a patient during the week, on school days, he left the largest scholar in charge, and mounting an Indian pony rode the miles to his patient, administered to him (or her), then returned to his pupils. The Doctor is still with us (1875) and besides preaching to his regular congregation, enjoys a large and remunerative practice in his medical profession (342).

On October 31, 1854, the people of the town of Takenah (Albany) had a meeting for the purpose of arranging a school district. Mr. John Conner was presiding. Messrs. Anderson Cox, James H. Foster and George Cline were elected directors; and J. M. McConnell, clerk. But, on account of some irregularities in the proceedings, the results were rendered null and void. Another meeting was held November 28, 1854, which resulted in the election of the following named officers: James H. Foster, J. G. Lincoln and Anderson Cox, directors; J. M. McConnell, clerk, Walter Monteith, James H. Foster and J. M. McConnell were appointed to select a site for a new schoolhouse. They selected the lot now (1878) occupied by the Central School Building (341). The building was put up during the Spring of 1855 and constituted the first public building of a permanent character in Albany. On January 6, 1855, the County School Superintendent organized the district and named it Takenah. Before that, on April 6, 1854, the School Board had defined its boundaries, viz: “Ordered by the Board that the Takenah School District be bounded as follows, for the purpose of organization according to the statutes in such case made and provided. Commencing at the mouth of the Calapooia Creek, thence up said creek to the mouth of Oak Creek so as to include Robert Pentland, thence North East, so as to include John Burkhart, Anderson Cox and Robert Houston, thence North West to the Willamette River and up said river to the place of beginning, to be known as Takenah School District” (343). In all more than 20 school districts of Linn County were organized in 1854.

In Lebanon a term-school was conducted in a log cabin in 1852. Jeremiah Ralston and Morgan Kees each donated five acres, money was raised by subscription, and a two story building containing four large school rooms was built, 1854-55. A small frame building had been constructed the year before. Out of this beginning grew Santiam Academy (344). On January 18, 1854, the Oregon Legislature passed an act making John McKinney, Aaron Hyde, Thomas H. Pearne, Wm. C. Gallagher, Andrew Kees, Alvan F. Waller, Morgan Kees, Jeremiah Ralston, Luther T. Woodward, Delazon Smith, Luther Elkins, John Settle, and David Ballard, trustees of Santiam Academy at Lebanon. The yearly income was limited to $10,000; the trustees were to meet and divide themselves into three classes to retire in rotation (345).

Later, on January 25, 1856, the Euphronean Society was given a charter to exist in connection with the Academy. The Philomathean Society of Willamette University was incorporated January 29, of the same year.

The M. E. Church was to have power to fill vacancies in the Board of Trustees and to visit the institution and confer with the Trustees.

The small frame building that had been constructed in 1853 was moved over to the new Academy building and served as the dwelling of the “Professor” until the space was required for school purposes. Santiam Academy was never anything other than a primary and secondary school. It was coeducational, had no boarding school facilities, although it drew its students from as far away as Jacksonville and Corvallis. The average attendance was forty or fifty, although in 1864 one hundred and five were reported to the Methodist conference. Rev. Luther T. Woodward and wife were the first teachers. They were followed by Rev. D. E. Blain and wife, and a Miss Farrell (344).

After the establishment of a public school in 1870, the Academy declined rapidly. It finally came into the hands of the school district (of Bethel Institute) and the buildings are now (1920) used for laboratories. The real title is still in the M. E. Church, a 99-year lease having been given the district in 1910. So there is a figure-head board of directors appointed by the M. E. Church. Present (1920) value is about $10,000 (344).

Sodaville School District bears the number 13, signifying that it was the thirteenth district to be organized in Linn County. The first schoolhouse of which there seems to be any record was a log cabin situated a little north of west and across the road from the present (1937) school building. Of this schoolhouse a writer says (346): “In the year 1851 Sodaville could boast of having the second best school in the county. A little one-room log schoolhouse stood on the hill where Mr. Chas. Snyder’s house is located. It was built of green timber with the holes between the logs filled with mud and clay. The seats were split logs, round beneath and flat on top, with pegs nailed in the ends and legs. A stone fireplace which served for heater and ventilator, was built in one side. A water bucket of sodawater was kept constantly on hand. Whenever the supply ran low a couple of small boys were sent to the spring for more.”

The second schoolhouse was a one-roomed “box” building erected on the hillside in block 12, just southeast of the spring block. The date of its erection is not known, but in 1894 this building was divided by a partition into two rooms to accommodate the growing school. A short time thereafter it was enlarged by the addition of an L. This enlarged building was used for school purposes until 1909 (347). In that year the district purchased the vacant building in the abandoned Mineral Springs College. Thereafter to the present date the old College has been used for public school purposes.

Grade school, only, has been maintained in the Sodaville district except during the years 1909 and 1914--17 when a high school was attempted for a limited time.

Mineral Springs Seminary at Sodaville was founded and its building erected by Lewis Barzee and his brother Charles in 1892. Lewis Barzee was first employed as a teacher in the district school, but after the expiration of his contract he remained in Sodaville for the purpose of establishing a seminary. This seminary he conducted successfully during the school seasons of 1892-93, after which the institution passed into the hands of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and was reorganized under the name of Mineral Springs College, with Professor Jos. R. Geddis as president. The college was conducted under church management from 1893 to 1902 when, due to competition of other institutions of learning, especially the nearby Albany College, it suspended. About 1909 it again reopened under private management - that is, an association of men headed by Hubbard Bryant of Albany - but to no avail. During the same year the building and grounds were bought by Sodaville School District, No. 13, and has since been used for public school purposes. The college dormitory building was purchased by the local branch of the Patrons of Husbandry, moved three miles across country, and is now known as Crowfoot Grange Hall (347).

Scio School District, No. 8, according to records in the County Superintendent’s office, was organized in 1854. The present district - No. 95 -was organized July 9, 1883. Local knowledge has it that the first school at Scio was opened about 1859 or 1860, with a Mr. Boice as teacher- probably Dr. Jacob Boice who was Scio’s first physician. Mr. Riley Shelton, a resident about 80 years of age, says that: “The old schoolhouse in my day was on the lot where Dr. Prill’s house now stands, was moved away around the year 1900, and was burned later. Dr. Prill’s house occupies extensive grounds in the north-central portion of Scio. A map of Scio (348) shows the school located as stated, facing Race Street and standing between Wheeler and Main streets.

The present schoolhouse was put up in 1895-a two-story and basement frame structure. The Scio WEEKLY PRESS of October 24, 1885, describes the building and states that teachers were Prof. W. J. Crawford, Principal, with Prof. Fulkerson and Mrs. Munkers as Assistants, conducting both grade and high school courses.

The first school in Harrisburg was built in 1858, on Smith Street, where the Methodist Church now stands, a small white building of two rooms. It was not a graded school and teachers were first a Mr. W. Wigle and then a Mr. Henderson. However, according to local knowledge, there was a Harrisburg Academy prior to this, a private school, taught also by Mr. Henderson, in his home on 2nd and Macy streets, which was near the water front, then the main part of town. The Henderson residence is still standing and in the dining room under the wall paper is still the blackboard. Several local residents have seen this blackboard and testify as to its presence, and believe it to have been the original blackboard of Harrisburg Academy (349).

The second public - or district school, as it was called then - in Harrisburg, was on Smith Street also, built about 1867, a wooden building of two stories and four rooms. This was a graded school and two of the teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Robb, lived in one of the rooms on the top floor. Mr. Finlinson was another  teacher there. Some of the children attending school in the ‘60’s were: Anna Riggs, Kate Curtis, Kate Huston, Isa Hoult, Jim Douglas, Robert Read, Virgil and Homer Davis, and Narzette McCartney (349).

The third public school in Harrisburg was built about 1884, on the site of the 1867 school, also a two-story frame structure with four rooms. Two of the first teachers were J. H. Jewett and Ella Menden. hall. By 1894 there were eight grades in this school and in 1896 two more grades were added. In 1898 some of the teachers were Minnie Evans, Luelle Brewster, Bertha Davidson, Carrie Martin. The present school was erected in 1905, grade and high school combined, with some 240 pupils and 11 teachers (349).

Albany Collegiate Institute was established under the auspices of the New School Presbyterian Church. On the 30th of August, 1867, Rev. Wm. J. Monteith was elected the first president of this institution. In 1868 he was succeeded by Rev. Henry Bushnell, who resigned the position on January 27, 1869, when Dr. Geary was elected to fill his place. On the 18th of October, 1869, the College was opened under the management of Rev. E. R. Geary and S. J. Irvine and during the year was very successful (350).

In 1870 difficulty was experienced in obtaining a suitable person to take charge of the institution, until at the close of the year the trustees secured the services of Professor R. K. Warren, who obtained control of the school for a period of four years. In 1873 the first class graduated. In the fall of 1876 Professor L. J. Powell, formerly of the faculty of Willamette University, took charge. At the same time Rev. Howard Stratton was elected president, Rev. E.R. Geary resigned. In 1878 Prof. Powell was elected State Sup’t. of Public Schools for Oregon(350).

A historical sketch of Albany Collegiate Institute appeared in the Albany City Directory of 1878, pages 30-35, stating about the beginning of the institution that: “For several years our citizens agitated the question of the building of a college in this city, but their labors in that direction took no definite shape until the winter of 1866-67. During that winter and spring several public meetings were held, and it was decided to build a college at once. J. P. Tate, Jno. Conner, Thos Monteith, Demas Beach, E. S. Merrill, W. W. Parrish, E. R. Geary, R. H. Crawford, .J. C. Ainsworth, Jas. H. Foster and Jacob Norcross were elected trustees and subscription papers were immediately circulated and several thousand dollars raised for the work, the following persons contributing $100 and over: James P. Hogue, John Conner, Walter Monteith, E. H. Griffin, J. S. McAllister, A. Cowan, S. Althouse, John Foster, J. P. Tate, O. Sylvester, E. R. Geary, Jas. H. Foster, Jas. Elkins, Demas Beach, Jacob Norcross, J. B. Sprenger, J. Driggs, W. F. Alexander, D. B. Rice, and John Barrows.

“Besides the amounts given by the above, the greater number of our citizens contributed from $10 upward. Thos. Monteith made the munificent gift of- four blocks of land ( a little over seven acres) lying between Ninth and Eleventh and Ferry and Broadalbin streets, probably the best location in our city for a college building. Of course when the entire city became so interested in the welfare of this proposed institution of learning it did not take long to perfect the arrangements for building. Several architects drew up plans, and the one prepared by the late Nelson Wright was adopted, after being changed in some of its minor features. At the meeting of the Trustees, held on the 3d day of March, 1867, the sealed proposals for the contract of erecting the building were opened and John Barry & Co., having bid the lowest ($7,000), were awarded the contract. Work on the building now commenced in earnest, and it was completed in time to have one term taught in it that fall.”

In 1892 it was resolved to change the name of Albany Collegiate Institute to simply Albany College, yet the minutes continued under the old name until 1905. In 1892 the president and secretary of the institution were authorized to file supplementary articles of incorporation in order to be able legally to carry out the change of name (351).

Soon after the United Presbyterian church came into existence at Union Point, steps were taken by the members to extend the field of their operations by establishing a college. The Oregon Territorial Legislature granted a charter to Union Point Academy in 1854, which was to be under control of the church. The board of trustees included the following ministers and laymen: Rev. Thomas S. Kendall, Rev. James P. Miller, Samuel Wilson, William Gray, James A. Dunlap, Robert H. Crawford, John McCoy, John Marks, and William McCormick.

About this time a contest had sprung up between various communities for the county seat. Plans for the establishment of the academy were held in abeyance until it was definitely known which of the competing towns would be chosen. Union Point had hopes but these were dashed when Albany won the contest. However, the academy had been started in a modest way at the home of the Rev. Wilson Blain. When Albany won the county seat fight in 1856 misgivings as to the future of the academy - and even of the town - were expressed in a letter written by Rev. Blain in which he said that scholars had enrolled for all branches from elementary to Latin courses, but the pupils numbered only from 15 to 35, with the average attendance at 20. In June, 1857, according to the academy’s report to the Oregon Secretary of State, the number of pupils had dropped to between 12 and 25, and the school was not prospering. No funds were on hand with which to run it, and Principal Thompson had resigned. Apparently the only maintenance fund was obtained from the sale of lots donated by Rev. Blain. On January 16, 1858, another sign of the waning Union Point appeared in the petition to the Legislature signed by Hugh Dinwiddie, Rev. Blain and John Barsell, asking that a certain part of the plat of the town be declared legally vacated.

The civil war further delayed the development of Union Point Academy into a training ground for Presbyterian ministers and at last all plans were dropped. In 1858 the institution was re-incorporated into Albany Academy, later called Albany Collegiate Institute, and became the nucleus for the Albany College established in 1866.

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